Penn State Nittany Lions: Pittsburgh Panthers

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- James Franklin hasn't even spent one night in Happy Valley, but Penn State's new head coach has already thrown down the recruiting gauntlet against Pittsburgh and other teams in the northeast.

"Our recruiting philosophy," Franklin said Saturday afternoon during his introductory press conference, "we are going to dominate the state. We are going to dominate the region.

"I'm going to call all the high school coaches. I'm calling all the people in the state that we need to come together like never before."

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Matthew O'Haren/USA TODAY SportsJames Franklin didn't mince words when talking about recruiting, say that it's his mission for the Nittany Lions to dominate within the state of Pennsylvania.
Franklin emphasized every line about recruiting and spoke passionately during his first-ever news conference as the Penn State head coach. He's been widely regarded as an incredible recruiter -- he reeled in 22 four-star commits during his time at Vanderbilt -- and he didn't hesitate when asked about his high recruiting hopes.

The new coach's bold statement comes after years of PSU routinely losing out in western Pennsylvania. Sure, Penn State has earned commitments of some prospects such as wideout Troy Apke, but it's missed more than it's hit. PSU fell out of favor with ESPN 300 targets such as WR Tyler Boyd (2013 commit; Pitt), ATH Dravon Henry (2014 commit; West Virginia) and DB Montae Nicholson (2014 commit; Michigan State).

Beating Pitt out for recruits in its own backyard is a daring statement. So, a few minutes after answering his first recruiting question, Franklin was given a chance to soften his words. This time, he was asked where his recruiting focus lay -- but he again wasted no time in reinforcing his original point.

"I don't know if I mentioned this before, but we're going to dominate the state," he said matter-of-factly. "That's the first thing we're going to do."

And after that? Well, Franklin said next comes the region, in such states and areas as New Jersey, New York, New England, Virginia and Delaware. And, then, comes the nation.

"I think you sell yourself short when you don't do that," said the coach who got three commitments from California in Vanderbilt's last class.

Of course, Franklin never specifically mentioned Pitt at that point in the press conference. Maybe he'd back down if that was spelled out to him, maybe he'd try to soften up all this talk of dominating and controlling. It was an interesting thing to say, after all, for his first day on the job.

But Franklin just doubled-down on those statements when Pitt was specifically mentioned in one reporter's question.

"When I say Pennsylvania, when I say Penn State, that's the whole state," he said. "That is the whole state. We will recruit every corner of this state, every school of this state, every neighborhood of this state.

"And when I say recruit, not only just the student-athletes. I mean the people of the great state of Pennsylvania. We will recruit everybody, and that is with tremendous respect for the University of Pittsburgh. But we are ... Penn State."

Six competing for ESPN 300 athlete 

October, 10, 2013
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Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) has had a “short” list of about a dozen schools since the spring, but the ESPN 300 athlete is finally narrowing things it down. Six schools remain as the most likely options for the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Nicholson, who will likely play defensive back in college.

RecruitingNation breaks down where each school stands with Nicholson and what a commitment from the No. 252 prospect nationally would mean to their program.

[+] EnlargeMontae Nicholson
Tom Hauck for Student SportsMontae Nicholson is ranked No. 252 in the ESPN 300.
Florida State: Nicholson’s most recent official visit was to Tallahassee this past weekend. His mother, Jackie Crawford, accompanied him and said it was a positive experience for both of them.
From official visits past and future to a commitment, the Big Ten was buzzing with headlines this week.

Here’s a look at a few programs that highlight a busy week in this week’s Big Ten storylines.

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The Early Offer: Don't worry TCU fans 

September, 10, 2013
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's latest feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Despite a cryptic tweet that worried TCU fans, four-star linebacker Jimmie Swain IV has good news for Horned Frog faithful; Pittsburgh scores a nice recruiting victory over Penn State; and Oregon State and Washington State commits and an ESPN Junior 300 prospect will be on display Friday on ESPNU.

