NCF On The Trail: james franklin

A lot of talent has already come off the board, but there’s still quality at the top of the ESPN 300 that could give at least 10 teams a shot at the second-best class. Plus, Penn State's James Franklin continues to be the most talked about coach in the Washington D.C. metro area.
video
Ole Miss, Tennessee, Texas and Texas A&M are trying, but it’s going to take a lot to get Penn State defensive tackle commit Adam McLean to change his mind. Plus, James Franklin's ability to spread the Penn State brand in Washington, D.C., was on full display Monday afternoon.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Want to impress a star recruit? Make an entrance at his game like Kevin Sumlin does in the Swagcopter or James Franklin in The Flyin' Lion. Plus, this year’s Red River Rivalry has lost some of its luster with recruits.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has put together a top 15 recruiting class that should only get better as we head toward signing day, and Rutgers has a real chance to slow down Penn State’s recruiting momentum in New Jersey this weekend.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

video
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today's offerings: James Franklin and Penn State was already building one of the best classes in the country, and Monday's news that the Nittany Lions were eligible for postseason play will help them build an even better class. Plus, recruits across the country agreed with the NFL and the Ravens' decision to distance themselves from Ray Rice, and we continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Early Offer: The chase for Campbell 

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
11:00
PM ET
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today’s offerings: Five-star George Campbell has committed and decommitted from Michigan and listed Florida and LSU as teams he’s really high on. But as he gets closer to his decision, don’t be surprised if another team emerges. Plus, ESPN Grade could be a positive recruiting tool for Alabama, UCLA, Ohio State and Stanford, and we continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Georgia fans have had to watch rivals Auburn and Alabama crow after recruiting victory after recruiting victory the past few months, but Bulldog fans got a chance to thump their chest some after landing two of the nation’s best 2016 prospects Saturday after its Dawg Night camp. But will those commitments stay true for the long haul? Plus, Penn State’s James Franklin remains hot on the recruiting trial.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider



The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Outside of the record run going on in the state of Alabama with the Crimson Tide and Tigers’ dominance in the Class of 2015, the story of the spring has to be the success of Penn State. The Nittany Lions added another pledge over the weekend and continue to wow Big Ten opponents. Plus, Oregon continues to add quality line depth.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

The Big Ten is rich and getting richer in the coming years. So how is the investment translating with football programs?

Not surprisingly, recruiting expenses are on the rise throughout the league. The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette's Scott Dochterman recently outlined Big Ten recruiting costs for the last three fiscal years, which shows that the league's 11 publics schools spent $6.47 million in recruiting in FY 2013, up from $4.1 million in FY 2011. Northwestern, a private institution, does not have to publicly report its expenses.

What stands out about these numbers?
  • Nebraska has spent more on recruiting than any Big Ten team in the past two seasons: $818,509 in 2013 and $752,681 in 2012. Bo Pelini's program is trying to boost its presence in Big Ten territory, maintain a presence in Texas and California, and scoop up prospects from the fertile Southeast. That costs money, and Nebraska's geography doesn't help.
  • Illinois is second in recruiting expenses for the second consecutive year, devoting $791,972 in FY 2013. I'll say this for Illinois: It invests enough in football. The program shelled out for former coordinators Paul Petrino and Vic Koenning. Tim Beckman shouldn't complain about his recruiting budget. But the investment needs to start showing returns very soon.
  • If asked which Big Ten school spends the least on recruiting, few folks likely would select Wisconsin. Like Nebraska, Wisconsin faces geographical challenges in recruiting and, under former coach Bret Bielema, ramped up its efforts in Florida for players such as James White and Aaron Henry. But these numbers show Wisconsin spent by far the least on recruiting in FY 2013 ($256,967) and, unlike other Big Ten programs, hasn't had dramatic increases the past two years. Assistant salaries were an issue for Bielema, who lost quite a few top aides in his final two seasons. I wonder how the recruiting budget impacted his decision to leave for Arkansas, and how the investment could change for coach Gary Andersen.
  • Penn State has had the biggest increases in recruiting investment, going from $258,800 in FY 2011 -- the second-lowest total in the league -- to $443,022 in FY 2012 and then to $736,739 in FY 2013, the third-highest total in the league. The program spent much more under Bill O'Brien than it did during the end of the Joe Paterno era, and the investment should continue to increase under James Franklin, one of the more aggressive recruiters in the country.
  • Although Ohio State spent about $200,000 more on recruiting in FY 2013 than FY 2012, the Buckeyes are in the bottom half of the league in expenses. Geography is a big reason, as they don't have to travel nearly as far as other league programs to scout some of the top players in the Big Ten region.
  • It's interesting that Michigan's recruiting costs actually went down from FY 2011 to FY 2012 before going up to $664,492 in FY 2013. The Wolverines signed top-10 recruiting classes in 2012 and 2013.

