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June 21, 2013It's a big weekend for Penn State's Class of 2013.
With five early enrollees already working out with the team, the remaining 11 signees will be moving into their dorms Saturday and Sunday in anticipation for class, which starts next week. Just a little more than four months removed from signing their letter of intent, the members of the first full class in Bill O'Brien's tenure admits that they're chomping at the bit to join their Nittany Lion teammates in State College.
"Oh man, I've been waiting to get up there forever," said three-star offensive lineman Andrew Nelson. "I've been talking to a few of the guys and I know we all have been getting impatient. It's something we all have been dreaming about forever now, you know? So, to finally get there, move in, join the team and get to work.
"I couldn't be more excited."
Nelson will join Brendan Mahon and Tanner Hartman as the three new additions to Mac McWhorter's offensive line. All three have been in touch with their position coach throughout the spring, as they prepared or what's expected to be a busy summer.
"I've been working so hard on my conditioning," said Hartman. "I got up to around 275 and now I'm at 265. I'm really happy with my training so far. I've been doing the workout schedule they sent me, plus some things at my high school.
"I couldn't be more excited about my weight and where I'm at right now. I've been working really hard on my conditioning, because honestly, I've been hearing stories about Coach Fitz (laughs). I know he's going to be pushing us so hard, that's how it is when you're the new guy. But I can't wait."
Hartman will most likely start at offensive tackle, along with Nelson, while Mahon will most likely be an interior lineman heading into fall camp.
For other prospects, like four-star defensive end Garrett Sickels, he actually has to finish up one chapter in his life before he starts another.
"I still have to graduate. I'm doing that tonight," Sickels said Friday afternoon. "We do it at our football field. It's going to be a bit surreal, graduating on my old stomping grounds the day before I move up to my new home.
"I couldn't ask for a better ending at Red Bank, but I'll be honest. All I think about is Penn State."
While football is the ultimate team game, there's one prospect that will garner a little more attention than most these next few months. Five-star quarterback Christian Hackenberg is used to it though, which is why many believe he'll be able to handle the pressures of fighting for the starting job.
"I've always just been the kind of guy that'll go out there and do his best," Hackenberg said. "So I'm not really letting anything get to me. I knew I had a good chance to compete early at Penn State, so now it's time for me to go out there and just do my best.
"I'll always be a good teammate over anything, so no matter what happens, all I care about is making sure I do my part to see that we win as many games as possible this year, whether I get the chance to play or not, whether I got to run the scout team, I don't care. I just want to get to work."
Quarterback and offensive line aren't the only two spots that may need immediate help from the incoming freshmen. Linebacker may be the most depleted spot of them all, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Zayd Issah. That puts plenty of pressure on three-star Brandon Bell, but he'll be the first to tell you that he can handle it.
"Coach Van has been telling me that I better be ready. I know I'm starting off at the (weakside linebacker) position. I know they're expecting me to contribute on special teams. Other than that, I just need to work hard, get stronger, and then do everything I can to compete."
Other members of the Class of 2013 that are expected to enroll this weekend include defensive end Parker Cothren, defensive back Neiko Robinson, defensive end Curtis Cothran, wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton and defensive back Kasey Gaines.