||Melville, Ny. (St. Anthony's HS)
On Monday morning, Penn State's first verbal commitment for the class of 2008 became public when Long Island (St. Anthony's HS) running back Matt Hahn announced he was a Nittany Lion.
Matt visited Penn State unofficially late last week for the first time, in order to get a good look at the school and the football facilities. He and his dad arrived in State College on Wednesday (2-19) night. Although he was not a lock to give a verbal commitment this early in the recruiting year, he left Happy Valley as a Nittany Lion. When did he tell the coaching staff the good news?
"Thursday morning. I told Coach Brian Norwood and Coach Fran Ganter because Coach Ganter's the running back coach and Coach Norwood recruited me. They were excited like my dad and I were."
Before Matt's commitment, the 6'1'', 218 pounder had been on unofficial visits to both Maryland and Rutgers. Because it's still quite early in the recruiting process, Matt did not have the volume of offers that he would have had in May, but nonetheless, he had an impressive list of suitors.
"My first offer was Georgia Tech. After that came Penn State. Coach Norwood came to school to look at me and my friend Alex Webster, who committed to Stanford, to look at our tapes. We went back and forth through emails and that's just how it started. We contacted Coach Norwood and wanted to take an unofficial visit, which we'd been talking about back and forth with him. I loved it and they actually offered me about a month ago."
The Michigan State coaching staff also offered, telling Matt that by May, he could choose from any school in the country because he would have so much interest. Maryland also offered, while Rutgers was just about to come forth with one also.
So why did he choose the Nittany Lions?
"First of all its a place that I've always wanted to play. But I wasn't going to make a decision unless I went and saw it. My dad and I talked about the things we were looking for before we left (home) and they pretty much had everything I wanted. [Fran Ganter] did a good job explaining what my role was going to be, that's really what I was concerned about."
"He said I wasn't going to be a fullback, which some schools were recruiting me as. Others were recruiting me as just a running back, but he said that I'm going to play the position that Larry Johnson played, like a big back. He called it a superback, it's not a fullback. He said I probably can play some tailback but they like me at the single back position because I'm big."
"He said actually I would be (in two back sets) but I wouldn't be a fullback, I'd play some tailback. Or they'd put me in the backfield with another tailback but it wouldn't be an I (formation set) because I wouldn't be a fullback."
"I like to hit people, I like contact, so I think I run with more of a defensive mentality. I can get away from you and I can run around guys, but, especially if I need to get that extra yard, I'm pretty good at putting my head down and just getting it. I'm a very physical running back. I don't shy away from contact at all."
It would seem that Matt's strengths fit in nicely with what the Nittany Lions do on offense. Although he did not have great receiving numbers, Matt feels confident in the fact that he can catch the ball coming out of the backfield.
"My sophomore year at St. Anthony's we ran the 'Wing-T' and I was not the single back like I was this year, I was the slot back and that's actually more catching balls. I probably had close to 500 yards receiving that year. This year I probably had close to 200 yards and a couple touchdowns, but those were screen passes, not like the receiver routes I ran when I was a sophomore."
Along with explaining his role in the future, the coaches also served as tour guides for Matt and his dad.
"They showed us around the facilities, they showed us some things around the campus, I met with some academic advisors, basically just toured the facilities."
Just about everyone who has the opportunity to see Penn State's football operations headquarters, The Lasch Building, comes away impressed by it and Matt was no different.
"It was great. Their weight room was brand new, it's probably only three years old, and it was one of the biggest weight rooms I've ever seen. Downstairs they have a whole academic center where they have a mandatory study hall and academic offices, which I didn't think they would have."
While on his visit, Matt was told that Penn State would only be recruiting one tailback this season and that he was their guy.
"They told me that if I am coming then they are not going to take any more running backs."
"During the conversations that they had with me and my dad, I was pretty confident that they were being straight forward with us. They said they were getting one [running back] and a fullback, or something like that. I talked with other people about Coach Ganter and they said he has a reputation of being a straight shooter, he's not going to pull your leg. I could tell by the way that he was talking to me that he was sincere in what he was saying."
The coaching staff also believes that Matt may be good enough to contribute his freshman season, but he has no problem with taking a redshirt if that what's best.
"Coach Ganter said he doesn't plan on redshirting me. He said that he sees me contributing as a freshman. In no way did he say I was going to be starting or anything, he just said I was going to get a fair shot and that's all I can ask for."
"I would obviously have no problem playing right away, but I would have no problem taking a year and redshirting if that's what they thought was best for me. I'm not like I have to play my freshman year; I want whatever is best for them. If you're an athlete, you'll get on the field."
Academics, along with the football aspects, are very important to Matt and his family. While touring the Penn State campus, the Hahn's also had a chance to sit down and meet a couple of the business professors, the field in which Matt would like to major. At St. Anthony's HS, he currently maintains an 87 average in school. He will have not difficulty qualifying, scoring an 850 on his Pre SAT, a score which he hopes to significantly raise when he takes the SAT in April.
"I really had no idea about the PSAT when I took it. I'm working with a tutor now and he thinks I should easily break a 1000."
In the football offseason, Matt plays both basketball and runs track for St. Antho