Penn State Plans Major Return to In-Person Recruiting

Recruits finally can make official visits to Penn State, which coach James Franklin calls "the true college town on a postcard."
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Penn State coach James Franklin will sleep again in July. Until then, Franklin will become a host once more, entertaining commits, hosting camps and shouting "Banzai" during a new recruiting calendar that could reshape the future of Penn State football.

"It's going to be a situation where, for those summer weeks, you're going to be packing a bunch of stuff in there," Franklin said.

The 15-month NCAA recruiting dead period ends June 1, meaning prospective athletes finally will be allowed to make official visits to campuses across the country. For Penn State, this is a big deal.

Franklin noted often throughout 2020 how the extended dead period, which the COVID-19 pandemic made necessary, altered his recruiting strategy. Though Franklin and his staff made the best of "virtual visits" and "in-depth conversations," the coach long has maintained that Penn State needs to be seen in person. He calls it "the true college town on a postcard."

"This is a place that you've got to come and see," Franklin said last year. "... 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."

To mark recruiting's reopening, Penn State has official-visit weekends planned through June 27, when the so-called "dead period" returns until late July. Prospects from the 2022 class, including players who have announced commitments, will make campus visits, and Franklin once again will conduct his "Banzai" greetings with players.

"Banzai" began as a Penn State staff code word to indicate when a recruit had arrived on campus. When Franklin sends the text or announces "Banzai" in a meeting, staff members drop everything to greet recruits and their families at the Lasch Football Building door.

It's about making a strong first impression personally. Franklin joked that he was doing virtual hugs during the pandemic. Now, he gets to meet players in person again, something he missed deeply.

"I like it because it gets out staff right in front of the kids and the parents and also gets coach Franklin as a head coach right in front of the parents and kids from the get-go," running backs coach Ja'Juan Seider said in 2019. "A lot of times, when you're recruiting these kids, the head coach might not get around them until the end [of the process]. Well, they're tired by that point. We're right in front of them from the beginning. It makes a big difference."

Franklin's June calendar is packed, beginning June 1 with the virtual return of the Penn State Coaches Caravan alumni program. The coaching staff will conduct 10 camps beginning June 4, including the popular Elite Showcases in June and the Beast of the East Showcase in late July.

Members of Penn State's staff also are scheduled to attend Florida State's "Sunshine Showcase" Camp on June 6.

"Where the value [of camps] really shows up is not even necessarily this year," Franklin said. "It's identifying some of the young talent for the following year, is typically how the camp model usually works. That will be obviously different this year after not having camp [in 2020]."

Penn State has scheduled dozens of official visits throughout June, producing social-media graphics to mark the occasions.

Meanwhile, the strength staff also will organize the summer conditioning for the current roster, schedule its NCAA-allowed meeting time and scout Wisconsin for the Sept. 4 opener.

But Penn State's most important recruiting measure returns in June. Franklin gets to meet with players and their parents in person again.

"That's one of our stronger points here at Penn State, our interactions face to face," said Terry Smith, cornerbacks coach and defensive recruiting coordinator. "No one's better than coach Franklin in a sitdown meeting. No one's better than coach Franklin dealing with parents face to face and no one's more genuine than our coach Franklin. Those are things that we missed."

Check out the video above to learn more about Franklin's recruiting strategy.