Evan Schwan, DE
The recruiting process is one that, from the outside, can appear incredibly fickle. Take Evan Schwan as a case study. He represented Pennsylvania in the Big 33 game, and put up obscene numbers for a football powerhouse right in Penn State's backyard. But production took a backseat to size--despite a prodigious frame--and it took Schwan until the week before Signing Day to get that offer from the Nittany Lions. But as soon as he did, he jumped on it, becoming the final member of the Penn State Class of 2012, and signaling the end to a strong, frantic stretch of recruiting that helped make respectable a class that had for months been hemorrhaging blue chip prospects.
As mentioned above, Schwan had a standout senior season, racking up 17 sacks and 78 tackles. It was one full of individual accomplishments as well as team ones--Schwan helped lead Central Dauphin to a Class-AAAA championship while earning first-team all-conference and all-state honors and, again, playing in the Big 33 Game. Despite that pedigree, though, the recruiting services were clearly selling on Schwan: he didn't rank above a 3-star on any, and even that came with a caveat--Scout ranked him the #120 defensive end in the country.
Certainly, his size may have played against him; with just 230 pounds on his 6'6 frame, Schwan will almost certainly take a redshirt year while he bulks up to get acclimated to the collegiate level. But Penn State wasn't the only suitor that saw something in Schwan--he picked the Lions over competing scholarship offers from the likes of Iowa, Rutgers, and UConn. Just watching that above video, you can see why--yes, he bullied a smaller, weaker competition, but more importantly, showed a terrific motor and drive to finish off plays.
That perseverance on every play is part of a larger theme for Schwan, who battled back from a back injury that cost him his entire junior season. But when he came back, he did so better and stronger than ever, and needed to, to prove the doubters wrong.
"It's really surreal. At the beginning of my junior year, I never thought I'd be in this position. A lot of the parents would say, 'Evan's going to be really great,' but, when I got injured, I was like, 'What's going to happen?'' Schwan said. "The thing I take the most pride in is going from having nothing to having everything. A lot of people, even on the football team, they doubted me.''
Schwan, like so many other recruits, cited Penn State's commitment to academics as his rationale:
"The main reason is academics,'' said Schwan, who plans to major in business. "I aspire to play in the NFL, but, if that doesn't work out, I have a fallback.''
It's easy to view Schwan as a "fallback," too--to fellow Harrisburg defensive end Noah Spence--but that's not fair to the kid, who's a very promising incoming player in his own right. Under the tutelage of Larry Johnson, and with that motor, Penn State fans have the right to expect big things from Schwan.