Lonardo Gets a Feel for Lions Staff

The Bethlehem (Pa.) Catholic junior end made a trip to University Park to check out Penn State and its new coaches Monday.

Every now and again, a prospect learns a program is interested and visits immediately.

Monday, Penn State was the program, and Dante Lonardo the prospect. The Bethlehem (Pa.) Catholic junior defensive end visited University Park for the first time as a recruit on the invite of Lions' defensive line coach Sean Spencer. He was not offered, but reported he enjoyed the trip.

"The first true correspondence was probably a week and a half or two weeks ago," Lonardo said. "It was really cool. When I first got there, all the coaches came to introduce themselves.

"To visit one of the most storied programs in the country, and meet [head coach] James Franklin, that was impressive. After that, we spent four or five hours on campus, and went on a tour of the facilities, and had academic and trainer sessions, and watched them do, like, combine testing. They were running the 40 [yard dash]."

Monday was a day of testing for Penn State's current players, and while Lonardo and his family didn't test the Lions' coaching staff, per se, they did inquire about academics, and, of course, football.

That's where Franklin and Spencer came into play, the former fielding academic questions and general inquiries, and the latter delving deeper into future plans and defensive schemes.

"I think he's a great coach," Lonardo said of Spencer. "One of the first things we did was we went over some of his schemes, and I was really impressed with how he's bringing sort of the SEC defense to the Big Ten.

"His defensive line mindset is a little bit different. It's not like that traditional three man front. It's a four man front with athletic guys on the outside that are going to chase the quarterback. His nickname is ‘Chaos,' and that's kind of his mantra."

Lonardo said a stop at Beaver Stadium with Spencer, and especially a trip inside the program's locker room, stood out.

"[Spencer] took us in the locker room, opened up the doors, and said, ‘You are about to step foot in one of the most famous locker rooms in the country,' " Lonardo said. "The way everything was setup … that was pretty profound.

"They had a jersey with my number hanging in a locker, and I put it on and we walked out on the field. They had the music going and everything on. That was pretty profound walking out there with all the music and stuff on."

The 6-foot-4, 245-pound end said Spencer and Franklin both noted their intent to get to know him better, and one way to do it will be through a future visit. Whether that will be in the spring or summer is yet to be determined, but either way, Lonardo said he is looking forward to it.

After all, Penn State went out of its way to introduce itself to him, he said, adding the Lions stand out early.

Lonardo has yet to pick up his first offer, but has interest from Northwestern, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Army.

"Penn State is my favorite school early, but I'd like to get myself out to and visit other campuses," Lonardo said. "The way they went out of the way to present themselves makes them stand alone."

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