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Penn State’s Strong Philadelphia Recruiting Revitalizes In-State Success

After all was said and done Wednesday morning, Penn State football officially signed 23 prospects to its 2022 recruiting class.

Of those 23 future Nittany Lions, nine are Pennsylvania natives — three of them hail from the Philadelphia area. In its 2021 class, Penn State welcomed just three Pennsylvania products, while 2020 saw just seven.

“It’s something that from my very first press conference, when I walked in here, was about keeping the best players in the state of Pennsylvania home,” James Franklin said Wednesday afternoon. “We worked very hard at that and this year really showed that.”

Of the nine in-state players, a star such as Nicholas Singleton obviously stands out. The stud running back just won Gatorade Player of the Year after finishing his senior season at Governor Mifflin High School with 2,043 rushing yards and 44 total touchdowns. 247Sports considers him the top running back in the class and the No. 20 overall player nationally.

Outside of Singleton, the Nittany Lions welcomed other “local” top prospects in offensive lineman Drew Shelton, athlete Mekhi Flowers, and wide receiver Anthony Ivey, among others. However, Penn State managed to make its presence felt in a particular area it’s had goals in over the past few years. From Philly, the Nittany Lions earned signings from defenders Ken Talley, Abdul Carter, and Keon Wylie.

Talley, a four-star edge rusher, played his football at Northeast High School. Considered by his coaches to be one of the biggest personalities in the recruiting class, Talley grabbed 24 total offers from programs across the country, including Pitt and Temple. He finished his senior year with 94 tackles, 12 sacks, and two forced fumbles.

As for Wylie, the linebacker played at Imhotep Institute Charter High School. He was a three-time captain for his squad and made nine sacks over the course of his senior year. Meanwhile, the four-star linebacker Carter was noted by new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz as the first future Nittany Lion he watched tape on.

The Nittany Lions now bring in three players that could add serious value on the defensive end down the line, and both hail from an area that Penn State hasn’t necessarily dominated in years past.

“We have had some players out of Philadelphia that have come and been really successful. We’ve had some players that we wanted to get but weren’t able to get them here for one reason or another,” Franklin said. “But obviously, being able to recruit the entire state is critical to our success, and if you look at the number of players coming out of the state every single year, Philadelphia has really grown. I think the coaches are doing a great job there.”

Franklin has tasked key members of his coaching staff with making that resurgence in Philly, most notably Terry Smith and Deion Barnes. Smith, an associate head coach for the Nittany Lions, is an Aliquippa native and has long handled the western part of the state. However, his past connections at Temple have helped him dive back into Philly.

Barnes was once a star edge rusher for the Nittany Lions in the early 2010s, but he now works as a graduate assistant for his former team. The 28-year-old is a bit of a legend in Philly, as he helped Northeast High School — Talley’s soon-to-be alma mater — to its first Philadelphia Public League championship since 1983 during his playing days.

It’s evident that experience like that can’t be replicated, as Barnes played a key role in bringing in three top-notch defenders from his home city.

“The addition of Deion Barnes was a major factor in recruiting that area,” Smith said. “What Deion did for us was give us the heartbeat of Philadelphia — to understand what those guys are thinking, what they need, and to help us manage the area better.”

Smith added that he and other Nittany Lion coaches admitted they “dropped the ball” in Philadelphia.

“We had to do better in the city limits. We made a conscious effort to own our mistakes,” Smith added.

Franklin and Penn State have long harped on dominating the state in the recruiting scene. That mantra will only get stronger if his staff, mainly Barnes and Smith, can continue to build a foundation in a city that’s just offered it three potential new members of “Linebacker U.”

“We’re excited about where this relationship with the coaches in Philly is going,” Smith said. “We’re just going to continue to ride this wave and do better, and make sure our relationships are transparent, open, and genuine.”

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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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