With ten reduced scholarships for the next four recruiting classes, developing a successful walk-on program — or run-on as Bill O’Brien has affectionately named it — will be key going forward for Penn State. Yesterday, the Nittany Lions took a big step towards that goal as kicker/punter Chris Gulla, quarterback D.J. Crook, and quarterback Austin Whipple have all joined the program.
A bit more on each of the individual prospects below:
Chris Gulla (Pictured above, #36)
Gulla is currently a high-school senior from Toms River, New Jersey. He is ranked as the 19th best kicking prospect in the nation and was a combined 11 of 13 on field goals between his junior and senior season. He should immediately provide a bit more depth at the special teams positions and will be an option should Sam Ficken or Alex Butterworth struggle next season. Gulla also had walk-on opportunities at South Carolina and Rutgers but chose the Blue and White where he will enroll in the Smeal College of Business. Lions247 has more information on him.
From Barnstable High School in Massachusetts, Crook threw for a state-record 8126 passing yards and 77 touchdown passes over 38 starts in four seasons and helped to end a 10-year playoff drought during his senior year. He spent the past semester at Worchester Academy, and will join the Nittany Lions in the spring, picking them over Albany, Villanova, and Penn.
Originally from the Pittsburgh area and currently at the Salisbury School in Connecticut, Whipple has some good family lineage as his father Mark was a successful quarterback at Brown university who is now the quarterbacks coach of the Cleveland Browns.
As recently as last Thursday when Jake Waters opted for Kansas State, quarterback depth was a huge worry as rising sophomore Steven Bench was the only signal-caller on the roster heading into spring practice. Since then, junior college quarterback Tyler Ferguson joined the Nittany Lions along with Crook and Whipple last night. In the immediate future, they will provide extra bodies and options should an injury occur.
Perhaps long-term, they provide something more. Matt McGloin, after all, was once a walk-on himself.