Penn State Goes on Offensive in Recruiting

Tanner Hartman, an offensive lineman who had previously committed to Maryland, reverses field and pledges to the Nittany Lions.

So much for Penn State focusing solely on playing keep-away with the prospects who have committed to the program for its recruiting class of 2013.

Despite facing four years of NCAA sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal, first-year head coach Bill O'Brien and his staff have gone on the offensive when it comes to recruiting.

And in this case, it helped them land an offensive lineman.

Tanner Hartman, who had previously committed to Maryland, reversed field Tuesday and instead pledged to Penn State. The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder hails from Lynchburg (Va.) Christian Academy.

The news became public when four-star quarterback prospect Christian Hackenberg, who committed to PSU in February and remained solid with the program even after the NCAA sanctions were announced in July, tweeted it.

Hartman confirmed it in an interview with Tuesday night. He said in spite of the sanctions, Penn State was an ideal fit for him.

"This summer, I was up there for camp, and I knew it was a special place," Hartman said. "Once they offered me, I knew that's where I wanted to go."

Was he concerned about the sanctions?

"They didn't factor into my decision," Hartman said. "I'm going to play for a great program and university, and be coached by a great staff."

Hartman committed to Maryland in July, a month after taking part in one of Penn State's Advanced Skill Camps held in June. By the time September rolled around, he was sure the Nittany Lions had lost interest in him.

Enter Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson.

"Coach Johnson said after camp they'd be in touch, but when I got the offer from them last week, I really didn't think they were that interested," Hartman said. "Coach Johnson was very respectful of my commitment to Maryland, but said if I wanted to talk, we could talk."

When PSU sent an offer, the family decided to talk to the Nittany Lions. Johnson, O'Brien, offensive line coach Mac McWhorter and running backs coach Charles London all played a part in the recruitment.

"(Johnson) knew I liked Penn State a lot, and once my dad and I talked to him, Coach McWhorter, Coach London and Coach O'Brien, it just went from there. I knew it was the place for me."

Hartman said he projects as an offensive tackle at Penn State. He probably is not done growing. His father, Tom, is 6-7 and played tackle at Virginia Tech in the 1980s.

Oddly enough, the younger Hartman worked out as a defensive lineman at Penn State's camp. But he obviously did enough to get noticed.

"Coach McWhorter told me he knows I can play defensive line, but he'd like to see me play offensive line," Hartman said. "Since I committed to Maryland as an offensive lineman, I didn't have a preference or anything like that.

"Coach Mac liked the way I moved off the ball and stuff like that, so I'll probably start at left tackle because that's what is natural to me," he added.

Asked what he brings to the table, Hartman said: "I think my strengths are that I have a good motor and I'm explosive off the ball. I play hard and have good flexibility, and feel like I'm very smart on the football field."

The most difficult part of changing commitments was breaking the news to the Maryland staff.

"They obviously weren't pleased, but they knew it was my decision and what I wanted to do," Hartman said. "They wished me luck, but I think they were a little shocked as well. They respected my decision. Maryland is good place and the coaches are great guys. But I had to do what was best for me and what I wanted to do with my future."

Hartman will travel to University Park for Penn State's Oct. 6 homecoming game with Northwestern. He said it will be a homecoming of sorts for him, as well.

"Penn State is my dream school, and I have a lot of family in the Hershey area," Hartman said. "It's decently close and it's good to have a lot of family and close to me. I like the campus a lot."

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