Penn State welcomes unofficial visits

Unofficial visits have taken on a whole new level of importance at Penn State.

Recruits no longer have to reflect on just academics, playing time and the coaching staff. They have to look at the sanctions -- and look past any stain this program might have.

The Nittany Lions' staff has to overcome this handicap some way, and unofficial visits are one way it can combat that.

The staff wants prospects to look at the team as a family, so it wants those potential players to feel right at home. On unofficial visits, recruits are treated like part of the team. They watch practice, attend team meetings and chat with coaches. The sooner they feel like part of the team, the sooner they might commit to be part of that team.

"Recruiting's about relationships," coach Bill O'Brien said recently. "It's about making sure there's a trusting relationship between ourself and the person we're recruiting. It's about fit."

Four-star tight end Adam Breneman (Camp Hill, Pa./Cedar Cliff) wasn't certain about heading to Happy Valley until speaking with O'Brien face-to-face. He said he's traveled to Penn State "double-digit" times on unofficial visits, and he's already taken on a leadership role by broadcasting his love of Penn State through the media and on his Twitter account.

"It just helps get more comfortable with things," Breneman told ESPN about the visits.

Penn State will have an uphill climb for at least the next six years when it comes to reeling in prospects. So, if a recruit wants to come to Penn State on an unofficial visit, the Lions likely won't turn him away.

"I've been there three times," said three-star linebacker Brandon Bell (Mays Landing, N.J./Oakcrest). "And it got better each time."

That's exactly what Penn State's counting on.