Narrowing down the programs requires time and consideration for Carson, but he feels confident about his decision.
"The thing I liked about the schools was for two different reasons," Carson said in a telephone interview. "Penn state is a real, classic tradition, a football school. It has a huge fanbase and great tradition; they have some great linebackers as well, whereas Rutgers is a growing program; it's exciting, they're building up to be a good team, a New Jersey pride kind of thing."
Whether the tradition of Penn State or the in-state and up-and-coming Rutgers football woos Carson, he has mainly focused on the players as a key factor.
"I think it's going to be the players I'm associated with," Carson said. "As long as I like the players I'm being around, it just makes everything so much better. That's always been a huge thing for me."
After meeting Nittany Lions and Scarlet Knights linebackers this past year, Carson, a Manahawkin, N.J. native and linebacker himself, shared kind thoughts towards them.
"I've stayed at both schools to meet with the players specifically," Carson said. "At both schools, there are some stand-up guys, some great guys."
At Penn State, Carson said he met LBs Sean Lee, Josh Hull and Chris Colasanti, whom he deemed "linebacker guys, good guys, my type."
While in Piscataway, Carson was introduced to Kevin Malast, Matt Volva, Ryan D'Imperio and even former Rutgers fullback Brian Leonard.
"I'm really tight with Malast," Carson said. "He's a wrestler from my area. We know each other now. He comes and watches me wrestle now, mostly personality-wise."
Carson also said he admired Rutgers for its ability to transcend expectations. He does not accept the widely-held belief that high school athletes should attend house-hold names for the national recognition.
"Rutgers is an absolutely, phenomenal school; some people try to knock it, ‘Get your name out at a bigger school'. I don't believe that at all," Carson said. "If you're good, someone will pick you up. It doesn't matter where you go (in college) if you wanna go in the NFL. As long as you get the right fit, you're happy and you wanna play for your team.
"So much NFL scouts, you don't need to be on TV," he added. "Look at the quarterback from Delaware," referring to Joe Flacco, who played for a smaller program, yet was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2008 NFL Draft's first round.
Historically, some of the nation's greatest college linebackers have also competed for Penn State including Jack Ham, Paul Posluszny and, more recently, Dan Connor.
On the other hand, Rutgers recruiting relies on the growth and development of a young and vibrant program, which has earned several bowl appearances and watched its players recently advance to the next level.
Despite both schools' success, Carson shares concerns about Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, who turns 82 in less than five months, and the speculation surrounding Rutgers' coach Greg Schiano's job.
"He can't promise me he'll be there for health reasons," Carson said, referring to Paterno, the Nittany Lions coach since 1966. "It could be someone on the staff (replacing him); him leaving before I come might be a benefit to me. Then I won't have to go through a change."
Regarding the Rutgers rumors with Schiano leaving and possibly replacing Paterno, Carson said, "That was a big concern for me. He assured me he's not going anywhere."
Nonetheless, Carson remains uncertain about which school to attend next fall.
Rather than blame Schiano, Paterno or the media, Carson takes responsibility for inking the letter of intent.
"It might be a recruiting visit, I might have to take an official visit, maybe something happens with one of the coaches," Carson said. "I'm waiting it out and seeing. You never know. I really feel like the day I make my decision, I'll be sure."
Carson said he will attend Penn State-Oregon State, ensuring that he's been to at least one Penn State football game before signing with either school. Carson has already enjoyed several football contests at Rutgers, including last year's come-from-behind win over South Florida.
Meanwhile, Carson said he prepares arduously for the 2008-09 football campaign.
"Weight training, agility; this year we've been doing a lot more cardio lifting than power lifting, really concentrating on the back of our bodies" Carson said, adding "hamstrings, your back, things that propel you forward, change of direction. I'm pretty good with straight forward speed, need work on my misdirection, can always work on it, one of the things I'm trying to concentrate on."
Carson said he definitely wants to win a state championship in his final season at Southern Regional High School, which reached the second round of the playoffs in 2007-08.
Carson remains confident about the end goal at high school. But, he is not ready to sign with Rutgers or Penn State, even on a whim.
"I can't answer that," Carson said, when asked to pick a school right now. "I just don't know."
Carson To Decide Between Knights & Lions
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