James Franklin was hired seemingly yesterday, and he already taken a hold of some of Pennsylvania's top football prospects for the 2015 recruiting class. Penn State has five verbal commitments in state, to Pitt's three. It is very early in the process, with little under a year until next signing day, but Penn State and James Franklin are already making a statement.
Penn State has landed the top two running backs in the state with Whitehall's Saquon Barkley and Bishop McDevitt's Andre Robinson. Franlin also secured the two stars from AAA state champion Archbishop Wood. Ryan Bates is a four star offensive lineman, and Jake Cooper is a three star linebacker. And for good measure, three star defensive end from Great Valley, Ryan Buchholz, also has pledged to play for the Nittany Lions. All five players have Pitt offers and chose to go to Penn State.
Pitt is off to a nice start in their own right in recruiting. They first landed three-star lineman, Alex Paulina, of Canon-McMillan. Paulina picked Pitt over divisional rival, Virginia Tech, but not a Penn State offer. Pitt also landed the 12th best tight end in the country, Nick Bowers, from little known Kittanning High School, but again no Penn State offer. Pitt also landed three-star linebacker, Kevin Givens, from the outer reaches of the WPIAL. Givens plays for Altoona High School, a short trip from State College, but he also does not have an offer from Penn State.
You see, we have a trend here. Pitt is landing WPIAL/Western PA kids, whereas Penn State is landing Philadelphia and Harrisburg kids, nothing new there. The problem is that James Franklin is doing just what he sought out to do, and that was dominate the state's elite prospects. In a small sample size, he is doing just that. Pitt does not have one player committed that holds a Penn State offer. Two big fish remain in the pond, and both hail from the WPIAL. Sterling Jenkins is a massive tackle from Baldwin and Jordan Whitehead is an athlete from Central Valley. Both Pitt and Penn State are in the mix, along with Ohio State and everyone else. It will be interesting to see if Pitt can win a major in-state battle against Penn State this season.
It's also fair to point out that Pitt's main recruiting territory is not anything east of Pittsburgh and Penn State would typically land those players any year. James Franklin is definitely a great salesman and he will have Penn State on the ground running when the sanctions are lifted. I still think Paul Chyrst and his staff are on a solid path. Recruiting websites are great, but they put a lot of fluff out there, and there is no reason to panic if you are a Panther fan. Chryst has already found diamonds in the rough like James Conner. Guys like Aaron Donald and Devin Street prove that stars do not mean anything either.
Twitter, recruiting websites, and Pitt fans' neurotic nature in general make things seem worse than they probably are. Pitt is coming off an exciting bowl win, with a young and promising team, and they have three solid commitments already. Penn State is doing their thing, and Pitt will just have to worry about that in 2016.