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Penn State Football’s In-State Recruiting Struggles Continue

Penn State football suffered a tough blow last week when offensive lineman Nolan Rucci, considered the top recruit in Pennsylvania, committed to Wisconsin over the Nittany Lions.

Penn State was widely projected as the favorite for the 6’8″, 295-pound offensive lineman early on in the cycle. Now, after missing out on yet another home-grown prospect, head coach James Franklin and his coaching staff are in an all-too-familiar spot.

Over the course of the last three recruiting cycles (2020, 2021, 2022), the Nittany Lions have yet to receive a commitment from any of the top three players in Pennsylvania. The last top-three, in-state recruit came in 2019 when State College’s Keaton Ellis (ranked No. 2 in the state) committed to Penn State.

Additionally, Franklin brought in six of the top 10 Pennsylvania recruits, including the No. 1-ranked player, Micah Parsons, to Happy Valley in his 2018 recruiting class.

Since then, Penn State has curiously missed out on the very best that Pennsylvania has to offer. During the 2020 recruiting cycle, five-star recruit and Catawissa, Pennsylvania native Julian Fleming committed to Ohio State over Penn State. He was ranked as the No. 1 in-state player that year and was the third-highest ranked recruit in the entire country.

Penn State’s best in-state player from the 2020 class is defensive end Zuriah Fisher, who ranked as the No. 4 best player in Pennsylvania. Additionally, Franklin was able to garner commitments from Tyler Elsdon, Fatorma Mulbah, and Nick Dawkins, the No. 5, 6, and 7-ranked players in the state, respectively. Despite missing out on the top three guys, Penn State was able to recover with some lower-end top-10 talent.

However, the same can’t be said for the Class of 2021 so far.

The Nittany Lions have yet to receive a commitment from a top-10 in-state player in the Class of 2021. Two of the top five players — quarterback Kyle McCord and wideout Marvin Harrison Jr. — chose the Ohio State Buckeyes. That means that three of the top five in-state players from the 2021 class, including the previously mentioned Rucci, committed to different Big Ten programs over Penn State

Currently, the Nittany Lions’ highest in-state commit from the class of 2021 is Lonnie White Jr., who is ranked No. 11. The No. 4-ranked Pennsylvania player, Derrick Davis Jr., has yet to commit, though Penn State appears to be the favorite.

Even if Davis Jr. decides to come to Happy Valley, he would be just one top-10 in-state player in Franklin’s class of 2021. For a program that is agreed as one of the best in Pennsylvania, it’s puzzling how it can only get maybe one, if not any top-10 players from its own state.

Early signs point towards the Nittany Lions turning things around on the recruiting trail during the 2022 cycle. Franklin’s program has already received commitments from offensive tackle Drew Shelton and defensive end Ken Talley, the No. 4 and No. 7 ranked players in Pennsylvania, respectively. Additionally, Penn State appears to be the favorite for three more top-10 in-state recruits — running back Nicholas Singleton (No. 3), wide receiver Mehki Flowers (No. 5), and wide receiver Anthony Ivey (No. 8).

Franklin and Co. will have plenty more opportunities to capitalize on in-state recruits moving forward. If Penn State football wants to still “Dominate The State,” recruiting needs to be its priority.


All rankings used in this post are according to 247Sports’ composite rankings.

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a junior majoring in journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He grew up in Lindenhurst, New York, and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his bad sports takes, follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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