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Penn State Football: Franklin Following The Talent On Recruiting Trail

by on May 14, 2014 7:00 AM

If you haven't noticed, Pennsylvania has a lot of empty space in it.

There's nothing wrong with that. Lots of people enjoy the fresh air and ever changing weather. But it does mean that James Franklin's plan to dominate a six hour drive from campus in any direction gives you more cows that Division I prospects.

The result -- or rather the countermeasure -- is an ever expanding area of interest for Franklin and his staff on the recruiting trail. Dominating the region is nice, but it's even nicer to dominate a region with plenty of talent in it. There's no shortage of capable recruits within that six hour radius from Penn State's campus but those recruits won't win national titles all on their own.

"If you just study numbers, Texas, California and Florida, I think you're talking about somewhere between 250 and 300 Division I athletes a year," Franklin said Tuesday in King of Prussia -- the latest stop on Penn State's coaches caravan tour. "In Pennsylvania, we have on average 35 D-I players a year."

That is largely why Franklin has somewhat informally declared New Jersey and Maryland "in-state" for the program. While some have turned the statement into an intentional jab at Rutgers and Maryland, Franklin is stating facts more than throwing punches. Penn State has always had a strong presence in that region and Franklin is hoping to continue that trend.

Simply put, Penn State can't win with in-state talent alone and that means recruiting surrounding state's talent with the same amount of energy all in-state prospects receive. Any different approach would leave Penn State out in the cold. Franklin has no choice but to expand the map he plans to dominate.

"The most important thing is finding the right guys," Franklin said. "Then, where are you gonna get the most bang for your buck? If you drive for an hour in any direction, how many Division I players are you gonna see? So, going to places like Florida and Georgia and Texas and California, you're gonna get a lot of bang for your buck."

"The hard part, though, is you're always gonna do the best job recruiting within your footprint. Six hours from campus, those kids we're going to have the best opportunity to develop relationships with. We're gonna know those kids the best, their high school coaches and people in their communities. We're gonna be able to get them on campus multiple times, talk to them and look them in the eye.

"But if there's not enough talent in that area to fill out the entire roster, we gotta be willing to wherever that may be to find it."

And that's why Franklin and his staff are always on the recruiting trail. It's also why Franklin and his staff are co-hosting two separate camps in Florida and Georgia this coming summer.

If they can't come to you, you go to them. If the talent isn't near you, go near the talent. Even if the camps don't directly result in commitments, it's all about being present in the life and minds of prospects living in the nation's biggest talent pool. Perception is the keyword yet again.

"Our thought was that the Big Ten and NCAA rules allow us to do this and we wanted not only to have camps on our campus which we’ll have a lot of," Franklin said. "But also be able to take the Penn State brand to a part of the country where maybe young men and families that maybe couldn’t make it to us so we’ll take it to them.

"I’m fired up about it. It seems like the high school coaches are fired up as well. Like I’ve said to you guys since Day 1 that we’re going to recruit regionally and take a lot of pride in recruiting regionally but we’re also going to have a presence nationally. We’re going to have to wherever we have to go to find players.

"It’s not like we’re going to lack for enthusiasm we’re going to lack for work ethic. We’ll go wherever we’ve got to go."

So they're going south.

As one reporter pointed out to Franklin, almost every player who has been selected in the Top 10 of the NFL draft over the past six years has come from a southern state. The statistic didn't phase Franklin who simply answered "No" when asked if that surprised him.

However, Penn State's No. 2 recruiting class so far for 2015 didn't happen by chance and James Franklin isn't considered one of the best recruiters in the game for nothing. It's safe to say the man does his homework.

But while Franklin might be branching out where he'll be scouting out top talent and co-hosting camps, it's safe to say not all recruiting pipelines will be reopened for service.

"One year I did a camp in Anchorage, Alaska when I was at Idaho State," Franklin said smiling. "We did a camp for all the city schools in Anchorage. I’m not sure we’ll be doing that one this summer."

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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