Christian Hackenberg and Adam Breneman may have taken a lot on faith when they made their commitments during a time of great upheaval at Penn State, but they've got nothing on offensive lineman Chasz Wright.
Wright, a Milford Academy prospect from Woodbridge, Va., committed to the Nittany Lions on Dec. 28, three days before former head coach Bill O'Brien headed to Houston. It seemed like a case of bad timing, but Wright never wavered, vowing that his commitment was to the university, not to any individual coach.
"Penn State was always a team that I followed pretty closely in grade school," he said. "They were always pretty much one of the top teams in the area, they were always solid, so I liked that growing up. Then, once I started being recruited by Penn State, my interest really took off.
"The more and more I got to know coach Larry Johnson then, I was set that Penn State was always going to be my top school. I had a deep desire to go to Penn State, especially after visiting there and seeing everything, meeting everyone. Penn State was just always No. 1 to me."
The only potential roadblock standing between Wright and a spot at his dream school was his transcript. He had shown the necessary academic potential, but Penn State wanted him to attend prep school for a year. Other programs like Connecticut and North Carolina State told him they would try to admit him right away. He eventually committed to Connecticut but ended up attending prep school anyway on the advice of the Huskies' staff. In retrospect, it was one of the best things that could have happened to the 6-foot-7, 268-pound prospect.
"Milford was a very eye-opening experience," he said. "When you roll up on the campus or even look it up online, it looks like a fantastic place. But once you get there, it's a lot tougher than you can ever imagine.
"But along with that come a lot of positives. It teaches you a lot about yourself, who you are as a person, as a student and a football player. It's easy to slack and half-ass everything when you're by yourself, so what Milford really taught me is what kind of person you are and what kind of person you really strive to be. It was the best decision of my life. I'm so much more mature and prepared for college today than I was before Milford."
The year at Milford also changed Wright's college plans. When he committed to Connecticut, Paul Pasqualoni was the Huskies' coach, but the school made a change this past September, prompting Wright to re-open his recruitment. While Iowa and Syracuse both showed interest, he had a firm offer from Temple, and he committed to the Owls on Dec. 19.
That seemed like the end of his recruitment. But it wasn't. The Nittany Lions had also expressed interest, and a few days after Wright committed to Temple, he received a call from Johnson informing him that Penn State had a scholarship available if he wanted it.
"I had to pretty much make a decision right away, which was really tough," Wright said. "I just committed to Temple, they were great to me, but then I had Penn State offering. This whole thing was really draining me out, so I actually told Penn State at first that I was going to stick with Temple. But then a few days went by and that's when I called Coach Johnson back and told him that if the offer was still available, I'd love to come to Penn State."
When the news broke that former Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin would be taking over for O'Brien, Wright made it clear that he was excited about the hire.
He enrolled on Jan. 11, but before beginning his Nittany Lion career, he wanted Penn State fans to know one thing about the future of the program.
"I would just say that everything is going to be all right in the end," he said. "As long as [fans] continue to support us, continue to pack Beaver Stadium, then Penn State will always have a good coach, will always attract good players and will always be winners on the field and off the field. I know I'm going to do my part to make sure that's the case."
Newcomers of Influence
Blue White Illustrated is pleased to again present its annual 'Newcomers of Influence' magazine, a yearly look at the names and faces enrolling at Penn State that figure to make an impact - sooner rather than later - on Nittany Lion athletics.
Along with our always in-depth recruiting coverage, this particular issue is jam-packed with freshmen player profiles, a complete spring football report and more.
Take a look at the contents here:
- BWI publisher Phil Grosz kicks off the section with his corner, checking in on the players that are most likely to make an immediate impact with the Nittany Lions this fall.
- Recruiting writers Tim Owen and Ryan Snyder have player profiles on Saeed Blacknall, Mike Gesicki, Torrence Brown and Brendan Brosnan.
- In his monthly column, Snyder details the challenging decisions that could be ahead for Penn State's staff as roster management becomes a priority in the coming years.
- BWI editor Matt Herb kicks off our spring football coverage, examining the new direction new head coach James Franklin is taking the program in his first spring at the helm.
- BWI Web editor Nate Bauer profiles new quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne as he settles into the big responsibility of guiding Christian Hackenberg through his sophomore season as a Nittany Lion.
- Herb also takes a look at the one Penn State player who earned the lion's share of attention for the stability he provided at the placekicking position this spring, junior Sam Ficken.
- Speaking of special teams, new coordinator Charles Huff spends a moment in the spotlight as he brings new direction to an area Penn State has struggled to make strides in the past few years.
- With only Donovan Smith acting as a returning starter to Penn State's offensive line, there are plenty of new faces Penn State fans will need to become familiar with up front.
Newcomers of Influence
- Wrestling, men's hoops and women's hoops all get special looks at the incoming classes that figure to make their marks on the Nittany Lion programs next year.
To order a subscription to BWI magazine, click here