Jonathan Holland was in the same boat when he and the since-committed McLean left Maryland for Pennsylvania Friday. Yet, by the end of a two-day visit that culminated with his commitment to Penn State head coach James Franklin Saturday afternoon, the Potomac, Md., Bullis School defensive end realized it was what he wanted to do all along.
"It felt like home," Holland said. "A lot of [the players] had been a part of the last coaching staff with Coach [Bill] O'Brien and Coach [Larry] Johnson, and they said this incoming staff has a whole different dynamic.
"They have a lot more intensity to everything they do — study hall, class and practice. They just have a lot of intensity, and Coach Franklin is a really genuine person and a guy that has my best interests in mind."
Penn State defensive line coach Sean Spencer and running backs coach Charles Huff built a steady stream of contact with the junior after they offered him in early March. Holland said Penn State was always high on his list, but skyrocketed to the top once it offered.
Spencer and Huff both chatted frequently with the junior about the university and football program during his Friday-Saturday stay in Happy Valley. But a lengthy chat with Class of 2014 early enrollee and tackle Antoine White went a long way toward helping secure Holland's commitment.
"I spent most of my time with him," Holland said of White. "He's a really cool and told us about how he early enrolled and everyone accepted him. It wasn't that hard of a transition. It's always going to be different going from high school to college, but he said there are people to help you out."
White had a similar offer list to Holland's before the former ended his own recruitment by picking State in the Class of 2014. Holland said being able to relate that way, and as such being able to take White's advice genuinely, was key.
"He just basically gave a bunch of credit to the new staff," Holland said. "They're really close. They know what they are doing and their goals are to win Big Ten and national championships.
"Everyone wants to win those, and all the beasts are lining up together. [The staff] had a good background at Vanderbilt, and with the talent we're getting, [committing] was a no brainer."
Holland is the fourth defensive linemen to pledge in what is now a 13-member class. He said Spencer gave him a breakdown of where they seem him — and the others — potentially lining up in the future.
"Adam is committed for defensive tackle, and they think [Kamonte] Carter and I can be bookend ends," Holland said. "With [Ryan] Buchholz's size, they think they can [get weight on him] and might move him down to three tech."
"They have a lot of older guys, so there is no option but to get early playing time. With the way Coach Spencer rotates guys in every four or five snaps, there will be a lot of game reps."
The potential for playing time, along with the Lions' depth chart, played a role in Holland's decision too.
"There is no option but to get on the field, and that's something every recruit wants to hear," he said. "Definitely, it's going to be a hard transition academically and athletically, but we will push each other to get where we need to be. It only propels you to be better."
Many coaches have made a strong connection, Holland said, adding he's going to tell each of them he is 100 percent with Penn State. That includes Florida State, which offered him Saturday morning.
He'll let them know he is full steam ahead on molding his 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame, continuing to thrive in the classroom and helping add to State's Class of 2015.
"It's nice. The whole time on the visit they knew I was going to commit because they never saw me without a smile on my face," Holland said. "I'm really happy to be a part of Penn State. Seeing JoePa [Joe Paterno] out there, and with LaVar [Arrington] being from there and playing for my hometown [Washington] Redskins, it's pretty surreal knowing it all came true to play on the same field, in the same jersey, and that they paved the way before me.
"It's something I take pride in and really appreciate."