Seven PSU Rookies Report

In enrolling for the spring semester, the young Lions become bound to the PSU football program. There will be no need to sign letters of intent next month.

National signing day for college football is a few weeks off. Feb. 3 is when many high school prospects around the nation will sign binding letters of intent with the college programs they will attend.

But at Penn State, Monday marks a day when seven recruits officially join the program, even though they will never sign letters of intent.

The seven athletes have all enrolled for the spring semester, which begins Monday, and as such they are already athletically bound to Penn State. So there will be no reason for them to sign LOIs next month.

NCAA rules mandate that once a high school prospect begins taking classes full-time at a university, his eligibility clock begins. From that point on, if he opts to transfer, he will be subject to NCAA transfer rules.

To enroll early, prospects must graduate from high school early, too. But the ones who do it think the extra work in the fall and then the early arrival at college helps them athletically and academically.

“The biggest thing is getting up there and having an easier transition … just getting involved with classes and football,” said Dakota Royer, a linebacker/defensive end from Manheim, Pa. “If you come up at the normal time, you have a season right away and classes right away. Now, I don't have the season (so soon). I can worry about training and getting into the college weight program and the (nutrition) program.”

Another key is the ability to go through an entire spring practice before ever stepping onto the field for a real game. Royer believes that will give him a better shot to earn playing time as a rookie.

“They lost all three (starting) linebackers,” he said. “So that kind of leaves it open so I can compete with the rest of them.”

The Nittany Lions also lost their starting quarterback in Daryll Clark. The only other pure QB who was on scholarship last spring was true freshman Kevin Newsome, who enrolled last January and earned the second-team job.

This year, McKees Rocks, Pa., passer Paul Jones is enrolling early in the hope of making a run for the starting job.

Other players enrolling early include defensive end Kyle Baublitz, linebacker Khairi Fortt, defensive tackle Evan Hailes, tight end Kevin Haplea and running back Silas Redd.

The total of seven makes up more than one third of the 18 players considered solid commitments to the Nittany Lions.

This is the most spring enrollees Penn State has had in a class since the practice began early last decade. And head coach Joe Paterno is not exactly happy with the growing trend.

“I don't like it,” he said. “Life is very short. High school should be a great remembrance … friends and the whole bit. When you take a kid out of high school before the senior prom and graduation with his buddies -- the kids he started with in the town he lives -- I don't know that we're doing him a favor. But unfortunately, the way recruiting is being done these days, so much is being done early.”

Royer has heard the arguments against enrolling early, and he's not buying them. He noted that all of this year's spring enrollees are from within driving distance of University Park. And in his case, he has made arrangements to be on hand for the special occasions happening for the rest of his senior class in the coming months.

“I'll be able to come home for the prom and graduation and any events I want to come home for,” he said.


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