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Penn State emphasizes recruiting efforts in Florida
Penn State proved its ability to successfully recruit beyond its home region again during the 2018 recruiting cycle, signing 23 prospects from 11 different states. The Nittany Lions, also boosted by the addition of seven standout in-state high school seniors, continue to evolve overall recruiting strategy.
Moving beyond National Signing Day, it’s safe to assume staff members will log substantial miles between State College and the Sunshine State for future prospects. Speaking with media on Signing Day (Feb. 7), Nittany Lions coach James Franklin explained the impact of adding former Florida Gators coach Ja’Juan Seider to his staff last month.
“You don’t hire Ja’Juan unless you’re going to make a recruiting shift. And you don’t hire Ja’Juan and not recruit Florida; it doesn’t make any sense,” Franklin said. “We have recruited Florida in the past, but obviously, once you make this decision, you’re going to recruit it harder. He’s going to get us into some doors because of his relationships and his reputation that maybe we weren’t involved in before.”
Penn State signed a pair of prospects (cornerback Jordan Miner and defensive tackle Judge Culpepper) from the Tampa area in 2018. Now, with some of those new open doors, expectations are on the rise for what Penn State can accomplish in Florida.
“You combine us finishing in the top 10 the last two years, with Ja’Juan’s relationships down there, and I think we can continue to make some progress,” Franklin said. “We’ve been able to get a few kids, but I think this can change some things.”
Seider, who replaces Charles Huff as Nittany Lions running backs coach, is an especially adept recruiter in his native South Florida. That’s an area that annually produces college football talent at as high of a rate as any in America, and he believes Penn State might be primed to tap into it with authority.
“When you’ve got a product like we’re selling right now with the success the program has had and back to back BCS-level games and kids see that on TV — I think every kid’s objective is to go to school right now, play in the NFL and get a great education,” Seider said. “Well, Penn State offers that.”
Penn State had plenty more to sell last fall than the Gators, where Seider spent 2017 after four years at West Virginia. Florida struggled to find consistency, underwhelmed in key spots and underwent an awkward coaching change.
Still, Seider shined.
“One thing that stands out about him is how quickly he builds relationships and identifies the key factors that matter for each individual recruitment,” said Zach Abolverdi, who covers Gators recruiting for SEC Country. “Seider was able to establish a rapport and comfort level with almost every prospect he pursued at UF, and the proof is in the pudding. He was responsible for five of Florida’s 13 early signees, and he kept all of those players from wavering during the coaching changes.”
It hasn’t taken long for him to make an impact on Penn State recruiting plans. The Nittany Lions have extended scholarships to more than a dozen high school players in Florida since his arrival, including 5-star running back Noah Cain, 4-star safety Josh Sanguinetti and top-5 2019 receiver Frank Ladson.
Some of the relationships Seider established in Gainesville should now prove useful for Penn State. That’s the case with Cain, who intends to visit Happy Valley this spring.
“I did have a good relationship with [Seider] when he was at Florida,” Cain said. “He keeps it real all of the time and doesn’t sugarcoat anything.”
Considering Penn State has offered only two in-state prospects in the 2019 class, emphasis will be on bringing in the best of other states.
“There’s going to be years where the state is really strong, and you’re going to be able to sign 12, 15 players from a state and there’s going to be years where you sign three or four or five,” Franklin said. “So you have to be able to broaden your nets so that you’re able to handle that. You’re able to overcome what may be a down year in the state or a down year in the region.”
Florida, home to 31 of the top 200 overall players in 247Sports’ composite rankings, is clearly rising up Penn State’s priority list.
5-star CB Derek Stingley lists Lions among top options
Days after a 2017 season-opening victory over Akron, Penn State offered cornerback Derek Stingley. The 5-star recruit remains at least open to exploring a potential future in State College.
Stingley, who attends the Dunham School in Baton Rouge, La., included the Nittany Lions on a list of favorites he revealed Friday night:
— Derek Stingley Jr. (@JrStingley) February 10, 2018
Penn State is one of two Big Ten teams in the picture, along with Michigan. Other faraway options include Oklahoma, Stanford and Texas, while it’s no surprise SEC universities play the most prominent role.
Half of Stingley’s list is composed of programs from the conference: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M. The hometown Tigers could be difficult to compete against for any contender.
Stingley, a 6-foot, 170-pound prospect, pledged to LSU in June 2016 following his freshman year. He de-committed from the Tigers last April, but his reaction to a recent junior day visit makes it apparent the local squad is in solid shape.
“[LSU coach Ed Orgeron] made it clear I could be a leader, that I could come in and play, but I’d have to earn it,” Stingley told Sam Spiegelman of SEC Country. “He also asked me how I could recruit some other players. He’s trying real hard [with me].”
Until Stingley visits Happy Valley, it’s unwise to get too carried away with what an appearance on his top-10 list means for the program. Penn State carries a commitment from State College cornerback Keaton Ellis in its 2019 class.
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