The South has not often been kind to Penn State of late. Yet it's never kept the program from trying to steal recruits away from the lure of the SEC. Like Bill O'Brien, James Franklin will attempt to gain a foothold in the South, too.
It started quickly, as offers flew out to various underclassmen across the region, almost all of which had Vanderbilt offers from Franklin's last stop. Russell Ude was of the target, and the 6-foot-3, 245-pound three-star defensive end from Atlanta Westminster School quickly turned an eye to the Lions.
"The offer didn't surprise me, because I had a great relationship with Coach Franklin while he was at Vanderbilt," Ude said. "He's a real down-to-Earth guy, and he doesn't put on a front. He's just a great guy, and he goes and just keeps a good relationship with you.
"It's great when a head coach will come and reach out to recruits, and he's reached out to me whenever he could."
Ude's Wildcats' finished 5-6 in 2013, a product of what he called ups and downs and an opening round playoff matchup with the defending state champ. On the personal front, though, things were better: an MCL injury, which hampered his 2012 season, was healed. A better knowledge of Westminster's defense helped, too.
So much, in fact, that college programs besides Vanderbilt took notice. The junior has 14 offers, with the latest coming from State.
"I know [Penn State] has a great tradition of winning for sure, and with the sanctions right now it's a little dicey, but I know they've been doing well despite them," Ude said. "Surprisingly well, actually. It seems like they have the right pieces, including quarterback Christian Hackenenberg.
"Coach Franklin always told me, even after he offered me at Vanderbilt, that he thought I was a special player and someone he wants to coach up."
Miami has reached out the most, the end said, and it's a program he likes because of its tradition and frequent attention to his abilities. He counted a Virginia offer as "a good offer to have," picking out what the Cavaliers' have to offer from an education standpoint and its highly regarded Class of 2014.
The junior intends to take visits this spring and summer, and may hit a few junior day events this winter. As of mid-January though, none are set in stone.
"I know a decent amount about Virginia because I have a friend that walked on there," Ude said. "They have great academics, and that's first and foremost for me, and they have a great recruiting class with guys like Quin Blanding and Andrew Brown. It's a good opportunity for me to go in and get some early playing time."