Skyler Mornhinweg has apparently ended a recruiting process that was on the verge of going down to the wire.
According to an ESPN GatorNation report, the St. Joseph's Prep senior signal-caller has switched his commitment from Penn State to Florida. If it plays out that way, he willl sign with the Gators on Wednesday, the first day of the national signing period.
"I think he really wanted to stick with Penn State," said Mike Farrell of Rivals.com, "but when coach [Bill] O'Brien started looking at other quarterbacks, I think he wanted to check out his backup options. He may have wanted a coach to hand-pick him."
Three Florida coaches, including boss Will Muschamp and new offensive coordinator Brent Pease, visited the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder at St. Joe's Prep this week. That was followed by his choosing not to take a weekend trip to Virginia Tech, the third program in the mix.
"He's not ready to make an announcement yet," Prep coach Gabe Infante said late Friday afternoon. "I don't know where all this is coming from. I can say that he's close to being ready to make a decision."
Archbishop Wood's Colin Thompson, a 6-5, 255-pound senior tight end and Florida commit, is friends with Mornhinweg.
"He reached out to me, but he didn't say where he was going," Thompson said. "He said he would make an official announcement in three days, and for me to 'handle' the media."
After choosing Penn State in July, the son of Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg reconsidered his decision after a child sex-abuse scandal rocked State College and legendary coach Joe Paterno was fired.
"It was never his intention to take this thing right to the end," Infante said. "But, as we all know, circumstances arose that were beyond his control."
Possibly on the advice of his parents, Mornhinweg has not spoken to the media as of late. He could not be reached for comment Friday.
"He's played things really close to the vest," said Mark Brennan, editor of Fight on State magazine. "He's been pretty savvy throughout the whole process. He's not revealed his hand at all."
Mornhinweg, a three-star recruit, traveled to Gainesville last weekend to check out the facilities, talk with coaches, and meet with players.
If the St. Joe's Prep has indeed opted to play for the Gators, he could be facing an uphill climb when it comes to playing time. Waiting in the wings to succeed John Brantley, who passed for more than 2,000 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, are a pair of four-star recruits from the Class of 2011: Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel.
"He's not going to go down there and compete for the job right away," Farrell said. "No way. I'll almost guarantee that he'll redshirt his first year."
The 6-3, 240-pound Brissett appeared in eight games last season. Bob Lichtenfels, East regional recruiting manager for Scout.com, described the 6-4, 235-pound Driskel, who saw time in five contests, as a "right-handed Tim Tebow."
"Each of the schools kind of laid out a plan for Skyler," Infante said. "I liked Florida's plan for him a lot, I can say that."
On Jan. 15, Mornhinweg, a three-year starter at QB for the Hawks, was one of about a dozen recruits to meet in State College with O'Brien.
O'Brien, also the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, retained longtime assistants Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden, both proven recruiters.
"With all that's happened, Penn State has done a pretty good job of keeping things together," Brennan said. "They lost a few commitments, but everyone knew there was going to be some fallout from the scandal."
Vanderlinden primarily handled the recruitment of Mornhinweg, a two-time Inquirer first-team all-Southeastern Pennsylvania selection.
"Even when he wasn't sure if he was to going to remain on the staff, he continued to recruit Skyler," Infante said.
The Lions received shaky play, to say the least, from their quarterbacks last season. Redshirt junior Matt McGloin and sophomore backup Rob Bolden struggled mightily while sharing time. Redshirt freshman Paul Jones missed all of the 2011 campaign due to academic issues.
Following up on O'Brien's plan to expand Penn State's recruiting turf, associate head coach Stan Hixon recently gained a commitment from Cairo (Ga.) High QB Steven Bench. The three-star recruit first committed to Rice.
"I think Penn State was the better fit for what [Mornhinweg] does and how he plays," Farrell said. "We'll see how he does at Florida. There's some pretty good competition down there. Florida is Florida."
Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @ozoneinq on Twitter. Read his blog, "The O'Zone," at www.philly.com/ozone.