5-Star Quarterback Visits Penn State

<b>Anthony Morelli</b>, rated the #3 quarterback prospect in the nation by TheInsiders.com, took an official visit to Penn State this past weekend. Is his verbal commitment to Pittsburgh in jeopardy? Can the Nittany Lions add a 5-star quarterback to an already impressive recruiting class?

If you follow college football recruiting even a little bit, you know that things can change dramatically at the drop of a hat, and often do.

Exhibit A: Penn State's efforts to sign a top-notch quarterback this recruiting season.

First, a quick history lesson.

The table below lists the quarterbacks currently on scholarship at Penn State.

QBGanter, ChrisGanter, Chris-
QBMills, Zack--
QBRobinson, MikeRobinson, Mike-

Penn State has not signed a quarterback prospect since they inked Michael Robinson and Chris Ganter in February of 2001. That's a risky venture to say the least, especially when you're talking about the most important position on the football field. With Zack Mills entering his final year of eligibility this fall, and Michael Robinson and Chris Ganter leaving after the 2005 season, that leaves the Nittany Lions with no scholarship quarterbacks currently on the roster with eligibility remaining for the 2006 season.

It's no secret that Penn State has to sign someone next month capable of taking the helm by their redshirt sophomore year at the latest.

Penn State, however, thought a multi-year courting of Chad Henne from Wilson High in West Lawn, Pennsylvania, had payed off as they were apparently convinced in May that he was committed to signing a letter of intent with the Nittany Lions on February 4. But, like I said at the beginning of the article, things in the recruiting world often change dramatically at the drop of a hat.

The hat dropped on August 7 when Henne publicly announced his allegiance to Michigan during a scheduled press conference. Only minutes later, Jim Cantafio, Henne's high school coach still seated on Chad's right at the press conference, got a call from the Nittany Lion coaching staff, obviously wanting to know what happened. Unfortunately, an explanation to their liking would never come and the staff was back to square one with half of the recruiting season gone.

Anthony Morelli, a Pittsburgh resident who is actually ranked higher than Henne in most, if not all, major recruiting services, made a verbal commitment to Pittsburgh later that month as expected. Jordan Steffy and Bryan Savage, the state's next two highest ranking prospects at the position, were next on PSU's radar. Both, however, had been developing relationships with other coaching staffs and could not be wooed away despite PSU's tireless efforts. There was a momentary ray of hope for PSU fans when Steffy, after taking an official visit to Penn State for a game in November, said the Nittany Lions were back in the picture. Those hopes were shattered, however, when Jordan committed to Maryland in early December.

Since then, Penn State received verbal commitments from two unranked quarterback prospects: Kevin Suhey from State College, who many feel will most likely play on the defensive side of the ball at PSU, and Paul Cianciolo from South Carolina. Penn State also received a commitment earlier this month from Georgia athlete Jordan Lyons who was promised a shot at quarterback despite Joe Paterno's forthright opinion that he will probably end up playing tight-end at PSU.

As is often the case, though still largely unexpected, another hat dropped.

Early last week, LionNews squelched several reports stating that Anthony Morelli took an official visit to Penn State during the weekend of January 16-18. Anthony did not visit PSU (or Ohio State as yet another report claimed) last weekend.

However, Sunday evening, through a source close to the situation, LionNews was able to confirm that Morelli did take an official visit to Penn State this weekend.

Anthony, who informed Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris on Thursday night about his decision to visit Penn State, made the trip to State College with his father, grandmother, aunt, uncle and two other female relatives.

The visit was described as first class. Anthony and his father spent a lot of time with Joe Paterno and the legend made an incredibly favorable impression.

For the most part, the visit was kept a secret until internet message board posts revealed that the highly coveted 6'4", 214-pound quarterback was spotted at the Nittany Lion's basketball game on Saturday wearing a Penn State jacket. It turns out the jacket was borrowed from Nittany Lion quarterback Zack Mills, who was Anthony's host for the weekend. Mills also made a favorable impression on both Anthony and his father.

An announcement as to where Anthony will attend college will most likely not be made public until Signing Day on February 4. According to the unnamed source, Pittsburgh and Penn State are said to be the only two teams in contention for Morelli's signature, with the Nittany Lions "absolutely" having a chance to land arguably the top quarterback prospect in the nation.

Pennsylvania college football fans can begin holding their collective breaths.

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