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Penn State Football’s Recruiting Struggles Add Insult To Injury For 2020 Season

It’s been an extremely difficult year on and off the field for Penn State football.

The Nittany Lions are off to a historically bad 0-3 start and have struggled to inspire much confidence out of the gate. Head coach James Franklin said he and his players are dealing with plenty of non-football issues, including missing family, overall distractions, and hurting for Journey Brown, who must retire from football due to a heart condition.

While it pales in comparison to a lot of those topics, the Nittany Lions struggles on the recruiting trail shouldn’t go unnoticed, specifically in Pennsylvania.

Franklin acknowledged back in September that the 2021 class was not up to standards. Unfortunately, there has yet to be much of an improvement since his comments.

“This class is not done, but up to this point, we haven’t gotten it done. We have not recruited up to the standard that we normally have,” Franklin said. “I can make excuses. I can come up with a lot of reasons for that, but we haven’t gotten it done the way we normally have gotten it done…That’s just the reality of it.”

According to 247Sports’ rankings, Penn State has yet to add a top-10 Pennsylvania prospect to its Class of 2021. Nolan Rucci is among that club, as the offensive lineman who’s considered the top player in the state committed to Wisconsin back in September. That was a huge blow for the Nittany Lions, as their usual “dominate the state” moniker didn’t ring true then and hasn’t for this entire recruiting class.

Along with Rucci, those nine other top-tier in-state talents are either committed elsewhere or not considering Penn State. Even worse, defensive tackle Elliot Donald (nephew of All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald) and defensive end Nahki Johnson are both committed to Pitt.

Pat Narduzzi’s squad now sits at No. 32 in the national recruiting rankings for 2021, just one spot behind Penn State. In case anyone forgot, the Panthers have lost to the Nittany Lions in the last three contests, finishing with a pedestrian 8-5 record last year compared to Penn State’s 11-2 mark.

It should be kept in mind that the Nittany Lions earned 27 commitments to their 2020 class, so a bit off a drop-off was expected. But this year’s in-state struggles and lack of depth is concerning, to say the least.

Along with low national standing, Penn State’s 2021 class ranks No. 8 in the Big Ten, sandwiched between No. 7 Minnesota and No. 9 Rutgers. Other squads ranked ahead of the Nittany Lions include No. 4 Nebraska, No. 5 Iowa, and No. 6 Maryland.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that there’s some solid talent among the 14 players committed to Franklin’s 2021 class, including six four-star prospects. Some of the bigger names include offensive tackle Landon Tengwall, linebacker Jamari Buddin, and safety Jaylen Reed.

However, it’s not exactly a reassuring thought that an 0-3 Penn State team currently boasts a recruiting class that isn’t even close to its standards.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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