No official recruit visits for Blue-White weekend
Saturday’s Blue-White Game, which annually attracts one of the nation’s largest spring game crowds, has always been a big day for Penn State recruiting. But James Franklin said Wednesday night that the Nittany Lions decided to make a big change this year.
The Nittany Lions will not host any official visits this weekend, instead urging prospects to come on unofficial visits and save those officials a little later in the recruiting process.
“We had a lot of discussions last year about this and we had a lot of discussions this year, before this, about how we were going to approach that,” Franklin said Wednesday, following Penn State’s 13th practice of the spring. “We decided to stay away from official visits this weekend for a couple reasons.”
First and foremost, Franklin explained, early signing day isn’t until December. In the past, Franklin invited players for official visits Blue-White weekend in hopes to get an early commitment — but then some players changed their minds and held off on a decision.
Secondly, Franklin felt the official visits took away quality time with his current players. After the Blue-White Game, Penn State hosts a big picnic with players and their families. And trying to balance official visits with that just wasn’t working.
“You can’t do it,” Franklin said. “And I don’t get enough time with our players, I don’t get enough time with our players’ parents. So we just felt like we needed to make a decision there, and that’s the route we went.”
Odds are there will still be plenty of big-name recruits on hand Saturday. Five-star linebacker Antoine Sampah, one of the nation’s top overall players, plans to visit with two of his teammates, for example.
Franklin’s success in recruiting is difficult to overlook. In the three previous classes, according to 247 Sports, Franklin has boasted a top-15 class every time. So far this season, he has the 14th-best recruiting class in the nation.
Changes to offensive line
Penn State has an interesting position battle at offensive guard, with both C.J. Thorpe and Mike Miranda battling for a spot opposite Steven Gonzalez. But, no matter who wins, Franklin said fans should see plenty of all three players — and that philosophy also goes for offensive tackle, too.
“I really see us, right now, playing all three of those guys,” Franklin said. “I don’t think it’ll be like last year where we have a starting five and try to stay with a starting five. The third guard, right now, is going to play. The third tackle is going to play.”
Franklin said that Thorpe “lost some things fundamentally” after moving to defensive tackle for a short stretch last season. And he said Miranda is “kind of like a seasoned veteran.” At tackle, Rasheed Walker again took first-team reps opposite Will Fries.
Keaton Ellis still making an impact
State College native and former Little Lion Keaton Ellis enrolled early in January, but he’s already earned some unprompted praise from the coaching staff.
When Franklin was asked what he’s been most pleased with this spring, he mentioned a few things — and a few players by name. The offense has done a better job of protecting the ball and being explosive. Special teams has changed for the better, at least culturally. And, he said, two young corners have stepped up early: Keaton Ellis and Marquis Wilson, who grabbed two interceptions at practice Wednesday.
“Those guys have made plays,” Franklin said.
Value of Blue-White Game
The spring game has historically been more for the fans than the football team. And Franklin didn’t seem to refute that much Wednesday, when asked what he was hoping to get out of Saturday’s annual spring scrimmage.
“Probably not what you want to hear but, really, these 13 practices are much more valuable for us,” he said. “The spring game is great. You see a lot of people around the country not even doing spring games; they’re doing skellies or individual or they’re canceling it.
“For us, the 13 practices are critical. The spring game, I do think there’s still value to go in the stadium and compete in that environment, especially when we get 75,000 people to show up to that game. I still think there’s value in that but, for coaches, I think it’s always more about the practices where you can control a little bit more the situations and the environment.”