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Florida Gators analyst breaks down impact of Ja’Juan Seider
Penn State added a key piece to its 2018 coaching staff Thursday, announcing the arrival of highly respected assistant Ja’Juan Seider. James Franklin lured him away from the Florida Gators, where he was shifted from running backs coach to tight ends coach upon the arrival of Dan Mullen from Mississippi State.
Seider, expected to be the only staff holdover from Jim McElwain’s regime in Gainesville, instead departed the university for an opportunity in Happy Valley. He takes over as Nittany Lions running backs coach, while fellow recent Penn State hire David Corley shifts focus to receivers following the exit of Josh Gattis, who left for a job with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
“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.”
The coaching carousel finally seems to be slowing down in State College, allowing us to take a deeper dig at what this latest shuffle means for Penn State. Land of 10 caught up with our friend and DieHards Network colleague Zach Abolverdi of SEC Country for further perspective on Seider.
Although Seider spent only one season at Florida, he’s been a mainstay on the Sunshine State recruiting trail since stops at West Virginia and Marshall. There’s a reason Franklin referenced him as “one of the nation’s top recruiters” during his introduction.
“First and foremost, Seider has an infectious personality and really relates with recruits,” Abolverdi said. “One thing that stands out about him is how quickly he builds relationships and identifies the key factors that matter for each individual recruitment. Seider was able to establish a rapport and comfort level with almost every prospect he pursued at UF, and the proof is in the pudding. He was responsible for five of Florida’s 13 early signees, and he kept all of those players from wavering during the coaching changes. He also helped the Gators land 4-star wide receiver Justin Watkins earlier this month after becoming his primary recruiter and communicating with him for only a couple of weeks.”
RELATED: 2018 Penn State recruiting big board
Penn State signed a pair of Tampa-area standouts in December, finalizing plans with defensive tackle Judge Culpepper and cornerback Jordan Miner. Expect further attempts to cultivate greater recruiting efforts in talent-laden Florida with Seider on the staff.
“Seider was born and raised in Belle Glade, Fla., and has strong recruiting ties throughout South Florida,” Abolverdi said. “He was an assistant coach for four years at West Virginia, his alma mater, and was able to land several prospects from Florida. He should be able to have a similar impact at Penn State, especially with the program’s recent success. But his recruiting prowess is not limited to the Sunshine State. Seider has shown that he can land recruits from any region of the country. He secured signatures from 4-star tight end Kyle Pitts [Warminster, Pa.] and 4-star running back Iverson Clement [Mount Holly, N.J.] in Florida’s 2018 class.”
Pitts and Clement each were considered top-10 overall talents in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, respectively, and those locations are obviously at the epicenter of where Penn State wants to exert itself most frequently on the recruiting trail.
Excited to rep 🔵⚪️!!!!!! https://t.co/DJGV2pEK7T
— JaJuan Seider (@coachseider) January 25, 2018
While Nittany Lions fans are growing acclimated to this latest staff addition, it’s always telling how things look on the other side of these equations. The reaction in Gainesville signifies Florida lost a key component of its program, resulting in a significant gain for Penn State.
“When players and fans are upset about an assistant leaving for another job, that’s the sign of a good coach. Seider certainly fits that criteria,” Abolverdi said. “Gator Nation was devastated to see him leave the program this week because of the impact he had in 2017. He improved Florida’s rushing offense last season, made his mark on the recruiting trail and won people over with his personality. Seider penned a classy note to Gator Nation after taking the Penn State position, which is a small example of why the guy was so beloved in Gainesville. As Florida defender CeCe Jefferson tweeted Thursday, ‘State got a real one.’ ”
State Got A Real One 💯 https://t.co/ui7BE2rBle
— CeCe (@cecejeferson7) January 25, 2018
Ja’Juan Seider inherits a promising backfield and key recruits
Penn State said goodbye to a program legend in December when Saquon Barkley declared for early entry into the NFL draft. Considering his impact as an elite rusher and receiver, he leaves behind a massive void to fill in the Nittany Lions backfield.
While efforts to replace Barkley likely will require more than one running back, Seider encounters a group of capable and promising playmakers. Veterans Miles Sanders and Mark Allen return with eyes on expanded roles, while rising redshirt freshman Journey Brown and 2018 signee Ricky Slade have goals of their own.
Sanders is the presumed leader in the room.
Considered the nation’s No. 1 running back recruit in the 247Sports 2016 composite rankings, he gained experience as a kick returner, rusher and pass target during his first two college seasons. Sanders showed flashes on limited touches in 2017, when he averaged 6.2 yards per carry and scored a touchdown in the Fiesta Bowl.
Penn State RB Miles Sanders arrived as a 5-star recruit in 2016. His opportunity awaits when Saquon Barkley heads to NFL.
James Franklin compared him to Aaron Rodgers behind Brett Favre (he was on Packers staff then).
What advice has Barkley given him? "Leave me some records." pic.twitter.com/9KgnWhWZd5
— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) December 15, 2017
Fellow 5-star prospect Ricky Slade arrives on campus this summer. The Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year slashed opponents en route to 2,700 all-purpose yards and accounted for 40 touchdowns as a senior at C.D. Hylton (Woodbridge, Va.) High School.
“Obviously I want to come in and make an impact and try to play early,” Slade told Land of 10 earlier this month. “Those are my goals — try to earn that starting spot. Those are the things I’ve got to work toward. … I think I’ll be on special teams. I’ll definitely be in a receiver role, out there in the slot. They’re going to try to get me the ball in a lot of different ways in the open field.”
Looking further into the future, Penn State is well-established with several top running back targets, headlined by Devyn Ford (No. 4 running back in 2019 class) and Chris Tyree (No. 1 running back in 2020 rankings). Other 2019 standouts such as Keilan Robinson and Jordan Houston visited Happy Valley multiple times in 2017.
Despite having three running backs coaches during a six-week span, the Nittany Lions seem to be holding steady. As Seider begins to check priorities off his list at Penn State, establishing relationships with these recruits at the position will be paramount.
Richard Tyree, the father of Chris Tyree, applauded the work Franklin and his assistants have done while dealing with changes.
“I can only speak for my son but I think the coaching staff has handled everything well,” Richard said. “The coaches as a committee have been in to check on Chris several times. [Associate head coach Sean Spencer] actually visited his school [Thursday].”
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