James Franklin and Penn State’s staff thrived on Day 1 of college football’s new early signing period.
The Nittany Lions brought in 21 prospects, including three five-star recruits. Harrisburg star Micah Parsons headlined the class, along with wide receiver Justin Shorter, running back Ricky Slade and four-star flip Jahan Dotson.
To delve deeper into how the class came to be, Sean Fitz of Lions 247 joined for a special recruiting edition of “Five Questions.”
Q: We’ll start with Micah Parsons. With a high-profile kid like him committing, decommitting and recommitting, how rare is that throughout college football?
A: It’s extremely rare. Penn State has only had a couple of guys do that since I’ve been doing this, and a lot of that was on academics. For him to make that switch and then come back full-circle, it says something to the job that they did to re-recruit him. I think things changed in the last couple of months of his recruitment. No coincidence that after his Ohio State trip, things were kind of different. It’s extremely rare. You usually don’t expect a kid who decides that’s not the place for him to make that realization later, especially a 17-year-old kid. It’s really a good recruiting job by them to fight off some flashier programs, take their lumps and go right back to it.
Q: What are your thoughts on the staff starting him off at middle linebacker?
A: He’s athletic enough to do so. Given the need and situation they have at that position, it’s worth trying. The kid is phenomenally physically talented. He can run, fill gaps and do pretty much whatever you want. This is a kid who’s good enough to play offense at the Division I level, too. I think it’s worth a shot given where Penn State is at that point. If it works out, it fills a lot of gaps because it’s a dangerously thin position, dangerously inexperienced. If he’s as talented as he’s shown the past couple years, then that could be a three- or four-year starter for them.
Q: A bit of drama relatively speaking I guess was Jahan Dotson flipping from UCLA. Were you surprised by that? And what does it say about wideouts coach and offensive recruiting coordinator Josh Gattis that he’s able to land such a bona fide wide receiver group in this class?
A: They circled back around to Dotson at the end, so it wasn’t a surprise. We talked about it earlier this week as something that was going to happen. Not really surprising. At UCLA, with the coaching change, (Penn State) is always looking to sort of go through those other commit lists and see if there’s possibilities. He’s an in-state kid, someone they’ve recruited before. He’s a guy they wanted before, but it just didn’t work out with numbers for a few schools. ... Of course, you’ve got that class with Justin Shorter, Daniel George and Shaquon Anderson-Butts, who won’t sign until February. It’s a good start, but (Dotson) is a really talented kid. They’ve had him in camp. They’ve seen a bunch of him, and he can fit in that slot role pretty well. It completes that class. In terms of what it says about Gattis, they’ve recruited wide receiver at another level for the most part. It all starts with Shorter, no doubt about it. He’s the longest-tenured recruit in the class and never wavered even though he’s a five-star. No drama or anything like that. That speaks to the work that Gattis did a little bit more than Dotson because Dotson was there for the taking at the end. New coach at UCLA, you don’t know how that’s going to mix, and he didn’t visit out there since Chip Kelly took over. If you’re talking about the ability of Josh Gattis to recruit, you look at Shorter even though he’s been in the class so long and it seemed like it was a formality when he signed. That’s your biggest signing on offense right there.
Q: Who’s a guy or two that isn’t getting the publicity he deserves?
A: I’m interested in the outer region guys. Some of those guys had some really good offers. Trent Gordon is a guy that comes to mind. He’s coming in early, played for one of the best programs in Texas and played for them at a high level. When you come in from a place like that, you’re sort of raised differently to play football. That’s something that’s benefitted some players at Penn State in the past. Trent Gordon gives them versatility; he could play corner or safety. And he’s played big-boy football before, so I don’t think the jump is going to be as big for him. In-state, Charlie Katshir, maybe right up there with Parsons in terms of high school football players. He’s a guy who, if he stays healthy, can be a multi-year starter for Penn State. He doesn’t do anything exceedingly well. He’s just always around the football, and when you talk about linebacker, that’s what you like. Those are two guys who I think are a little undersold.
Q: Looking at some of the guys who could fill these final few spots in the 2018 class, you have wide receiver Solomon Enis, defensive end Jayson Oweh, offensive tackle Rasheed Walker and a couple others. Among this small pool of players left, who is the most likely to sign with Penn State?
A: I think Solomon Enis is a guy that Penn State targeted for a long time. If you look at his options, there’s a coaching change at Arizona State, may not be the highest guy on the board at USC, and he’s a Penn State legacy (son of Curtis Enis), so he’s got a lot working for him in that aspect. He’s been on-campus a couple of times. He’s from Arizona, but when you’re a legacy prospect, things are a little bit different. ... Rasheed Walker is a guy they’ve been on from the start. I have my Crystal Ball on Penn State right now. It’s going to be a month of fighting off Ohio State, who just lost their top offensive tackle target to Clemson. Those are two guys who are at the top of the board aside from Oweh — who’s going to announce in January, so I really don’t count him in this because it’s a situation that’s going to be resolved sooner rather than later. Looking into January, (I’m) looking at Enis and Walker as the two guys you look to the strongest.