Bookser Taking Recruitment In Stride

Alex Bookser has racked up 30 offers. He talks about how he's handled the interest, and what schools he's keying in on.

Four-star offensive tackle Alex Bookser has racked up, by his estimation, 30 offers.

He takes his recruiting in stride. Having a lot of offers is a proud accomplishment for anyone. However, it also comes with a price. That price includes a heavy amount of phone calls from reporters and college coaches, who all want him for an interview or for a visit.

Though he would like to talk to every single person, he says it's not always easy.

"At first, everybody wants to call, everybody wants you to call them," Bookser said. "I felt so bad when I wouldn't be able to call people. I just kind of got used to it. There are just so many people to talk to. I just take it in stride. It's the most attention I'll probably ever receive in my life."

Bookser accumulated this heavy interest after a junior year, where he helped Mount Lebanon to an 8-3 record, and an appearance in the WPIAL Quarterfinals. Not bad for a team with a first-year head coach, in Mike Melnyk.

Transition to a new head coach can sometimes be difficult. Bookser said the team responded to Melnyk almost immediately. While it meant a demanding offseason, he said the team quickly gained confidence in what Melnyk wanted them to do.

"The way he works us, we said our first year, in the summer, we've never worked that hard, ever," Bookser said. "We run every day. I'm in the best shape I've ever been. If you asked everyone on the team, they'd say the same thing. With him, we know we're going to be in shape for the games. We know we're going to be strong enough. We know we're not going to lose too many games because a team is more prepared. It's going to be because they're just better."

That included Bookser starting both ways at offensive and defensive tackle--a demand that's often overlooked, because of linemen making contact on every play. Melnyk quickly discovered that Bookser was a guy he could use in a lot of ways, which resulted in Bookser getting a heavy amount of interest.

"The college coaches that recruited Alex liked the fact that he played both ways, he was playing in the fourth quarter both ways, and he was playing as hard as he could into the fourth quarter both ways," Melnyk said. "We've spent a lot of time training Alex. He knows what he has to do. He did it last year. He's going to be a target. There's going to be a lot of people leaning on him and wearing on him. We've done our best to make sure he's prepared to do that."

It's to the point now, where whatever Melnyk asks of Bookser this second time around, in offseason conditioning, there's an added level of trust and confidence in what his coach wants him to do.

"I used to have saying before Coach Melnyk came, that the best way to prepare yourself for playing both ways, is to play both ways," Bookser said. "The way he works us out, it helps us so much. We know if we run a couple plays, complete a deep pass for a touchdown, we have to go back out and play defense."

Recently, Bookser narrowed his list of schools to eight. He talked about some of those schools, specifically Pittsburgh, Penn State and Ohio State--who appear to be the front-runners.

"My favorites right now are probably Pitt, Penn State, Ohio State, Virginia and Michigan State," Bookser said. "There's a couple teams like Tennessee and Northwestern--schools that I haven't really had a chance to see. I really like what the coaches have to offer with the programs."

He started with Pitt, where former Mount Lebanon head coach Chris Haering is now linebackers coach for the Panthers, and Bookser's chief recruiter.

"Of course, Coach Haering is there," Bookser said. "They were the first school to offer. It really meant a lot to me that they really put a lot of faith in me that early. The coaching staff is probably the greatest group of guys. Everyone's so down to earth. Everyone's so easy to talk to. They're guys you want to play for. It's about whether you want to become part of the tradition."

And in all reality, coming off back-to-back 6-7 seasons, becoming part of a new tradition is what Pitt has to sell.

"That's a big reason why I keep them in," Bookser said. "I think about it, if I go to Pitt, I can look back on it, and I can say I helped get these guys back to where they were before. That would mean a lot."

Pitt commit and good friend Michael Grimm, who plays for neighboring Bethel Park, might help in recruiting Bookser to Pitt.

"I haven't talked to him since his commitment," Bookser said. "I talked to him a lot during track season because we were both throwing shotput and discus. We'd talk about recruiting. I really haven't talked to him lately. I'll see what he has to say next time I talk to him."

Penn State is where teammate, and four-star receiver Troy Apke is committed. Bookser is impressed with the attitude and overall atmosphere at Penn State.

"Penn State is another one, a great coaching staff," Bookser said. "I love all the guys up there. Coach Mac (McWhorter), the offensive line coach, he is a really good guy. He knows what he's talking about.

"I've been up there a couple times. The atmosphere is just incredible. I've had a chance to talk to a lot of the guys who are committed there. Of course Troy Apke from my school is committed there. They're all really good guys; hard-working guys. That's a place, even with the sanctions, we would get the job done."

He was at Ohio State most recently, and has a lot to think about with the Buckeyes, as well.

"Ohio State, I've been up there a couple times," Bookser said. "They're nuts, that's what I love about them. I know if I go up there, I know they're going to work me. It's going to be crazy. I was just up there this weekend, and I met the assistant strength coach. He looked at me and said, 'we're going to bring you up here, and we're going to smash your face in.' It's going to be awesome. It's extremely appealing, because you know you're going to compete for a national championship every year, when you are up there."

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