When James Franklin and his new staff arrived at Penn State in January of 2014, mere weeks remained before Signing Day. So assistants were quickly assigned recruiting areas, and scrambled to do what they could to save and even build on the Nittany Lions' recruiting class.
It worked out better than anyone could have expected, with Penn State landing the nation's 25th-ranked class and the third best group in the Big Ten.
But there was no time to rest on any laurels, because the Nittany Lions knew they had to get their recruiting areas completely dialed in for the Class of 2015.
You want to have it as soon as you can, PSU director of player personnel Andy Frank said. We had it pretty much coming out of Signing Day, where we wanted to go. For that, we were able to get those guys for spring recruiting in their high schools, knowing where they wanted to go, what schools they were going to be at, who their prospects were. Then you go through the process and it gives them almost a full year to recruit kids and recruit schools.
The results were impressive, particularly in Pennsylvania. Franklin's strategy of giving every coach on the staff a specific area of focus within the state allowed the Lions to land seven of the top 10 players in PA (and 11 athletes from the state overall). It marked Penn State's most extensive haul of Keystone State talent since Scout.com began ranking prospects in 2002.
Once the coach in a specific region got involved with a recruit, Franklin and at least one position coach and/or coordinator would enter the picture, too. Frank likes PSU's Dominate the State rallying cry as much as the next person, but said getting the job done was about more than just a catchy phrase.
If no one would have ever said anything, I think we would have attacked it with the same vigor, he said. Guys on our staff will attack everything they're going to do.
To Frank, building on old relationships (for Pennsylvania natives like Terry Smith, Bob Shoop, Brent Pry and Franklin) and quickly building new ones was the key to it all.
That's what our coaches do, he said. That's their aspect of recruiting, and they do a great job of it. We have a great group of nine assistant coaches and obviously a head coach who does a good job of building those relationships -- being around those (high school) coaches, calling those coaches, e-mailing them, texting them.
Then reaching out to kids and talking to them all the time, he added. Being in their ear and being able to talk to those guys and their parents, and all the people who are going to be decision-makers for the kid in the process.
Here is a breakdown of the nine Penn State assistant coaches and their recruiting areas, both in and out of state. So if you see any of them cruising around in your hometown when the spring evaluation period starts April 15, you'll know why.
Eastern Pennsylvania. Central New Jersey. Tight ends nationally.
Chester, Philadelphia and Delaware Counties. South Jersey, from Burlington County down. Delaware. Tampa. Receivers nationally.
Northwestern Pennsylvania (Erie and surrounding nine counties). State of New York. Nashville, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Louisville. Offensive linemen nationally.
Central Pennsylvania (State College area and areas directly east). Maryland, Washington, D.C., Michigan. Running backs nationally.
Lancaster, York, Harrisburg. Northern Virginia. North Atlanta. Pockets of South Carolina. Linebackers nationally.
Northeast Pennsylvania. Northern New Jersey. Chicago. Jacksonville, Fla. Quarterbacks nationally.
Fayette and Westmoreland Counties. Defensive players nationally.
Western Pennsylvania. Ohio from Youngstown to Cleveland. North Carolina. Orlando and surrounding areas. Defensive backs nationally.
Bucks and Berks Counties. Lehigh Valley. Baltimore City. Atlanta. New England. Defensive linemen nationally.