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Offensive Recruiting Coordinator Josh Gattis
Q: James talks about "Dominate the State", how much focus do you guys put on that as a staff?
JG: It's something we truly believe in. We want to build a fence around the state of Pennsylvania. When we talk about "Dominate the State", it's not only the state, but the region, as well. We want to make sure we're getting the best players out of New Jersey and the best players out of the Virginia/Washington D.C./Maryland area. We take great pride in representing the state of Pennsylvania. This is a state that has produced some unbelievable football players. Some [of those players] have left the state and some have gone on to represent this state. We want to make sure from this day forward that all of the great players in the state of Pennsylvania come to Penn State to represent this state and take pride in wearing the blue and white.
Q: How much pressure did you feel about following through on that mantra?
JG: Coach Franklin laid the statement out there and we truly believe it. We're blessed with a wonderful state that has great football players. The high school coaches in this state do an unbelievable job developing their players and we have the utmost respect for them. We take pride in not only building a relationship with the coaches, but making sure that we're getting the representatives that are going to go out on the field and help bring back a national championship to Penn State. We're excited to be a part of this university and represent Pennsylvania. That was a bold statement, but it's a statement that we truly believe in. As long as we keep developing relationships with the high school coaches and players, we're going to continue to be successful.
Q: You guys had been on Andre Robinson (Bishop McDevitt) for a long time. What was it about him that drew you guys to him so early? What do you think it was that he liked about Penn State?
JG: He's an awesome kid. I could talk for hours about Andre. He's a talented football player, obviously, and he comes from a very historic program. He played for a great high school coach. He has a great mother; she is one of the biggest supporters of Penn State football that there is. He's just an awesome kid. He's a `yes, sir' and `no, sir' kid. He's the type of person that you want to be the face of your program and built around. When you think about Penn State football, he's the kid that you want representing Penn State. His talent, along with his character and his academic ability to achieve a world-class education, is something that we're really excited about. We can wait to get him here; we can't wait to coach him. We know he has an exciting future here at Penn State.
Q: How did the early commitments of [Ryan] Bates and [Ryan] Buchholz help to bring other guys in?
JG: That was huge. In this day and age, your signees are your number one recruiters. Not only on student-athletes that we already have, but the high school players you are recruiting that are already committed, as well. These kids develop relationships early on with each other that we couldn't build. They are reaching out to each other and great players want to play with other great players. We had some guys that were at the forefront. Those guys helped build this class. They did it in the right way by attracting kids that were not only were great kids, but believed the same vision. That's definitely a huge benefit. We make sure that when we bring prospects to our campus that they know they are not only representing themselves, but Penn State and each person that has ever come through this program.
Q: What have you learned from last year to this year as far as recruiting the region and the challenges within it?
JG: I'll tell you this, when you walk around with that Nittany Lion on your shirt, it gains a lot of respect. That is different from some previous institutions that I've been at. I don't think there are many challenges in this region. We've been able to develop the relationships and, although we've had a lot of success, we still have a long way to go in state. We need to keep developing relationships with a number of coaches and prospects. We're excited about the direction we're headed in. We feel like we have a great product here that everyone can be excited about. I think kids in the state of Pennsylvania are excited about Penn State. I think high school coaches in the state of Pennsylvania are excited about it, as well.
Q: You brought in two big wide receivers, how important was it to get them here?
JG: It's very important. In fact, as a wide receivers coach, they make me better. It was important in this class to get guys like Juwan Johnson and Irvin Charles. I think those guys are going to have big time futures here at Penn State. They give us size at the wide receiver position that not a lot of teams can compete with [in their defensive backfield.] They're going to create matchup problems for a lot of teams. We also added a guy like Brandon Polk, who has the ability to [score] any time he touches the ball. Although he's not as big as the other two, he is still a threat because he has that big play ability. I think this group is going to be able to add depth to the unit we already have. When you look at the wide receiver position, you look at the youth and athleticism in the future. As a wide receivers coach, I am so thrilled and excited to coach those guys and I know good things are coming for all of those guys.
Q: How does Saquon Barkley compare to the other running backs on your roster?
JG: I think he's very talented. We have some talented backs on the roster. Akeel Lynch finished up the year strong and showed you what he was capable of. We also have some guys that redshirted this past year that we're excited about. I think Saquon brings a level of confidence. He's a guy that is very confident in his abilities, a very talented guy. He has great size and speed. His highlight reel is one of the more impressive reels I've seen for a running back. We're really excited about him, excited to get him on campus and start working with him, knowing that he can provide a bright future for us in the backfield.