Penn State's hiring of James Franklin to be the Nittany Lions head football coach was bound to make waves on the recruiting circuit. Coaching changes in college football almost always do.
Steve Sarkisian left Washington for USC and, shortly after, flipped CB Jonathan Lockett from the Huskies to the Trojans.
Despite the old mantra telling prospects to "pick a school, not a coach," coaches play a huge role when it comes to where recruits decide to play college ball. Whether they should or not is an entirely different conversation.
James Franklin transformed the Vanderbilt football team and now he's taking the recruiting class to Penn State with him!!! #lowblow— Katelyn Del Castillo (@katelyndc14) January 14, 2014
Coaches form relationships. They want certain types of players and people for their team, and when a coach changes schools in January, there isn't much time left before national signing day to shop around. So, they go to the kids they're familiar with.
When Franklin took over at Penn State, there was sure to be a turnover, fallout or some other sort of dysfunction at Vanderbilt, Penn State or both, despite what Vandy fans may think.
Sure enough, the night that Franklin was announced as the head coach, two recruits flipped their commitments from Vanderbilt to Penn State while several others received offers.
There's a slight problem with that, though it's not an ethical or moral one.
Penn State is still under NCAA sanctions and can take a maximum of 23 players in this year's recruiting class. That class had 19 commitments a week ago and, with Franklin making quick work on the recruiting trail, is now up to 21.
While that's still perfectly OK, players like 3-star OL Jared Cohen and 3-star DB Shawn Boone were both expected to commit to Penn State before signing day, and the Nittany Lions are playing host to several committed and uncommitted recruits this weekend. Among them includes WR/TE David Njoku, another player with Penn State high on his list.
Penn state* official visit- January 17th. Possible Ohio State visit- January 31st.— David Njoku (@David_Njoku80) January 12, 2014
The NCAA isn't just going to give Penn State a pass, and 23 is a pretty hard number without any flexibility for the new coach, so something is going to have to give.
There's a chance that a recruit or two could decommit, though most of the class has been vocally supportive of the Franklin hire.
Another possibility is that some of the players who are currently committed will be asked by the new staff to look elsewhere. Whether it be for schematic purposes or competitive reasons, players near the bottom of the class like LB Donte Raymond and RB Mark Allen may be told that there is no longer a spot for them in this class.
Situations like that are, at best, morally grey.
Should a new coach automatically be expected to honor the offer extended by a different group of coaches with different criteria and a different brand of football?
If the coach doesn't think the player is ever going to fit into his system and maximize his potential operating in that scheme, isn't it his responsibility to be up front with the recruit from the beginning?
Then, there is the issue of the recruit finding a new landing spot this late in the game. Mark Allen, for example, committed over a year ago and was then injured. He doesn't have a stack of offers that he can fall back on.
There are legitimate arguments to be made from every angle. Recruiting is fun for fans to follow, but it isn't always a pretty business.
National signing day is just a few weeks away, and Penn State is likely to be active until the end. You can follow the class, along with all the twists and turns on the way, here.
In the meantime, there are two important things to remember for anyone who passionately follows recruiting:
1. Never take it personal.
2. The most important thing about the process is that each kid makes the decision that he is happiest with.