Shortly after he was introduced as Penn State's new football coach on Jan. 11, James Franklin excited the members of Nittany Nation - and irked a number of nonbelievers - by saying the Nittany Lions were going to "dominate the state" in recruiting.
Four months after his hiring, Franklin has backed up his words. The Lions have received oral commitments for the freshman class of 2015 from 16 high school players, an atypical number for so early in the recruiting season.
More noteworthy, all but two of Penn State's pledges to date are from areas within a six-hour drive of Happy Valley, or what Franklin considers "in-state." Four are from the Philadelphia area.
Three recruiting websites - Rivals.com, Scout.com and 247Sports.com - rate Penn State's 2015 class No. 2 overall, trailing only Alabama. Eleven of the 16 commitments have received four-star ratings by at least two of the sites.
"We haven't seen them around the top five in a very long time," Mike Farrell, national recruiting director for Rivals.com, said Monday. "Especially seeing them up at No. 2 in the country, even if it's early, is really exciting for Penn State fans.
"This is what I expected from James Franklin, though. You put him in charge of a program like that with his recruiting experience, and he's going to be dangerous. I just think he's a good guy and he comes across that way to families."
Both Farrell and Brian Dohn, national recruiting analyst for Scout.com, agree that the energy in recruiting is much higher than it was in Joe Paterno's final seasons. Dohn said the tempo is back up to "what Penn State should be."
"In Joe's final few years, people were concerned about recruiting, and then [Bill] O'Brien had all the sanctions and stuff to deal with," Dohn said. "So this is the first time you're seeing somebody at Penn State that is aggressive, who identifies talent early, who connects with kids."
A sign of Franklin's aggressive nature has been his ability to get players wanted by Ohio State. One is 6-foot-8, 305-pound offensive tackle Sterling Jenkins of Pittsburgh, regarded as the best player in his class from Pennsylvania, who chose the Nittany Lions over the Buckeyes.
"I think it's a surprise at this juncture to see Penn State beat [Ohio State coach] Urban Meyer straight-up for a potential three-year [starter at] left tackle," Farrell said.
As a former assistant coach at Maryland, Franklin is very familiar with that state and the Washington metropolitan area. He considers that area "in-state" along with New Jersey and Delaware.
That only means trouble for the Big Ten's two newest teams - Rutgers and Maryland - especially if Franklin continues to mine the best talent from New Jersey and Maryland.
While Penn State followers are thrilled with Franklin's early recruiting accomplishments, there is a long way to go. With nearly nine months left before national signing day, history shows that a few commitments will be heading elsewhere.
Farrell said losing committed recruits "is just the nature of the beast." For Penn State, keeping some may depend on how the Nittany Lions fare in the third season of their NCAA sanctions with a roster that lacks depth in some areas.
"I think if Penn State does have a difficult season on the field . . . if they have a couple of key injuries, things could go sour," Farrell said. "I could see that used against them really hard from teams not only in the Big Ten but from around the country."
Penn State's 2015 Commitments
POS PLAYER HT. WT. HOMETOWN HIGH SCHOOL
LB Josh Barajas* 6-3 210 Merrillville, Ind. Andrean
RB Saquon Barkley* 5-11 195 Whitehall, Pa. Whitehall
OT Ryan Bates* 6-5 282 Warminster Archbishop Wood
DE Ryan Buchholz 6-6 235 Malvern Great Valley
DE Kamonte Carter* 6-4 225 Gaithersburg, Md. Gaithersburg
LB Jake Cooper 6-2 225 Warminster Archbishop Wood
G Steven Gonzalez* 6-3 295 Union City, N.J. Union City
DE Jonathan Holland 6-4 230 Potomac, Md. Bullis School
OT Sterling Jenkins* 6-8 305 Pittsburgh Baldwin
WR Juwan Johnson* 6-4 195 Glassboro Glassboro
DT Adam McLean* 6-1 282 Gaithersburg, Md. Quince Orchard
S Jarvis Miller 6-2 185 Suffield, Conn. Suffield
CB Ayron Monroe 6-1 195 Washington St. John's College
WR Brandon Polk* 5-10 165 Ashburn, Va. Briar Woods
RB Andre Robinson* 5-10 200 Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt
QB Brandon Wimbush* 6-2 210 Jersey City, N.J. St. Peter's Prep
*Rated a four-star recruit by at least two recruiting websites
- Joe JulianoEndText