After declaring himself thrilled to be coaching football again, Penn State's James Franklin delivered a blunt assessment of his staff's recruiting efforts for the 2021 class.
It was pretty surprising.
"This class is not done, but up to this point, we haven't gotten it done," Franklin said Thursday. "We have not recruited up to the standard that we normally have."
Franklin offered the frank look during a media call that centered primarily on the team's planned October restart. But asked how the shutdowns of spring practice, the Blue-White Game and the initial fall schedule had affected recruiting, Franklin didn't sugarcoat his response.
Penn State's 2021 class of 13 recruits currently ranks 33rd nationally, and eighth in the Big Ten, according to 247Sports. It was not among the top 25 programs in SI All-American's recent set of rankings that included seven Big Ten teams.
Penn State does not have a commitment from a player on Sports Illustrated's SI99 list and has just one (offensive tackle Landon Tengwall) in 247Sports' top 100. Ohio State has commitments from 10 players in the SI99, two from Pennsylvania (receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. and quarterback Kyle McCord).
Franklin's comments in part concerned Penn State's in-state recruiting efforts for the 2021 class. In Pennsylvania, where Penn State seeks to own recruiting, the program does not have a commitment from any of the six players in SI All-American's SI99. Most recently, one of the state's top-ranked players, offensive lineman Nolan Rucci, committed to Wisconsin.
The COVID-19 shutdown prevented Penn State from hosting recruits and making off-campus visits, which Franklin said had a significant impact. But every program has dealt with the same restrictions and will do so for at least another three months. The NCAA has extended the recruiting dead period, which prevents on- and off-campus contact, until Jan. 1, 2021.
"We have not recruited up to the standard that we normally have," Franklin said. "And I can make excuses, I can come up with a lot of reasons for that, but we haven't gotten it done the way we normally have gotten it done."
Franklin called Penn State "the true college town on a postcard" but also one that needs to be visited. His staff is famous for putting together impressive hosted visits, which begin when recruits and their families arrive.
Franklin and his staff organize what they call "Banzai" meetings, in which anyone in the building drops what they're doing to greet visitors at the door. It's a personal touch they love, one former assistant coach Sean Spencer said makes recruits "feel different than any other place on the planet."
"This is a place that you've got to come and see," Franklin said. "... People can explain it to you all they want, but you've got to see it. And part of seeing it, a big part of our experience, is the fans and the support we get. And not just from football. You go to a volleyball game on a Tuesday, or a wrestling match on a Wednesday, whatever it may be. Those are things that Penn State so special.
"So it's been different, no doubt about it, but we've got to be able to adjust and we've got to be able to make some strategic changes and find a way to get it done and be successful."
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