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Penn State upgrading blue-chip talent level faster than any team
Nittany Lions coach James Franklin proved he understands how to construct a competitive roster at his previous job, Vanderbilt — where he inherited an SEC doormat and took it to multiple bowl games in his three-year tenure. A far more secure foundation awaited at Penn State, a schools that boasts vast college football success.
Still, due to the scholarship sanctions and inconsistent recruiting results that predated him, Franklin needed to ramp up the program’s efforts to assemble a roster capable of contending for titles. Following consecutive seven-win seasons, he led the Nittany Lions to 11 victories and Rose Bowl berth in 2016. A month later, he delivered a third straight top-20 recruiting class on National Signing Day.
Enhanced recruiting is key reason why Penn State coaches and players continue to assert this August featured the most competitive fall camp in Franklin’s tenure. This Nittany Lions roster is the most talented and deepest he’s had in Happy Valley.
It features a volume of former blue-chip recruits — those who carried 4- and 5-star ratings — that nearly doubles the group Franklin oversaw in 2014, according to Bud Elliott of SBNation.
Elliot pieced together a list of college football programs that boast the highest ratio of blue-chip signees from 2014-17, which precisely spans Franklin’s time in State College. Only 10 teams enter the 2017 season with more than 50 percent of such players on a roster: Alabama (80 percent), Ohio State (71 percent), Florida State (65 percent), LSU (65 percent), Georgia (63 percent), USC (63 percent), Michigan (61 percent), Auburn (59 percent), Clemson (56 percent) and Notre Dame (56 percent).
While Penn State (41 percent) hasn’t yet surged into that upper echelon, it appears inevitable since 15 of the team’s 23 commits are considered blue-chip recruits in 247Sports 2018 composite rankings.
Justin Shorter, a 5-star receiver from New Jersey, leads the way. He is joined by eight other top-200 overall prospects.
Expect another spike in the blue-chip ratio for Penn State when the 2018 class is factored in next year. The 2014 class produced several notable players such as linebacker Jason Cabinda, tight end Mike Gesicki and quarterback Trace McSorley, but it’s the lowest-rated group of this four-year span and one Franklin could only spend a month working toward.
So the 2015-18 ratio should continue a steady climb.
As Elliot notes, no program has increased its percentage since 2014 more than Penn State, the Nittany Lions’ net gain of 20 percent four percent better than runner-up Arizona State.
The Nittany Lions’ roster for Franklin’s first season on campus featured a blue-chip ratio of 21 percent. Penn State captured a conference championship in 2016 with a 34-percent ratio.
Ultimately, the performance of recruits is difficult to predict. McSorley, considered a 3-star prospect coming out of high school, set several school records during his first season as a starter. However, history shows us rosters with a large volume of blue-chip players are tremendously more likely to compete for national titles.
Penn State’s progression with Franklin is apparent in the win column and on the recruiting trail.
Penn State commits start strong in the Sunshine State
We’ll begin to see plenty of high school football action in Pennsylvania and throughout the Northeast starting this weekend. As usual, however, action gets underway slightly earlier in the Southeast.
Both players attend school in the Tampa area, and each committed to Penn State in July.
Culpepper, a 6-foot-5, 256-pound senior at Plant High School, displayed his prowess on both sides of the ball. He stripped the ball away from the opposing quarterback, according to Will Turner of FloridaHSFootball.com, and added a 21-yard touchdown reception midway through the fourth quarter to help solidify Plant’s 46-42 victory against Venice.
Miner, a 6-1, 182-pound playmaker at Wiregrass Ranch, will land in the defensive secondary at Penn State but presently makes an impact on all three phases of the game. He caught a pair of long-distance touchdown tosses and broke a long kickoff return that may have went the distance if not for a questionable out-of-bounds ruling.
Miner told Land of 10 his discussions with the Nittany Lions staff have included talk of him competing for kick returner duties.
He recorded touchdown receptions of 41 and 34 yards, finishing the night with 3 catches for 100 yards. It wasn’t quite enough, though, as Wiregrass suffered a 21-19 defeat.
Check out Miner’s highlight’s below. It’s a minute of contributions on offense, defense and special teams that should have Penn State fans excited about his future.