The is shaping up to be one of the best in the country and one of the newest members like many of those who committed before him committed to program quicker than he anticipated.
Union City, N.J. guard Steven Gonzalez was interested in Penn State since Bill O Brien s regime began contacting him, but it wasn t until a week or two after Franklin took over the program that the four-star prospect picked up a Penn State scholarship offer. As soon as Gonzalez received the offer he said it automatically bumped the Nittany Lions up to No. 2 on his list behind Ohio State. Franklin s staff also recruited him during their tenure at Vanderbilt, a detail that certainly didn t hurt when it came to the player s familiarity with the coaches.
Gonzalez was on campus last Saturday to watch a spring practice and yet again Franklin s recruiting pitch ended abruptly, this time resulting in . The 6-foot-3, 300-pounder is optimistic his next visit to campus will be for the Blue-White Game in a couple weeks.
PennLive caught up with Gonzalez who detailed his quick commitment and explained what he believes Penn State can offer him.
Q: When you committed last weekend it caught a lot of people by surprise. How did you change your mind and decide on Penn State?
A: Gonzalez: I just connected really well with the whole staff especially with coach Franklin and coach [Herb] Hand. That really benefited me and helped me with making my decision. A lot of people thought I was going to Ohio State and what not but I just felt at home at Penn State and I felt like these coaches were going to hopefully take me to the next level and definitely going to Penn State was going to give me great success for the future. I said, Why wait any longer? I m just going to commit now.
Q: How did you break the commitment to coach Franklin and what was his reaction?
A: Gonzalez: Well, I was in his office and he was just trying to say we re going to recruit you hard and all that and I just asked him if I could call my coach for a minute. He was like, Sure. I called my coach and told him, Hey coach, I think I want to commit. My mom and coach Franklin looked at each other like what the heck? (Laughs). After we talked a little bit my coach was like, You have my blessing, go with what your heart desires. I just felt like I needed to commit to Penn State. I did, and me and coach Franklin agreed that I wouldn t talk to any other school and all that stuff. I m not talking to any other school but Penn State so for me that s how it really went down.
Q: So your mom was surprised too. Is she okay with the commitment though?
A: Gonzalez: Yeah, I didn t want to tell her because I wanted it to be a little surprise for her. It was kind of like a last-minute decision type of thing that was just in the back of my head and I was like I really love this school. I love the coaches, everything about it is great so I m just going to commit now, but I m not going to tell her. She s cool with it now though of course.
Q: What were you looking for during last Saturday s spring practice on your visit and what did you take away from watching the offensive line?
A: Gonzalez: I was looking for high energy and to see how they coach and how every coach would react to mistakes and stuff. Then just intensity was what I was looking for as well.
I took a lot away [from the practice]. It related to my high school because we kind of run the exact same system. I feel like I can do pretty well by the time I get there as a true freshman. I feel like I can relate well to coach Hand and the way he coaches so I think I m going to have a great future at Penn State. I just really loved the energy and the vibes that were giving off in practice.
Q: Since you committed on Saturday what s the reception been like from the rest of your now 2015 classmates?
A: Gonzalez: I ve been getting close to most of the recruits lately and I ve been getting pretty close to [Glassboro, N.J. wide receiver] Juwan Johnson actually. I ve known him since we met at a Rivals camp so I ve known him for a long time and am getting to know the other recruits more now.
Q: This class is filling up pretty quickly and I know that some of your classmates are focused on recruiting other players to join you all. How will you approach your recruiting role?
A: Gonzalez: There are still some more recruits that coach Franklin, the staff and everyone else is looking at so hopefully we can get those big pieces.
For me, I m going to try to get multiple recruits. I m thinking about going after Brandon Wimbush the quarterback at St. Peter s Prep and also his teammate [five-star cornerback] Minkah Fitzpatrick. If I get him then I could be the best recruiter to come out of all of this (laughs). I ll talk to them and a bunch of other recruits and just try and build this class and try and get the No. 1 class.
Q: Looking at the Penn State offensive line and the depth issues it has, how much did that factor into your decision and the reality that you could probably see the field sooner rather than later because of the lack of depth at guard?
A: Gonzalez: Yes, definitely. I want to play hopefully as a freshman if I get the opportunity and I m going to work hard at it. That definitely factored in just to know that I could get early playing time at a school that I really love and I feel good about working with the coaches and that definitely went into my decision as well.
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