In James Franklin’s eyes, Penn State has “put together one hell of a class” up front, thanks in large part to the Nittany Lions’ final 2018 commit.
Penn State’s national signing day on Wednesday was relatively quiet. It was for most schools across the country, really, with only a handful of top prospects still available. December’s new early period served as the “real” signing day as the traditional first Wednesday of February took a back seat.
Franklin said on a conference call that he and his staff were “hoping and expecting” for one particular player to sign. That player was Rasheed Walker, a “nasty” four-star tackle that completes Penn State’s best offensive lineman haul in recent memory.
“I think really that’s where it starts is up front,” Franklin said. “The best teams in the country consistently win up front, and when you consistently win up front, it’s going to give you a chance to have the most consistent program. ... We’re committed to doing that.”
It showed in Penn State’s 2018 recruiting class.
In December, the Nittany Lions signed three offensive linemen. Four-star tackle Nana Asiedu not only has a place on the all-name team, but also ranks as the No. 8 player at his position, per 247 Sports. Four-star prospect Fredrick “Juice” Scruggs is the fourth-best center in the country, and three-star Bryce Effner is what Franklin calls a “swing guy,” who offers plenty of versatility.
Walker, a Maryland native who ranks No. 4 at his position and No. 65 nationally, was Wednesday’s capper.
Walker was targeted by Ohio State and a host of other schools. And with him choosing Happy Valley over Columbus, Penn State secured the signatures of two top-10 tackles — joining Ohio State as the only team in the country to do that in 2018.
Franklin is more than pleased with the pairing of Asiedu and Walker and complimented the newly minted member of Penn State’s class.
“You watch that guy, and he is physical. He plays with a nasty streak,” the coach said. “He’s got the length, he’s got the athleticism, he’s a great kid from a great family, is a gentleman off the field, but plays the nasty streak on the field. And he has a finisher’s mentality.”
That’s what Franklin wants from his offensive line.
For years, the offensive line has been marred by depth issues and mediocre play. The situation was poor when Franklin took over in 2014, and it’s been an ongoing effort to improve that situation.
Class of 2015 product Ryan Bates and a couple of 2016 guys, Connor McGovern and Will Fries, have performed well for the most part. But even last season, the offensive line faltered in crucial spots at Ohio State, Iowa and Northwestern.
Franklin reiterated Wednesday what he’s said for years: “You can’t overcome deficiencies up front. It’s just too challenging.”
To ensure that isn’t an issue, Penn State has fervently recruited the offensive line in recent years. The Nittany Lions’ 2017 class featured four blockers, and so did 2018.
Landing Walker is just another step toward a consistent offensive line in the future and, thus, a consistent program.