Toms River High School North senior placekicker/punter Chris Gulla said on Tuesday he has made a non-binding verbal commitment to Penn State University.
Gulla, who was an Asbury Park Press All-Shore First-Team selection as a placekicker in 2012 and a First-Team selection as a punter in 2011, said he will go to Penn State as a preferred walk-on. That means he will not receive any scholarship money until he gets a full scholarship.
“Because of the scholarship situation, that’s all they can offer me,” Gulla said.
The number of scholarships Penn State can offer incoming freshman is reduced as part of the sanctions the NCAA levied on the school in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Among the other punishments the NCAA gave Penn State is the school can not participate in any bowl games for the next four years.
“Playing in Beaver Stadium, every single game is like a bowl game.” Gulla said. “It’s impossible to beat the atmosphere and feeling you get when you go to that stadium.”
Gulla said he chose Penn State over Rutgers, South Carolina and Maryland. He said the other three schools were also offering him as a preferred walk-on.
“That’s how life is as a kicker,” Gulla said.
Gulla, who said he visited Penn State last week and met with Nittany Lions head coach Bill O’Brien, said he will leave for Penn State on July 1. He said O’Brien has told him he will be given a chance to compete for both the placekicking and punting jobs.
Sam Ficken, the Nittany Lions’ current placekicker, will be a junior next year. He was 14-for-21 on field goals this past season with a long of 37 yards. Alex Butterworth, Penn State’s current punter, will be a senior. He averaged 37.4 yards a punt on 51 punts with a long of 58.
Gulla was 5-for-8 on field goals this past season with a long of 45 and averaged 42 yards a punt.
Gulla is the second Shore Conference senior to make a commitment to Penn State. Red Bank Regional senior defensive end Garrett Sickels made a commitment last March.
St. John Vianney senior wide receiver Ishmael Hyman made a non-binding verbal commitment to Kansas University he tweeted last Friday night..
Hyman had 24 receptions for 428 yards and four TDs this past season. In 2011, Hyman had 28 receptions for 932 yards and 10 TDs.
Kansas’ head coach is Charlie Weis, the former New England Patriots offensive coordinator and Notre Dame head coach. The Jayhawks went 1-11 this past season in Weis’ first season.