Penn State Football Culture Leading To Low Transfer Numbers
College football’s silly season is in full swing. With it, James Franklin and the rest of his staff are in recruiting overdrive.
Staffing structures have always been in jeopardy during the immediate aftermath of the regular season. Since the one-year transfer penalty for football players was removed in 2021, though, coaches now have to focus on retaining a roster they’ve already recruited.
James Franklin managed to do that remarkably well since the transfer portal opened for football players, while other Big Ten teams like Ohio State are dealing with a mass exodus. The Buckeyes lost quarterback Kyle McCord and 14 other players to the portal. So far this offseason, the Nittany Lions had just three players enter the portal, as backup punter Alex Bacchetta entered first, and wide receiver Cristian Driver and cornerback Jace Tutty followed suit.
The low number of players transferring out of Penn State has become a trend. Franklin believes his ability to build a loyal base of players is a testament to the culture he’s built within the program and says he never promises a prospect a starting spot, only the chance to compete.
“We’ve been fortunate, really, in my 10 years here. We haven’t had a whole lot of drama,” Franklin said. “We’re very upfront and transparent. Really always have been. Sometimes that hurts us where we miss on kids because we don’t tell them what they want to hear. We’re an underpromise and overdeliver program. I think that has been a big part of our success.”
Perhaps the biggest success of this year’s portal window is the probable retention of running backs Kaytron Allen and Nick Singleton. While players have until January 2 to enter their name in the portal, both Singleton and Allen said they’ll return next year and aren’t tempted by the portal.
Running backs coach and interim co-offensive coordinator Ja’Juan Seider said that while Singleton and Allen could enter the portal to chase lucrative NIL deals, he doesn’t think that’s what either of his backs are looking for.
“I’ve never had two players that are this good at the same time,” Seider said. “To be honest, they don’t talk about their lives. I know you see posters out there, but neither one of them wants to be in front of a camera making a poster about themselves.”
The duo could also enter the portal for a better opportunity, but they both believe there’s no better place to develop as a player and a person than Penn State.
The pair enjoys playing with each other and don’t look at Franklin’s scheme as prioritizing one player over the other. Allen said he and Singleton constantly help each other out and make the position group as a whole perform at the highest level it can. When Allen misses a hole, Singleton lets him know. When Singleton could’ve made a defender miss, Allen lets him know.
The culture of togetherness extends beyond the transfer portal to the recent trend of opting out of bowl games. With multiple players’ NFL futures looming, only defensive end Chop Robinson has opted out. Projected first-round pick Olu Fashanu said he plans to travel with the team to Atlanta but hasn’t made the decision to play or opt out of the Peach Bowl yet.
Franklin believes it all comes back to relationships within the program. In the changing landscape of college football with the transfer portal and NIL, Franklin has succeeded. As players make decisions on whether to go to the NFL or play another year at Penn State, Franklin is leaning on the selflessness of his players.
“Sometimes, God forbid, there doesn’t need to be an announcement,” Franklin said. “I’m coming back, and why does that need to be announced? That should be the expectation.”
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