Alex Bars is well aware of Penn State's scholarship situation for his Class of 2014. A 6-foot-6, 286-pound offensive tackle from Montgomery Bell Academy (Nashville, Tenn.), Bars has watched through the eyes of his brother, Nittany Lion redshirt sophomore defensive end Brad, as Penn State was hit with sanctions that reduced its scholarships per class to 15 for the next four years.
And for that reasons, Bars is appreciative of the offer he received from Penn State early this week.
“I didn't really know if I would get an offer, because they said they would only be taking one tackle in this class, so they have to be particular,” Bars said. “But Coach [Bill] O'Brien told me to call him Monday morning, and he and coach [Mac] McWhorter offered me. I'm very excited, and it's an honor, because I know how particular they have to be.”
The FOX Sports NEXT three-star prospect becomes the fifth reported tackle offer in the class of 2014, joining Poly Prep (Brooklyn, N.Y.) standout Jay Hayes, Providence High (Charlotte, N.C.) four-star Bentley Spain, four-star Steven Moss of Chancellor High (Fredericksburg, Va.) and Andrew Mike of Sabino High (Tucson, Ariz.).
Hayes is committed to Notre Dame. Speaking of commitments, Bars notes his brother is not attempting to sway his decision.
“He's kind of staying out of it. He tells me stories about it up there, though,” Bars said of his brother Brads' advice. “He wants me up here, but he knows it's my own deal, and to let me figure it out.”
A center for the Big Red on the basketball court in the winter Bars propelled Montgomery to a 9-4 record on the gridiron, and helped push leading rusher JeTarri Donald past the 1,000-yard mark. When he wasn't helping to move the pile for Donald or one of the Big Red's other six running backs, Bars was protecting quarterback Dylan Hall, who also eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark with 1,281 passing yards.
Like many football prospects, he is using hoops to his advantage.
“First of all, basketball keeps me in shape, and keeps me on my toes and helps keep my legs strong. It also keeps my athleticism and everything else up,” Bars said. “When I'm on the football field, I feel my movement and athleticism are probably my best assets. I think playing basketball helps that.”
With 15 offers already in his pocket, the junior is just beginning to get a feel for what is out there on the college scene. But, with a family history filled with football -- and a brother actively involved in it -- Bars feels he has a slight head start over other prospects.
“I haven't set any visits yet, but I will over spring break,” Bars said. “But it's great having that background, because when I go to schools on a visit, it narrows down what I look for so that I know what a school has that I like, and what it has that I don't like.”
Of course, he has an advantage with Penn State -- and possibly it with him. Bars and his family trekked to University Park for the Nittany Lions' season concluding victory over Wisconsin, and he's seen plenty of the staff so far.
“That Wisconsin game; what a way to end the season. I know they can't go to a bowl, but to come back and win it, that was awesome,” Bars said. “My relationship with Coach Mac is pretty solid, and he's been to my basketball practices a couple of time. Coach [Charles] London was by my school once or twice, too, and I feel like I have a pretty good relationship with them. I think it's because of the little tidbits about them I learned meeting them in person, and that helps with talking on the phone.”
Though he has quite some time until he has to make a decision, Bars already wants to get started with the evaluation process. And considering signing day 2014 is more than a year away, he can consider that mission accomplished.
“I look at the academics, and also the type of program a school has, and the coaches that are there,” Bars said. “I also look at the level of play, of course, and I'm just starting to evaluate all of that with all the schools.”