James Franklin, Penn State Putting Together the Surprise Star Class of 2015

Sanjay KirpalaniNational Recruiting AnalystAugust 12, 2014

Apr 12, 2014; State College, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin runs on the field prior to the Blue White spring game at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

James Franklin established himself as one of the coaching industry’s top rising stars after his successful stint at Vanderbilt over the last three years. 

However, since taking over at Penn State in January, Franklin has wasted little time in turning the Nittany Lions into a force on the recruiting trail. 

After 4-star corner John Reid became PSU’s 19th verbal commitment last weekend, the Nittany Lions are sitting in the No. 6 spot in 247Sports' 2015 class rankings—good enough to make PSU’s group the class of the Big Ten by a comfortable margin.

After the turbulent years following the NCAA sanctions resulting from the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Franklin has blasted off the solid foundation built by predecessor Bill O’Brien and has the Lions poised to land their first top-10 recruiting class since 2006.

Penn State Recruiting Class Rankings Over the Last 10 Years
YearClass Rank
rankings courtesy 247Sports

Perhaps more impressive than the results Franklin has gotten is how he’s built this class. 

As Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports detailed, Franklin’s fast start began with a strong push to lock up the best talent in the Keystone State. Reid became the seventh in-state standout to announce his intentions to head to Happy Valley—with all seven of those pledges ranked among the top 10 players in Pennsylvania.

Aside from locking up the home-state borders, Franklin has struck gold in fertile East Coast hotbeds such as New Jersey (six commitments) and Maryland (three commitments).

Franklin has already landed a pair of cornerstones and top-100 recruits in 4-star offensive tackle Sterling Jenkins and 4-star quarterback Brandon Wimbush. Additionally, PSU is squarely in the mix to land studs such as 4-star defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and 4-star corner Jordan Whitehead.

If that isn’t enough, Franklin made headlines in the spring after serving as a guest coach at satellite camps on the campuses of Georgia State and Stetson—which are conveniently located in the Southeastern recruiting hotbeds of Atlanta and Central Florida, respectively.

“It's our job to do everything in our power within the rules to give Penn State a competitive advantage,” Franklin said at Big Ten media days, via AL.com’s Mike Herndon. “And whatever that may be, whether it's recruiting certain parts of the country, whatever it may be, whether it's the satellite camps, we're going to look into all those things."

It’s bold moves such as those that magnify Franklin's growing reputation as one of the nation’s elite recruiters. 

Franklin has already proven to be a worthy successor for O’Brien by building a class that sends a message to rivals in the Big Ten and shows that the Lions are a force to be reckoned with nationally. With a pledge last month from Shane Simmons, a 5-star defensive end in the 2016 class, the Lions' momentum is only picking up steam.

With Franklin’s ability to quickly create a surge on the recruiting trail, it’s only a matter of time before Penn State's fortunes on the field follow the same path.


Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.