Penn State Set for Key Official Visit Weekend

James Franklin and his staff are welcoming a host of prospects to campus, just two weeks out from Signing Day.

Penn State’s primary January official visit weekend has always had dual purposes: allow current verbal commitments to get to know each other, and work on gaining pledges from other prospects on hand.

This year’s version, head coach James Franklin’s second at Penn State, will be no different. It begins Friday and runs through Sunday at University Park.

Last year’s weekend

Franklin didn’t have long to get situated in Happy Vallet before a crop of official visitors arrived Jan. 24, 2014.

The then new coach and his even newer staff played host to nine prospects on official visits that weekend, seven of whom had already offered a verbal commitment to Penn State. Then four-star guard Isaiah Wynn was committed to Georgia, a pledge he stuck with, while Florida defensive back Amani Oruwariye committed to the Lions following his trip North.

“"It was a lot of fun. I had a great time," then recruit and now Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley told FOS. He was hosted by since-departed walk-on quarterback Austin Whipple.

"I really just love how close the guys on the team are,” McSorley said.”Everyone hung out together, and everyone was just so close.”

Friday was spent meeting, greeting and eating, while Saturday was included for a trip to Pegula Ice Arena, a presentation by Franklin, chatter with academic staffers, and meetings with position coaches, and coordinators John Donvoan and Bob Shoop.

While there’s no telling what surprises may be in store for this year’s visitors, a magician performed last year on Saturday.

“The magic tricks were really good,” current Penn State safety Marcus Allen said. “He brought him in to show if you're really passionate in what you want to do, you’ll be really good at it if you put the time in it to be better.

“Like the magician said, he's really, really good because that’s all he’s been doing since he was 11 years old. He's always been working on new magic tricks, and practicing the old ones, and that’s how you get better."

Official Visit Weekend 2015

Penn State’s entire Class of 2015 (so far) is expected to be on hand for the weekend, and all but Virginia four-star corner Garrett Taylor will be official visitors. Taylor’s trip will be on his own dime due to using his official visit to see the Lions battle Michigan State after he decommitted from Michigan.

“The ability to be able to sit and watch film with Coach [Bob] Shoop and Coach [Brent] Pry,” linebacker and verbal commit Jake Cooper said when asked what he is most looking forward to about the weekend.

As of this writing, four non-commited official visitors are expected to be on hand Friday through Sunday. A breakdown on each is below.

Philadelphia, Pa., DE Shareef Miller

A three-star prospect and longtime Penn State offer holder, Miller has always had the Lions in a group that is ever-changing. His top five currently is made up of Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Florida and Arizona State, though the senior announced Thursday he would officially visit Miami, instead of Florida, Jan. 30. He has already officially visited Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Arizona State, and has heard plenty from the Panthers and new head coach Pat Narduzzi in the last two weeks.

Miller had seemed destined for Penn State, but handicapping his recruitment has become an adventure over the last few weeks as interest from Florida, Miami and Pittsburgh heated up and a good trip to Tempe, Ariz., showed him what the Sun Devils can offer. He is scheduled to announce Feb. 1 at 1 p.m., but it’s hard to see that happening with the trip to Miami now on the docket.

Fond du Lac, Wisc., DT Robert Windsor

Penn State went in-home with the three-star end this week, and is throwing everything it can at the senior in hopes of earning his commitment after four-star Christian Wilkins picked Clemson. What seemed like an easy score has turned into a battle, though.

Windsor, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound talent, had not been offered by Wisconsin when Gary Andersen was still in town. When Paul Chryst arrived back in Madison after a stint at Pittsburgh, though, he offered Windsor. The home state school has jumped up the list, and it’s now firmly a two-team battle between the Lions and Badgers. Penn State would prefer to end his recruitment this weekend. If not, hand wringing will commence related to Windsor possibly visiting Wisconsin.

Pittsburgh Central Catholic S Johnny Petrishen

Petrishen’s recruitment has dragged out, sure. But the 6-2, 205-pound safety has long maintained visits would be crucial to his recruitment, and they are finally taking place.

Penn State is the middle visit between Pittsburgh (Jan. 16-18) and Virginia (Jan. 30-Feb. 1). While early indications have the Lions as the leader, Pittsburgh and Narduzzi made a good impression and strong charge last weekend. This one is likely to come down to a Pittsburgh-Penn State battle, but the Cavs have always — and before anyone else, really — had their hat in the ring. Their loyalty is something the safety knows well. Maryland is also taking a late run, but is currently on the outside looking in.

Kittanning, Pa., TE Nick Bowers

The lone wildcard of the weekend, it’s still unclear as of Thursday night whether Bowers, a Pittsburgh verbal commitment, will make the trip to University Park. He’s been quiet for a while, and that hasn’t changed with a new coach at Pittsburgh and a trip to Penn State pending on the heels of a Pitt official visit last weekend.

Bowers was supposed to visit Penn State for its Oct. 25 clash with Ohio State, but never made it. If he doesn’t come again this weekend, he can be all but written off with National Signing Day slated for Feb. 4.

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