Lions recruiting aggressively
UNIVERSITY PARK – The media weren’t the only ones getting to know Penn State’s new assistant football coaches on Friday. Some of the coaches were getting to know each other, too.
Just before having their group photo taken at the press conference and reception to announce James Franklin’s coaching staff at Beaver Stadium, Brent Pry introduced himself to Charles Huff.
It’s not that big a surprise, though, when one considers how busy the Nittany Lions staff has been on the recruiting trail. Since coming on board, Franklin’s crew has logged an inordinate number of hours and miles touching base with high school seniors as they look to finish the 2014 class and also building relationships with 2015 and 2016 prospects.
“I think we have great coaches, and I think we’ll have the most aggressive recruiting staff in America,” Franklin said, later adding that finishing this recruiting class was his current priority.
Franklin and his assistants have hit the ground running, and they’ve accomplished much in the last two weeks: A verbal commitment from Sherman Oaks, Calif. safety/linebacker Koa Farmer on Saturday was the Lions sixth since Franklin took over, with the previous five coming from former Vanderbilt recruits. They’ve kept all but two of the players that pledged to Bill O’Brien’s staff as well.
“We’ve got some really, really exciting times that are happening in recruiting, trying to finish up this class,” offensive recruiting coordinator Josh Gattis said on Friday. “We’re going to recruit the best and the brightest from all over the country. There’s no living room we can’t get into and offer a kid an unbelievable opportunity.”
Farmer was in University Park this weekend as the new staff brought official visitors on campus for the first time since the coaching change.
According to a variety of internet and social media reports, Florida cornerback Amani Oruwariye and Florida guard Isaiah Wynn joined Farmer on officials, as did already-committed New Jersey linebacker Jason Cabinda, Illinois offensive tackle Brandon Brosnan, Georgia cornerback Grant Haley, Virginia quarterback Trace McSorley, Ohio offensive tackle Chance Sorrells and Kentucky defensive end Lloyd Tubman – the last five in that list were former Vanderbilt recruits that switched to Penn State. A large group of Lion commits also were expected on campus on unofficial visits.
According to 247sports.com, Miami place-kicker Jorge Powell and Michigan punter Kyle Haan also were looking to make unofficial visits. Powell, who once was committed to Tulane, made it and accepted a preferred walk-on offer over a scholarship to Florida Atlantic, it was reported by BlueWhite Illustrated’s Ryan Snyder.
A former California recruit, Farmer (6-foot-1, 207) has been tied to the Lions almost since Franklin arrived. Since changing his mind about the Golden Bears, Farmer has been looking at Wisconsin, UCLA and Vanderbilt and also had offers from Colorado, Arizona State and Washington. A versatile player, he was the Los Angeles Daily News defensive player of the year in 2013 when he made 62 tackles, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and two sacks for Notre Dame High School.
Oruwariye, meanwhile, has been expected to be the latest Vanderbilt commitment to flip to Penn State for more than a week now and could end up a Lion before he leaves campus, too.
Wynn, though, is a big name from out of the blue: He’s a U.S. Army All-American considered among the top five or 10 players in the country at his position and has been committed to Georgia since July.
That comes on the heels of the news that Damian Prince, an uncommitted five-star offensive tackle from Maryland, has decided to visit Penn State instead of LSU in the middle of the week, which followed four-star New Jersey wideout and Rutgers commit Saeed Blacknall’s unexpected unofficial visit to University Park last weekend.
“We’re kind of at the point right now where we still have a lot of needs, and we’re not going to be able to fill all our needs in this class,” Franklin said. “So you want to take the most talented players you possibly can and the guys that are the best fit for Penn State.”
The Lions are scheduled to host Illinois safety Trent Sherfield and Florida corner Lamont Simmons next weekend, and it’s been rumored Franklin and company might try to get some other players that previously ruled them out to reconsider. However, with 22 players already committed, Penn State might very well run out of scholarships before then.
“We’re going to end up turning down some really good players,” Franklin said. “We’re going to have to turn down some four- and five-star players, but that’s a good position that you want to be in.”
While things get settled, Franklin said he’s having the assistants recruit primarily by position instead of geographical area. The Lions will have a new recruiting structure with two coordinators – Terry Smith will serve in that role for the defense.
“By having an offensive and defensive recruiting coordinator, we make sure each side is doing their part,” Gattis said. “Our No. 1 recruiting coordinator is James Franklin. Our player personnel director, Andy Frank, is unbelievable from the standpoint of roster management – he’s kind of the head of the table as far as recruiting. Recruiting is very, very important to what we’re doing.”
Gattis promised this just is the beginning.
“You give us a year, you’re going to see a big change in recruiting,” Gattis said.