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Penn State completes staff shuffle with RB coach Ja’Juan Seider
James Franklin has spent the past six weeks juggling his Penn State staff as key departures led to searches for replacements. Things may finally have settled Thursday for the Nittany Lions when Ja’Juan Seider accepted a coaching position,
Seider, who served as Florida Gators running backs coach during the 2017 season, inherits the same role in State College, Pa. David Corley, hired earlier this month to fill that position, shifts to receivers coach.
Former Penn State receivers coach and offensive recruiting coordinator Josh Gattis officially accepted a job with the Alabama Crimson Tide on Wednesday. His exit continued a winter of change among Franklin’s assistants, another reminder that college football coaching moves can create a tangled web.
In a way, things come full circle with the arrival of Seider.
Dan Mullen departed Mississippi State to become Florida’s coach Nov. 26. Days later, Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead was picked to replace him in Starkville, Miss., and he brought along Nittany Lions running backs coach Charles Huff. Just when it seemed Mullen had finalized a newly formed Gators staff, Seider bolted for Happy Valley.
“As soon as I met Ja’Juan, I knew that he would be a great fit for our staff,” Franklin said in a team-released statement. “He comes highly recommended from a lot of people in the industry I respect. Ja’Juan has a quiet confidence and a natural charisma that will relate well to our running backs. His experience as a player and a coach will complement our offensive scheme. He is also widely regarded as one of nation’s top recruiters and his ties to this region will be beneficial.”
That last sentence is particularly key considering our constant focus on Penn State recruiting efforts. The Nittany Lions landed one of college football’s most highly regarded recruiters, particularly when it comes to targeting Florida.
Seider shined in that department while serving as running backs coach at West Virginia from 2013-16, ultimately leading to former Gators coach Jim McElwain poaching him from the Mountaineers staff. Since Florida parted ways with McElwain in October, Seider was frequently referred to as a coach the program needed to secure long-term despite the new regime.
“Here’s a memo to Florida’s next head coach: Keep Ja’Juan Seider on staff,” wrote Zach Abolverdi of SEC Country in November. “In a season where the Gators have gotten worse offensively and regressed at some positions, Seider and his running backs have been a bright spot for the unit. … Along with his on-field success, Seider brings just as much value — if not more — to the recruiting trail.”
Four-star running back recruit Dameon Pierce, a former Alabama commit, pointed to Seider as his motivation to sign with Florida.
“If Coach Seider would have been one of the coaches to leave with Coach Mac, I probably would have de-committed honestly,” Pierce told Abolverdi. “He understands what I want as a football player and he’s what I want for a coach as far as leadership goes. He’s just a great guy overall and I wouldn’t trade him for nothing.”
Considering he enrolled early, there’s no doubt this development stings for Pierce. However, it’s worth noting Mullen had recently moved Seider to tight ends coach.
Penn State, now moving beyond the Saquon Barkley era, features a compelling collection of talent in its backfield. Seider will oversee a group that features two former 5-star recruits (Miles Sanders and Ricky Slade) and one of America’s fastest 2017 prospects (Journey Brown).
“I believe Coach Franklin is doing something special here and I can’t wait to chase championships in Big Ten country,” Seider said in a statement.
His clout as a recruiter will be counted on to continue the pursuit of blue-chip running back targets such as Devyn Ford (2019) and Chris Tyree (2020). He should also help Penn State push the door open even further on Floridian recruiting turf, where the Nittany Lions landed a pair of 2018 signees in defensive tackle Judge Culpepper and cornerback Jordan Miner.
Pennsylvania isn’t foreign territory for Seider, who helped evaluate the region for West Virginia and previously Marshall. He played a part in the Gators signing top-5 tight end prospect Kyle Pitts (Warminster, Pa.) this winter.
Seider is listed 30th overall and 13th among SEC assistant coaches in recruiting success, according to the 247Sports 2018 rankings. That’s an impressive outcome considering the struggles Florida endured.
Nittany Lions target elite 2020 WR Porter Rooks
Penn State continues to selectively piece together its 2020 recruiting target board with focus on the nation’s finest young prospects. Along with a Wednesday scholarship offer to 6-foot-7, 275-pound Cincinnati offensive tackle Paris Johnson, this week also featured the start of a pursuit for premier receiver Porter Rooks.
The 6-1, 180-pound playmaker picked up a Penn State offer on Monday. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a high school sophomore with more early college opportunities than Rooks.
He collected offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Miami and Notre Dame before the 2017 season. Interest among Big Ten teams began to mount since then, as Penn State joins Wisconsin, Maryland and Michigan in this mix.
Rooks, who attends Providence Day School (Charlotte, N.C.), joins Pennsylvania standout Julian Fleming on the Nittany Lions’ 2020 receiver board. Both players are considered top-10 overall talents in 247Sports 2020 rankings. Fleming is listed fifth overall and first among receivers, while Rooks lands 10th overall and third at the position.
He caught 66 passes for 810 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2017, according to MaxPreps. Watch his sophomore-season highlights here:
The Sophomore Campaign …
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