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News & Notes From James Franklin’s 2023 Early Signing Period Press Conference

The Penn State family grew a bit larger on Wednesday.

James Franklin welcomed 22 signees, as they officially became Nittany Lions during yesterday’s National Signing Day.

Penn State now boasts the second-best recruiting class in the Big Ten and the No. 12-ranked class in the country. Highlighted by stars such as safety DaKaari Nelson, top-ranked interior offensive lineman Alex Birchmeier, and more, this class has no shortage of talent.

Franklin then took the podium Wednesday afternoon to talk about National Signing Day with the media and other matters related to Penn State football. Here is everything HC1 discussed in his media availability.

Alex Birchmeier, J’ven Williams, And Anthony Donkoh

Penn State’s 2023 recruiting class includes some of the best offensive linemen prospects in the nation, literally. Five-star prospect Alex Birchmeier is the top-ranked interior offensive lineman in the class.

Following him is five-star offensive tackle J’Ven Willians, who is ranked No. 4 at is position in the country and the top-ranked recruit in Pennsyvlania. On top of that, sprinkle in a little Anthony Donkoh, a top-20 interior lineman in the country, and you’ve got the potential to have an elite offensive line.

While Franklin mentioned that he believes the three can play all five positions, he stated that he’d probably be left at guard. But, Franklin believes that Birchmeier could play anywhere on the offensive line and even went as far as saying that he would like to start Birchmeier and Williams at tackle “to see if they can do it.”

“They both have the length and athleticism to do it,” Franklin said. “Birchmeier is bigger than people realize. He’s 6’5.5”, bigger than what people realize. I’d love to start those two guys at tackle to see if they can do it. Knowing, we know J’ven can move inside, knowing that [Birchmeier] can move inside to both guard and center.”

Franklin believes that the trio will get valuable experience coming in mid-semester, which could give them time and set them up for potential starting jobs next season.

The Linebacker Class

Linebacker U will continue to be in good hands, folks.

Penn State signed three linebackers Wednesday morning, with four-star Tony Rojas being the highlight. Fellow four-stars Ta’Mere Robinson and Kaveion Keys also joined the class.

When asked how the three fit into Penn State’s lineup, Franklin interestingly stated that he likes to recruit generally outside linebackers and then move whoever makes sense to Mike, creating more position flexibility.

Franklin seemed excited when talking about the three linebackers, repeatedly stating the position flexibility the team would have with three athletic backs.

On the spot, Franklin says he would put Robinson at Mike, citing his athleticism and leadership qualities. He also said that the other two could eventually grow into Mike linebackers, as well.

“[Tony] Rojas is exactly how we would like them built in terms of his length and athleticism,” Franklin said. “He’s a guy that you watch his tape, you could make the argument he could play running back here. That’s the type of athleticism that he has. I could see him starting out to the field based on being a space player.”

“It’s going to be a fun position to watch over the next year.”

Other Needs To Address

Even though Penn State signed another very talented recruiting class, there are other needs that Franklin would like to address.

On the offensive side of the ball, Franklin said he would like to get another offensive lineman, specifically an offensive tackle, but stopped short of expanding more on that thought, as he believes the incoming trio of offensive linemen could suffice all the team’s needs on that front.

Franklin also said he would like to add more at wide receiver.

“That’s a position where I could see us signing a couple more guys at that position just to make sure that we have the competition at that position on a similar scale that we do at tight end and running back,” Franklin said. “I think that’s going to be important for us moving forward. Offensive tackles that are still out there, wide receivers that are still out there, we’ll be in pursuit.”

Defensively, Franklin would like another defensive tackle or defensive end but added that it’s not a necessity. Although, he did mention that he could potentially fill those roles with transfer portal prospects.

Name, Image, And Likeness

Franklin didn’t mince words when talking about the NIL landscape and how rapidly it has begun to take over college athletics.

“I think there’s major concerns with what’s going on in college football right now,” Franklin said. “There’s really no guardrails. There’s not a whole lot of guidance and governance. It’s concerning.”

Franklin expanded on that thought and said that he would like to see more regulation but still supports college athletes getting support.

Diving more specifically into Penn State, Franklin said the athletic department was very behind but credited President Neeli Bendapudi and Patrick Kraft for coming in and “[hitting] the ground running.”

“I think we’ve made up a lot of ground, but we still have a lot of work to do if we say we want to approach NIL and everything else when it comes to competing at the highest level,” Franklin said. “That’s not just in football, but that’s in all 31 sports.”

Even though Franklin is happy with the progress as of late, he stated there is still more work to be done.

“Obviously, we have the power of the Penn State brand, but we also have the power of one of the largest living alumni networks. It’s going to take all of us to get to where we want to go.”

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About the Author

Frankie Marzano

Frankie is a senior accounting and economics major from Long Island, NY. You can probably recognize him as the typical Italian-American with slicked back black hair. He is an avid fan of the New York Rangers and Mets, along with every Penn State Athletics team. Follow him on Twitter @frankiemarzano for obnoxious amounts of Rangers and Penn State content or email him at [email protected]

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