Nittany Lions Look to the South

After initially focusing on Penn State's traditional recruiting areas during the spring evaluation period, Bill O'Brien's staff expanded its reach to states like Florida, Georgia and even Texas.

For fans hoping the Bill O'Brien era would see a new emphasis on recruiting different areas, the Penn State staff has yet to disappoint. During the spring evaluation period, Nittany Lion coaches have been from New England to Texas and pretty much everywhere between.

The first couple of weeks of the spring evaluation period were spent canvasing Penn State's traditional recruiting areas -- Pennsylvania and nearby states. O'Brien has frequently stressed the importance of holding down the proverbial fort.

After taking care of business at home, the staff began trekking to more distant locales.

One of the primary new areas of focus has been the Deep South. Stan Hixon, Larry Johnson, Ted Roof, Ron Vanderlinden and Mac McWhorter were in action across Georgia and Florida.

Here are some of the more notable stops we tracked:

• Hixon stopped in to see Bartow, Fla., linebacker Freddie Stevenson, who now has 12 offers (including one from the Nittany Lions).

• Johnson was slated to visit at least three Miami-area prospects, including linebacker Jermaine Grace, quarterback John O'Korn and cornerback Adrian Baker (who picked up an Oklahoma offer Wednesday).

O'Korn seems to be up in the air with Penn State. He said he likes QB coach Charlie Fisher and thinks he could fit in well in O'Brien's new system, but has some reservation about joining a class with one quarterback (Christian Hackenberg) already committed.

“I'm not sure I want to go to a school that is taking two QBs in my class,” said O'Korn, whose sister is a Penn State graduate.

“I'm not afraid to come in and compete because I think competition is a good thing,” he added. “But it's important for me to know that I'll be going to a school where the coaches have enough faith in me to take only one QB, and to know that they aren't telling me and another guy the same things.”

• Roof stopped in on 2014 offensive tackle Reilly Gibbons and 2013 running back Ryan Green, who are both from St. Petersberg Catholic.

• Vanderlinden visited American Heritage School in the Miami to chat with Michael Deeb.

• McWhorter spent a lot of time in Georgia. He visited teammates Johnny Thompson (LB) and Rakim Peters (DE) of Apalachee High, as well as LB Trey Johnson (Central Gwinnett) and CB Darius Curry (Flowery Branch).

It's interesting that McWhorter would drop in on Johnson, who committed to Auburn last fall. Roof was then the defensive coordinator with the Tigers and headed up Johnson's recruitment. Another unique twist: Roof graduated from Central Gwinnett 30 years ago.

Johnson is still committed to the Tigers, but is said to still be willing to listen to other suitors.

Curry recently narrowed his list and immediately added Penn State once offered by the Lions. He'll visit Happy Valley either this summer or fall.

Peters' high school coach, Shane Davis, thinks the Nittany Lions have a keen interest in his prospect after viewing practice last Friday. Penn State has requested a copy of Peters' final junior transcript.

McWhorter also visited 2013 Texas CB Ranthony Texada. After watching practice, he informed the three-star prospect that Penn State was going in a different direction with its DBs.

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