James Franklin’s Secrets To Recruiting Success
James Franklin has been putting in work on the recruiting trail this past year, and on National Signing Day, that hard work paid off in a big way. Franklin helped roundup a class that ranked as high as No. 2 in the Big Ten, an incredible feat considering the powerhouse schools Penn State is competing with, along with the fact the Nittany Lions class rankings over the past five years averaged out at No. 34. All of the recent success raises the question: How does Franklin do it?
Let’s begin with the obvious: Recruiting at a major Division I program is not a solo operation. There are various members of Franklin’s team that help put his plan into motion, none more important than Penn State’s director of player personnel Andy Frank.
“It’s a big puzzle, trying to figure out where all of the piece need to go, and trying to get them there,” said Frank in a segment with CSN. “I’m helping them figure out how to make it happen, and how to get these guys to come to our campus and select Penn State.”
Where Frank may act as the director, calling shots behind the scenes and putting Franklin’s plan into motion, wide receivers coach Josh Gattis serves on the front lines as Penn State’s offensive recruiting coordinator. Gattis isn’t just any recruiter, he’s Scout.com’s Big Ten Recruiter of the Year for his efforts on the trail. As one of the best in the business, he understands the importance of recruiting within the state when it comes to succeeding on the gridiron.
“We’re really excited to represent the state of Pennsylvania, and not only just our state but our region,” said Gattis. “We have some really talented kids, and it started with guys that were in our footprint. Looking at a Ryan Buchholz, a talented defensive end who can play multiple positions, or a John Reid, a cornerback from a prestigious program and a state champion. We have two guys coming in from Archbishop Wood in Bucks County, Pa., both very talented guys.”
The relationship aspect of recruiting is equally as important as selling what your program has to offer, because this is when that bond between player and coach is first formed. Forming these relationships is one of Franklin’s top priorities, and is an element that he takes great pride in when it comes to recruiting.
“I believe in that, I believe that it’s about relationships, I don’t care what industry you’re in,” said Franklin in an interview with CSN. “I believe that these kids know how much we care about them, and they care about us, and that we’ll have an opportunity to maximize their experience here.”
Special teams coordinator and running backs coach Charles Huff, Franklin’s right hand man on the recruiting trail, also emphasized the importance of building relationships with prospective players, and the impact that it has on players during their selection process.
“Recruiting is about building a relationship, and the earlier you can build that relationship with a young man, the more comfortable you feel with him, and the more comfortable he and his family feel with us,” said Huff in an interview with CSN. “That’s what we try to do, we try and get an early start.”
Franklin also prides himself on recruiting from the state of Pennsylvania, and after signing 11 out of 25 potential signees from Pennsylvania, it seems as though he’s fulfilled his promise to dominate the state. He elaborated on his in-state recruiting efforts, and how key past coaching relationships have been while recruiting within Pennsylvania.
“I think it started a long time ago. Our coaching staff is either from this region, or they have recruited this region for a long time,” Franklin said. “I went to a teachers college [East Stroudsburg University], and all my buddies are coaches throughout the state, be it guys I went to college with or guys I went to high school with. I think that definitely helps, and there’s a definite rapport there.”
Franklin addressed some of the dangers that come with an increased focus on in-state recruiting, mainly having limited information about a prospect from another state. He emphasized how important it was to get players into camp, where coaches can asses the players’ physical attributes, while testing their coachability. Franklin noted that he much prefers recruiting a player that he knows possesses top-notch athleticism after seeing him in camp, rather than one that claims he does.
Franklin certainly has plenty of help along the way, but it’s the little things, like forming bonds with players throughout the recruiting process, that have a lasting impact. Recruiting is a year-long effort, and as the signing period for the Class of 2015 concludes, Franklin and his team are right back on the trail, as they look to round up another top-ranked class in 2016. It may be tireless work, but it’s hard work that’s paving the way for the future of the program.