Austin Clark is the 30th ranked offensive tackle in the country, and has been a Penn State target for some time. He earned his Penn State offer back on June 22, after camping in Happy Valley. Although that offer (obviously) came under Coach O'Brien, Penn State's interest in bringing him on board has not wavered with the new coaching staff. Austin currently holds offers from Clemson, Duke, Ohio State, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Temple, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, and West Virginia. He was kind enough to speak with me a bit about his recruiting process and Penn State.
How's your recruiting process going so far? Is it still fun, or is it beginning to get annoying?
Everything's going really good. It's a really cool experience, especially now that I'm starting to talk to a lot of other coaches and going on more visits.
Do you have any idea when you're going to name a top group, or look at committing?
Well, I visited a lot of schools and that's really going to help me when I decide where I wanna go. I think in the next month or so I'm going to have it narrowed to down to about six schools that I'm going to really take a hard look at.
Which schools are standing out to you right now?
I'm not ready to narrow it down now, but the ones that are recruiting me the hardest right now are Tennessee, Clemson, Penn State, Ohio State, Virginia, and Virginia Tech.
What are you looking for in a school?
Definitely I want to go somewhere where I can see myself playing football for four years or five years, but also I can see myself going to class there and hanging out there and things like that. Football's a big part of it, but the education is also part of it. I want to go somewhere that I feel that it's all around right for me.
Where do you feel like you stand with Penn State right now? Are you a fan of the coaching change?
I knew Coach Franklin and Coach Hand and Coach Pry from Vanderbilt, so I was glad to see that after Coach O'Brien left I wouldn't have to be introduced to a whole new staff that I've never met before. So I'm really glad that Coach Franklin got the job, and I really like what he's done up there. As far as their recruiting towards me, they're recruiting me rally hard. I talk to Coach Hand pretty much every other day on twitter. Coach Pry is actually from around here, so he said that he and Coach Hand are looking forward to coming up to see me in the spring. He can't wait to see how much the town's changed since he left.
Aside from the coaching staff, what else about Penn State stands out for you?
Definitely the rich tradition up there, and the whole football atmosphere they have. I went up there this past season to the whiteout, their homecoming game against Michigan, and it was crazy. The whole atmosphere up there was really unforgettable.
What was the reasoning behind choosing to attend Tennessee's Junior Day over Penn State's?
Well a big part of it was the weather. That was the weekend they were calling for all of this snow over in Virginia and up north. I know in Pennsylvania they get a lot more snow, so it was kind of a decision based on the weather. I know here in Virginia we got about 2 and 1/2 feet of snow, and I was barely able to make it to Tennessee. I think right after I got outside of Bristol, so weather was pretty much the main factor to why I went to Tennessee instead of Penn State.
Do you have any idea of when you're going to try and get back up to State College?
That's the thing I talk to Coach Hand about all the time. They told me I'm welcome to come up any time, whether it be a Junior Day or just some time during the week, they said I'm welcome there any time. They just want to show me what they have to offer, and why they think it is a great place for me. I think I'm gonna go up there, if not for a spring practice in the next couple of weeks, then just sometime during the week.
How does the knowledge of how well Penn State has been doing early on in the recruiting cycle impact your opinion of the school and of Coach Franklin?
Coach Franklin is a great coach. He's won pretty much everywhere he's gone, so that's a really good thing I see when I think of Coach Franklin. The recruits they've been getting, like you said have been really good, and that's definitely a part of it. I know with Penn State not being bowl eligible for a while, not until my redshirt freshman year if they decide to redshirt me, but I mean, that won't really have any effect on my decision. But it really starts to make me feel better that they're starting to get some of the better recruits now that the restrictions have been lifted. The recruits are starting to come back.
I'm really excited to get up there and to see Coach Franklin and Coach Hand again.
Thanks for taking the time, Austin.