Penn State 2015 recruiting class earning raves

Posted: July 24, 2014

WHEN JAMES Franklin hopped off the plane in State College in January, he brought a tangible energy, highlighted by a "We are" chant just minutes after deplaning.

His second message was just as clear as the first. He wanted to get back to Penn State's roots and keep the best players in the state of Pennsylvania. "Dominate the state" became the slogan that he ran with as he started putting together the class of 2015, the first totally his as Penn State's coach.

Franklin has done well to keep his promise to Nittany Lion Nation, bringing in what is the fifth-best recruiting class in the country for 2015, according to Even with the sanctions handed down by the NCAA in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Franklin is flourishing in the recruiting world

"I just came out with my 10 biggest surprises of recruiting so far, and Penn State was number one," said Mike Farrell, of "People ask why it is a surprise if you have known James Franklin so long and you know what he has done at Vanderbilt, but if anybody thought a couple of years ago that we would be talking about Penn State having the number five class in the country right now, people would think you're crazy."

Alabama, Clemson, South Carolina and Texas A & M are the only schools to have classes ranked higher than Penn State's thus far. The student-athletes who have committed to play in Happy Valley have one thing in common: They are all from the Northeast, with most of them coming from Pennsylvania.

Six of the 18 commits are from Pennsylvania, with six more coming from New Jersey. The fact that Franklin is from the area (Neshaminy High) is helping him with recruiting, and he is able to be aggressive with his pitches.

"There is more of a connection locally, he's a Pennsylvania guy," Farrell said. "I think that helps a lot. I think there is even more aggression in their recruiting than there was under Bill O'Brien. Bill O'Brien was a very good recruiter, he just had a little more hanging over his head than James does.

"I don't want to take anything away from Bill O'Brien and what he did because without him we would not be talking about Franklin having this success. There is an aggressive attitude, and I think more of a local connection."

One thing the 2015 class is missing is a player who carries a five-star rating. But they still have 11 four-star recruits who will build the program. Simply based on where Penn State is and where Franklin focuses on recruiting, getting a five-star player may not be in the cards right now.

"For five stars, I'm not really sure there is a guy that I can see coming to them," Farrell said. "Most of them are either [from the] West or down in the Southeast. I wouldn't go that far. I think they can continue to add to their class, and continue to recruit four-star and high three-star kids. The state of Pennsylvania doesn't really produce a ton of five-star kids. They are going to have to go out of state for somebody like that, and I don't know if this is the year for it."

Farrell said the rankings are always in flux, so a guy Penn State signed as a four-star recruit may end up being a five-star by the time he graduates high school. Farrell believes that while Penn State has a very good class already, there are still spots that need filling.

"They need more big men," Farrell said. "They could finish up their offensive line and defensive ends, but I think they need a defensive tackle or two. Obviously they need to continue to develop the linebacker group. I think the defense is really going to be the key. Offensively, over the last couple of years they have done a very good job recruiting."

Farrell graded Franklin's recruiting this year as an "A-plus." Now the trick is to get the talent to translate on the field.

On Twitter: @AndrewJAlbert01

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