Penn State Football

National Signing Day: CJ Thorpe looking to make immediate impact at Penn State

Coach Franklin on 4-star recruit Thorpe: 'He's an offensive linemen with a nastiness to him'

Penn State football coach James Franklin talks about four-star recruit CJ Thorpe and how he will fit in with the Penn State offense during a National Signing Day press conference.
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Penn State football coach James Franklin talks about four-star recruit CJ Thorpe and how he will fit in with the Penn State offense during a National Signing Day press conference.

Nope, he’s good.

CJ Thorpe is not interested in redshirting, despite a deep offensive line returning for the Nittany Lions.

Thorpe, a four-star offensive guard, signed with Penn State early Wednesday morning, and is eager to get to Happy Valley to compete for playing time immediately.

“I’m trying to come in and play,” Thorpe said Tuesday night.

Thorpe, an imposing presence on the interior line at 6-foot-3, 318 pounds, is the No. 4 prospect in Pennsylvania and No. 6 player at his position.

Penn State head coach James Franklin was more than impressed with how the guard dominated the WPIAL.

“Thorpe is a grown man,” the coach said Wednesday afternoon from the Beaver Stadium media room. “He’s got something that I think most coaches are looking for. It’s hard to find. He’s an offensive lineman with a nastiness to him. He plays with a really nasty demeanor. He wants to finish it. He wants to be physical. When you can find guys like that, they’re really valuable.”

With guard Connor McGovern, guard/tackle Ryan Bates, and tackles Brendan Mahon and Andrew Nelson all returning for the 2017 season, the only hole the Nittany Lions have is at center, left by outgoing senior Brian Gaia. Penn State also has depth in the trenches, with Steven Gonzalez and Chasz Wright earning playing time and Will Fries and Michal Menet waiting in the wings after redshirting in 2016.

However, Thorpe firmly believes he can get in the mix when he arrives for fall camp.

“I’m going to bring that savage mentality,” said Thorpe, whose Twitter handle is fittingly ‘@Truk_Savage.’ “I’m going to come up and play with the mindset they want.”

For a bit, though, Penn State fans were worried Thorpe wouldn’t be coming to the Nittany Lions at all. Despite verbally committing in April, Thorpe officially visited UCLA on Jan. 13, and it was reported that a visit to Michigan was on the books, too.

However, Thorpe nixed the trip to Ann Arbor last week, reaffirming his pledge to the Nittany Lions.

“I was trying to make sure I made the right decision and check out all the possible opportunities,” Thorpe said.

Franklin said he never really believed Thorpe’s commitment to Penn State was in danger.

“I don’t know if that necessarily was the case,” the coach said. “He did look around a little bit, but we didn’t feel that from things that were communicated with us.”

He had a lot of other offers on the table, too, from Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Pittsburgh, Ole Miss, Stanford, Maryland and Tennessee.

Thorpe actually visited the Crimson Tide, but came away unimpressed.

“I personally didn’t really like it,” Thorpe said. “It just seemed like a football factory, which makes sense the way that they are and the way that they’re winning. I personally wasn’t a fan of that.”

He was a fan of the Nittany Lions’ coaching staff, though. The guard, who was primarily recruited by Terry Smith, said he has a great relationship with Franklin, offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead and offensive line coach Matt Limegrover.

It also helped that Thorpe’s father is a Penn State letterman, and his older brother played under Moorhead at Fordham.

“Also, coach Moorhead and Limegrover are Central Catholic guys,” offensive recruiting coordinator Josh Gattis pointed out. “Whenever you’re able to have the relationships we had with him and his family, he was an important piece of this class to have.”

And Thorpe was happy to pledge his next four years to Penn State.

“Everyone feels like a big family. Everyone is loved. Everyone looks out for you,” Thorpe said of the Nittany Lions. “They’re not just using you for football. They care about your well-being and how you’re going to be after football.”

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9

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