A look at James Franklin’s recruiting success at Penn State
Four-star linebacker Derek Wingo became the second Penn State commit of the 2020 class back in December, and he’s poised to remain one of the Nittany Lions’ top prospects.
Wingo is already slated to play in the prestigious All-American Bowl — a high school all-star game that, in the past, has featured the likes of Andrew Luck and Odell Beckham Jr. — and he’s currently ranked by 247 Sports as the nation’s No. 129 overall prospect and the 10th-best outside linebacker.
Wingo, who’s from St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), was in Happy Valley on Friday, excited for Saturday’s Blue-White Game, and caught up with the Centre Daily Times after spending some time at the Lasch Football Building. Here’s what he had to say:
Centre Daily Times: This is your second Penn State “game,” but this is your first Blue-White Game. What are your expectations for Saturday, and why did you decide to make the trip up to Happy Valley this weekend?
Derek Wingo: Obviously, I was up here for the White Out game last year against Ohio State, and the atmosphere is absolutely crazy and everything is amazing. And I just wanted to come up to another atmosphere like that. It’s only a scrimmage, but there’s supposed to be 80,000 people here. So I just wanted to get back up here and talk to the coaches and re-hear their message and what they have to offer for me and stuff like that. So it’s good just to get back.
CDT: You were known as a heavy Ohio State lean before you committed to Penn State. What did change your mind?
DW: Well, you know, Ohio State was kind of always my dream school, but I just got to make the best choice for me and my family. And I talked to Ohio State, I talked to Penn State and, when we took both visits, we got to see both schools and we got to talk to both coaches and see everything they had to offer — and Penn State was the best opportunity for me.
It had the best opportunity to get on the field, academically, life after football — everything they’ve shown me. That was kind of what me and my family wanted to do.
CDT: Was there one thing that put you over the edge?
DW: I wouldn’t say one thing. I would say a couple things. Overall, I just like their coaching staff and the way they can produce players.
CDT: Let’s pause for one non-football question. What’s the last TV show you’ve binged, or one that you look forward to every week?
DW: Probably “The Walking Dead.” I’ve kind of been watching it since I was a kid. I’m all the way up to date; I know everything — every episode, every character. Everything. I stay up to it. Every Sunday at 9, I’m there ready to watch it. I don’t know; I’ve always just kind of been into it.
CDT: But — and I’ve got to point this out — that overlaps with Game of Thrones. Not a big GoT guy?
DW: Not too much.
CDT: I can’t say I’m not disappointed. But let’s get back to football. You obviously have to get along with defensive coordinator Brent Pry if you committed here. What’s different about him compared to other coaches; what’s your relationship like?
DW: Oh, our relationship is actually really great. I see him as more than a coach; I see him more as an overall guy. He’s not just an all-football guy. He’s not just someone who pushes you for football; he also pushes you for life after football. For academics, for just you as a person. So kind of the way they develop their character in their players, that’s something I want to be a part of.
CDT: You said before you’ve been to one Penn State game so far. What were your impressions of Beaver Stadium the first time?
DW: Absolutely insane. I’ve never seen anything like it. The atmosphere, the fans — everyone comes out to support, everyone’s positive in the pregame. After the game, even after losing, everybody’s positive and keeps going and there’s a lot of school spirit. So that’s huge.
CDT: When Penn State fans eventually see you suit up, what can they expect? What do you think defines you as a player?
DW: I think the biggest thing is I’m an aggressive player. I’m loud. I’m a vocal player who likes to command the defense and, not only the defense, but the whole team. I like to be the moral leader and the guy on the team to make sure everyone’s in check. I also like to have a little fun, let the guys let loose a little bit and let the guys do their thing. Everyone kind of brings their own personality — I just like the be the loud guy, the aggressive guy.
CDT: You may have committed to Penn State, but you’re a big-name guy that’s gotten a lot of recruiting attention — and odds are that attention won’t stop anytime soon. How do you deal with that, and what’s your message to fans who feel like Penn State will have to work hard to keep you?
DW: Well, I don’t think necessarily Penn State has to work to keep me. That’s just kind of what we agreed on. I’m committed to them; they’re committed to me. So that’s something that we have a mutual agreement with.
But, obviously, publicity comes and all the other schools and all the attention comes and you kind of — you don’t necessarily block it all out. You still talk to them and still do some stuff here and there and say, “Hey, how you doing?” because you want to keep a relationship because anything can always happen. But, at the end of the day, it’s Penn State — and that’s the good part.