2022 WR Kaden Saunders commits to Penn State
Penn State picked up its first Class of 2022 commitment Saturday when Ohio wide receiver Kaden Saunders announced his commitment on Twitter.
Listed at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, Saunders earned an offer from James Franklin and his staff over a year ago in March 2019. The offer came during an unofficial visit, and he then went on to visit University Park three more times in May, October and November of last year. Those visits, combined with weekly conversations with the staff, made this an easy decision.
"I just knew where I wanted to be. Penn State always felt like home to me," Saunders said. "The staff cares about me genuinely. I feel like they'll always take care of me well when I get there. They've always made it clear that I'm a priority to them, so that made this easy for me. I knew where I wanted to be."
Cornerback coach and regional recruiter Terry Smith was the first coach to make contact with Saunders. That kickstarted his interest in the staff, but once Taylor Stubblefield joined as the new wide receivers coach, Saunders felt more comfortable with the Nittany Lions, knowing he had a bond with his would-be position coach.
"Coach Smith was the first coach I became real close with," Saunders said. "We've been close since my freshman year and I'm still very close with him, but Coach Stubblefield kind of took over my recruitment when he got here so I could become close with him.
"We get along great. We joke around a lot. I know I can talk to him about more than just football. He really knows what he's doing, especially with the slot position. He played that in college and excelled at it, leading the Big Ten in catches. So, I feel very comfortable with him. He's a chill coach and someone that's proven himself."
Saunders narrowed his list to seven schools back in June. Arizona State, Indiana, Michigan and TCU all made the cut, but he said his decision came down to Penn State, Notre Dame and West Virginia.
Saunders is currently a four-star prospect on Rivals. He's the first Class of 2022 prospect to commit, but he could soon be joined by TE Jerry Cross. The Milwaukee native is expected to announce his decision next week, and he's down to Penn State and Wisconsin.
Overall, Saunders earned 15 scholarship offers. He visited 10 different schools in 2019 before narrowing his list. The Nittany Lions have been considered the favorite since the fall when he attended the White Out against Michigan and then quickly returned a few weeks later to watch the game against Indiana.
“It seems like their fans are actually starting to learn who I am,” Saunders said back in November after attending the game against the Hoosiers. “I was walking around during their pregame and actually had some fans yelling my name and asking if I’m Kaden. I thought that was so cool. Their fans are really passionate. They care about their team and who they recruit.
“But the White Out was incredible. I knew it was a fun time, but I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was talking to my dad about that experience. We looked at each other during the game and just thought it was crazy to see how loud the place is and the support you see from everyone.”
Saunders, who also earned multiple Division I baseball opportunities, previously discussed the possibility of playing both football and baseball at Penn State. However, he clarified this week that he plans to just focus on football.
"There's a couple people that have been elite at both, but most people become average at both," Saunders said. "I'd rather excel at football."