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Our latest Penn State Nittany Lions Recruiting Question of the Day comes from Jamie Hunter on Facebook.
This week provided a perfect opportunity to address this question from Jamie, who is a regular audience member of our weekly Penn State football recruiting show on Facebook Live (8 p.m. Wednesdays here). Along with this inquiry, prized Pennsylvania receiver Julian Fleming also came up in a conversation Tuesday while speaking with a longtime colleague in the college football recruiting industry.
His question was simple.
What makes this guy the best 2020 receiver prospect in America?
Based on 247Sports 2020 recruit rankings, that’s precisely the designation Fleming has earned entering the final stretch of his sophomore year. Along with topping all prospects at his position, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Southern Columbia (Catawissa, Pa.) High School standout is the class’ only receiver who carries a 5-star label at this relatively early stage.
So, what separates Fleming from the pack?
I did my best to detail his impact last fall, putting together a scouting report in the midst of his dominant 2017 season. Here is a brief excerpt from that breakdown:
Fleming feasts on slant patterns, flashing breakaway ability that contributes toward bunches of yards after the catch. His career average per reception surpasses 20 yards, despite many of these pass attempts occurring in the intermediate range. He also takes advantage of defensive lapses on screens, using his size to shed initial contact or surge down the sideline untouched with instant acceleration.
Overall, he possesses incredible nuance for his age throughout the route tree. This is a huge separating factor between Fleming and other standout receivers in the 2020 recruiting class. Many remain raw athletes who simply outmatch opponents with advantages in speed or height. Yes, Fleming has that combination, too, but it’s his attention to detail and awareness in the crux of competition that makes him a player you could easily mistake for a 5-star 2018 prospect.
Fleming’s progression was on display throughout his sophomore campaign. He tallied eight 100-yard receiving games while leading Southern Columbia to a state championship, scoring in each of the final three playoff matchups.
His 2017 season featured 69 receptions for 1,462 yards (21.2 per catch) and 20 touchdowns. He caught 33 touchdowns as an underclassman, scoring on 31 percent of his receptions.
Oh, by the way — Fleming led the Southern Columbia basketball program in practically every statistical category this season. He also qualified for multiple events in the 2017 spring state track and field championships as a freshman.
— 🃏0J4🃏 (@julian_040) January 20, 2018
Fleming is the only sophomore football player in Pennsylvania who holds a scholarship offer from Penn State, and that opportunity arrived last June. His other collegiate options include Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee and West Virginia.
He updated his recruitment, including a recent trip to Happy Valley, in Land of 10’s Penn State recruiting notebook this week. Fleming, recovering from surgery in February that repaired a torn labrum in his right hip, is set for a whirlwind offseason featuring visits to several campuses.
We’ll have plenty of time to discuss this recruiting process since Fleming won’t finalize collegiate plans until at least December 2019. For now, let’s get back to the question of what makes him such a special talent.
You’ve read my thoughts and seen the statistics, so perhaps the best approach here is to propose this question directly to Fleming. So that’s what I did.
His success starts with a mindset, according to the coveted playmaker.
“I think I have a big competitive edge,” he said. “I used to cry at soccer games when I was a 4-year-old if we didn’t win. I can’t lose. For some reason, I’m just really not good at losing.”
Fortunately for Fleming, Southern Columbia is 31-1 since he joined the roster, due in large part to his production. He battled through the pain caused by a torn labrum throughout much of his sophomore season, unwilling to stay sidelined with victories at stake.
Fleming dealt with constant attention from defenses last season, as opposing coaches attempted to slow him down with a variety of coverage schemes. He understands the target on his back will be bigger than ever in 2018. It comes with the territory of being considered No. 1 at what you do.
“Every receiver has something special about them. I guess college coaches think I have a good blend of stuff like physicality, quickness and attitude, on and off the field,” Fleming said. “There’s been a lot of preparation and hard work this offseason to make sure all those things continue to get better.”
Expect more fireworks from Fleming this fall.
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