Sto-Rox High School football coach Jason Ruscitto thinks all-state Vikings quarterback Paul ''P.J.'' Jones, whose 40-yard dash time is listed at around 5 seconds on the Internet, is faster than people give him credit for.
''He rushed for 400 yards last year,'' Ruscitto said. ''At our level, I just don't have someone to replace him if he gets hurt, so I don't run him a lot.''
Whether Jones would win a lot of sprints or not, his mid-January commitment to Penn State seems to have speeded up the recruiting process for the Nittany Lions' 2010 class.
''They [the Nittany Lion coaches] said now that they have me, they can get people to block for me and catch the ball from me,'' Jones said.
The Lions don't seem to be wasting any time trying to fill what figures to be around 18 scholarship slots for next year. They already have commitments from two of the top three players in Pennsylvania - Jones and Canon McMillan linebacker Mike Hull - with known offers on the table to at least 23 other high school juniors.
Penn State virtually invented the art of the early verbal commitment, but, even by Lions' standards, this is moving fast.
Names to remember
Here are a few other players to keep an eye on as Penn State looks to fill its 2010 recruiting class:
Sharrif Floyd: 6-4, 300-pounder with the chance to be a special defensive tackle. PSU has not offered yet.
Ego Ferguson and Robby Haverstein: It looks like Lion assistant Larry Johnson will be spending a lot of time in Frederick, Md. in the next few months. Ferguson is a 6-3, 260-pound defensive end, Haverstein a massive (6-7, 330) offensive tackle.
Khairi Fortt: Blue-chip linebacker from the same hometown as prize RB Silas Redd, Stamford, Conn.
Braylon Heard and Ray Vinopal: The Lions seem to be creating a pipeline to Youngstown, Ohio, and landing these defensive backs would help continue that.
Kyle Prater and Kenny Stills: Penn State catches some flack for not recruiting much out of its home territory, but these wideouts could buck that trend. Prater is a 6-4 target from Illinois already holding an offer. Stills is from California but reportedly wants to come east and check out other parts of the country; his dad played at Wisconsin.
- Philip Cmor
''I think Penn State could have six four-star recruits by June,'' said Phil Grosz, publisher of BlueWhite Illustrated and the G&W Prep Report.
The Lions are reported to have State College speedster Alex Kenney in for an unofficial visit this weekend, with blue-chip Connecticut running back Silas Redd and wideout Adrian Coxson of former Lion Bryant Johnson's alma mater, Baltimore City College, among those coming in by the time spring sports season rolls around.
Redd's running style, balance, build and speed elicit comparisons with Ki-Jana Carter. The Lions are considered to be at the top of his list, as well as those of St. Joseph's Prep lineman Seth Betancourt and Manheim Central defensive end/linebacker sack-monger Dakota Royer, recently ranked the No. 5 and 6 juniors in the state by Pittsburgh Sports Report.
Grosz said he also thinks the Lions are in great shape with Washington Trinity defensive end Kenny Wilkens and Penn Hills cornerback Brandon Ifill. Meanwhile, Bethlehem Liberty's Anthony Gonzalez, the reigning Class AAAA state player of the year, is reputed to be a huge Penn State fan; he could fit in as a safety or all-purpose quarterback.
Grosz expects Penn State to try to bring in two defensive tackles, ''a couple of'' defensive ends, two linebackers and a second quarterback in this class. Although Penn State signed seven projected receivers on signing day Wednesday, Grosz said he's been hearing the Lions are trying to reel in three more for 2010.
Of course, having signed U.S. Army All-American Kevin Newsome this year with Jones committed already for next year should help in Penn State's pursuit of pass catchers. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Jones was first-team Class AA all-state as a junior and made the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Fabulous 22 team in 2008 after completing 115 of 186 passes for 2,020 yards.
The cousin of former Gateway star and current West Virginia linebacker Mortty Ivy and a close friend of Sto-Rox's famous DiMichele family, Jones was actually a guard when he first began playing football. By eighth grade, though, the coaches found his true calling.
''I remember watching a middle school practice and seeing this ball sailing through the air. I asked 'Who threw that.' Someone said, 'Coach, that's Paul Jones.' He had an arm like I'd never seen. You knew he had big-time potential,'' Ruschitti said. ''There's a clip on Rivals.com where he throws the ball 80 yards in the air.''
Despite that arm strength, Jones is considered a cerebral signal-caller who enjoys watching quarterbacks like Drew Brees control the game. Sto-Rox's spread offense is similar to that which Penn State runs, so Jones has to make plenty of reads.
''Probably the thing I like the most is making all of the decisions and having the ball in my hands,'' Jones said.
Jones drew interest from Michigan and Pitt and his scholarship offer count was at seven and rising, but it was considered a foregone conclusion that he'd wind up at Penn State, where his mother went to school. He committed on Jan. 17 and intends to enroll in January 2010.
''It just felt like home,'' Jones said. ''I was comfortable there.''
Now Lion fans are hoping Jones will make other 2010 prospects feel the same way about Penn State.
''I'll probably help them recruit,'' Jones said.
From the sounds of it, he already has.