Adam McLean feels like he knows Larry Johnson well, even if they've only met on a few occasions.
Penn State's defensive line coach touches base often with via social media with the Quince Orchard (Gaithersburg, Md.) Class of 2015 defensive tackle. He wishes him luck before Friday night contests, inquires about his home and family life, and asks about the 6-foot-2, 280-pound prospect's season to date.
It is just one of the reasons McLean, an early Scout four-star, was hoping Penn State might offer. It's a feeling he's had, really, since Johnson popped into Quince Orchard during the spring evaluation period to check out McLean and a few other Cougars, a team that is now 8-1.
It took a while for Penn State to extend a verbal offer. But the Lions did Oct. 29. And the chance to play for Johnson is making McLean give it serious consideration.
"He's a great coach, great person, and he's an NFL caliber coach," McLean said. "I really feel like if I made the choice to go to Penn State, I would definitely feel comfortable being coached by Coach Johnson.
"It meant a lot, not to mention I've developed a relationship with him before the offer came. He has a good relationship with [Quince Orchard head coach Dave Mencarini], so I'd feel really comfortable. It was exciting."
That early contact carried more weight, McLean said, because it showed the Lions have more than just a surface level interest in him.
Indeed, a relationship between player and coach often doesn't start until a recruit receives an offer. Unless you're a big name, like McLean is. So big, in fact, that Johnson scouted Quince Orchard's match-up with Gaithersburg (Md.) less than 24 hours before State would do battle with Ohio State in Columbus Oct. 26.
"It shows they want to get to know you as a person, and see what type of character you have as a person instead of just as a football player," McLean said. "A lot of schools offer you because they like you as a football player, but they don't take the time to get to know you as a person before they offer.
"Coach Johnson and I talk kind of on the regular," he continued. "He really shows he care, and like I said, him coming out to the game against Gaithersburg when he had to be in Columbus the next day showed a lot. I appreciate that."
McLean is not the first Quince Orchard player to be recruited by the Lions, nor would he be the first to end up there if his recruitment goes that way. Another Cougar, Bani Gbadyu, played linebacker for State from 2006-2009, and McLean said the two have met.
McLean is also close with Penn State Class of 2014 safety commit Marcus Allen Wise High in Upper Marlboro, Md., and said he will likely trek with him and his family the next time they visit University Park if his schedule permits.
The tackle is not listing any favorites or declaring a top anything just yet, but he added he's been hearing the most from Ole Miss and Maryland. The former is of interest because of its high percentage of true freshmen playing significant snaps, the latter because of its connection to Quince Orchard and The Avalon School — McLean went there before transferring to Quince Orchard — and his comfort with the coaching staff.
He currently has no scheduled trips, but said he is working to plan them with his family. The junior said coaching staff chemistry is one of the biggest things he looks for on a visit and when evaluating schools. Academics are important, too. He plans to major in business management, sports medicine or public relations/communications, with the latter the early leader.
"I really want to see what it's like there," McLean said. "I like Penn State. I'm very interested, and they're one of my top schools. I definitely want to see a lot more in-depth about what the program is about, and what they have to offer academically. This process is very exciting, and very humbling. At this time last year, I hadn't talked to anyone, and no one really knew anything about me.
"I'd be the first one in my family to go to college, so I just want to make my family proud. I love the game of football. I don't do it for all the scholarships and attention. It counts, but football just makes me happy."