Not long after taking over as coach at Penn State, James Franklin invoked a dating/engagement/marriage analogy to describe the recruiting process.
“Once you stand up and shake my hand and look me in the eye and say this is where you want to go, we’re engaged,” Franklin said at a news conference that kicked off 2014 spring practice. “There is no more dating and there is no more flirting. Come signing day, we get married, and there is no divorce.”
For more than six months, Nick Bowers and Penn State seemed to be like a pair that made goo-goo eyes at each other from across the room but were too shy to come together.
Monday, that mating dance at last came to an end when Bowers verbally committed to be the 23rd member of the Nittany Lions’ incoming 2015 recruiting class. He previously was verbally committed to Pitt but had made an official visit to Penn State this past weekend.
Bowers’ commitment was the third to Penn State over a 30-hour span, and when the dust settled the Nittany Lions were ranked No. 11 in the Rivals.com national class rankings. Bowers is the ninth member of PSU’s class from a Pennsylvania high school – only the second of which who is not among the Rivals.com top 10-rated prospects in the state.
Bowers committed to Pitt almost a year ago to the day (Jan. 27, 2014 – also on a Monday. But he had previously been offered a scholarship by then-Temple assistant Terry Smith. Smith is now Penn State’s defensive recruiting coordinator (and cornerbacks coach), and one of his primary responsibilities is recruiting in the WPIAL. On the day he was introduced in University Park, Smith told the Trib’s Kevin Gorman “My role is to secure Pittsburgh and Western Pa.,” Smith said. “Any top talent there, I’ve got to get it. That’s my responsibility.”
He keeps making good on that pledge. Smith, Franklin, PSU offensive coordinator/tight ends coach John Donovan and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop (an Oakmont native) were at Bowers’ home today.
— Kittanning Wildcats (@khsfootball2014) January 26, 2015
Bowers, who calls himself an “outdoors guy” rather than a city dweller and is said to have long admired Penn State, initially impressed Nittany Lions coaches at an on-campus 7-on-7 camp last summer. But be it the fact Bowers was already committed and was loathe to back out of it, or that Penn State was short on scholarships because they still had a year of NCAA sanctions to wade through – or both – the two sides couldn’t come together.
That changed beginning in September when the NCAA pulled back its remaining scholarship sanctions on Penn State (its consent decree has since been entirely declared void). Armed with unexpected additional 2015 scholarships, Penn State’s coaches’ first offer was to Bowers.
The 6-foot-4, 244-pounder never publicly backed out of his Pitt commitment, but he told the Trib’s Matt Grubba on Monday that when the Panthers lost coach Paul Chryst to Wisconsin, that changed things.
“I’m from a small town, and this whole process has been hard,” Bowers said. “A little bit of attention is nice, but you know I don’t like to talk to people all the time.”
After Bowers’ flip, Penn State has secured 15 of the 16 senior prospects who held offers from both Pitt and Penn State and chose one of them.
Bowers is the second tight end for the PSU 2015 class, joining Jonathan Holland of Potomac, Md. The Nittany Lions have four scholarship tight ends on the roster – rising senior Kyle Carter, rising junior Brent Wilkerson and Mike Gesicki and Adam Breneman, each of whom will be a sophomore by eligibility in 2015.
Bowers joins Baldwin tackle Sterling Jenkins – who enrolled in classes at University Park earlier this month – as WPIAL seniors who committed to Penn State. Counting Jenkins and two other early enrollees, the Nittany Lions’ class stands at 23. They are expected to add two more prospects to it.
One of PSU’s outstanding offers is to Central Catholic safety John Petrishen, who is choosing between Penn State, Pitt and Virginia. Petrishen confirmed to the Trib’s Jerry DiPaola that Smith, Shoop and Franklin made an in-home visit to him Monday afternoon. He reiterated — again — that he will not be making any decisions until after this visit to Virginia this weekend.
Since Franklin took over, Penn State has extended scholarship offers to 10 WPIAL prospects (four in the 2015 class and three each in 2016 and ’17). Of that group, four have verbally committed to a college – three picking Penn State. Petrishen could make four, if he does.
The highest-rated prospect of that WPIAL 10 by Rivals.com is Woodland Hills junior running back Miles Sanders (a “6.0,” whatever that means), who committed to Penn State. However not far behind that the WPIAL prize of the class of 2015, Central Valley defensive back Jordan Whitehead (a “5.9” by Rivals, again, whatever that means), shunned and stung PSU by choosing Pitt.