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Penn State recruits rethinking their commitments

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Players able to transfer now without penalty

Few college football teams have recruited the talent-rich D.C. area as successfully as Penn State. When harsh sanctions were handed down by the NCAA on Monday -- including a four-year bowl ban and a reduction of scholarships -- many Penn State-bound players faced an uncertain future.

Because of the unusual circumstances surrounding the case, the NCAA will allow players to transfer immediately without sitting out a season. Recruits who have signed have the same option.

The news was jarring for Damascus High linebacker Zach Bradshaw, who made a verbal commitment to Penn State just four weeks ago.

"I had heard that [the sanctions] were going to be severe, but it was still surprising," Bradshaw said. "But I guess I thought this was in the realm of possibility."

Bradshaw did receive some good news Monday -- an offer from Michigan State, the alma mater of his father. It was his 19th offer. He initially chose Penn State over Northwestern, Virginia and South Carolina.

"I'm just going to do what I think is best for me and what my family thinks is best for me," Bradshaw said. "What other people do is not going to affect my decision."

The father of former Lake Braddock wide receiver Matt Zanellato said the redshirt freshman was returning to Penn State and that two of his roommates, junior cornerback Mike Wallace (Good Counsel) and sophomore wide receiver Alex Kenney of State College, Pa., also were sticking with the team.

"Matt's totally committed to Penn State. He's very happy there," said Tim Zanellato, who added that new coach Bill O'Brien had made a positive impression on many of the players.

Zanellato added that the presence of popular Larry Johnson, one of the few assistant coaches who was retained and a powerhouse recruiter in the D.C. area, also gives Penn State a better chance to hold on to its locals.

But many other players, like Bradshaw, appear to be weighing their options. Lineman Brian Gaia of the Gilman School in Baltimore was to report for his first year in State College in a few weeks, but according to USA Today, Gaia's high school coach, Biff Poggi, has heard from Alabama coach Nick Saban.

"We're on hold right now," Gaia's father, Tim, said via phone Monday. "He has not made any decisions. We're still gathering information."

Mike Farrell, a recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, said he expects Penn State to retain few of its recruits from the high school class of 2012 and fewer still from the class of 2013. New Jersey defensive lineman Greg Webb (2013) has already pulled out and opted for North Carolina. The father of Ohio cornerback Ross Douglas (2013) said Monday that his son's recruitment was reopened.

"I'd say the [2013] class is probably going to crumble," Farrell said. "It's not really cool to be at Penn State right now."

College coaches aren't free to contact players directly. They must go through an intermediary, usually a high school coach.

"You'll talk to a kid today, and he says no comment. I'm still committed to Penn State," Farrell said. "But they don't know what tomorrow is bringing. Their [high school] coach could get a call from Nick Saban or Will Muschamp [of Florida] or Lane Kiffin [of USC] or Urban Meyer [of Ohio State]. That changes everything."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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