Long at the forefront of the early verbal commitment, Penn State has taken an unusual turn this year by not picking up any football recruits through June. With fewer scholarships to give than with the Class of 2006, the PSU coaching staff appears to have become very selective and focused on the players it wants.
One of those players finally became the first verbal commitment to Penn State's Class of 2007 Monday night. Standout defensive tackle John Shaw (6-4, 278) from Spring Grove (Pa.) High spoke to PSU assistant coach Bill Kenney early last evening to inform Kenney that Shaw would be playing his college football in Happy Valley.
"I like the coaching staff a lot," Shaw said in an interview with Blue White Illustrated Tuesday morning. "I have a good relationship with Coach Johnson and Coach Kenney. And Penn State plays in a great league. The Big Ten is just a great conference."
Shaw sparked a lot of interest this spring during the Evaluation Period. That spark was ignited by a highlight film that consisted of him playing defensive tackle, playing basketball to showcase his vertical leap, and bench pressing 225 pounds 20 times.
He also added 43 pounds of muscle to his frame since the close of the 2001 season. Shaw runs a consistent 4.9 40-yard dash time and this spring ran a personal best 4.8. He also possesses a 34-inch vertical leap and can bench press 350 pounds.
Since the end of March, when PSU began recruiting Shaw, the scholarship offers began to flow into Spring Grove. Miami, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Colorado, Notre Dame, Rice, Kansas, Connecticut, Toledo, Akron, Louisville and Cincinnati were among the schools that offered scholarships to Shaw. His brother James will be a freshman defensive lineman at Rice this fall.
But Shaw says it was really a matter of choosing between Penn State and Notre Dame.
"The fact that Notre Dame plays on NBC and is such a big-time program with national exposure was important," Shaw said. "But I was just in awe of (Beaver) Stadium and the football atmosphere at Penn State. Everybody is really into football and you see all the signs and stickers around town."
He added that it was important that he will get a shot at playing early in his career, as Penn State loses four defensive tackles after the 2002 season, including starters Jimmy Kennedy and Anthony Adams.
Last season Shaw, who will be a three-year starter in the fall, played at tackle on both sides of the ball and helped lead the Rockets to a 10-2 record and the PIAA AAA semifinals where they lost to Manheim Central.
Shaw had 11 sacks last season and Rivals ranks him as a four-star defensive tackle prospect. He is a G&W Recruiting Report Top 250 selection.
Shaw is fully qualified for freshman eligibility and has a 3.4 GPA. He is undecided on what he wants to major in at Penn State.