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James Franklin sees recruiting value in crowded Beaver Stadium
Penn State welcomed nearly 110,000 people to Beaver Stadium last Saturday for its game against Pitt. That total tops any attendance during the James Franklin era, and is the largest since 2009.
It will be a challenge to match the crowd this Saturday when Georgia State comes to town for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff, but considering the Nittany Lions’ recent success, another massive audience is expected. A third straight home matchup is set to feature major recruiting implications, as several premier prospects plan to attend.
Franklin, speaking with media Wednesday evening after practice, addressed how a filled stadium factors into visiting recruits’ experience.
“I think it’s dramatic,” he said. “You’d be amazed what a packed stadium does. It makes a huge impact.”
Linebacker Jesse Luketa, committed to Penn State since February, journeyed to Beaver Stadium for both home games earlier this month. He was among a group of pledges on campus Sept. 9 that reached double digits, and after the win the Nittany Lions landed commitment No. 1 of the 2019 class from cornerback Keaton Ellis.
“Saturday’s atmosphere was insane,” Luketa said. “I’ve never seen so many fans packed in, cheering their butts off, in one place.”
The sheer volume — in size and noise — of a filled-to-capacity Beaver Stadium is difficult to match.
“When you’re able to say ‘109,000’, that’s something that really differentiates us,” Franklin said. “We’ve used that 107k [hashtag] since we’ve been here and that’s something I’m passionate about. When you’re above 102,000, you differentiate yourself, and I think that’s what we’re all trying to do in any industry and any business. Beaver Stadium allows us to do that.”
Penn State players sing the school's alma mater along with students and fans in a packed Beaver Stadium. A starter told me it was "surreal". pic.twitter.com/9cBXKLmn1J
— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) September 10, 2017
The experience of standing on the sideline, surrounded by so many fans as Penn State players and coaches run onto the field allows high school standouts to envision themselves in uniform.
“It’s crazy because I’ll be out there next year with the team running out of the tunnel,” defensive tackle pledge PJ Mustipher said after a season-opening victory over Akron.
As I’ll address in just a moment, this is especially crucial for uncommitted prospects who are weighing elements of each university on their list. An environment such as the one visitors experience last Saturday could become a separator.
“Penn State faithfuls showcased why Happy Valley comes second to none,” Luketa said. “Playing in the Valley with a sea of white-out fans is ridiculous.”
Franklin embraces Beaver Stadium as a recruiting tool, and it should be instrumental for the remainder of this season.
“It’s something that’s important to us and it makes a huge impact in recruiting,” he said. “There are very few venues in all of sports — not just football — like it.”
So, which key uncommitted recruits will help pack the place Saturday night?
Here’s a list I’ve assembled, along with some links to related stories from earlier this week.
5-star defensive end Micah Parsons (Harrisburg, Pa.): Fresh off a somewhat dramatic official visit to Ohio State, the former Nittany Lions pledge returns to campus alongside teammate and Penn State commit Shaquon Anderson-Butts.
4-star defensive end Jayson Oweh (Blairstown, N.J.): This is his fourth trip to Penn State, and he intends to return for an official visit Nov. 18 when the Nittany Lions host Nebraska.
Two fingers up if you're going to be in Happy Valley this weekend….✌🏾
— Clout J (@JaysonOweh) September 14, 2017
5-star defensive tackle Antonio Alfano (Rahway, N.J.): The 6-foot-5, 280-pound prospect speaks highly of Penn State, and he previously attended two games in Beaver Stadium.
4-star defensive end Steven Faucheux (West Chester, Ohio): News of this visit comes from Sean Fitz of 247Sports. Faucheux visited Penn State multiple times earlier this year.
3-star offensive lineman Andrew Kristofic (Gibsonia, Pa.): He returns to campus for a second consecutive week, looking to add the Nittany Lions to an offer list that includes Michigan State, Pitt and Wisconsin.
3-star athlete John Metchie (Hagerstown, Md.): This Canadian transplant earned an offer July 16 after his performance at a Penn State camp, and he is under consideration at both defensive back and receiver.
— John Jr Metchie III (@Metchie_Jr) July 16, 2017
5-star receiver Julian Fleming (Catawissa, Pa.): Considered the early choice for top receiver in the 2020 recruiting cycle, this in-state standout landed a Nittany Lions offer June 17 and comes from a family filled with Penn State fans.
5-star running back Chris Tyree (Chester, Va.): Like Fleming, Tyree is listed as a top-five overall prospect for 2020 in initial 247Sports rankings. He said Penn State running backs coach Charles Huff is pursuing him harder than anyone in college football.
Penn State adds a few 2019 prospects to target board
The Nittany Lions may be busy chasing a repeat Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff berth, but evaluation never pauses on the recruiting trail. Franklin explained Wednesday that the program is now “60 to 70 percent” focused on identifying talent and claiming commitments beyond the 2018 cycle, and it’s fair to assume efforts with 2019 prospects have become the focal point of day-to-day recruiting operations.
Penn State extended three offers Thursday, each reaching beyond the state. This continues a trend for the Nittany Lions, as only one of 68 offers for 2019 has gone to a Pennsylvania prospect. That went to the aforementioned Ellis, a State College cornerback who committed Sept. 9.
Here’s a rundown of the newest players to know on Penn State’s list of targets, along with highlights for each.
4-star receiver Kyle Ford
High School: Lutheran (Anaheim, Calif.)
Size: 6-2, 200 pounds
247Sports composite ranking: No. 16 receiver; No. 89 overall
Other offers include: Michigan, Tennessee, UCLA, USC, Washington
4-star receiver Marcus Washington
High School: Trinity Catholic (St. Louis)
Size: 6-2, 170 pounds
247Sports composite ranking: No. 18 receiver; No. 103 overall
Other offers include: Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio State
4-star athlete Isaiah Williams
High School: Trinity Catholic (St. Louis)
Size: 5-10, 160 pounds
247Sports composite ranking: No. 6 athlete; No. 94 overall
Other offers include: Alabama, Clemson, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Texas