A lot of interesting numbers here. Recruiting costs will continue to rise around the FBS, and it will be interesting to see which Big Ten teams invest more in non-coaching, recruiting-specific staff. Programs in other leagues -- cough, SEC, cough -- have been on hiring sprees, causing a lot of national discussion about limiting staff size.
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Monday’s offerings: After a few weeks to recover from the holiday that was signing day, it’s always interesting to analyze the data to get a better understanding of what really happened. This past Friday, I took a look at the teams that saw the biggest gains from 2013 to 2014. But what were some of the teams that were on the other end of the spectrum?

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider


Now that the 2014 class is in the books it’s time to take a look at which teams need to make a big splash in recruiting for the 2015 class. Below are five teams we feel have to perform well in recruiting to move forward and re-establish their programs among the college football elite. There are always peaks and valleys in recruiting, but there’s also an expectation level that some programs no matter what will always perform to a high standard and that’s not always realistic.

For these programs, it won’t just be about how good the players are that they sign in 2015; it will also be about what type of person that player is to represent the program and establish a new chemistry. These programs are laying down a new foundation, and it will be this class that will be looked back upon as one that got the ball rolling. These programs need to make the Tennessee-type splash of 2014. Just ask Ole Miss about its 2013 class and what one recruiting cycle can do to reenergize a program. We’ve closed the door on the 2014 class now, here’s to opening the door for the 2015 class. Let’s get off to a fast start shall we?


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Chance Sorrell stuck his finger in the air to hush his parents.

The Vanderbilt commit had waited for this phone call for close to two weeks. He had wandered the halls of Middletown (Ohio) High School and been stopped, several times, and asked by his teammates and teachers: "What's going on with your coach?" Back in early January, he didn't know where James Franklin would wind up -- or, by extension, where he would. No one did.

So, on the night of Jan. 11, he didn't want to miss the thrust of this phone call while his parents whispered in the background. It could determine his future. It could answer all the questions that raged inside the mind of the three-star offensive tackle. It could put an end to those difficult mornings waking up because it was so hard to fall asleep with this weighing on his mind.

So, on a Saturday night, when an unknown number flashed on his cell -- from Pennsylvania -- he leaped from the couch, muted the TV and sprinted along with his parents to the quieter kitchen. Franklin had been formally introduced as Penn State's head coach less than five hours earlier. It was 9 p.m. now.

And, sure enough, Franklin was on the other line.

Chance, we really like you and we want you to play here. And we're offering you a scholarship at Penn State --

Sorrell couldn't make out the last few words of Franklin's pitch because his parents, literally bouncing with excitement, whispered loudly: "Commit right now!" Sorrell pointed his finger toward his parents, as if to signify, "Just a second here."

When Franklin finished speaking, Sorrell's grin widened: "Yes, sir, I'm committing."

Can I take that as you committing to Penn State?

"Yeah."

Sorrell had never before even stepped foot on campus, so Franklin asked him to repeat himself twice more. And then, his voice rising as it's wont to do when he gets excited, Franklin asked one final time: So, you're telling me that Chance Sorrell is committing to Penn State?

"It got to the point," Sorrell said with a laugh, "where I finally just said, 'I, Chance Sorrell, am committing to Penn State.' And I guess he had about 10 people in the room because they started cheering when I said that. I think he just wanted me to say it like that."

Sorrell was the first commit of Franklin's Penn State coaching career, and it came less than four hours after Franklin stepped off the dais inside Beaver Stadium -- while T-shirts emblazoned with Franklin's slogan of "Dominate the region" were still ideas in business owners' heads. Franklin had landed in Happy Valley on a twin-jet less than 11 hours before.

Sorrell's commitment would set off a chain of other pledges -- seven more in less than a month -- and he promised Tuesday night he'd scan and email in his letter of intent by 7 a.m. Wednesday.

