When Ryan Bates announced that he would take a July trek to Penn State, it caught many off guard. The Archbishop Wood (Warminster, Pa.) offensive tackle had been to University Park twice in this calendar year, visiting for the Nittany Lions' Blue-WhiteGame in April and an Advanced Skills Camp in June.
A plan is a plan, though, and Bates had one. Along with South Carolina and Virginia, Penn State was on the list of schools the 6-foot-4, 286-pound junior-to-be wanted to visit this summer. He stopped by USC and UVA earlier in July.
With his parents in toe, the tackle spent a large part of Saturday at University Park, meeting with recruiting contact and defensive coordinator John Butler as well as offensive line coach Mac McWhorter. Chats with academic advisors were on the itinerary, as well.
And though he admits he's not close to making a decision, or even announcing his top schools, Bates offered that Penn State sticks out to him.
"The trip went good and was a lot of fun," Bates said. "I was thinking about this trip the whole summer, and it was just a matter of when I would take it and when I would be able to plan it.
"I met with Coach Mac and Coach Butler, and they showed me around a little bit."
His personal sightseeing tour brought him to Beaver Stadium, which was as impressive as ever to him. From there, he checked out the freshman housing and met with academic advisors.
Then, it was time for lunch, and a unique perspective on two of Penn State's second-year assistants. The inclusion of McWhorter's wife, Rebecca, and Butler's son, Manny, allowed Bates to see a different side of the coaches.
Bates arrived on campus about 8 a.m. Other highlights of his trip included stops in Penn State's locker room and player housing complex, and a tour of campus didn't hurt. Before heading home late in the afternoon, he and his parents also met one of the newest Nittany Lions..
"Coach Mac is a real nice -- a funny guy -- and my mom and dad were in there, too," Bates explained. "Andrew Nelson (a Class of 2013 signee) popped in, and we talked to him for a little bit, and then Coach Mac told us about what he expects, and what he likes about me.
"I can't speak for him, but he said he likes that I'm an athletic, big guy with good footwork."
As for his other summer stops:
• Bates liked his interaction with Virginia senior offensive tackle Morgan Moses, who he referred to as "a cool guy." Receivers coach Marques Hagans -- who was replaced by current Houston Texans Matt Schaub at quarterback for the Cavs in 2002 prompting a move to receiver -- is leading his recruitment.
"They are obviously very good academically, and it's just beautiful down there," Bates said. "Every school is beautiful in its own way, and it's pretty cool to meet the coaches and players. We went to the stadium, and their student section was pretty unique."
• Asked about South Carolina, Bates spoke of its membership in the SEC and his knowledge of Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw.
With a goal of getting a feel for the campus setting, the prospect said he was able to do just that, aided by the palm trees found around campus.
"I wanted to get more familiar with the coaches, and I did that, too," he said. "I wanted to see what opportunities were there, and they offered everything you can think of. We went over to the Horse Shoe [a student center on campus] and Coach Mangus gave us a tour."
With his visits out of the way, Bates will now turn all of his focus to the upcoming high school season. His preseason camp begins in just a few weeks, and he hopes to provide leadership for the younger players who suit up on the varsity roster while growing as a player and person.
He also plans to travel again, too. Just a pair of Friday night contests dot Wood's mostly Saturday schedule, and Bates would like to travel on both of his free weekends.
"I'm leaving all my options open at this point, because you never know who may show interest or offer," he said. "But I really like Penn State. They are a very nice college football team."