Ryan Bates knew where he wanted to attend college. He knew where he wanted to play football after high school and he knew that he wanted to attend a university where his parents could come and watch him play.
So, when Bill O'Brien stepped down as the head coach of the Penn State football team, it didn't matter one bit to the 6-foot-5, 280-pound offensive lineman from Warrington.
In fact, when James Franklin stepped in as the new coach of the Nittany Lions, it gave the Archbishop Wood star junior even more reason to attend the school that was at the top of an offer list which featured 17 of the top football programs in the country.
Last Saturday, Bates, who helped Wood to its second state title in three years this past December, committed to play football at Penn State University starting in the fall of 2015. The early commit chose PSU over such schools as Auburn, Ohio State, Miami (FL), South Carolina, Michigan State and Michigan, among others.
"Ultimately, I wanted to go to Penn State for awhile,' Bates said. "When I went up there for the Blue-White game the first time, I fell in love with it right away. I've been up there four times and I love it there. It's one big, happy family and they all treat each other like brothers and sisters. The atmosphere is fantastic, they have good facilities and the coaches are phenomenal.'
Bates has been one of the most sought-after players in the area since becoming a starter for the Vikings. In fact, he ranks 22nd overall (per Rivals.com) for offensive tackles in the entire country.
Wood coach Steve Devlin, who has coached at Wood for seven years now and 15 overall, said that Bates is probably the best lineman he has ever coached.
"He is so athletic and he just has so many things about him. He can move, he can get down field and make blocks and he can block the point of attack,' Devlin said. "He's just a tremendous football player.'
While Bates originally met with the O'Brien staff on his first couple of visits to Penn State, things changed, and he went back up and met Franklin and his staff, who did nothing but give him even more incentive to choose to attend school in State College.
"Nothing changed,' Bates said of Penn State's coaching switch. "If anything, it made it better. My first impression is that I love the guy. He's a real people person. He's the kind of person you can 100 percent go to with and he won't turn you away. He's real energetic and I love the guy.'
Bates, 17, started with Wood's freshman team in 2011 before being an active member of the 2012 team which finished as runner-up in the state. In 2013, Bates made a huge splash, blocking for the explosive running back, Jarrett McClenton, and being one of the biggest reasons why the Vikings were able to capture yet another state championship.
Despite drawing attention from college coaches and scouts all over the country, Bates has long been considered a Penn State lock. The locality of Penn State played a huge factor, as Bates said he looks forwarding to his family being able to come and visit and watch him play football anytime they want.
The commitment itself is extremely important to the Nittany Lions, a team which currently lacks depth on the offensive line, allowing Bates the opportunity to make an immediate impact.
"I think Penn State is a perfect fit for Ryan,' Devlin said. "He loves the school and it's not too far from home, so his parents can come watch him play, which was a big thing for him. I also think the level of competition we play at Wood is definitely going to help him in college. He's had two great years and a lot of great football games and the way we practice should help him to go forward in college.'
"Our program is at an elite level and we don't compare to a lot of other schools in the area, let alone the country,' Bates said. "The workouts we go through and the stuff we do is real high-tempo and we need a lot of energy to do it. It should prepare me really well for college.'
Franklin and Penn State are also looking at Wood junior Jake Cooper, a two-way player who shined at inside linebacker this past season. Cooper, a three-star recruit, has offers from such schools as Penn State, Boston College, Virginia, Pittsburgh and Rutgers, as well as several others.