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Saquon Barkley, shown in the Big Ten championship game, originally committed to Rutgers.

The real work begins for Penn State recruits after signing day, plus how James Franklin wooed Saquon Barkley

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This is your Penn State Wake-Up Call for Wednesday, Feb. 1. Let’s get started.

After the signature, then what?

The drama ends Wednesday.

It is National Signing Day, as you might have heard. And by the time you read this, you will very likely know whether or not Mark Webb, a 4-star wide receiver from suburban Philadelphia, has flipped allegiances from Georgia to Penn State.

As Brian Linder of wrote Tuesday, the Nittany Lions’ Signing Day Eve salvo came in the form of a picture sent to Webb’s father, Mark Sr., that showed all the PSU coaches in the younger Webb’s No. 81 jersey.

Mark Sr. told Linder his son was “overwhelmed” by the pitch and would “sleep on it” before coming to a decision.

Still to come is word about Tariq Castro-Fields, a 4-star cornerback from Upper Marlboro, Md. He’s deciding between PSU, Alabama and Maryland, and Tuesday on Twitter made an announcement about his announcement, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET:

He was originally supposed to make his intentions known on Jan. 20, but inexplicably pulled the plug.

So we wait.

And when we finally do find out, we will wait some more.

We will wait to find out whether Castro-Fields and the rest of this class is good enough and committed enough and, yes, lucky enough to make an impact.

Good enough to stand out among a bunch of guys, on their team and all the others, who very often had just as much hype, just as much of a buildup.

Committed enough to avoid academic and off-field mishaps.

Lucky enough to avoid injury.

A lot can go wrong between National Signing Day and stardom. And sad to say, it often does.

Those star rankings? For entertainment purposes only, folks. They don’t mean much once the pads go on and preseason practice begins. More often than not they’re replaced by targets, and teammates take dead aim, eager to know if these ballyhooed newcomers can measure up.

And once the real games begin, the difficulty of the tests trebles. If the neophytes prove themselves in that fast company (and do so consistently), then – and only then – will we know how important a day this really was.

It’s an agonizing process. There will be plenty of times when these guys take two steps forward and one step back, and vice versa. Just the nature of the beast.

Of course, there will be surprises, too.

Recall that Lions quarterback Trace McSorley was a 3-star recruit in 2014, and that he originally committed to James Franklin when he was still the head coach at Vanderbilt. And that Franklin and his coaches initially viewed McSorley as a safety prospect, not a quarterback.

McSorley changed their minds. Then Franklin changed schools, and McSorley followed suit. In time, Franklin also changed offensive coordinators, from John Donovan to Joe Moorhead.

McSorley, of course, flourished this past season. But consider again all that had to go right for him to succeed.

It will be no different for everyone who signs Wednesday. As wonderful as this occasion is, a perilous path awaits all of them. And only a select few will be able to negotiate it.

Barkley’s recruiting tale

Mark Wogenrich of The (Allentown) Morning Call writes that Franklin’s recruitment of Saquon Barkley, now the Lions’ prize running back, began on signing day 2014, exactly one year before Barkley signed.

Franklin called Barkley, who at that point was committed to Rutgers, and later visited. And his pitch was compelling, as Alibay Barkley, Saquon’s dad, told Wogenrich:

“He makes me feel like Saquon’s in the best hands. That’s a good feeling for a father to have, that another man is going to protect and encourage his son but also keep him in line when he needs to. Because Saquon needs that sometimes.”

He didn’t promise playing time but did promise the opportunity, if Saquon did everything he had to do in practice, the weight room and the classroom. (By all accounts he caught everybody’s eye very early in his first preseason camp.)

Franklin made just as much of an impression on Brian Gilbert, Barkley’s coach at Whitehall High School. As he told Wogenrich:

“I’ve heard other people say that (Franklin) is a salesman, but I just think people get lost in his personality. Sometimes people think it comes off as being too good to be true, but I’ve been on the sideline. He’s like that on gameday with his players. He’s a passionate coach, and it shows in recruiting. The college coaches I look up to have that personality: Have fun and get business done. That’s what Saquon saw in him.”

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