In Penn State’s last five recruiting classes — which amounts to 114 scholarship players — the Nittany Lions have successfully recruited three Florida natives.
Three out of 114. That’s 2.6 percent.
James Franklin believes that will change with the addition of Ja’Juan Seider to Penn State’s staff.
“You don’t hire Ja’Juan unless you’re going to make a recruiting shift,” Franklin said on a Wednesday conference call, “and you don’t hire Ja’Juan and not recruit Florida. It doesn’t make any sense.”
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Seider — the Nittany Lions’ relatively new running backs coach — is a Florida guy through and through. And those connections are going to significantly help Penn State unlock a rich recruiting area.
Seider grew up in Palm Beach County, ended his collegiate playing days as a record-setting quarterback at Florida A&M and started his coaching career at Glades Central High School.
After growing up in Florida and coaching high schools there from 2001-07, Seider served as an assistant coach at Marshall, West Virginia and Florida. In all three stops before Penn State, Seider recruited the Sunshine State hard.
He plans to do the same on Franklin’s staff.
“It gives us a chance to go down there and compete and get a couple kids here and there that may be difference-makers that we may not have in our backyard,” said Seider, who was hired on Jan. 25. “That’s what Ohio State’s doing. That’s what Michigan’s doing. That’s what Notre Dame’s doing. Teams that we compete against. Why not go to Florida?”
Added Franklin: “He’s going to get us into some doors because of his relationships and his reputation that maybe we weren’t involved in before.”
Having coached and recruited in the state for so long, Seider said there’s a mutual respect between him and the high schools. He has “done right by the kids, and the families trust” him.
That presence in the state of Florida — which produced 66 four- or five-star prospects in 2018 — is invaluable, especially for a school like Penn State.
Excluding a pair of IMG Academy products — Michael O’Connor and K.J. Hamler, who are originally from Canada and Michigan, respectively — the Nittany Lions have a trio of Florida high school players dating back to 2014. Amani Oruwariye flipped from Vanderbilt to Penn State when Franklin was hired in 2014, and the Nittany Lions signed Judge Culpepper and Jordan Miner in the 2018 class, which was finalized Wednesday.
Penn State’s recruiting classes haven’t suffered, per se, with a lack of Florida talent. The program just pulled in the highest-ranked class of Franklin’s tenure.
But the head coach believes Seider’s connections and history “can change things” for the better.
“You combine us finishing in the top 10 the last two years, with Ja’Juan’s relationships down there, and I think we can continue to make some progress,” Franklin said.
Added Seider: “When you get a stamp of approval, it doesn’t matter if you’re from West Virginia, Virginia, Florida or wherever. They want to be surrounded by good people.”