Lion Staff Hits the Ground Running

New Penn State coach James Franklin and his assistants are fanning out across the country as the home stretch leading up to signing day begins.

Penn State wasted no time hitting the road Thursday. It couldn't afford to.

New head coach James Franklin and his still-coming-together staff made stops around the Mid-Atlantic and across the country on the first day after the NCAA dead period ended. More school visits are on the way.

Below, we break down where State's staff was, and delve into confirmed visits heading into the weekend.


Franklin said last Saturday during his introductory news conference that he wanted to "dominate the state," when it came to recruiting. Of course, he was referring to the Keystone State.

The new head coach returned to his roots to kick things off, making various stops in the Philadelphia area, including Neshaminy, which he graduated from.

It began at Warminster Archbishop Wood, where the new head coach teamed with new defensive coordinator Bob Shoop to check in with coach Steve Devlin and his pair of 2015 prospects, offensive tackle Ryan Bates and linebacker Jake Cooper. The former was a target when Franklin was at Vanderbilt, and already held high priority on the last staff's recruiting board. Expect Bates to remain a target, and for Cooper to be evaluated again, this time by new linebackers coach Brent Pry.

"I think he is awesome," Cooper said. "I really do, it's just the kind of guy he is, and Coach Shoop, too. We connected right off the bat, and I would be elated to get an offer."

The tour continued at Philadelphia Imhotep Charter, home to a host of underclassmen. We checked with Temple commit and senior Aaron Ruff to see if the Lions gauged his interests in a potential flip, but he confirmed they did not. Instead, State met Panthers' head coach Al Crosby, gathering intel on junior back Nas Bonner and athlete D.J. Moore.

Next, a stop at St. Joe's Prep introduced Franklin to another program with underclass talent, including Class of 2015 four-star corner John Reid. Head coach Gabe Infante's program is hardly a one-trick program, though, as it also responsible for Michigan Class of 2015 tackle commit Jon Runyan Jr. and athlete Olamide Zaccacheus.

"He seems very energetic, and like he said, wants to dominate the state," Reid said of Franklin.

Finally, the head coach swung by Wyndmoor La Salle College, which is home to Class of 2015 signal caller Kyle Shurmur. Though Central Michigan is the only program to offer to date, the Lions were evaluating him under Bill O'Brien, and so too was Franklin at Vanderbilt. We'd still guess New Jersey quarterback Brandon Wimbush (more on him later) ranks higher on the signal caller board, but Shrurmur's is a name to watch.

"He's great. I've heard nothing but great things about him," Shurmur wrote in a message when asked about Franklin. "I think it's cool that he's a Pennsylvania guy. He seemed very energetic and genuine with everything he told me."

In other Keystone State news, Scranton Prep tackle Noah Beh told Fight On State he has yet to set a date for the Lions' staff to come visit him. Pittsburgh receiver Troy Apke has spoke with the staff but is uncertain when they will visit, while Coatesville corner commit Daquan Worley has not returned messages.

New Jersey

The Garden State has quickly become a hotbed for talent, and also a hotspot for Penn State on the recruiting trail. That won't change under Franklin.

Receivers coach Josh Gattis made the rounds Thursday, stopping first at Union City Union Hill to check in on Class of 2015 offensive tackle Steven Gonzalez and athletic Daiquan Kelly. The former took to social media to share his belief that Penn State was set to offer both prospects, but as of late Thursday, neither has been officially offered

"I like Penn State a lot. If they offer, they'll move up to number two," Gonzalez wrote in a message. Ohio State currently sits atop the junior's offers list, and the Buckeyes were expected to stop by Thursday, as well. "One of my coaches had a connect with someone at Penn State, and Coach Franklin told that connection "why haven't they offered the best lineman in New Jersey?"

Gattis moved along to Jersey City St. Peter's Prep, which multiple-offer Class of 2015 QB Wimbush and corner Minkah Fitzpatrick call home.

"I believe I met him when he was at Vanderbilt, but he's a great guy," Wimbush wrote in a message. "I enjoyed saying hello to him."

Pry was in the state, too, as he hit Montvale St. Joseph's, and caught up with head coach Augie Hoffmann regarding Class of 2015 tackle Tommy Hatton and linebacker Joe-Giles Harris.

We're keeping our eye on Manalapan (Englishtown) Class of 2014 four-star receiver and Rutgers verbal Saeed Blacknall, too. While it hasn't been confirmed yet if Penn State stopped by Thursday, we believe PSU will at least attempt to gauge his interest.

Franklin is slated to attend Manahawkin Southern Regional tight end commit Mike Gesicki's basketball game Saturday before meeting him and his family afterward. Elsewhere in the state, Pry is scheduled for a Friday visit with Hunterdon Central linebacker commit Jason Cabinda.


It doesn't appear Penn State spent much or any time in the state Thursday, but Shoop has an in-home visit planned with Wise (Upper Marlboro safety commit Marcus Allen Saturday. Whether anything is set up with DeMatha (Upper Marlboro.) running back commit Mark Allen or Baltimore Gilman School corner verbal Troy Vincent Jr. was not immediately clear, as neither returned messages seeking comment.


Salesianum (Wilmington) linebacker commit Troy Reeder will be visited by linebacker coach Pry Saturday. Middletown receiver commit Chris Godwin is expecting an assistant to stop by next week.


Old became new, at least for a moment, when new defensive line coach Sean Spencer stopped by Hampton Bethel to check in on Virginia Tech commit and one time Penn State Class of 2014 tackle target Ricky Walker. The prospect confirmed to Scout, though, that he was firm with the Hokies.

We believe it was Spencer who then moved on to Virginia Beach Ocean Lakes, home to a plethora of prospects. We were not sure as of late Thursday if he checked into Class of 2014 defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi, but Scout's Michael Clark was told Wednesday the Lions were no longer in play for the four-star tackle. Head coach Chris Scott's Dolphins' also lay claim to four-star interior linebacker Jahvoni Simmons, four-star receiver Jaason Lewis and receiver Quincy Watts, among others.

Fairfax running back commit Nick Scott said Thursday he has talked to the staff but was not yet aware of when they will stop by.


Franklin will watch another basketball game Friday night when he takes in hardwood action in Middletown. He'll visit three-star tackle commit Chance Sorrell afterward, and expect the Lions to swing by a slew of Buckeye State high schools in the near future.


Danvers St. John's Prep running back commit Johnathan Thomas was visited by new offensive coordinator John Donovan Thursday, and Franklin and another assistant will make an in-home next week. Head coach James O'Leary was out of the building, but said his assistants were "impressed" with Donovan.


Former Vanderbilt three-star safety commit Trent Sherfield informed Fight On State Thursday that quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne will be in the area Friday. It's not immediately clear if Sherfield's offer from the staff's time with the Commodores still stands with the Lions, but he will be recruited regardless. Elsewhere in the state, Park Ridge Main South tackle commit Brendan Brosnan expects the staff to stop by next week.

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