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James Franklin’s 2018 Recruiting Haul Could Be Historic

If you thought James Franklin was a great recruiter before, just wait ‘til you see what he’s cooking up in the Class of 2018.

Penn State informed the rest of the country this season that its expedited rebuild is well ahead of schedule on the field. And the results are already paying off on the recruiting trail.

The Nittany Lions landed two of their top 2018 targets in the last two weeks, earning verbal pledges from the nation’s best tight end Zack Kuntz and four-star quarterback Justin Fields. Right now, Franklin and his staff have the country’s No. 1 recruiting class for said cycle, according to 247Sports.

The headliner in an already-loaded bunch is undoubtedly Micah Parsons.

The 6-foot-3, 245-pound junior transferred from Central Dauphin to Harrisburg High School midway through this past season, teaming up with 2017 commit Damion Barber along the defensive line. Parsons is considered the second-highest ranked Penn State recruit of all time (since they started calculating these things). Only Derrick Williams from the Class of 2005 was more highly regarded.

Parsons holds the rare distinction of being offered as a two-way player by the Nittany Lions. While he’s done most of his damage on the high school level as a defensive end, he took some reps at receiver this summer while camping at Penn State. By the looks of this tweet, Parsons could split time at both linebacker and running back when he arrives on campus.

Kuntz, who has two older brothers that played for the Nittany Lions, is everything you look for in a catch-first tight end. The 6-foot-7.5 Kuntz spoke with us about why he chose Penn State and the relief that comes with wrapping up the recruiting process.

He and four-star Pat Freiermuth combine to form a scary good tight end haul for Ricky Rahne. Though the Nittany Lions haven’t secured a tight end in 2017, there’s no need to worry with these two on the way. Freiermuth, who hails from North Andover, is considered the top-ranked prospect out of Massachusetts for his class, according to 247Sports.

Offensive line coach Matt Limegrover already has an exciting tackle prospect committed to the Nittany Lions in four-star Chris Bleich. The Plymouth, Pa., native transferred to IMG Academy in sunny Florida, but elected to return home to Wyoming Valley West instead. Standing 6-foot-6, 305 pounds, Bleich already has the frame of a Big Ten tackle. He’s currently ranked the No. 11 recruit in the Keystone State for 2018.

It’s crazy we haven’t even discussed Fields and four-star receiver Justin Shorter yet. Just like Trace McSorley and Chris Godwin in 2016, this duo could create a litany of problems for opposing defensive coordinators at the next level.

Fields spurned a sterling offer sheet of 31 other reported scholarship tenders, including his home-state Georgia Bulldogs, to commit to Penn State. The electric dual-threat from Kennesaw’s Harrison High School does it all. Fields is a home run waiting to happen in the open field, but he also puts plenty of touch on those deep, tight spirals of his.

At 6-foot-4, Shorter brings a dynamic blend of size and speed to the receiver position. The Monmouth Junction, N.J., standout picked the Nittany Lions back in early August over the likes of Michigan, Miami, and Rutgers. Shorter has the athleticism to stop on a dime and the jets to burn defenders over the top. He even shows impressive physicality and fluid hips at cornerback on his high school highlight tape for South Brunswick.

Penn State’s six-member Class of 2018 has an excellent chance to be Franklin’s best haul yet. Now that the Nittany Lions are balling out on Saturdays, expect many more elite prospects to hop on board in the coming months. Who knows just how good this group could be?




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About the Author

Ethan Kasales

Ethan’s a senior journalism major who grew up in Lemont, a few minutes from campus. When he’s not covering Penn State sports, you can usually find him golfing or teaching snowboarding at Tussey Mountain. Feel free to email him at [email protected]

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