With National Signing Day a week and a half away, James Franklin elaborated on his recruiting plan as he and his fellow recruiters enter the home stretch. The Nittany Lions still have a few high-ranking targets they’re pursuing in linebacker Ellis Brooks and cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields but the class Franklin’s compiled will likely retain most commits save for a few defectors once all is said done on Feb. 1.
In his end-of-year press conference, Franklin touched on how he’ll approach the next week and a half — especially given the fact his program doesn’t have many scholarships to offer as it is. While it seems Penn State will remain rather conservative in its recruiting efforts before Signing Day, Franklin’s larger concern is about other programs swooping in at the final hour to sway Nittany Lion commitments to their respective programs.
He neglected to name any programs by name, but his pointed comment suggests he’ll be spending plenty of time fighting off other programs in an effort to keep his class intact — especially after losing talented four-star linebacker Dylan Rivers earlier on Sunday. “I think you look around the country right now at some programs that are basically offering prospects that are committed to every school in the country and they’re trying to pluck them away,” Franklin said. “That’s how some people approach this time of year. We’ve got a couple guys that are still entertaining conversations with other schools, and we’ve got to keep those guys on board with us.”
One of those players Franklin may have alluded to is wide receiver Mac Hippenhammer who’s a top priority for Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. The Fort Wayne native has remained in contact with the Fighting Irish for quite some time and received a scholarship on Jan. 15. He’ll be visiting South Bend mere days before National Signing Day — putting the electrifying three-star atop Franklin’s list of players he needs to convince to remain with Penn State.
Though this retention period is cruicial to the program, Franklin admittedly isn’t a fan of players bouncing between commitments. “I prefer you get in a situation where guys commit and it’s over, but that’s not always the case,” Franklin said. Guys are going to still entertain conversations or entertain visits. We’d prefer it not to be that way.”
Overall, Franklin believes his class — which currently ranks No. 14 ahead of Miami, Stanford, and Washington — is stout in its current standing, and that he’s confident in the group his staff compiled. “If signing day is today, we’ve got a pretty good class,” Franklin said. “If we can get a few more pieces of the puzzle, we feel good about it.”
Franklin made an interesting comparison between recruiting and the NFL draft in terms of evaluation. Coaches can be sure of players, but they’re always going to have to get lucky on a few. Franklin mentioned New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and his decision to draft Tom Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft — specifically how the Patriots had no idea the type of player they were getting in Brady.
“You’d love to get a guy late in the process that commits to you that was a zero-star or one-star or two-star and goes on and is a college football Hall of Famer and a pro football player,” Franklin said. “That would be great.”
We’ll keep you updated on Penn State’s recruiting push as National Signing Day approaches. Hopefully, a few of Franklin’s current commits exceed expectations — even if his comparison may seem a bit lofty.