A look at Ollison's upcoming decision 

September, 6, 2013
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The recruiting rivalry is not as intense as some of those down in Florida or the SEC, but Penn State and Pittsburgh are often going head-to-head for prospects. The two are going at it once more for a three-star running back.

Qadree Ollison (Buffalo, N.Y./Canisius) is deciding 3:15 p.m. on Monday at his high school after taking visits to Penn State and Pitt this week. He took in Pitt on an official visit earlier this week for the Florida State game, and he will visit Penn State beginning on Friday.


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ACC recruiting mailbag 

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ACC recruiting reporters Corey Dowlar and Jared Shanker took time Friday to answer questions in their weekly mailbag. You can send questions to them on Twitter with the #AskACC hashtag and mentioning @cdowlar and @JShankerESPN. Or reach them via email at cdowlar@gmail.com and JShankerESPN@gmail.com.

@fsurock38: How is FSU's offensive line recruiting going? Why does this always seem to be an issue every couple of years for Coach Trickett?
Corey Dowlar: Right now, it's adequate. They've got a couple of offensive linemen on board now, most notably four-star guard Corey Martinez. Ethan Frith, a three-star offensive tackle, is a good-looking prospect. He performed well at camp and proved he belongs in Florida State’s class. Finally, Alec Eberle is a tough interior offensive lineman who probably will end up at center. What FSU needs, and what I think they will get (as of now anyway), is a big-time offensive tackle. Four-star Roderick Johnson is said to be favoring the Seminoles and would be just what the doctor ordered.

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2013 freshman All-American candidates

August, 16, 2013
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Projecting the eventual success level of high school prospects is difficult in its own right, but forecasting which ones will play right away and make a big splash in college can be even more difficult. Sometimes, however, there are no-brainers such as South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney and USC's Leonard Williams. But more often than not, there is no guarantee when it comes to freshmen making instant impacts. So many factors, from team needs to injuries to maturity, will determine who makes the biggest splash.

Headlined by Ole Miss DE Robert Nkemdiche and Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg, RecruitingNation takes a look at the Class of 2013 members who can make the biggest impact as freshmen.

To take a look at the team, click here Insider.

Best of the Midwest: Class of 2015 

August, 14, 2013
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Hjalte FroholdtBrad Bournival/ESPNHjalte Froholdt, the No. 14 player in the ESPN Junior 300, will be playing his junior season in his native Denmark but will have plenty of suitors waiting for his return to the United States.
There are currently 34 Midwest prospects -- 15 from Ohio -- within the ESPN Junior 300. Not a single one of them has pledged an allegiance to a school as of yet.

That means the dogfight is already on, as Big Ten schools and others around the country prepare for an 18-month battle for some of the best.

As is usually the case, the Midwest will bring some interesting storylines over the next few years as the focus will shift to the heartland for some of the biggest names at the high school level.

In keeping with Tuesday’s theme, here are the top 11 prospects out of the Midwest and where they’re at in the process.


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Ohio State grabs commitment No. 16 

July, 29, 2013
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Ohio State certainly is doing its part to shore up positions of need in the 2014 recruiting class.

After landing ESPN 300 offensive guard Demetrius Knox (Fort Worth, Texas/All Saints Episcopal) on Sunday, the Buckeyes hauled in four-star athlete Malik Hooker (New Castle, Pa./New Castle) on Monday. He is their 16th pledge in 2014 and picked Ohio State over Pittsburgh and Penn State.


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Four-star ATH Hooker names top six 

July, 26, 2013
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HOOVER, Ala. -- Recruiting was the last thing on Malik Hooker's mind this week. The New Castle (Pa.) High School athlete traveled with his team to Alabama to compete in the National Select 7-on-7 tournament. Even though he was from out of town, it didn’t take long for other players to figure out who he was.

