Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Penn State's 2015 Recruiting Class Is a Winner So Far

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Penn State's 2015 Recruiting Class Is a Winner So Far

Article excerpt

Shortly after he was introduced as Penn State's new football coach on Jan. 11, James Franklin excited the members of Nittany Nation - and irked a number of nonbelievers - by saying the Nittany Lions were going to "dominate the state" in recruiting.

Four months after his hiring, Franklin has backed up his words. The Lions have received oral commitments for the freshman class of 2015 from 16 high school players, an atypical number for so early in the recruiting season.

More noteworthy, all but two of Penn State's pledges to date are from areas within a six-hour drive of Happy Valley, or what Franklin considers "in-state." Four are from the Philadelphia area.

Three recruiting websites - Rivals.com, Scout.com and 247Sports.com - rate Penn State's 2015 class No. 2 overall, trailing only Alabama. Eleven of the 16 commitments have received four-star ratings by at least two of the sites.

"We haven't seen them around the top five in a very long time," Mike Farrell, national recruiting director for Rivals.com, said Monday. "Especially seeing them up at No. 2 in the country, even if it's early, is really exciting for Penn State fans.

"This is what I expected from James Franklin, though. You put him in charge of a program like that with his recruiting experience, and he's going to be dangerous. I just think he's a good guy and he comes across that way to families."

Both Farrell and Brian Dohn, national recruiting analyst for Scout.com, agree that the energy in recruiting is much higher than it was in Joe Paterno's final seasons. Dohn said the tempo is back up to "what Penn State should be."

"In Joe's final few years, people were concerned about recruiting, and then [Bill] O'Brien had all the sanctions and stuff to deal with," Dohn said. "So this is the first time you're seeing somebody at Penn State that is aggressive, who identifies talent early, who connects with kids."

A sign of Franklin's aggressive nature has been his ability to get players wanted by Ohio State. One is 6-foot-8, 305-pound offensive tackle Sterling Jenkins of Pittsburgh, regarded as the best player in his class from Pennsylvania, who chose the Nittany Lions over the Buckeyes.

"I think it's a surprise at this juncture to see Penn State beat [Ohio State coach] Urban Meyer straight-up for a potential three- year [starter at] left tackle," Farrell said.

As a former assistant coach at Maryland, Franklin is very familiar with that state and the Washington metropolitan area. He considers that area "in-state" along with New Jersey and Delaware.

That only means trouble for the Big Ten's two newest teams - Rutgers and Maryland - especially if Franklin continues to mine the best talent from New Jersey and Maryland. …

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