Penn State football excited about its recruiting Class of 2021
Penn State revealed its football recruiting Class of 2021 on Wednesday afternoon which features 15 incoming players from seven states and one from Ontario, Canada. Of the 15, four are from Pennsylvania and four are from Michigan.
While there’s talented scattered throughout – all are at least three-star recruits and four are four-star recruits according to 247sports.com – Penn State coach James Franklin was excited about the three receivers in his recruiting class in Liam Clifford (St. Xavier H.S., Ohio), Harrison Wallace III (Pike Road H.S., Alabama) and Lonnie White Jr. (Malvern Prep, Coatesville).
“Class of wide receivers we really like. They all got good size. They’re all 6-1 or taller and are put together already. We’re excited about those three,” Franklin said during Wednesday’s Zoom press conference.
All three have the ability to be playmakers and make a difference.
“One of things that got us excited about him (Wallace III) is if you watch his basketball tape and his dunks, him and Lonnie could have a dunk contest against each other and it’d be really fun to watch. Wide receivers and DBs that can play basketball as well as football and do it at a high level, the body control, the ball skills and you magnify it with Lonnie, who’s a high-level baseball player and can track down the ball as an outfielder, all those things really translate (to success).”
The Nittany Lions recruiting class includes a quarterback (Christian Veilleux, Bullis School in Maryland), three wide receivers, two offensive lineman, four defensive backs, two linebackers, a kicker, a tight end and a defensive lineman.
Penn State’s recruiting class features a foursome of four-star recruits from 247sports.com in defensive back Jaylen Reed, offensive lineman Landon Tengwall, defensive back Zakee Wheatley and wide receiver White Jr.
But the Penn State staff doesn’t put too much emphasis on national rankings.
“I would say as a whole, I think they’re really good. I think recruiting services do a great job of evaluating prospects as a group. We have to look at each individual kid separately and how they fit us,” Penn State Director of Player Personnel Andy Frank said. “What do we see in that individual prospect? Do we go ‘hey this kid is ranked this, we have to offer them?’ Absolutely not. … We follow along as much as anybody to find out who those kids are and should we offer this kid.”
The Nittany Lions weren’t able to grab a ton of recruits from Pennsylvania this year.
“If you study Pennsylvania over the last 30 years, the numbers continue to decrease. We have not offered a large number of players in state of Pennsylvania over last five or six years. The number continues to go down,” Franklin said. “So that makes guys we do offer critical that we get. When you don’t get them, it magnifies it. There’s no doubt about it.”
Franklin did note how the transfer portal will play a big role when it comes to looking at holes to fill, specifically at defensive end and defensive back.
“Those are areas we’ll be looking at. … They’ll be very important for us moving forward,” Franklin said. “You’ll see some more activity in second recruiting period as well as transfer market, which is just part of 2020 and where football is at and where football is heading.”
The recruiting class should help boost Penn State’s defense. With linebacker Jamari Buddin (Belleville H.S., Michigan), defensive back Jeffrey Davis Jr. (Kingswood Oxford School, Conn.), defensive back King (Cass Technical High School, Mich.), linebacker Kobe King (Cass Technical High School, Mich.), defensive lineman Rodney McGraw (Elkhart Central High School, Ind.), defensive back Reed (Martin Luther King Jr. H.S., Mich.) and defensive back Wheatley (Archbishop Spalding H.S., Maryland), it provides Penn State with a great core of talent for next season.
The Nittany Lions struggled to start the season, going 0-5 in the process after opening the year ranked in eighth. But despite that tough start to the year, it didn’t deter the incoming recruits. It’s something Frank attributes to weekly Zoom or Facetime chats to keep the group together and interacting not just with each other, but the Penn State staff as well.
“As things got rolling, it was good to see that group stay together. The NCAA made some rule changes this year because of COVID that allowed us to actually have group recruiting Facetimes, group recruiting calls that weren’t available to us in past,” Frank said. “One of things we’ve been doing for a long time now is every weekend, we have group on Zoom or Facetime with staff members together. They get to be around each other talk in that call, just that little bit of interaction weekly helps keeps guys together.
“We’re thankful for them for doing that and really impressed with their maturity through process. It was a rocky start to this season, but when you look at total of what we’ve done at Penn State, there’s no doubt the future’s very bright.”
Franklin noted that the Nittany Lions still have the second signing day to go after more prospects.
“We still have second signing day to go with, so still some prospects to go with. Other thing you guys will see, we have typically signed a full class to get to our 85 where a lot of programs have saved scholarships for transfer market. So we’re also going to be involved in that.”
Franklin said that a few recruits committed to Penn State without visiting or seeing the campus. That includes Wallace III from Montgomery, Alabama.
“We had a number of guys that committed to us without ever seeing the place and, again like we’ve talked about before, this is place where you have to have a specific plan to come see because it’s not really on the way to anything,” Franklin said. “So it’s got to be a very, very specific plan. Typically spring games are huge for us from a recruiting perspective, White Out games are huge for us in recruiting perspective, and this year not having either of those factored in.”
The COVID-19 pandemic made recruiting different this year, not just for Penn State but every college football program.
“Everybody in college football faced challenges with COVID. … Like anything in life, you got to handle those challenges head on. One of great things about Penn State is when a kid comes on campus, he gets feel about how special this place really is. The people here, the environment here, the coaching staff, and that’s missing in era when you can only do Zoom calls,” Frank said. “We felt we were able to hold onto a class that was pretty well along its way when COVID started and picked up steam when things got going there. We did a good job keeping those guys connected to our staff, coaches, recruiting staff… All those people we were in close contact with all the way through.”
PENN STATE RECRUITING CLASS OF 2021
Nate Bruce…OL…Harrisburg, Pa. … Harrisburg H.S. … 6-3 … 330
Jamari Buddin…LB…Ypsilanti, Mich. … Belleville H.S. … 6-2 … 204
Liam Clifford…WR…Mainevile, Ohio…St. Xavier H.S. …6-1…191
Jeffrey Davis Jr. …DB…Bristol, Conn. … Kingswood Oxford School … 6-0 … 170
Khalil Dinkins…TE…Wexford, Pa. … North Allegheny Senior H.S. … 6-4…221
Kalen King…DB…Detroit, Mich. … Cass Technical H.S. …5-1…176
Kobe King…LB…Detroit, Mich. … Cass Technical H.S….6-0…237
Rodney McGraw…DL…Chicago, Ill. … Elkhart Central H.S. (Ind.) …6-4….230
Jaylen Reed…DB…Detroit, Mich. … Martin Luther King Jr. H.S. …6-0…196
Sander Sahaydak…K…Bethlehem, Pa. …Liberty H.S. …6-0…159
Landon Tengwall…OL…Annapolis, Md. … Our Lady of Good Counsel H.S. …6-5…303
Christian Veilleux…QB…Ottawa, Ontario…Bullis School (Md.)…6-4…200
Harrison Wallace III…WR…Montgomery, Ala. …Pike Road H.S. …6-1…180
Zakee Wheatley…DB…Crofton, Md. …Archbishop Spalding H.S. …6-2…183
Lonnie White Jr. …WR…Coatesville, Pa. …Malvern Preparatory School…6-2…201