Coop in the Loop with Nittany Lions

Penn State landed it's fifth 2015 commitment Monday when the Pennsylvania linebacker pledged while on an unofficial visit.

As Jake Cooper and his family traveled the long eight hours from Duke's campus to the family's home Sunday, the young linebacker had plenty to ponder.

The Warminster (Pa.) Archbishop Wood Class of 2015 prospect came away from the unofficial visit to the Blue Devils' campus wondering if it was time to end his recruitment. After giving it thought into Monday, the decision was made.

Cooper became a Nittany Lion.

Penn State picked up its fifth commitment in the Class of 2015 Monday, as Cooper made his pledge to Nittany Lions' coach James Franklin while on an unofficial visit to Happy Valley. He's the first linebacker to join the class, and second player from Wood, as offensive tackle Ryan Bates previously committed at Junior Day Feb. 15.

"It's just a tremendous feeling to be able to chase my dream and make it come true," Cooper said. "To be able to sit down as a little guy and watch Penn State all the time, and now finally being able to [commit there], it just feels great."

Cooper was high on the program's radar under its old staff, but he never received an offer. That quickly changed under Franklin, though, as the head coach, defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and linebackers coach Brent Pry all swung by the school during the first two weeks on the job.

Those visits assured the 6-foot-2, 232-pound linebacker that his fears of having to start the evaluation process over with a new staff wouldn't be as bad as expected. An offer on Signing Day made sure of it.

"My whole life growing up, I've been a Penn State fan," Cooper said. "I always played linebacker, and that's the school to watch, especially being in-state. Paul Posluszny and Dan Connor were the two guys I focused on, so getting the chance to grow up and watch them play and define ‘Linebacker U' is truly tremendous.

"To come into that situation and carry the torch of the legacy they built is a tremendous thing to be able to do, especially with the school being in my backyard."

As the third Keystone State prospect to pledge, Cooper added he has fully bought into the plan Franklin unveiled early in his tenure to "Dominate the State" when it comes to recruiting in Pennsylvania.

"I really am enjoying the whole in-state, dominate the state thing," Cooper said. "Pennsylvania football is a powerhouse, and if you get the top recruits in the state of Pennsylvania to stay in state, they're going to be a phenomenal program.

"It's going to be a top-notch program if you can get all these guys to stay in state."

The linebacker said he didn't have a lifelong plan of attending the same school as Bates. But Cooper noted it became evident as the recruiting process moved along that they would end up at the same school. Both will suit up in blue and white, and while Bates will learn under offensive line coach Herb Hand, it's Pry and Shoop who Cooper is building a bond with.

It all started with Franklin, though, as the head coach and Shoop made their first stop at Wood just days into their Penn State tenure.

"Coach Franklin reached out to me right away and said, ‘I want you to be a part of something special,' " Cooper said. "Just his whole attitude about it — he had a lot of energy for the program and is very passionate about what he does. I feed off of that as a player, and when he came to see me, I was so excited.

"They were very upfront with me from the get-go, and that's something I appreciate."

A move to outside, or even safety, has been kicked around, but the junior said Pry has informed him his start at University Park will be at middle linebacker.

That's just fine with Cooper, because he's always called the middle home. He's always dreamed of calling Penn State home.

Now, he can do that, too.

"Coach Pry said I'm going to be the middle guy, and he said I have everything he wants a middle linebacker to do," Cooper said. "Coach Shoop said, ‘listen Coop, I want you to come in and run my defense from the middle. I want you to be the quarterback of my defense.'

"He said I have everything that he wants for a Mike [linebacker]. I'm excited. It doesn't matter where exactly I play, though. I'll play wherever to help the team in any possible way."

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