Paterno Is The Clincher As Lions Bag Baggett

Posted: January 16, 1987

Unlike the majority of blue-chip football recruits, Matt Baggett didn't have any trouble deciding which university was best for him.

Penn State was the front-runner right from the start. And yesterday, the linebacker from Central Bucks West High, a Daily News All-Area selection, announced that he has made a verbal commitment to attend Penn State. Players aren't allowed to sign a national letter of intent until Feb. 11.

Baggett, a 6-2, 195-pounder who generally was regarded as one of the best all-around talents in the area, also listed Duke, North Carolina and Virginia among his finalists, although his mother said he probably did that more to ''placate his parents" than anything else.

"They were the four places I'd be happy at without football," Baggett said. "The final factor was football and coaching. Joe Paterno seems to have everything in the proper order.

"It was the only official visit I made (back in early December), and I felt right at home. After that, I didn't think I needed to waste anyone else's time by taking vacations. Penn State was the first school to come after me, and that got my attention. That gave them a little bit of an edge."

But if there were any doubts, they quickly dissipated after Paterno paid a vist to Central Bucks West on Wednesday.

"I think it took all of about 30 seconds for (Paterno) to get his man," said Bucks coach Mike Pettine.

"Well, after watching the Fiesta Bowl (in which the Nittany Lions captured their second national title in five years with a 14-10 win over Miami), the first thing that crossed my mind was I'd better hurry before everybody else decided to go there," Baggett said. "Some places, like Nebraska or Oklahoma, it's almost like pro football. But I figured if I got injured once, why couldn't it happen again?"

Baggett, who also played quarterback this season, led an inexperienced Bucks team to five straight victories before he broke his foot in a 16-14 win against Neshaminy. Without him, West still went on to complete an 11-0 season and stretch its unbeaten string to 32. Following the final game, Pettine and the rest of the squad gave Baggett a standing ovation for "getting us halfway there."

Baggett is scheduled to resume running in four weeks, and doctors have assured him that the chances for a total recovery are excellent.

"I'm willing to bide my time," said Baggett, who expects to be up to his new projected playing weight of 215 to 220 pounds when he reports for training camp this summer. "I'll even redshirt my first year, if they think it'll help. I could have gone to a smaller school and maybe started right away, but I'm so used to a winning tradition. Here, I'll go to a bowl just about every year, and the chances are good that before I leave, we'll play for a national title."

Sold.

SUBURBIA: Last night, Joe Paterno met with Ridley's Matt Blundin, a 6-7 quarterback who still is scheduled to visit Miami and Notre Dame the next two weekends. Stanford also remains very much in the picture, but according to solid rumor, the Nittany Lions have the inside track at the moment.

Wednesday, Paterno also dropped in on Downingtown's Paul Siever, the Daily News Lineman of the Year, and Pennridge defensive back Louis Riddick, another Daily News All-Area pick. Siever has trips left to Notre Dame, Rutgers, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, and it appears he is very much undecided at this point. Riddick, who has yet to visit Ohio State and Florida State, reportedly is leaning toward Pitt.

Mike Beasley, of Owen J. Roberts, the Daily News Back of the Year, remains undetermined between Clemson, Pitt, Virginia, Rutgers and Temple.

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