Matt Zanellato was committed to Penn State for a long time. The only question was whether he'd wind up there.
Zanellato, though, got the scholarship offer he coveted from the Nittany Lions late last week, and, after taking a few days to mull it over, the 6-foot-3 1/2, 190-pound wide receiver from Lake Braddock High School in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. decided to jump at it. He told the coaches he was accepting the very next day after receiving his offer, on Saturday.
He was the sixth prospect to commit for a class that is expected to include 12-15 players. The Lions picked up a seventh committment on Monday night from Michigan receiver Allen Robinson.
"I was going to wait, but it was just kind of set in my mind. I was ready to get it over with. Penn State was always my No. 1,'' Zanellato said. "There wasn't really any other place I wanted to go.
"When I finally got the offer, I was ecstatic. It felt like a big weight was lifted off my shoulders.''
A Washington Post all-northern Virginia player as a junior, Zanellato also had offers from Delaware and Miami, Ohio. Maryland, Utah, Colorado and North Carolina State were showing interest as well.
Perhaps part of the reason Zanellato didn't have more offers was that it was pretty apparent he wanted to be a Nittany Lion all along. His brother, Joe, is a sophomore at Penn State and former member of the swim team. He'd been to Penn State a number of times and seen several games at Beaver Stadium, as a result.
"I started to fall in love with the college over the last two years,'' Matt Zanellato said.
Zanellato's feeling became reciprocated by the coaching staff when he attended a one-day camp at Penn State over the summer.
"At first, Coach [Mike] McQueary didn't know me at all. We built a great relationship from that,'' Zanellato said. "From that time on, I was getting seriously recruited.''
After setting a single-season school record at Robinson High School as a junior by accounting for 40 of the team's 55 receptions in a run-first, wing-T offense, Zanellato transferred in the spring to nearby rival Lake Braddock. Lake Braddock runs a spread offense, and Zanellato's numbers this season have been tremendous: 86 receptions for 1,588 yards and 19 touchdowns catching the throws of UConn recruit Michael Nebrich. The Bruins are 12-1 heading into the Virginia Division 6 AAA state semifinals.
"He ran a 4.53 [-second 40-yard dash] at the Ohio State camp. In high school, a kid who can run like that who is that tall is a big advantage,'' said Lake Braddock coach Jim Poythress, who sent offensive lineman Khamrone Kolb to Penn State a year ago. "He's 190 pounds right now. He's really trim. He can easily hold 220. If he can keep his speed, he can become a very good receiver but with the ability to spread the field like an Ed McCaffrey. And he's not afraid to go over the middle. He's a tough nut.''
Zanellato's athletic career actually began playing basketball, and he uses the skills he picked up in that sport to help him now on the football field.
"My strength is probably being able to go for the jump ball. I box out the cornerback like I'm going for a rebound,'' Zanelloto said.
Zanelloto won't be playing basketball this year, though. Instead, he's going to focus on gaining strength in the weight room and running winter and spring track to improve his speed.
With the regular season over, the Nittany Lion coaches are beginning to make in-home visits with recruiting targets this week. Zanellotto originally was planning to commit when McQueary and Larry Johnson stopped in to see him Thursday.
Washington-area prospects Donovan Smith (offensive line) and Darian Cooper (defensive line) were expecting to see Johnson Sunday, according to BlueWhite Illustrated, while Kermit Buggs was scheduled to head to Connecticut to check on defensive back Christon Gill.
Buggs also could be in Massachusetts recruiting four-star cornerback Albert Louis-Jean. Louis-Jean took an unofficial visit to Penn State over the weekend and found out on his way home that Miami, where he had committed, had fired coach Randy Shannon. Louis-Jean's recruitment is now back open; he is hoping to enroll in college in January.
Penn State also has a couple of big-time recruits planning trips to University Park in the upcoming weeks. Philadelphia four-star defensive end Deion Barnes is ticketed to be in Happy Valley this weekend, possibly with Indiana safety Nick Stoner. New York top-100 defensive end Ishaq Williams, who intends to enroll in January, is looking to take an official visit Dec. 13.
Junior college defensive tackle Jared Ebert, meanwhile, appears to be off the board. Ebert, who was supposed to take an official visit to Penn State in January, has committed to Oregon.