UPDATED: Preferred Walk-Ons

The Nittany Lions have received commitments from several preferred walk-ons. Could another Rich Gardner, Ethan Kilmer or Deon Butler be hidden in this group?

With the 85-man scholarship limit now in place for major-college football, walk-ons are an important part for every program. In this decade alone, Penn State has seen walk-ons like Rich Gardner, Ethan Kilmer and Deon Butler emerge as key contributors and NFL prospects.

With than in mind, every year the Nittany Lions offers many seemingly borderline prospects a chance to join the program as "preferred walk-ons."

PSU's Class of 2008 has several key such players. The difference between an ordinary walk-on and a preferred walk-on is that the latter is invited to practice to be evaluated, and generally has a significant edge over other walk-ons who simply show up to open tryouts.

One important note about preferred walk-ons: Since they did not sign letters of intent with Penn State, there is nothing to prevent them from changing their minds up until they actually enroll at the school.

Among PSU's walk-ons in the Class of 2008 are:

Brian Groff
Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 265 pound
Home: Columbia High
HS Position: Lineman

Profile: Groff was an Associated Press Second-Team All-State pick who had interest from Millersville and Shippensburg. Groff's film impressed the coaches, motivating Mike McQueary to extend a walk-on invitation that Groff could not refuse.

Matt McGloin
Height: 6-foot
Weight: 190 pounds
Home: Scranton
HS Position: Quarterback

Profile: McGloin was the MVP of the QB camp in Buffalo last year. As a junior he completed 125 of 206 passes for 1718 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Jake Fagnano
Height: 6-foot
Weight: 195 pounds
Home: Williamsport

Profile: Fagnano caught a team-high 22 passes for 364 yards and two touchdowns as a junior. He had seven catches for 151 yards and two touchdowns through the first two weeks this past season, but in Week 3, Fagnano fractured the fibula near his left ankle and looked to be gone for the season. He played two more games in 2007, finishing the year with 20 catches, 446 yards receiving and four touchdowns.

David Soldner
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 180 pounds
Home: Lancaster, Pa. (Manheim Township)
HS Position: Kicker

Profile: Soldner earned AAAA Pennsylvania All-State honors as both a junior (2006) and senior (2007). He was also a second-team USA Today All-American as a junior. Soldner holds 10 place-kicking records for Manheim Township.

Evan Lewis
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 165 pounds
Home: Gettysburg, Pa.
HS Position: Quarterback/Kicker

Profile: Lewis was the Pennsylvania's AAA Player of the Year and had a 197.5 rating this past year, going 145 for 220 (65.9%) with 31 TDs and 7 INTs. He led his team to a 12-2 record. He also had 110 carries for 390 yards and 6 TDs on the ground.

Brian Irvin
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 210 pounds
Home: Gettysburg, Pa.
HS Position: Linebacker

Profile: Irvin was a first-team AAA All-State pick by the Associated Press after recording a school-record 162 tackles as a senior. According to the Gettysburg Times, Irvin picked PSU over a scholarship offer from New Hamphire.

Lawrence Ryland
Height: 5-foot-9
Weight: 170 pounds
Home: State College, Pa. (State College)
HS Position: Quarterback

Profile: Projected as a defensive back at PSU, Ryland had 119 carries for 973 yards (8.18 YPC) and 8 TDs this past season. Ryland primarily ran the option with SCHS and also filled in kicking extra points for the Little Lions.

Ethan Hull
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 290 pounds
Home: Spring Mills, Pa. (Penns Valley)
HS Position: Lineman

Profile: The brother of PSU reserve linebacker Josh, Ethan had 33 tackles, two sacks and two fumble recoveries during the 2007 season.

J.D. Mason
Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 205 pounds
Home: Philipsburg-Osceola
HS Position: Defensive Back/Wide Receiver

Profile: As a receiver, Mason had 27 receptions for 551 yards and six touchdowns. On defense he had 40 tackles and seven interceptions.

Ken Pollock
Height 6-foot-2
Weight: 220 pounds
Home: Lehman, Pa. (Lake Lehman)
HS Position: Linebacker/Tight End

Profile: Grabbed 137 tackles and forced four fumbles (while recovering two) during the 2007 season. Pollock started all four years on defense and at tight end caught 28 passes for more than 300 yards this past year.

Gino Raineri
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 255 pounds
Home: Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (Meyers)
HS Position: Linebacker/Tight End

Profile: A transfer to Meyers High after playing his sophomore and junior seasons at Bishop Hoban, Rainer led the team in tackles at linebacker and defensive end but is projected to play tight end for PSU. He also has long-snapping skills.

Frank Trinisewski
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 188 pounds
Home: Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (Meyers)
HS Position: Wide Receiver

Profile: Trinisewski never played football prior to this past season, yet grabbed 22 passes for 274 yards and five touchdowns as a senior.


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