For the 265-pound prospect, the decision was an easy one. Hours before Franklin's call, he sat at his kitchen table while his father sprawled out a three-inch deck of coaches' business cards and pulled one at a time to ask whether he was interested. Wake Forest, Bowling Green (his first offer) and Tennessee were tossed into the "yes" pile.

But as soon as Franklin offered, those business cards were cleared off the table for good. He trusted Franklin and, although he had been committed to Vanderbilt since June, he felt even more loyal to his coach.

A day after originally committing to the Commodores, a dejected Sorrell picked up the phone to inform his head coach he had torn his labrum. And, if Franklin needed to rescind the offer, he totally understood.

"He told me, 'Chance, you committed to me -- and I'm committed to you. Even if you don't play a single snap, you're graduating with a degree from Vanderbilt,'" Sorrell said.

"So, of course, I wanted to follow him at Penn State. It just seemed like a tremendous fit."

Sorrell has since visited Happy Valley. He stared in awe over the 107,000 seats in Beaver Stadium, took in the players' lounge ("Vanderbilt didn't actually have a players' lounge," he added) and envisioned himself playing on the practice field and lifting in the blue and white weight room.

His recruitment to Penn State started with a phone call and, well, really ended with that same phone call. There was no doubt in Sorrell's mind that he wanted to play for Franklin and, when he received the Penn State offer, he didn't even really need to hear Franklin's pitch to become Franklin's first Penn State commit.

"I'd follow him anywhere," Sorrell said. "And it just seemed like a tremendous fit with a prestigious collegiate program like Penn State."
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- James Franklin likes to tell recruits that he leaps out of bed at 4 a.m. and performs a back handspring.

That's an exaggeration, of course, a joke to give recruits an idea of his high-energy personality. But that also seems appropriate now, especially given how many flips he has produced from Vanderbilt's class to Penn State's.

He has flipped five pledges from his old school -- six, if defensive end Lloyd Tubman (Louisville, Ky./Seneca) sticks with PSU -- which is the second-most of this college football offseason. Only Washington's Chris Petersen possesses more (six), but he was hired in early December and boasted more than a month's head start.

Franklin has averaged more than a flip per week. And he also has reeled in eight hard verbals from eight different states in less than a month on the job. So his success has a lot of fans and fellow recruits shaking their heads and wondering just how he managed to achieve this so quickly.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
AP Photo/ John BealeJames Franklin's enthusiasm is a key to his recruiting success.
"It's kind of surprising how many of us really did follow, but it's not surprising," said three-star quarterback Trace McSorley (Ashburn, Va./Briar Woods), who initially committed to Vanderbilt in July. "It's just the kind of guy Coach Franklin is. He's energetic; that's the reason everyone wanted to go play for him at Vanderbilt."

In separate interviews, four of those flips told ESPN.com that energy is exactly what sold them on Franklin. He's the kind of coach who awoke on a recent Sunday morning and high-fived and hugged visiting recruits at breakfast. He speaks quickly and loudly, as if he perpetually just polished off a six-pack of Red Bull.

Three-star offensive tackle Chance Sorrell (Middletown, Ohio/Middletown) said that energy is a big reason for his relationship with Franklin. He recalled with a laugh the time an assistant told him how Franklin pulled alongside a Tennessee car sporting a Georgia Bulldogs flag. Franklin stepped out of his vehicle, knocked on the window -- and asked the driver what it would take for him to attend a Commodores game.

"The way he's involved, you can just tell he genuinely cares about all of his players and everyone he meets," said Sorrell, who flipped to Penn State five hours after Franklin was introduced as the head coach. "He's very persuasive. It doesn't matter where you're from; he'll make you want to play for him."

Sorrell's future teammate McSorley said he spoke to about 10 head coaches over the course of his recruitment, and none came close to matching Franklin's energy. That's Franklin's trademark, his signature, and it's what's helped fuel Franklin as the pied piper of Vanderbilt commits.

McSorley watched part of Franklin's introductory news conference, when he loudly proclaimed -- several times -- that he intended to "dominate the state" and "dominate the region" in recruiting. Franklin's hour-long talk impacted the fan base so much that it led to the instant creation of at least three T-shirts with his adopted slogans.

