Recruit leaves Pitt for Lions

Some nasty weather didn’t stop Penn State football coach James Franklin.

Franklin ventured out into the snowstorm on Monday, heading to western PA. He came back with a verbal commitment from Kittanning tight end Nick Bowers.

Bringing Penn State’s number of 2015 recruits to 23 with eight days left until signing day, Bowers became the third recruit to announce for the Nittany Lions in two days. Wisconsin defensive tackle Robert Windsor and Philadelphia defensive end Shareef Miller pledged on Sunday after making a weekend visit with Bowers, Pittsburgh Central Catholic safety Johnny Petrishen and all 20 of the other recruits that have either committed to or already enrolled at Penn State.

Despite the heavy snows that started Sunday night and continued into the morning, Franklin followed up with his in-home visit on Monday to see Bowers, taking assistant coaches John Donovan and Bob Shoop with him.

“I was talking to Coach Franklin (Sunday) night. I told him we might not have school. He said he’d be up even if he had to take a snowmobile,” Fabian said.

On Monday afternoon, Kittanning football’s Twitter page posted a photo of Franklin, Donovan and Shoop with Bowers, his family and his high school coach, Frank Fabian, all giving the No. 1 sign. Bowers confirmed he was switching to Penn State shortly after.

To undoubtedly make things even sweeter for Franklin and his Nittany Lion staff, Bowers had been committed to Pitt for almost exactly a year. However, he had committed to the Panthers when Paul Chryst was coach – Chryst has since taken the Wisconsin job, and former Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi replaced him at Pitt.

“That was the biggest part of it. I didn’t know the (Pitt) coaching staff coming in, so I wanted to open it back up and pick where I felt most comfortable,” Bowers, who couldn’t be reached by the Mirror on Monday night, said to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Coach Chryst and (former Pitt assistant) Coach (Chris) Haering, those were the guys I committed to. It’s not that I don’t like the Pitt guys now. I have a lot of respect for them. I just had to do what’s best for me.

“I felt that was at Penn State.”

Bowers also had offers from Purdue and Temple. He told the Tribune-Review education and being in a less urban environment play to Penn State’s advantage, as well.

As a senior, the 6-foot-4, 254-pound Bowers hauled in 32 passes for 503 yards and scored 10 touchdowns, despite missing the second half of Kittanning’s 6-4 campaign with an broken leg. He often was split off the line and sometimes ran the football.

Bowers was named to the Pennsylvania Sports Writers Class AA all-state team, as well as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Fabulous 22 and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Terrific 25.

“We used him more as a wideout or an H-back. We didn’t put his hand in the ground like a true tight end,” said Fabian, who will be the coach of the new Armstrong High School program this fall. “We moved him around a lot. He lined up as wildcat quarterback in short-yardage situations.

“He’s a playmaker. He has tremendous ball skills. He gets the ball at its highest point. He has strong hands. Even if he was covered, it wasn’t a problem for us to throw it to him.”

Bowers caught 53 passes for 846 yards and rushed for 314 yards as a junior, scoring 16 times.

“That’s what put him on the map,” Fabian said. “He holds almost every school receiving record. And he did it in a year-and-a-half. He had a concussion his sophomore year.”

Penn State had been familiar with Bowers since Bill O’Brien was coach. However, the Lions didn’t offer him until the scholarships taken away as a result of NCAA sanctions related to the Jerry Sandusky scandal were reinstated. Fabian said Penn State called within hours to let Bowers know he had a committable offer.

It also didn’t hurt that Bowers continued to work to improve his standing. He first camped at Penn State as a 210-pound sophomore, then went back a year later 30 pounds heavier and now tips the scales at more than 250 pounds.

“It’s a good 254, too,” Fabian said. “He has a good frame. He’s a strong kid.”

Penn State still is trying to reel in Petrishen, who is considering Pitt and Virginia along with the Nittany Lions, and, possibly, another defensive tackle to finish out its class, which is in the running to finish in the top dozen in the country. The Lions will have a number of players on campus this weekend, but many of them will be underclassmen.

Pitt, meanwhile, has 15 commits in line to sign on Feb. 4, including Altoona defensive end/linebacker Kevin Givens and Central Valley standout Jordan Whitehead, a cornerback. The Panthers rebounded well from losing Bowers by landing Pine-Richland quarterback Ben DiNucci on Monday.

DiNucci had been planning to attend Penn. He was voted the Class AAAA state player of the year by Pennsylvania sports writers after becoming the first quarterback in commonwealth history to throw for more than 4,000 yards in a season and leading the Rams to the PIAA finals in 2014.