Penn State's 2015 recruiting class is a winner so far

Penn State coach James Franklin has received oral commitments from 16 players for the freshman class of 2015.       KEITH SRAKOCIC / Associated Press
Penn State coach James Franklin has received oral commitments from 16 players for the freshman class of 2015.       KEITH SRAKOCIC / Associated Press
Posted: May 14, 2014

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.

While Penn State followers are thrilled with Franklin's early recruiting accomplishments, there is a long way to go. With nearly nine months left before national signing day, history shows that a few commitments will be heading elsewhere.

Farrell said losing committed recruits "is just the nature of the beast." For Penn State, keeping some may depend on how the Nittany Lions fare in the third season of their NCAA sanctions with a roster that lacks depth in some areas.

"I think if Penn State does have a difficult season on the field . . . if they have a couple of key injuries, things could go sour," Farrell said. "I could see that used against them really hard from teams not only in the Big Ten but from around the country."


Penn State's 2015 Commitments

POS   PLAYER   HT.   WT.   HOMETOWN   HIGH SCHOOL

LB   Josh Barajas*   6-3   210   Merrillville, Ind.   Andrean

RB   Saquon Barkley*   5-11   195   Whitehall, Pa.   Whitehall

OT   Ryan Bates*   6-5   282   Warminster   Archbishop Wood

DE    Ryan Buchholz   6-6   235   Malvern   Great Valley

DE   Kamonte Carter*   6-4   225   Gaithersburg, Md.   Gaithersburg

LB   Jake Cooper   6-2   225   Warminster   Archbishop Wood

G   Steven Gonzalez*   6-3   295   Union City, N.J.   Union City

DE   Jonathan Holland   6-4   230   Potomac, Md.   Bullis School

OT   Sterling Jenkins*   6-8   305   Pittsburgh   Baldwin

WR   Juwan Johnson*   6-4   195   Glassboro   Glassboro

DT    Adam McLean*   6-1   282   Gaithersburg, Md.   Quince Orchard

S   Jarvis Miller   6-2   185   Suffield, Conn.   Suffield

CB    Ayron Monroe   6-1   195   Washington   St. John's College

WR   Brandon Polk*   5-10   165   Ashburn, Va.   Briar Woods

RB   Andre Robinson*   5-10   200   Harrisburg   Bishop McDevitt

QB    Brandon Wimbush*   6-2   210   Jersey City, N.J.   St. Peter's Prep

*Rated a four-star recruit by at least two recruiting websites

- Joe Juliano


jjuliano@phillynews.com

@joejulesinq

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