Chase is on for WPIAL Linebacker

Winovich is building an impressive offer list and will be visiting Penn State and another Big Ten heavy hitter soon.

Chase Winovich already has mental images of the five schools he will unofficially visit in the coming weeks. So now, the emphasis shifts to visual cues and first-hand accounts, and maybe an offer or two, as well.

The junior linebacker from Thomas Jefferson High (Clairton, Pa.) already holds nine offers, and will look to hit double digits when he embarks on trips to Ohio State (April 6) and Penn State (April 13), with stops at Pittsburgh, Northwestern and Boston College -- all schools that have verbally offered -- also on the junior's itinerary.

“Everything is going pretty well right now. I'm just taking it one step at a time,” Winovich said. “I have most of my spring visits scheduled, and am looking forward to eventually getting to the summer and working out in the weight room with my team to get ready for the season.”

Standing 6-foot-4, 210 pounds and rated as a three-star prospect by FOX Sports NEXT, Winovich has marked the second Saturday in April for a quick trip east to University Park. When he leaves his home, he'll also leave behind a keepsake of the old PSU staff for an opportunity to get to better know its new one, which most frequently has contact with him through linebacker coach Ron Vanderlinden, running backs coach Charles London and defensive coordinator John Butler.

The keepsake sits featured and framed in the family's basement, showing a picture of Winovich's father, Peter, wearing the glasses of late Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, who also signed the photo.

“I have to keep an eye on Penn State. My brother, Peter, was also recruited by Penn State through Coach Vanderlinden,” Winovich said. “The picture is something not too many people can claim they have, so that's pretty cool.”

The junior is very much aware of the Lions current outlook, which includes NCAA sanctions that disallow them from postseason play for three more seasons. He also notes concern of the potential length of head coach Bill O'Brien's tenure at Penn State after O'Brien dabbled with NFL franchises earlier this year.

But he also has noticed the history of Vanderlinden, and the response the Lions had to those sanctions in 2012, too. And like other programs, he's heard good things about Penn State, and has heard nothing but good reports from friends and peers that attend the university. But now, he wants to find out for himself.

“Coach Vanderlinden is one of the best, if not the best linebackers coach in the country, and the opportunity would be there to excel if I do attend there,” Winovich said. “I took note of their 2012 season, and of [linebacker Michael] Mauti and his leadership. I admired his and the team's ability to overcome all of that, and they could have been Big Ten champions and playing in the Rose Bowl.

“That's pretty impressive, and the leadership of the team, and their resilience, was good.”

With all of that said, the linebacker will go to University in search of a feeling, and it's the same one he looks for at every campus he sets foot on. It's a feeling of comfort, of belonging and of unity.

“There's really no one specific thing I want to see. I just want to be a sponge, and observe everything,” Winovich said. “I want to see if there's a feeling where you belong, and see if I can find that feeling. At a couple of the schools I've been to, I feel like I belong, and you know, I can't make that feeling up. If that feeling comes at Penn State, it's going to be there. That kind of thing works itself out, and I'm going to go to every school with an open mind, and take things one step at a time.”

He'll also search for that feeling in Columbus, a town he frequently traveled by while heading to see brother Peter during his playing years at Bowling Green. It was those trips that began to pique his interest, and now, he'll get to experience it firsthand by stopping off at Ohio State.

Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell is leading his recruitment for the Buckeyes, and the junior said it was through Fickell that he planned the visit. But it wasn't just coaches and family that grew his interest in the Buckeyes. It was also the string of WPIAL players who committed to the Buckeyes, headlined by former quarterback Terrelle Pryor out of Jeannette High (Pa.) in the class of 2008.

“My brother led the way in Ohio, and Columbus was on the way, so I would always see all the Ohio State support,” he said. “That kind of contributed to my feelings toward them, but also seeing WPIAL players go to Ohio State and make a name for themselves, too. It definitely made me wonder if that could be me.”

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