Penn State Football’s Ja’Juan Seider Is Ready To Recruit Florida
Casting a wide recruiting net is essential to picking up elite talent in today’s age of recruiting in college football. Casting that wide net, however, is a logistical challenge in just about every respect.
One way to get some face-to-face time with high schoolers from around the country is setting up camps away from campus. For Penn State, setting its sights south is crucial given the wealth of talent consistently coming out of states like Georgia and Florida.
The NCAA recently closed a loophole that allowed coaches like Jim Harbaugh to parade around the South for weeks and sometimes even months. (We’re actually pretty sure the NCAA closed this loophole because no one wanted to see him prancing around shirtless at these camps.)
On his way out of his position as SEC commissioner, Mike Slive complained about Penn State running a joint camp with Georgia State. Now, the NCAA requires schools to hold camps away from campus at another collegiate program’s facility. Naturally, this has driven Penn State and Georgia State to sign a deal that sent $1.2 million to the Atlanta school last year in return for allowing James Franklin and his coaching staff on campus for a summer recruiting camp.
Recruiting setups like this are obviously costly and it’s still very difficult to bring these young kids this far north. Just look at Justin Fields, who decommitted from Penn State for the much closer Georgia.
One way to avoid these difficulties is to hire someone with ties to the south. Ja’Juan Seider is that someone. Seider, Penn State’s new running backs coach, comes to Happy Valley from Gainesville, where he spent a season as an assistant. Before his time at Florida, Seider was the running backs coach at West Virginia, where he focused his recruiting efforts, in part, on Florida.
“We went through the interview process and guys had done a good job, but Ja’Juan kind of really blew us away,” James Franklin said. “I think the other thing that was really important to me is that both David [Corley] and Ja’Juan really wanted to be here.”
Franklin explained that Seider’s wife is from West Virginia and that they’ve both spent ample time there, so a job at Penn State brought the Seider family much closer to home.
Just days before, Franklin brought on David Corley from Army to take over as running backs coach, but Corley’s flexibility and experience coaching receivers allowed Franklin to hire Seider.
Seider, who first made a blip on Franklin’s radar because of his relationship with some assistant coaching staff members at Penn State, had a growing reputation by the time he arrived in Florida. So much so, in fact, that he interviewed with the Cleveland Browns before joining the Penn State coaching staff. Beyond the impressive interview and resume, Seider brings an undeniable recruiting presence to the table.
“Ja’Juan was also an interesting hire from a couple of other perspectives,” Franklin said. “You don’t hire Ja’Juan unless you’re going to make a recruiting shift. And you don’t hire Ja’Juan and not recruit Florida – it doesn’t make any sense.”
Franklin’s staff has seen some success recruiting in Florida already. The 2018 class boasts of a couple of Florida natives in corner Jordan Miner and defensive lineman Judge Culpepper. Seider’s addition to the staff just means that the emphasis on Florida is that much stronger.
“He’s gonna get us in some doors because of his relationships and his reputation that, maybe, we weren’t involved in before. This can change some things.”
It certainly can, especially heading into a 2019 recruiting cycle that just doesn’t seem to have the same level of talent in and around Pennsylvania. Penn State, along with many other major programs, hasn’t sent as many offers out to PA natives, which truly is indicative of the down year in recruiting. Seider’s addition allows Penn State a little more flexibility.
Seider is obviously ready to make a splash, both as a coach and within his duties as a recruiter.
“The thing about Florida is having someone you trust,” the new assistant coach explained in his first press conference at Penn State. “The kids understand that, and the coaches and mentors in the area understand that.”
What has made Seider a successful recruiter in Florida in the past is his determination to build strong relationships with coaches, families, or whomever else he might meet with. The former West Virginia quarterback will spend as much time as he needs building those relationships, even if it means he’s a little bit late getting home as a result.
Ultimately, Seider just connects with the kids he’s recruiting. Everyone who comes in contact with the coach seems to be blown away by his genuine personality. He has a clear passion for coaching young men into mature adults.
“That’s why you do it — to change kids’ lives and parents’ lives,” Seider said.
James Franklin needs Seider’s personality to shine through as the Nittany Lions plan for the future, hoping to build off the No. 4 recruiting class in the 2018 cycle.