Next year’s PSU recruiting class could be stout
Upon taking over as Penn State football coach a month ago, James Franklin vowed that he and his staff would dominate the state when it came to recruiting.
He couldn’t have arrived on the scene at a better time.
“This is going to be one of the best classes in Pennsylvania in a long time,” said Phil Grosz, who’s been covering recruiting for more than 30 years and currently works for BlueWhite Illustrated on the Rivals.com network.
Led by Baldwin offensive tackle Sterling Jenkins, St. Joseph’s Prep cornerback John Reid and Bishop McDevitt tailback Andre Robinson, Pennsylvania has nine high school juniors listed as at least four-star prospects by 247Sports.
The group could be so good that the Nittany Lions might be in for some tough decisions in who to take and how to mix and match top talent from the Keystone State with blue-chippers from throughout surrounding states and those with whom the staff formed relationships across the country while most of them were at Vanderbilt. As it stands now, Penn State probably will be looking a class 16-20 recruits in size
However, one thing seems pretty clear: Where the 2014 class was about the athletes, 2015 will be about the beef.
“We’ll see plenty of focus on the trenches,” FightOnState.com’s Greg Pickel said. “Both the offensive and defensive lines could see four to five guys taken. And I could even see three to four linebackers if they find the right guys. It’ll probably be two or three.”
Almost 20 2015 offensive line prospects already are known to have scholarship offers from the Lions, including four-stars like Jenkins, Washington, D.C.’s Richie Petitbon, Archbishop Wood’s Ryan Bates, New Jersey’s Steven Gonzalez and Grant Newsome, Maryland’s Isaiah Prince and Virginia’s Austin Clark. Petitbon, whose father played in the NFL with the Washington Redskins, is known to be high on the Lions, as is Bates.
“There’s a lot of good linemen in the region Penn State should have a chance at,” said Cory James of 247Sports.
On the defensive line, Penn State seems to be off to a good start with ends Kamonte Carter of Maryland and Ryan Buckholz of Great Valley, who just got an offer. Four-star ends Darius Fullwood of Maryland and Ricky DeBerry of Virginia were high on the Lions before the coaching change.
Buckholz is considered one of the potential early commits in the class along with linebacker Jake Cooper, a teammate of Bates.
Although the Lions loaded up with defensive backs in this class, they might look to add a couple of corners and they are high on the list of some good ones. If they could land Reid and Central Valley’s Jordan Whitehead, another four-star, they might call it a year, but they’ve also been involved with New Jersey five-star Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Look for Penn State to try to sign a running back or two. Right now, Robinson is right at or near the top of the list and might end the Lions’ history of striking out with McDevitt prospects fairly early in the recruiting season. If not Robinson, Central Bucks South’s Josh Adams and Whitehall’s Saquon Barkley are possibilities – Barkley committed early to Rutgers but has visited Penn State since then.
Franklin has said he wants to bring in a quarterback every year, and the Lions already have offers out to New Jersey’s Brandon Wimbush and Florida’s Torrance Gibson, both dual-threat signal-callers. At receiver, Penn State is high on the list of two SEC area talents, Tennessee’s Van Jefferson and Missouri’s Alex Ofodile.
While Franklin has said the Lions would be focused on Pennsylvania first and the region, it’s become apparent that his staff will be active nationally, too.
“They do have ties in the south. I think you’re going to see them go after some of those top kids,” ESPN Big Ten recruiting analyst Tom Vanhaaren said. “I think that’s what Urban Meyer does. He realizes he can build a foundation in the state of Ohio, but, in order to compete for a national championship, they’re going to have to land some of those guys outside the region. I think that’s what James Franklin is going to do, too.”
Penn State is slated to host a junior day on Feb. 15. Adams, Bates, Carter, Clark, Fullwood, Gonzalez, Newsome, Whitehead and Wimbush are among those Lions247 is reporting are considering attending.