“There are kids out here that are playing to try and outdo me,” Hooker said. “That’s what everybody out here wants to do -- they want to outwork the guy they’re against. I’m just out here trying to make myself better and make my team better as a whole.”

New Castle finished 2-4-1 in Thursday’s pool play before being eliminated on Friday. Before the trip, Hooker narrowed his list to six schools -- Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech.

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Pitt assistant Desmond Robinson had visited plenty of high schools and prospects like this before -- the too-good-to-be-true kind.

He arrived on an early April morning in Buffalo, N.Y., an aging industrial town where wing-flipping pubs dot most street corners, to see one such prospect: a 6-foot-1, 225-pound tailback who could allegedly run a flat-4.5. See, it's not uncommon for high school coaches and recruits to fudge those numbers a little. A 6-1, 225-pound recruit might wind up actually being 5-10, 190.


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Four-star DT Ricky Walker (Bethel, Va./Hampton) recently named a top five of North Carolina, Penn State, Pitt, South Carolina and Virginia Tech -- but he also boasts two front-runners.

Out of those five schools, four of them send the most handwritten letters. And of those four, two really impressed by having multiple coaches share just how much they want him at their respective schools. And those two just happen to be his favorites.


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During the evaluation period, 2015 tailback Andre Robinson (Harrisburg, Pa./Bishop McDevitt) would chat with a different coach every day before rushing home and googling the school on his computer.

Sometimes, three coaches would arrive in one day. Sometimes, just one. But he'd always head to his bedroom and then at least look up the school's offensive style -- how much it rushed the ball -- and how long a coach had stayed at a certain school to gauge his trustworthiness. From there, the tailback who attended the same school as Jameel Poteat, LeSean McCoy and Ricky Watters formed a base of schools he likes -- and Penn State made the cut.


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PSU cookout, visit impresses OT Jenkins 

June, 27, 2013
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2015 OT Sterling Jenkins (Pittsburgh, Pa./Baldwin) milled around the Lasch Football Building on Wednesday afternoon -- playing cornhole, eating some pulled pork and fruit salad and chatting with Penn State players like Donovan Smith.

After a long road trip to Ohio State, Jenkins enjoyed the low-stress event that he said was unlike any of his other college visits. He relaxed, got a better feel for the team and said Wednesday felt more like a family picnic.


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Penn State has just picked up its 12th commitment of the 2014 class.

Four-star cornerback Troy Vincent Jr. (Baltimore/Gilman) pledged to the Nittany Lions on Wednesday -- the same day as a team cookout -- and became third defensive back commit for PSU.

"To start off, I do like their law school a lot," Vincent had said previously. "And, going to the football side, you know they're creating that new atmosphere, so they need new players to come in. I think the coaches do a great job of taking care of the kids and building better young men, and I like the schemes they run."

His trainer at Prime Xample and a family friend, Roman Morris, told ESPN.com Wednesday night that PSU is getting a good one.

"He is an All-American boy," said Morris, who received a call from Vincent to tell him the good news. "And I'll sign my name to that. He is an All-American boy.

"He's one of the most highly intelligent football players that I've ever been around. He can do anything that's asked of him on the football field, from any scheme. ... He's a coach's dream."

PSU emphasized defensive backs this class, and the staff hadn't garnered any commitments as of May 1. But the dominoes started falling May 3 when cornerback Daquan Worley committed. Then safety Marcus Allen joined the fray May 10.

Vincent is the highest-ranked prospect out of the three; the other two are three-star commits. Vincent is the fifth four-star commit of this 2014 class, which already is ranked No. 18 in the country.

He'll be one of just two PSU commits at The Opening, where he'll join De'Andre Thompkins on Team Vapor Carbon. He earned the spot with an impressive performance at a NIKE camp, where he posted a 4.69-second 40 and one of the top power throws of 36.5 inches.

He chose the Nittany Lions over more than 10 other schools, including Maryland, Michigan State, Pitt, Rutgers and Wisconsin.

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