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Mackey: Mt. Lebanon's Apke may be 1st of many prominent PSU recruits from area

| Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Mt. Lebanon's Troy Apke is a member of the 2013 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Terrific 25.

It took Penn State football coach James Franklin just 48 hours to begin trying to “dominate the state,” as he said repeatedly during his introductory news conference.

And Franklin's assertion that the Nittany Lions would have more of a Pennsylvania presence when it comes to recruiting wasn't limited to the Class of 2015 and beyond.

According to Mt. Lebanon football coach Mike Melnyk, wide receiver/defensive back Troy Apke, the WPIAL's most prominent Penn State recruit, talked to Franklin last Monday and “is still firmly committed,” Melnyk said via text message.

Apke did not return several voice and text messages, in addition to messages left with Melnyk and his parents.

Melnyk said he talked with Apke last Sunday to see what he thought of Franklin, and the early returns were positive.

It also seemingly didn't matter to Apke who coached the Nittany Lions this season.

“I never got the sense that Troy picked Penn State solely for the coaches,” Melnyk said. “I think he felt comfortable with the school, the guys and the family atmosphere. All of that's still there. I think he was just waiting to see who the new coach would be.”

So were the rest of us.

And the man athletic director Dave Joyner chose appears intent of gaining traction in the WPIAL.

Whereas recent commits such as Montae Nicholson, Shai McKenzie and Dravon Henry didn't have Penn State ranked as high as, say, Pitt, Franklin's appeal could change that.

Consider, he's from here (Langhorne) and played here (East Stroudsburg).

“He's a Pennsylvania guy,” Melnyk said. “He's had a lot of success. He's going to bring a lot of enthusiasm back to Penn State. You always wonder if there's going to be the staying power. I see some staying power there.”

As a senior, Apke (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) had 40 catches for 728 yards and seven touchdowns — giving him 94 for 1,776 and 20 over the past two seasons — but evolved this season as an elite defensive player.

The Rivals.com three-star recruit and free safety also posted a team-high 59 tackles.

“I wouldn't be surprised,” Melnyk said when asked whether Apke could play defense at Penn State. “He's a multi-talented athlete. He had a heck of a year.

“He added 20 pounds in the weight room, and they're only going to get him bigger there. I think it will depend on what they need.”

What Penn State needs will always be debated.

Where the Nittany Lions get it? That much may become much more clear in the months to come.

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