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Penn State Football: Good Recruiting Takes on Many Forms as Coaches Hit Trail Again This Summer

Penn State football will be back to a bit of normalcy following the announcement earlier this week that the program will once again be hosting summer camps for prospects in the coming months.

Looking to rebound from a solid but slightly underwhelming 2021 recruiting class that finished No. 22 nationally according to the the 247 Network, Franklin and his staff have already made huge strides with an important 2022 haul, which is currently ranked seventh best in the nation early in the cycle.

As far as the camps, Franklin says it will be an important for the evaluation of prospects even further down the road, and a chance to see some guys in person after so much time doing recruiting from a distance.

“The camps, really where the value shows up is not even necessarily this year. It’s identifying some of the young talent for the for the following year,” Franklin said following practice on Wednesday “That’s typically how the camp model usually works. I think that’ll be obviously different this year after not having a camp last year. You know, there’s just so many guys that you haven’t had a chance to evaluate in person. So I think I think those things are really, really important.”

Penn State’s 2023 class doesn’t have any verbal commitments at this point, although as a matter of context, that’s completely normal at this juncture.

In either case, the start of summer will mark the opening salvo of a more normal recruiting period for Franklin and company as they look to navigate the pandemic – albeit a potentially more under control one – and the always wild world of the recruiting trail. For Franklin this is also the first time he has set his new-look staff free out into the world to recruit and identify quality talent and build more personal relationships with prospects.

And this brings up a question, what exactly is a good recruiter? Obviously the ability to land verbal commitments is the most cut and dry way of measuring success, but there are undoubtedly skills within the process itself.

So what makes a good recruiter?

“It’s a lot of different things – like anything else, guys have strengths and guys have weaknesses, no one has it all,” Franklin said.

“You’ve got some coaches that are really good in the evaluation process, you’ve got some coaches that are really good in the acquisition process of getting young men and families to feel very comfortable and feel like Penn State is the place that they need to come. Obviously your strongest ones are the guys that that can do both identify and build those relationships.” 

Speaking of relationships, as Penn State continues its quest to ‘Dominate the State” Franklin has also sent the program’s recruiting efforts farther south, landing a handful of SEC Country commitments in the process. Some of that can be attributed to the program’s overall cache, but it also helps to have the likes of Ja’Juan Seider on staff, a Florida native in his own right.

Copy and paste this with hometowns and previous coaching stops across the staff, and suddenly the net is cast far wider than you might imagine.

“You have guys that have national relationships all over the country that coaches are reaching out ‘Hey, I got a guy, you’ve always done a really good job with my recruits in the past, taking care of them, they’ve had a good experience. You know, so I’m calling you and let you know about this guy.'” Franklin added. “There’s tremendous value in that as well.”

“There’s guys that are really good in certain areas. Although a lot of people have gone more to just recruiting by their position, there’s guys that are really good in certain areas, whether it’s the DMV, or whether it is New Jersey, or whether it is, you know, Virginia Beach, or or whatever it may be. And that’s their strength, they’re just very well regarded and respected in a certain area.”

Franklin was quick to point out another area in which programs can truly thrive: missing the misses, or rather, getting the most out of each player.

And that’s truly the art of recruiting. It’s easy to see Micah Parsons and understand the talent he has, it’s another to find a player with great potential but be uncertain if he’ll be able to tap into it. As often was the case under former coach Bill O’Brien, the challenge is making the most out of every scholarship offer. If a program needs a good right tackle but can only offer two scholarships for the position, one of those right tackles better pan out.

So being able to identify the safe commitments is one thing, being able to land the diamonds in the rough and positions of need at a high rate is perhaps even more important.

“Like any other business, there’s two ends of recruiting,” Franklin said. “And the one end that people mostly focus on, which is getting the five stars or the four stars. But just as valuable like in any other industry is trying to reduce or eliminate the mistakes. It’s not just getting the five star, it’s not taking the wrong four star, not taking the wrong three star. Or it’s finding a two star or three star that people don’t know about. But they’re they’re going to be a five star when it comes to production, or four star, whatever it may be, however you categorize those things.”

That could very well be the case for a 2021 class that seems underwhelming by traditional recruiting metrics but appears to otherwise check off a lot of boxes. In the long run you simply never know how a career is going to pan out.

Take for example that Trace McSorley kid, rated the 571st best prospect in 2014 recruiting class.