A look at James Franklin’s recruiting success at Penn State
Pennsylvania’s top 2020 propsect is not only leaving the Keystone State. He’s set to sign with the Buckeyes.
Julian Fleming — the No. 1 wide receiver and No. 6 overall prospect in the 2020 recruiting class — chose Ohio State over Penn State on Friday, an expected yet difficult pill for the Nittany Lions to swallow.
Entering Friday, 247 Sports’ Crystal Ball predictions gave Ohio State a 79 percent chance (19 of 24 experts) to land Fleming, with Penn State making up the remaining 21 percent. Alabama, Georgia and Clemson were also finalists.
“To me, Ohio State is home,” Fleming said in his announcement video on Twitter.
Fleming’s decision to spurn Penn State in favor of the Buckeyes is a major loss for James Franklin and his staff.
The Nittany Lions’ wide receiver group moving forward is still in solid shape. Penn State’s 2019 expected starters — redshirt sophomore KJ Hamler, redshirt freshman Justin Shorter and sophomore Jahan Dotson — should offer plenty of production in seasons to come. In February, the Nittany Lions secured the commitment of 2021 wideout Dont’e Thornton, the No. 8 pass-catcher in the his cycle.
And, as a whole, Penn State’s 2020 recruiting class sits in the top 15 in the nation. But this one has to sting.
Had Fleming joined the Nittany Lions, he would have been the fifth five-star in the last three cycles for Penn State. The 2018 class featured three five-star prospects: Harrisburg linebacker Micah Parsons (No. 5 overall), New Jersey wideout Justin Shorter (No. 8) and Virginia running back Ricky Slade (No. 27). Franklin also secured the signature of Brandon Smith, the No. 1 linebacker and No. 18 prospect overall, in the 2019 cycle.
Instead of Fleming joining that group, Friday marks the first time Ohio State has plucked the top player from Pennsylvania since 2012, when Noah Spence went to the Buckeyes.
Now, it’s not uncommon for Penn State to lose out on the Keystone State’s top player. Four of the last six No. 1 players from Pennsylvania — Fleming, Notre Dame’s Andrew Kristofic (2019), Georgia’s D’Andre Swift (2017) and Pitt’s Jordan Whitehead (2015) — have rejected the Nittany Lions.
But Penn State was once the favorite to land Fleming, who visited Happy Valley 12 times, according to 247 Sports. With that, and the turmoil surrounding Urban Meyer and the Ohio State program in the fall, it looked then as if Fleming-to-Penn State was a lock.
But new Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and wide receivers coach Brian Hartline did well to convince Fleming that his best opportunity was catching passes from former Penn State commit and Georgia quarterback Justin Fields.
That ought to be a cringe-worthy sight for Nittany Lion fans and staff come 2020.