In their last two recruiting classes, James Franklin and the Nittany Lions have landed three of the top prospects in Western Pennsylvania, following through on the coach’s intentions to “dominate the state.”
Franklin is looking for that success in recruiting the WPIAL to continue.
“Obviously for certain kids and certain families, Pitt is a really good option as well,” the coach said Wednesday afternoon, sitting in a hotel conference room less than three miles from the Oakland campus. “But for us to go where we want to go, we feel like we’ve got to keep all the best players of the state and this region at home. To me, home, that’s Penn State. That’s the Land Grant state school.”
The latest Pittsburgh products to choose Penn State were impressive signatures. Clairton’s Lamont Wade and Central Catholic’s CJ Thorpe — five and four-star prospects, respectively — headlined the Nittany Lions’ 2017 recruiting class, while five-star running back Miles Sanders from Woodland Hills grabbed everyone’s attention in 2016. Franklin has yet to bring any WPIAL players into the fold for 2018, but there’s still plenty of time between now and signing day.
The coach thinks bringing in guys like Sanders, Wade and Thorpe could open more doors in Pittsburgh, too. That familiarity, especially at powerhouses like Central Catholic and Clairton, goes a long way in building relationships with not only families, but also players’ teammates and coaches.
Franklin’s goal to “dominate the state” is an ongoing plan. But the seeds were planted when he was hired back in 2014, and they’re starting to come to fruition in Pittsburgh.
“I think you guys know how committed we are about recruiting the state,” Franklin said. “Obviously, Western Pennsylvania historically, and I would even say the last couple of years, has been really strong. We’re doing a great job here.”
Demand of coaches increases
Franklin knows he asks a lot of his staff — but if his assistant coaches don’t grow from 2016, he won’t be happy.
An 11-win season is nice to hang a hat on, but Franklin is demanding more from his staff in preparation for the 2017 season.
And that doesn’t mean Joe Moorhead, Brent Pry and the rest of his guys will be working 21-hour days instead of 18 hours now. It’s more a matter of perspective.
“I’m talking about working smarter, working more efficient. It’s being creative,” Franklin said. “It’s thinking outside the box. It’s approaching things at a different angle or with a different perspective because of the experience we had last year. Because of the wisdom we gained last year.
“For us, we had a nice season. We did some good things. But whatever we did last year isn’t good enough.”
“I think the general response has been really positive with a recognition of the need. Beaver Stadium is the one project out of all of those that is almost exclusively about the fan experience. … A lot of people like the look of the renderings, that may or may not end up exactly like that. Some don’t. Some like the current look, the skinless look of the stadium. And I understand that.” — Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour, on response to Facilities Master Plan.