James Franklin inherited a recruiting situation with limited wiggle room.
At the time of his hire, Penn State had 18 players committed to its 2014 class. The Nittany Lions can sign a maximum of 23 prospects, and there were plenty of offers out to prospects who Bill O'Brien targeted.
This didn't matter to Franklin, who got to work quickly. While three players from Penn State's original class decommitted, he's added five new faces of his own. The group now stands at 21 commits.
That number is likely to increase. This weekend, Penn State will have two of its top targets on campus for official visits:
But the good news didn't stop there. In the sweepstakes for 5-star offensive tackle Damian Prince, Franklin and Penn State have edged out both Auburn and LSU for an official visit from the Maryland product:
It's not hard to think that Penn State can sign a full class. But do the math—with 21 players currently committed and at least three more taking official visits, it's possible that more than 23 players would want to come to Happy Valley.
So how would Franklin deal with a situation like this?
For starters, there's the route of pulling a scholarship from someone already committed to the class. A move like this would be lambasted within Penn State circles. A faction of the fanbase just denounced Bill O'Brien. Imagine what the reaction would be if Franklin told a kid, "I don't think I have a scholarship for you anymore."
Would Franklin consider this course of action? It's hard to say. But there's sure to be speculation surrounding the situation of linebacker Donte Raymond, a recent Penn State decommit whose only other offer was from Delaware:
Broadcast it from the rooftops in NJ: James Franklin pulled the offer from Donte Raymond of Rahway. You could be next.— Fire Hermann and BoG (@ruscoop) January 21, 2014
Even if this was the case, don't expect it in the future. That's because Franklin will dictate who he passes out scholarships to, not inherit someone else's work.
Another option—and easily the more accepted of the two—would be to use grayshirts. It's a rare tactic, usually reserved for special circumstances. Per Rivals.com's recruiting glossary, here's the definition of a grayshirt:
A term used in the recruiting process to describe situations in which a student-athlete delays initial enrollment in a collegiate institution to the winter or spring term after the traditional academic year begins. Students who grayshirt often use the fall to take classes part time or choose not to enroll in college at all.
Basically, taking a grayshirt is the opposite of enrolling early. An incoming freshman would not be a scholarship football player in the fall but would gain that status when the spring semester rolls around. If Penn State were to grayshirt anyone from the 2014 class, their scholarship would count toward 2015's total.
The downfall with this? It takes away from the total amount of players you can sign in the coming year. If Penn State were to grayshirt just one player in 2014, they'd be down one less scholarship in 2015.
If you had to single out potential grayshirt candidates, look no further than cornerback Daquan Worley and running back Johnathan Thomas. Both suffered ACL injuries this past fall, and a delay in enrollment could give them more time to focus on rehab.
The two would likely be redshirt candidates, anyway. Considering this, getting them to delay their tenure as a scholarship athlete might not be as challenging as it seems.
Chipping away at 2015's number this early in the game might not be what Franklin had in mind. But if the alternative is missing out on some of the prospects still considering the Nittany Lions, he might decide to bite the bullet.
Regardless of how the 2014 class plays out, the late surge from Franklin and his staff has set the tone for 2015. If 2014's late push is any indication, the Nittany Lions will have no problem recruiting some of the nation's best in the staff's first full season.