Penn State Football: James Franklin seems to have a new recruiting philosophy, and it’s working

Penn State Football, James Franklin
Penn State Football head coach James Franklin(Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire)

Penn State Football is on an absolute tear on the recruiting trail right now with the No. 5 recruiting class in the nation for the 2024 cycle.

The Nittany Lions landed 8 2024 recruits during the month of April, with three coming from the state of Wisconsin. And, that was before James Franklin and staff netted three commitments in a single recruiting weekend in June.

The April commits included two 4-star offensive linemen in Donovan Harbour and Garrett Sexton and a 4-star running back in Corey Smith. All three are ranked in the top four in the Wisconsin state player rankings.

Penn State’s success in Wisconsin may be the result of a new recruiting philosophy by James Franklin: recruit states with major programs going through coaching changes.


The premiere football program in Wisconsin is the University of Wisconsin, which will enter the 2023 season with a new coach in Luke Fickell.

While Fickell is a fantastic coach and will make Wisconsin a national power again, the truth is that he currently does not have long-standing relationships with local recruits.

Meanwhile, Franklin and his staff had been communicating with these recruits for well over a year at this point.

This same situation played out in the 2023 cycle, but this time in the state of Virginia. The two major programs in the state, Virginia Tech and Virginia, both underwent coaching changes after the 2021 season.

Brent Pry (Virginia Tech) and Tony Elliot (Virginia) are great football minds, but as is the case with Fickell, their staffs did not have deep relationships with the local talent. This resulted in Penn State Football absolutely dominating the state of Virginia in the 2023 class, landing six of the top ten recruits in Virginia. Neither Virginia Tech nor Virginia landed a top ten in-state recruit in the 2023 cycle.

It’s clear that relationships with coaching staffs played a major factor with the elite talent in Virginia in the last recruiting class, and it greatly benefited the Nittany Lions.

Maybe this is all just a coincidence, but it truly feels like Franklin is going after recruits in states that have a normally powerful in-state recruiting presence going through some turmoil. This move is helping Penn State Football stay hot on the recruiting trail.


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Alec Whitaker
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Alec Whitaker

Alec Whitaker is a 2021 graduate of Penn State University earning a BA in Journalism and a minor in History. He is an avid sports fan and spends his free time co-hosting podcasts on his YouTube channel, Whitaker Media. Prior to arriving at NittanyCentral, Whitaker covered Penn State Football and Penn State Football recruiting for, part of the FanSided network.