The Penn State coaching staff won’t talk players into graduating high school early and enrolling for the spring semester; that’s a decision the recruits have to make for themselves.
But Nittany Lions coach James Franklin believes it helps those that can handle such a jump.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that there’s value,” Franklin said at Saturday’s end-of-season press conference. “There’s value in these guys being on campus, taking college credits, and getting adjusted academically and socially. And then they legitimately have a chance to compete for a starting job in camp.”
Penn State has four early enrollees: defensive back Lamont Wade, wide receiver K.J. Hamler, offensive lineman Mike Miranda, and linebacker Brelin Faison-Walden.
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Franklin said based on feedback from the academic advisers and strength & conditioning staff alike, the quartet is adjusting to both classes and weight room demands.
All four enter with expectations to uphold, some higher than others. Wade, widely considered the top Pennsylvania prospect of the year, has generated quite the buzz; Hamler, a four-star speedster from IMG Academy, could push for playing time in a crowded receiving group; and Faison-Walden and Miranda, a pair of three-star commits, have a lot of upside.
But the high school hype can take them only so far.
“Once they show up on campus, all that stuff goes away,” Franklin said. “It’s not like if you’re a five-star, four-star or three-star guy, you’re going to get more playing time or higher grades. You’re going to have to come in and earn what you get.”
Still, their presence alone will help when it comes to establishing themselves by time fall camp rolls around.
It’s a difficult balance to pull off, handling expectations as a highly-touted, incoming recruit while taking college classes.
But Franklin is confident in Wade, Hamler, Miranda and Faison-Walden to do it.
“You basically go from being a high school student on Wednesday to being a college student on a Monday,” Franklin said. “A lot of guys aren’t ready for that...There’s value in going to senior prom, playing senior year basketball, being with my buddies for six more months, going away for vacation with mom and dad after graduation for a week.
“I would prefer that they don’t go to senior week; that always seems like a week of concern for me. I remember my senior week.”