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Penn State coach James Franklin takes commitments personally
The Nittany Lions are currently recruiting at an elite level, claiming a top-3 class in 247Sports’ 2018 composite rankings. Penn State has seen a steady improvement in this department since the arrival of James Franklin and his staff.
Roster enhancement played a key role in delivering the program from dark days earlier this decade to Big Ten championship contention. Continued success on the recruiting trail could ensure Penn State remains in the mix for conference titles and becomes a fixture in College Football Playoff contention.
Franklin, working toward his fifth recruiting class with the Nittany Lions, took a moment Tuesday to recall his first National Signing Day. Just a few weeks into the job, he helped Penn State secure a top-25 class in February 2014.
It required a lot of hustle on the part of Franklin and his staff, as they worked diligently to target prospects familiar to them from previous jobs and preserve pledges initially given to former Nittany Lions coach Bill O’Brien.
The final result was a collection of talent featuring eventual high-impact performers such as safety Marcus Allen, linebacker Jason Cabinda and tight end Mike Gesicki. Those players are among 23 Penn State seniors set to be honored Saturday prior to the game vs. Nebraska, as it will be their final game in Beaver Stadium.
Franklin reiterated the importance of this recruiting class on the ascension of his program, and called on Nittany Lions supporters to show them plenty of love this weekend.
“These guys came at a time that was a challenging time for all of us at Penn State,” he said. “These guys believed in Penn State. They believed in this community. They believed in our professors and our faculty and the deans, the administration. They believed in our coaching staff. They believed in their teammates and felt like we could do something special here. Those guys should be very proud. I would hope that we sell out the stadium on Saturday for no other reason than to show these seniors how much we appreciate all their hard work and sacrifices that they’ve made.”
Franklin arrived in Happy Valley at an uneasy time for the football program and university at large. Although the atmosphere has changed drastically since then, he doesn’t hesitate to appreciate the value in every commitment from a high school recruit and their family.
“I equate everything back to my own kids,” Franklin explained. “I think about me trying to pick a kindergarten for my daughters or me trying to pick an elementary school. It’s a huge decision, let alone college. So I take it as the ultimate sign of respect when a young man and his parents decide to choose us, Penn State, Penn State football, our coaches, our players.”
James Franklin and #PennState commit Jesse Luketa reunite as team arrives.
If any recruit is an extension of Lions staff, it's Luketa. pic.twitter.com/9b2Bs1UOex
— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) October 21, 2017
From the perspective of a father, Franklin believes there is no greater badge of honor for a college coach than the trust instilled by parents.
“To me, the biggest compliment you can get is someone saying, ‘Look, I’ve spent 18 years investing in my son, and I’m handing him over to you to continue to build on the foundation that we’ve laid,'” he said. “For the guys that we’re recruiting, it’s not like we’re the only option. There are other really good options for him. So, to me, it’s the ultimate sign of respect. It’s the ultimate compliment you can get.”
The compliments have been paid pretty regularly during the 2018 recruiting cycle, as Penn State carries 22 total commitments. This group features eight players considered top-200 overall prospects nationwide.
Of course, star ratings and positional rankings are left behind when athletes arrive on campus. Several newcomers intend to enroll early in January, starting a new chapter of their life under the guidance of Nittany Lions leadership.
“That’s why we take it so seriously,” Franklin said. “That’s why every decision that we make once they join our program: Is this in the best interest of the team, first; is this in the best interest of the individual, second? And every decision is made like that.”
Competition grows for 4-star DE Jayson Oweh, who will visit Notre Dame
Defensive end Jayson Oweh is among the most highly discussed Penn State targets among Nittany Lions fans, and here on Land of 10. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound prospect will return to Happy Valley this weekend for an official visit, attending the game vs. Nebraska alongside his parents.
As I noted earlier Tuesday in my November projections for the 2018 Penn State recruiting class on defense, Oweh is among four blue-chip defensive linemen who list the Nittany Lions among top options, along with Tyler Friday, Micah Parsons and Tyreke Smith.
Last week, he told Land of 10 this remains a recruitment led by Penn State and Ohio State. Still, the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes face significant competition, and this chase could become a bit tighter during the upcoming weeks. Along with a Nov. 25 trip to Michigan, Oweh now plans to use an official visit at Notre Dame during the second weekend of December.
Beautiful visit. Really enjoyed it🍀 pic.twitter.com/NlA5KJxwpA
— Clout J (@JaysonOweh) July 21, 2017
Oweh traveled to South Bend, Ind., twice during the offseason. The Fighting Irish have typically been the third program he mentions after Ohio State and Penn State when assessing his collegiate options, though he called his mid-October offer from Michigan a “game changer.”
Notre Dame already carries commitments from fellow top-5 New Jersey recruits Shayne Simon (linebacker) and Jayson Ademilola (defensive tackle). Oweh, whose five visits to Penn State will top any other program in contention, plans to announce his commitment Jan. 4 during the Under Armour All-America Game.
He finished the 2017 season with 47 tackles — 8 for loss — and 13 sacks in fewer than five full games. Watch his highlights here:
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