Penn State Football: Impact of James Franklin's SEC Connections on Recruiting

Tim TolleyContributor IJanuary 30, 2014

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If you take a close enough look at schools and conferences, there are tendencies when it comes to recruiting. In particular, geographical tendencies.

For as long as recruiting has been covered by the likes of Rivals and Scout, Penn State has been known for recruiting a certain area of the country. The Nittany Lions have always fared well from Pennsylvania to the East Coast, north of the Carolinas.

The 2012 and 2013 recruiting class contained a total of 37 recruits—29 of which were from that very area, according to

The same can be said for many other schools and conferences. It's easier to get kids on campus who live within driving distance, and most athletes want to go where their families can attend games.

The majority of Pac-12 athletes come from west of the Mississippi, while the Big 12 targets kids from the deep South. The SEC's pipeline is the Southeast, especially Georgia and Florida.

Much of the SEC's success over the last several years has been attributed to just that. Regardless of whether or not there's any validity to the phrase "SEC speed," it's undeniable that the high school talent in this country is better where the SEC does the majority of its recruiting.

Of the top 45 recruits in the 2014 class, 16 are from either Florida, Georgia, Tennessee or Alabama.

While those four states make up 35.5 percent of the top 45 high school players, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, New York and the entire New England region are responsible for just 13 percent, or six prospects. If you add the states of Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia, that number doesn't change.

It's undeniable who is producing the top talent in the country right now, and the answer isn't New York, New Jersey or New Hampshire.

Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin knows exactly what the answer is and, during his short time in Happy Valley, he has targeted and succeeded in that area.

James Franklin's Committed Recruits by State

Since taking over at Penn State just a few short weeks ago, Franklin has secured verbal commitments from players in Kentucky and Georgia while bringing in several players from Florida for visits. 

Last weekend, Florida kicker Jorge Powell gave his word that he'll walk on next year at Penn State. Smart money is betting he won't be the last Florida player to commit before the letters of intent arrive next week.

Much like Urban Meyer has been able to do at Ohio State, James Franklin will be able to call on experience and relationships he has from recruiting in the South over the last few years. 

While Franklin has made recruiting in Pennsylvania a priority, he knows that you can't compete with the top programs unless you recruit like they do. That's why it should come as no surprise to hear about the new staff making trips to Florida, Georgia or even California.

Whether or not the new regime in the Lasch Building will be able to consistently convince kids from Southern Florida to spend a few years in Central Pennsylvania remains to be seen, but Nittany Nation can rest assured that if they're not, it won't be due to a lack of effort or awareness.

Bill O'Brien and his staff were able to go into the South more than most Penn State fans were used to, but they didn't have the resources or relationships that the current staff developed in three years at Vanderbilt. This same staff went toe to toe with the heavy hitters of the SEC, in SEC country, and came out with the best recruiting classes the Commodores had ever seen.

If those same coaches can duplicate that success with Penn State, there's no telling what could be in the cards for the football program.