Rob Ambrose is the first coach to find Anthony Whigan.
The longtime leader of the football program at Towson State, Ambrose found the tall, athletic offensive lineman from Great Mills, Maryland, controlling defensive linemen with relative ease and displaying the promise he figured could blossom into success at Towson. So, he offered Whigan a scholarship to play football there, and Whigan accepted it.
Only one problem: Whigan didn’t qualify academically.
So, Ambrose did what he so often does when a player he’d like to have needs a little more time after high school. He sent him to Mark Duda.
Whigan arrived at Lackawanna College the same way a lot of college football hopefuls do, and go figure, he’ll end up leaving the way Ambrose figured he would.
“The thing was, he said to me, “There’s no way we’re going to get him back,” Duda, Lackawanna’s legendary head coach, said. “Once you guys get him, he’s going to become a major player in this country.”
And no, Whigan won’t be heading back to Towson.
Whigan sealed the deal on a little bit of Scranton-area football history Tuesday when he verbally committed to Penn State as the 16th member of its 2019 recruiting class. In doing so, he marked the first time ever that a pair of Duda’s prospects at Lackawanna committed to the Nittany Lions as members of the same recruiting class.
Both Whigan and safety JaQuan Brisker are ranked as the No. 1 prospect at their respective positions in the junior college ranks — the Falcons also have the No. 1-ranked JUCO DT in the nation in 315-pound Savion Williams, who is committed to Tennessee — and Duda expects they’ll both be key contributors for the Nittany Lions right out of the chute.
“If they get shirted — and I can’t believe they would be — they’ll have one year plus two more to play. Developmentally though, they’re pretty far along.”
I asked Duda about both players during a telephone conversation last night, and as you might expect, he raved about both on and off the field.
We’ll start with Whigan, the newcomer to the class.
He has overcome his academic issues, obviously, and excelled on the football field, paving the way for a Lackawanna offense that garnered more than 150 rushing yards per game last season.
At 6-foot-5 and close to 300 pounds, Duda said he could picture Penn State using Whigan at any position along the offensive line. He’d fit at tackle, he said. But Duda indicated that he saw a particularly bright future for Whigan at guard.
“He’s super quick. His mobility is second-to-none,” Duda said. “I can see him being a guard, at the big college level and as a pro, just because of his athleticism. He’s so quick. His strength level is so good.
“He’s going to be phenomenal.”
Whigan is on track to graduate from Lackawanna in December and will be enrolling at Penn State in January so he can participate in spring practices, Duda said. That’s a big deal, because Penn State conceivably could see a few players consider turning pro after this season, if things go well for them.
Penn State got a verbal commitment from Brisker back in May, and the hard-hitting safety is listed at 6-foot-3 but is closer to 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Duda said. His style is reminiscent of another safety Penn State fans remember well, current Steelers hopeful Marcus Allen.
“He’s maybe a little faster,” Duda said of Brisker. “He’s super long and tall, and his range is just incredible. Plus, he can really put a lick on people.”
Even better for Penn State, Duda said, is that Brisker and Whigan are two of Lackawanna’s team captains, leaders of the program both on and off the field.
“They’ve shown tremendous leadership,” he said. “It’s nice to see your best players be super, character guys. It’s hard not to respect the guys who are making every play, every block.”
Duda said both players are “very serious” about their Penn State commitments and credited both the man who recruited them, offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne (who handles the Scranton area) and head coach James Franklin for getting involved in the recruiting process early.
“Barring injury,” Duda said, “they’re going to be very, very good players at Penn State.”