New Penn State head coach James Franklin has hit the ground running in Happy Valley. In the two weeks after accepting the job on January 11, Franklin landed eight commitments, nearly filling Penn State's sanctions-reduced class well in advance of Signing Day. Franklin, a former Maryland assistant, recruited the mid-Atlantic region heavily at Vanderbilt. Penn State has relied on the same region as its primary source of recruits for years. As a result, Franklin recruited many of Penn State's current commitments while at Vandy.
In for spring
Five future Nittany Lions joined the program early, enrolling just two days after Franklin was announced as head coach. Those five recruits count toward Penn State's scholarship limits for 2013, allow the Nittany Lions to bring in 20 additional players for the Class of 2014. The early enrollees are led by pro-style quarterback Michael O'Connor and wideout De'Andre Thompkins. O'Connor comes to Penn State from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The 6'4, 223-lb. signalcaller committed to Penn State in May, choosing the Nittany Lions over Michigan State, Missouri, Mississippi State, Buffalo, and Franklin's former program, Vanderbilt.
Update, Feb 5.: Three-star athlete Torrence Brown flipped to Penn State from Southern Mississippi.
Fellow four-star recruit Thompkins hails from Swansboro, N.C., and was a consensus top 10 player in North Carolina. The speedy Thompkins held offers from Clemson, Tennessee, Notre Dame, Duke, and West Virginia, among others.
Three-star offensive tackle Chasz Wright and a pair of three-star defensive tackles, Tarow Barney and Antoine White, also enrolled for spring semester.
Nittany Lions come Wednesday
Penn State has a trio of four-star skill position players committed for Signing Day. Wide receiver Chris Godwin, who committed to former coach Bill O'Brien in April, is a national top 200 prospect and one of the nation's top receiver recruits. The Middletown, Del. product was the consensus top player in the state, and chose Penn State from a list of 15 offers, including Ohio State, South Carolina, Stanford, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, and Boston College. Like O'Connor, Godwin held an offer from Franklin's Vanderbilt program.
Fellow four-star wideout Saeed Blacknall committed to the Nittany Lions just ten days before Signing Day, decommitting from Rutgers to join Franklin's squad. The 6'3, 210-lb. receiver out of Englishtown, N.J.'s Manalapan High held offers from some of the nation's top programs, including Alabama, Florida State, Michigan, Clemson, LSU, Notre Dame, and Ohio State. He is the consensus No. 21 receiver recruit in the country, one of the top players in New Jersey, and a national top 150 prospect.
Manahawkin, N.J.-based tight end Mike Gesicki surprised many when he committed to Penn State over Ohio State in October. The four-star product of Southern Regional High also held offers from 17 other programs, including Wisconsin, Rutgers, Syracuse, Florida State, Miami, and Vanderbilt (yes, Franklin recruited him, as well). 247 Sports ranked Gesicki as the nation's top tight end prospect and the second-best player in New Jersey, though other services weren't as high on him.
The Nittany Lions will also welcome a pair of three-star safeties to State College. Koa Farmer, a 6'1, 200-lb. safety out of Riverside, Calif.'s Notre Dame High, was not a Penn State target until Franklin took the job. He had been one of Vanderbilt's top targets to that point, and Franklin extended an offer on behalf of his new program four days after he took the job. Farmer was also pursued by much of the Pac-12: Cal, Arizona State, Colorado, Washington, and Utah had extended offers, and USC, UCLA, and Stanford were showing interest. Wisconsin made a late push, as well. As SB Nation West Coast Recruiting Analyst Derrell Warren wrote, Farmer's versatility could come in handy:
Classified as an athlete or free safety by a number of services, Farmer plays all over the field for his high school team. This is appropriate as his baseline skill set translates well to a number of different positions.
On defense, he isn't a heavy striker. He'll likely generate more pop with additional weight, but I would like to see him drive his frame through ball carriers a bit more. That said, he makes sure tackles and shows the ability to break his frame down and tackle in space.
Marcus Allen -- not that Marcus Allen -- is a 6'2, 190-lb. defensive back out of Upper Marlboro, Md.'s Dr. Henry Wise High. He was the consensus No. 6 player in the state, and held offers from more than 25 programs, including Clemson, Maryland, Michigan State, Nebraska, Stanford, Wisconsin, and, yes, Vanderbilt.