Will Levis spent the early weeks of summer 2017 in conversations with Penn State coach James Franklin and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead. The 6-foot-4, 222-pound quarterback prospect saw his recruitment explode in June, and now the Nittany Lions wanted a closer look.
Then a rising senior at Xavier (Middletown, Conn.) High School, Levis added scholarship offers from Florida State, Iowa, North Carolina, Ole Miss and Syracuse in June. It became clear that a July 14 camp session at Penn State would determine whether the reigning Big Ten champions would also enter this pursuit.
“They were talking me through what was going to happen and basically indirectly said ‘You’re going to know if you have an offer by the end of the day,'” Levis recalled during a discussion with Land of 10.
By the time more than a dozen a future Nittany Lions players gathered July 15 for Penn State’s annual Lasch Bash barbecue, Levis was a member of the 2018 Penn State recruiting class. Now three months away from enrolling at the university, he looked back at the recruiting process with Land of 10.
Levis, who threw for 2,771 yards and totaled 33 touchdowns in 2017, detailed his rapid rise on the national recruiting trail, what led him to Happy Valley, and some observations from life as a Power 5 college football prospect.
Be sure to check out our Penn State recruiting notebook (7:20 p.m. ET, Monday-Friday) this upcoming week for more content from our interview. First, here’s Levis’ review of key recruiting topics.
Land of 10: What was your reaction when those offers began arriving in bunches last June?
Levis: “I knew that I was working toward that and that’s the kind of caliber player I am, so I hoped that things would fall into place and kept a positive mindset. I did my best, put my head down and knew those opportunities would come. I had a chance to really put myself out there at some camps, add some legitimacy to my name, and that’s when things started coming my way. Then it was just like huge momentum last offseason. It really blew up for that one little period of time, and I’m grateful it got me to where I am now.”
How did you handle the pressure of make-or-break camp sessions when scholarships were at stake?
“Every offer I got felt like something I had to go out there and earn. Almost all of the Power 5 offers I had were a product of me going to camp at those schools. It’s part of the quarterback position. All the eyes are always on you, and whenever anything goes wrong you’re to blame. I didn’t really let it get to me and did my best to have fun with it, whether it was the media or coaches watching me. All the camps I was at there were guys around me who I just had fun with and that kept me from worrying about the other circumstances. I’m going to treat every workout the same, whether it’s trying to get a scholarship or just a Sunday morning on the field with my boys. Go out there, do my thing. If they like what they see, then it is what it is. If not, then it is what it is.”
You had to prove yourself again at the Penn State camp in July. What was that weekend like for you?
“After all the testing and throwing, they brought me back up to the coaches’ office. It was kind of late at night and I sat down with Coach Franklin. That’s when he offered me. I talked to my parents about it because we’d been to Penn State a few times and kind of anticipated that if an offer came I was going to accept it. That Friday night we didn’t tell them, but Saturday morning we got there early and I gave my commitment.”
— Will Levis (@will_levis) July 15, 2017
There were several Nittany Lions commits on campus that weekend. How did they interact?
“[Tight ends Pat Freiermuth and Zack Kuntz] are two guys who’d been committed for a while, and guys I’d seen at camps. Both of them made the point to introduce themselves to me knowing that I was a potential target coming into the camp, then getting as many reps with me as possible. It was a lot of fun throwing to them, then making the commitment the next day and conversing with them and the other commits who were there for the Lasch Bash. That was a really cool experience.”
Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead left after the regular season to take over as Mississippi State head coach. How did you and the staff handle this change?
“Coach Franklin made it a point to the tell committed players there’s going to be opportunities for other coaches. Whether it’s [defensive coordinator Brent] Pry or Coach Moorhead, there’s a possibility of them leaving for another job. That’s something that was always in the back of my head, and in the back of the other recruits’ heads, because Coach Franklin always made sure we understood that. It wasn’t much of a shock to me. When Moorhead announced he was going to be the head coach at Mississippi State, he was actually scheduled to make an in-home visit with me the next morning. That was pretty funny. He called me up, explained the situation. I wish him the best, he’s a great coach and deserves every opportunity he gets.”
Approximately six weeks before you committed, Penn State lost a pledge from 5-star QB Justin Fields. Did that dynamic enter your mind at all?
“No. I think they’re going to take the guy that they want. They put their trust in me and they offered me. They think I’m right for their system and I trust them. I know Justin, he’s a great kid and he did what’s best for him. He’s a really good player, but I think if I do my thing I can play at just as high a level as anyone else. That’s what I look forward to doing at Penn State.”
What school was ultimately your No. 2 option behind Penn State?
“I would say Iowa. Just the Big Ten feel and family feel there. It was pretty similar to Penn State but I liked the aspects of Penn State a lot more compared to Iowa.”
What’s a recruiting rumor that took you by surprise or wasn’t true?
“Before I’d even visited Penn State [in July], I was already a 100-percent [247Sports] crystal ball pick to end up a Penn State commit. That was before I’d even got an offer, so that was pretty funny. I was kind of like ‘What the heck?'”
If you were in charge of the NCAA, which college football recruiting rule would you add or change?
“I think if you’re committed to a school, you should be able to take more than one official visit to the school. You can take five, but Coach Franklin isn’t going to let us take other official visits if we’re committed. We’re kind of missing out, so we might as well be able to take a couple of official visits to the same school.”
— Will Levis (@will_levis) December 9, 2017
What is your best James Franklin story … so far?
“OK, so this is back when I camped at Penn State before my freshman year. I think it was only Franklin’s second year there, and I went there as a camper coming off eighth grade. He kind of tells a variation of this story a lot, but it’s something I’ve taken with me since because I’ve always been a competitive guy and kind of take things too far from some people’s perspective. Coach Franklin helped make me understand that’s the right mindset to have because he said you always want to be competitive and you always want to win no matter what. His exact quote that day I think was ‘If you play your grandma in checkers, you better beat her.’ I liked that.”
If you could give a high school junior only one piece of advice about the recruiting process, what would it be?
“Keep your grades up. That’s one thing you don’t want to have holding you back and keeping you away from getting an opportunity to achieve your dream.”