Any good building project starts with a strong foundation. That's exactly what Penn State coach James Franklin and his staff have established with their 2015 recruiting class.
In the previous four recruiting cycles, the Nittany Lions had nearly become a non-factor in their own state. From 2011-14, a total of three Pennsylvania top 10 prospects signed with Penn State. In that same span, a total of just 15 Keystone State products signed with PSU.
This jumped out at Franklin when he arrived in Happy Valley from Vanderbilt last January. While it was too late to reverse the trend then -- PSU signed no PA top 10 recruits for the first time in a decade -- he vowed that moving forward the Lions would dominate the state.
Boy did he make good on that promise.
The class that signs with Penn State Wednesday includes 11 Pennsylvania players overall. Seven of them rank among the top 10 prospects in the state.
Franklin and his staff landed:
The top overall prospect and No. 1 cornerback in the state in John Reid.
The top offensive tackle in the state in early enrollee Sterling Jenkins.
The top offensive guard in the state in Ryan Bates.
The top tight end in the state in Nick Bowers.
The top defensive end in the state in Ryan Buchholz.
The top middle linebacker in the state in Jake Cooper.
The top outside linebacker in the state in Kevin Givens.
No other program landed more than one PA top 10 prospect (Pitt, Notre Dame and Maryland nabbed one each). And Penn State's success in the state was that much sweeter for fans because, in many ways, it came at the expense of the longtime rival Panthers.
Two players -- Bowers and Givens -- flipped their commitments from Pitt to Penn State in the run-up to Signing Day. Every Pennsylvania player who committed to the Lions also held an offer from the Panthers.
Of the top 25 prospects in the state, Pitt landed two. Of them, only talented defensive back Jordan Whitehead held a PSU offer.
In the chart below, you can see the dramatic turnaround for Penn State recruiting in Pennsylvania this year from what went down the previous decade.
PENN STATE RECRUITING IN PENNSYLVANIA
**Minus Zayd Issah, who never enrolled (legal issues).
** Minus Shyquawn Pulliam, who signed with both classes but never enrolled (academic issues).