One of the few people who wasn't surprised? McSorley. He knew Penn State's new head coach wasn't in a good mood or wasn't "on" that day. "That's just how he is. That's exactly the person he is. All the time."

Added three-star offensive tackle Brendan Brosnan (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine Township South): "It's the way he carries himself, with all that energy. That energy shows he wants to be there, that he's giving it his all every day. It's contagious; his energy is contagious."

This isn't to say Franklin's energy, or even Franklin himself, is the sole reason for all these commitments, but it certainly seemed to play the largest role. A lot of these commits believe in Franklin's vision of Penn State reclaiming its spot as a national powerhouse.

Seven assistant coaches followed Franklin to Penn State because they believe that as well, and recruits also believe in the theory that because Franklin brought success to Vanderbilt, he certainly can do it at Penn State. Penn State has a bigger fan base and better facilities -- Vanderbilt doesn't even have a players' lounge -- and plays in a less competitive conference. It's a program that offensive line coach Herb Hand deemed as one of the 15 "haves" in a college football world of "have-nots."

"The biggest piece of advice people gave me during the recruiting process is don't commit to a coach, commit to a school," Brosnan said. "And I agree with that a little bit.

"But I think a coach, especially in Franklin's case, plays a large part. He played a large part in Vanderbilt's success and, the way I see it, the ceiling for success is higher at Penn State. It really is."
In the coming days, I'll take a closer look at whether the Big Ten would benefit from having prospects take official visits earlier, such as at the end of their junior years in high school. It's an idea Big Ten Network analyst Gerry DiNardo has championed, and one that makes since because of the accelerated recruiting cycle and the far-flung locations of some Big Ten schools.

Some Big Ten teams might not benefit from earlier official visits. They have no trouble getting recruits to campus and piling up early commits. Others must play the waiting game and make strong pushes before national signing day. Coaching changes can make an impact when teams get verbal commits, as Penn State has learned in recent weeks. Recruits also have been more likely to flip pledges leading up to signing day, forcing some teams to scramble to fill spots.

We're a day away from the big day, and while there are a few key undecided recruits who will make their choices Wednesday, most of the hay is in the barn, so to speak.

When did Big Ten teams get their 2014 recruits to verbally commit? Here's a closer look (as of Monday night):

ILLINOIS

Total commits: 18 (four already have signed)

March-May 2013: 4
June-July: 8
August-September: 0
October: 1
November: 0
December: 4
January: 1
February: 0

INDIANA

Total commits: 25 (six have signed)

March-May 2013: 0
June: 5
July: 4
August: 0
September: 1
October: 3
November: 0
December: 2
January: 6
February: 4

IOWA

Total commits: 21

January-April 2013: 2
June: 5
July: 3
August: 2
September: 1
October: 1
November: 2
December: 1
January: 4

MICHIGAN

Total commits: 16 (seven have signed)

August 2012: 1
February 2013: 3
April-May: 7
June: 3
July: 1
August: 1
September-February: 0

MICHIGAN STATE

Total commits: 21 (two have signed)

August 2012: 1
September 2012: 1
April-May 2013: 5
June: 4
July: 1
August: 1
September: 2
October: 0
November: 1
December: 3
January: 1
February: 1

MINNESOTA

Total commits: 19 (two have signed)

February-April 2013: 3
May: 0
June-July: 3
August: 0
September: 1
October: 1
November: 2
December: 1
January: 6
February: 2

NEBRASKA

Total commits: 26 (two have signed)

March 2013: 1
April-May: 0
June: 7
July: 3
August: 1
September: 0
October: 1
November: 2
December: 2
January: 6
February: 3

NORTHWESTERN

Total commits: 16 (one has enrolled)

March-April 2013: 4
May: 5
June: 1
July-November: 0
December: 3
January: 1
February: 2

OHIO STATE

Total commits: 22 (seven have signed)

December 2012: 1
January-February 2013: 3
March-May: 4
June: 5
July: 2
August: 1
September: 1
October-November: 0
December: 2
January: 3
February: 0

PENN STATE

Total commits: 25 (five have enrolled)

October 2012: 1
February-April 2013: 5
May: 2
June-July: 3
August-September: 0
October: 3
November: 1
December: 1
January: 8
February: 1

PURDUE

Total commits: 20 (two have signed)

