Nittany Lions getting head start on 2016

With most of its 2015 recruiting class filled, Penn State’s last visit weekend before signing day on Wednesday turned into an impromptu junior day.

James Franklin and his staff were able to use Saturday as a chance to get 2016 commits Jake Zembiec, Shane Simmons and Miles Sanders back up to University Park on unofficial visits and to get them together with players they hope will be their teammates for the next few years.

“Last year, when I went to junior day, I wanted to see the school and meet the academic people,” said Zembiec, the four-star quarterback from Rochester, N.Y. who was his state’s player of the year as a sophomore. “Now I can talk to some of the other recruits and tell them what I saw and why I decided on Penn State.”

The group that showed up would make a pretty strong recruiting class in its own right, and it’s especially big considering the team isn’t expected to hold any official junior day until later this month. In addition to the three commits, it included Lake-Lehman lineman Connor McGovern, New Jersey athlete Jordan Fuller, Michigan cornerback Lavert Hill, New Jersey tackle Will Fries, Pittsburgh Central Catholic corner Damar Hamlin, Philadelphia running back DeAndre Swift, Virginia linebacker Dylan Rivers, Archbishop Wood receiver Mark Webb, Maryland offensive tackle Terrance Davis, Gateway tackle Robert Hainsey, Central Dauphin defensive end Micah Parsons and Michigan place-kicker Quinn Nordin.

Hill committed during the trip.

Hollidaysburg senior two-way tackle Zach Simpson also made the trip, missing the Tigers’ home basketball game against Latrobe. The Greater Allegheny Conference all-star who was having a terrific season until it was derailed by injuries at the midway point is expected to join the Nittany Lions as a preferred walk-on.

Almost the entire list already has offers. Swift, Hainsey, Rivers and Webb still are sophomores, and Parsons is fresh off a tremendous freshman season.

The players arrived at Penn State around 11 a.m. and then spend about the next six hours meeting with coaches, trainers, strength and conditioning personnel and academic advisors, touring the campus and facilities and basically just getting to know each other and hopefully bonding.

“The only one I’ve really talk to a lot is Connor McGovern. There are a couple of guys I really want to talk to,” Zembiec said. “I want to build an offense around myself. I don’t want to push guys, because I didn’t like that. I like a more laid-back approach. I just want to tell them what I saw.”

Although he said he probably wouldn’t commit this weekend, McGovern is considered one of the most likely prospects to announce for the Lions soon. The 6-foot-4, 291-pounder said Penn State, Michigan State and North Carolina are recruiting him hardest.

“I want to have a decision by (the end of) the school year,” McGovern said. “I’ve been up there for two games (Michigan State and Ohio State), but I’ve never really gotten a chance to look around the campus and meet the academic advisors.”

McGovern definitely is high on the Lions.

“I’m really impressed by the whole coaching staff. I like what they do and are trying to establish,” said McGovern, whose dad played fullback at Colgate. “I liked Florida growing up, but my whole family is crazy for Penn State.”

McGovern, who just missed qualifying for state track in the shot put, is being recruited as a center or a guard and has played both in his high school’s run-heavy offense. Syracuse, Maryland, Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, Rutgers, Pitt and Boson College have offered McGovern, as well.

“He’s very versatile,” Lake-Lehman coach Jerry Gilkey said. “We use him to pull. He plays basketball, too, so you know he can move.”