LANCASTER, Pa., — For the second time in less than six months Penn State lost out on a big-time quarterback recruit. That he is a Pennsylvania kid only makes it that much harder for the Nittany Lions to take.
Thursday at the Lancaster Host Resort, in front of hundreds of family and friends, Jordan Steffy, a 6-2, 210-pound quarterback from Conestoga Valley High, chose Maryland over Virginia Tech, Penn State, Michigan State and Clemson, in that order.
Before making his announcement Steffy engaged in some of the deception that has become the norm at gatherings such as this one.
Initially he donned a Michigan State jersey in tribute to fellow Lancaster-Lebanon league alum Jeff Smoker, who is a senior for the Spartans and played his high school ball down the road at Manheim Central. That, however, only served as a segue to Steffy’s real announcement.
Steffy is rated by Rivals.com as the 10th-best dual threat quarterback in the nation. But for Penn State — which got verbals from quarterbacks Kevin Suhey of State College (Pa.) High and Paul Cianciolo from Ft. Dorchester (S.C.) High in the last week and a half — he was No. 1.
A big reason was because in August Chad Henne from Wilson High in West Lawn, Pa., considered the top quarterback prospect in the country by many and a Nittany Lion target since his freshman year, spurned Penn State for Michigan.
On the same day PSU learned Henne was headed to Ann Arbor they called Steffy on his cell phone to let him know they were going to come after him hard. Apparently it wasn’t hard enough.
Even though the Lions’ late push rekindled Steffy’s interest, it was obvious their efforts did not leave a lasting impression.
For starters Steffy said that from the time PSU re-established contact with him in August, he talked to quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator Jay Paterno only three or four times. Instead, Bill Kenney, Penn State’s tackles and tight ends coach, headed up Steffy’s recruitment.
“I don’t want to say anything negative about Penn State but I definitely felt from some of the other schools that more attention was focused on me,” he said. “Everybody does things differently and maybe that’s the way Penn State does things but [Maryland recruiting coordinator James Franklin] was here all the time and Coach Friedgen was always on the phone.”
The Nittany Lions’ recruitment of Steffy also suffered a setback last week when Coach Joe Paterno was unable to visit the youngster at home because he had failed to take an NCAA-mandated coach’s recruiting test.
Coaches are not allowed to recruit off campus until they pass a yearly exam that tests their knowledge of NCAA recruiting rules.
“I can’t lie it would’ve been a great experience to have him down here and who knows what would’ve happened?” Steffy said. “But the bottom line is he wasn’t [here], but I wouldn’t say that’s what made me not choose Penn State.”
Steffy also said the fact that Penn State doesn't consistently turn out NFL-caliber quarterbacks and the uncertainty it displayed with Zack Mills and Michael Robinson this season factored into his decision.
He also said that he asked Joe Paterno how much longer he planned to coach and he said that even though he felt like he could go another 10 years, Steffy would probably be the last quarterback he recruited.