For most of the recruiting season you could sense the frustration of quarterback Steven Bench (Cairo, Ga./Cairo). He always seemed to be that next guy for a scholarship offer from some of the major BCS programs in the southeast. It never materialized. Bench was offered a scholarship by Rice over the fall and committed to the Owls in December.
Then, out of the blue, Penn State called this small town south Georgia prospect and today he switched his commitment to the Nittany Lions.
“What people don’t realize is that Penn State is a really good academic school,” Bench said. “It’s better than most people think. Academically Penn State is a top tier school like Rice. A Penn State education is nothing to sneeze at. So I can get an education like that and play college football at the highest level. I can’t go wrong. It’s going to be a great experience for me. I plan on working hard and earning my time.”
Bench got a call last week from the new Penn State staff. They watched his film and asked him if he wanted to visit State College over the weekend. He didn’t know what to expect but was hopeful of an offer. Besides, he was intrigued by the possibility to learn more about the Nittany Lions.
“That’s the whole point of a visit,” Bench said. “When Penn State calls you have to visit. I went up there excited because Penn State is a big deal. It was a little bit of a culture shock for me but then I realized that I fit in fine. I know the old coaching staff didn’t recruit me. But the new staff did want me and they offered me. They really wanted me. I am excited and so is Coach (Bill) O’Brien.”
Bench is also excited about playing quarterback for O’Brien and the scheme he’s bringing to Penn State.
“I know they had a quarterback meeting with O’Brien recently,” Bench said. “The quarterbacks there were telling me that they had taken six pages of notes from O’Brien on just how to be a quarterback. It had nothing to do with physical abilities. He expects a lot and this is a guy that has been coaching New England and a guy like Tom Brady. They have done great work with what they have.
“For Penn State, it now means that they will have an exciting identity on offense. That’s great for me being a quarterback. That’s great for Penn State because this offense is going to attract a lot of big recruits in the future. It will be a huge advantage for them.”
It’s been a really up and down recruiting experience with Bench. He has nothing but great things to say about Rice and he would have been perfectly happy playing for the Owls if things didn’t work out with Penn State.
“It was really hard to tell Rice that I was going to Penn State,” Bench said. “It was harder than people think. That’s a great place and those are great coaches. But Penn State is the best place for me.
“I have just always dreamed of being that guy that plays in front of 110,000 people. I live for that.”
Bench, 6-foot-3 and 205-pounds, is the No. 75 ranked quarterback in the nation.