Programs Ready to Rumble Over Philly LB

Penn State was among the first schools to show interest in Zaire Franklin. Offers are now piling up for the La Salle College High product.

In like a lion, out like a lamb is how the saying goes for March.

Pennsylvania linebacker Zaire Franklin figured his recruitment would pick up eventually, it was just a matter of when. True enough, a lion's share of programs were checking out the La Salle College High (Wyndmoor, Pa.) prospect as the calendar rolled from February to March.

Penn State is not among the newcomers, though. The Nittany Lions recruitment of Franklin actually has stretched well over a year now, with La Salle alum and Penn State defensive coordinator John Butler evaluating and targeting Franklin since his sophomore season. It's just now that other programs across the East Coast are evaluating him, too, and visits are on the horizon.

“Penn State was the first school I ever heard from. Coach Butler went to my high school, and we had some of the same teachers,” Franklin said. “I met [head] Coach [Bill] O'Brien, [linebackers] Coach [Ron] Vanderlinden, and the weight lifting coach [Craig Fitzgerald]. I know a lot about their coaching staff, and their tradition. Both Coach Van and Butler have sent me handwritten letters.”

Franklin intends to visit Penn State sometime this spring, either for a practice or the April 20 Blue-White Game. With Salesianum School (Wilmington, Del.) interior linebacker Troy Reeder already in the fold, it appears the Penn State staff is willing to take an outside linebacker, too. But scholarship limits due to NCAA sanctions make the Nittany Lions' recruiting situation ever changing and evolving, something Franklin is well aware of as he awaits a verbal scholarship offer from O'Brien.

“I like Penn State,” he said. “They are Linebacker U, and I'm a linebacker, so they have to be somewhere on my list. Their situation with the scholarships is a little tricky, though, so I'm not sure how that will work out.”

His knowledge of Penn State is why the junior traveled to Maryland rather than University Park when the Lions held a recent Junior Day. Franklin saw it as an opportunity to learn more about College Park and head coach Randy Edsall's Terrapins program, a visit he feels was well worth it.

“Maryland ask me to go to their Junior Day a little more recently, and I didn't know much about Maryland and wanted to see what they were about,” Franklin said. “They have a huge campus. Even driving around looking for the shuttle, it was huge, and looked great even though it was raining. Maryland was fun. Their uniforms were crazy getting to see them first hand, and it was nice to get to know the coaches a little bit better. I talked to the linebackers coach [Lyndon Johnson]. It was good talking to them.”

The junior is also receiving strong interest from Boston College, which boasts a host of familiar faces from a school Franklin once heard plenty from. He plans on visiting Chestnut Hill and former Temple head coach Steve Addazio this spring, along with UMass. B.C. and UMass have offered, as have Pittsburgh, Temple and Villanova.

“I'm hearing the most from Boston College right now. I get mostly handwritten letters from them every other day,” Franklin said. “Coach Addazio has sent me handwritten letters and my recruiting coach, [Kevin] Lempa has, too. I feel comfortable with them, because a lot of them are from the old Temple staff, so I am really familiar with them. Now, I'm just getting to know a couple of the new guys, and getting to know Coach Addazio better.”

The junior is also planning visits to schools that have recently got in touch with him, including Georgia Tech, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Pittsburgh is in the mix right now too, the junior said.

“I really want to go down to Georgia Tech, but that's a pretty good trip, and might depend on whether or not any other Southern schools begin recruiting me. I could knock them all-out in one trip then,” Franklin said. “I probably want to get out to Pittsburgh another time, West Virginia, and maybe a couple others, too.”

Franklin is in no rush to make a decision, and seeing that his recruitment is just now hitting a hot spot, it could go well into the summer before the 6-foot-1, 215-pound prospect makes up his mind.

“I'm looking for a school that's hungry. A school that wants to be great, or if they already are, wants to be better,” Franklin said. “That's how I look at myself and my team; we won five league championships in a row, and we want more. I want to go to a team that's like that, and wants to compete at the highest level.”

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