UNIVERSITY PARK - It didn't even take until kickoff time on Saturday before Penn State football coach James Franklin was sending out his customary "We Are Better" tweet to signal a new verbal commitment for the Nittany Lions.
"IM PLEASE TO ANNOUNCE I AM OFFICIALLY COMMITTED TO PENN STATE UNIVERSITY #WE ARE," defensive tackle Adam McLean declared about two hours before kickoff, giving the Nittany Lions the No. 1 prospect from the state of Maryland, their 12th verbal pledge for 2015 and the top-ranked class in the country for the time being.
That was just the highlight of a banner day for the Lions from the recruiting side of things. Although its spring game was competing with a big prospect combine in New Jersey, Penn State entertained an estimated 80 prospects at the Blue-White Game.
There were some pretty big names in that group, too, including McLean, four-star Baldwin tackle Sterling Jenkins, four-star New Jersey tackle Grant Newsome, D.C. quarterback Nick Johns and D.C. defensive back Ayron Monroe, as well as most of the 2014 recruiting class, many of the 2015 commits and a number of intriguing younger prospects.
"They got most of the big names they wanted here. You can never have enough big names," said Greg Pickel, who covers Penn State recruiting for Scout's FightOnState.com website. "It was a good turnout."
A 6-foot-2, 290-pounder from Quince Orchard High School, McLean has made 18 sacks over the past two years and already has been picked to play in the UnderArmour All-American Game. His offer sheet included more than 30 schools, most notably Alabama, Florida State, Florida, Michigan State, Ohio State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Tennessee.
Getting McLean was big because he's a top prospect and he plays a position the Lions needed to address in this class. Pickel, though, said it was significant of other things.
"They wanted this guy from Maryland that has offers from quite a few schools all over the country, and they landed him. It's not totally certain that he was high on Penn State four months ago, and, since James Franklin's arrival, they established themselves with him," Pickel said. "They had so many '14 and '15 Maryland commitments to lean on Adam McLean. When you put the whole package together, it turns into a guy that, looking back on it, was always probably Penn State's to lose."
That seems to be the increasing sentiment when it comes to Jenkins, a 6-8, 305-pounder who is the consensus No. 1 prospect in Pennsylvania. He's made several trips to Penn State in the last couple of months and is expected to take another in May.
Some thought he'd be the one to commit on Saturday, but nothing materialized in the hours right after the game.
"He had a great trip at Ohio State [on Friday]. He was very involved with the other kids that were here today. He was very engaging and active with those guys, and that always leads to good things," Pickel said. "Marcus Allen [a 2014 signee] walked by him, slapped him on the shoulder and asked, 'Did you commit yet?' and he kind of laughed and said no. But he bonded with these guys. If he connects with the guys in this class it helps Penn State's chances immensely."
Pickel thinks Penn State will take more than one offensive tackle, so both Jenkins and Newsome could end up at Penn State.
Monroe also is on commitment watch after make his third visit in a month.
But the message is loud and clear that Penn State is a major player in recruiting at the moment.
"It's excitement. Penn State's the hot offer and the hot team to be talking to right now," Pickel said. "Everybody wants to be talking to Penn State whether they're 5 miles away or 5,000."