May 2013: 2
June: 3
July: 1
August-September: 0
October: 1
November: 1
December: 8
January: 3
February: 1

WISCONSIN

Total commits: 27 (four have signed)

April 2012: 1
August 2012: 1
September 2012: 1
May 2013: 2
June-July: 5
August: 0
September: 2
October: 3
November: 5
December: 3
January: 2
February: 2

Notes/comments
  • The James Franklin effect certainly can be seen in Penn State's class, as all nine recruits who committed in January or February did so after Franklin's hiring on Jan. 11. Franklin flipped several prospects from his former team, Vanderbilt, and also brought in some surprises during a furious push down the stretch.
  • Early recruiting has been a hallmark for Brady Hoke at Michigan, and it's no surprise to see the Wolverines basically done with their 2014 class before the season. Michigan had 21 of its 27 recruits in the 2013 class verbally commit before the 2012 season.
  • Iowa's commit pattern was the steadiest in the league, as the Hawkeyes received at least one pledge every month between June 2013 and January 2014.
  • Nebraska has accelerated its recruiting pace in each of the last two years. The Huskers had just five verbal commits before the season in the 2012 class but doubled that total in the 2013 class and have 12 in the 2014 crop. Nebraska is one of the Big Ten schools that seemingly could benefit from earlier official visits because of its location in relation to recruiting hotbeds.
  • Gary Andersen's first full recruiting class at Wisconsin is a huge one, and Andersen and his staff did much of their work both during and after the 2013 season. Seventeen of Wisconsin's 27 pledges came after the games began.
  • Northwestern stockpiled commits early on and would have been done in mid-December after Parrker Westphal's pledge, but two prospects (Noah Westerfield and Jordan Thomas) decommited last month, forcing the Wildcats to make some late additions.
  • Ohio State's recruiting is following a somewhat familiar pattern under Urban Meyer: strong winter and spring, a few summer pickups, relatively quiet during the season and then a nice push from mid-December to early January. The Buckeyes have landed some of their best prospects late in the process, from 2013 recruits Mike Mitchell and Vonn Bell to 2014 standout Raekwon McMillan.
  • Purdue and Minnesota tend to add the bulk of their commits later in the process. The Boilers added 12 commits in the 2013 class following Darrell Hazell's hiring in early December, and 12 of their 20 commits in this year's class came after Dec. 1. Minnesota picked up nine of its 19 commits in the current class after Dec. 1 -- a similar ratio as it had in the 2013 class.
New Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason made it very clear when he was hired that he wasn't going to try to be former Commodores coach James Franklin. While that might hold true in the months to come, Mason mimicked Franklin pretty well in the realm of recruiting over the weekend, as he helped secure six verbal commitments.

For a school that watched the bottom fall out of its recruiting class after Franklin left for Penn State last month, Vandy received a healthy amount of good news just days before national signing day, rejuvenating a program that hit a bit of a wall in the last few weeks.

Not only did the Commodores gain six more commitments, they actually got five of them to flip prior verbals to other schools: three-star safety Tre Tarpley (Pittsburgh/Pittsburgh Central Catholic) flipped from Boston College, defensive end Hawkins Mann (Burbank, Calif./John Burroughs) switched from Nevada, quarterback Shawn Stankavage (Raleigh, N.C./Cardinal Gibbons) switched from East Carolina, three-star offensive tackle Bruno Reagan switched from South Florida, and defensive end Charles Wright (Irvine, Calif./Beckman) switched from San Jose State.

The sixth commitment came from long snapper Davis Winkie (Cumming, Ga./South Forsyth).

After losing 11 verbals following Franklin's departure, the Commodores' commitment number dropped all the way to eight. Now, they have some good momentum going into signing day, which just happens to be Wednesday. This class certainly doesn't look as glamorous as it once did, but Mason had a very big weekend at the right time.

It's normal for new coaches to struggle with their first recruiting class, and Mason came in having to feel the blowback from the loss of Franklin, who completely changed the culture at Vandy and recruited like no other Vandy coach before him. Mason still has a commitment from ESPN 300 running back Dallas Rivers (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson) and could close with a few more commitments before signing day is over.

Transition is always tough for coaches, but Mason helped soften the blow of the recent mass exodus in this class with a huge final recruiting weekend in Nashville.

SPONSORED HEADLINES