Moments after finishing up a video chat to welcome a member of his 2017 recruiting class on Wednesday, James Franklin was handed a phone by a staffer.
“Next year,” Franklin said to the person on the other line, “this could be you getting your name called here on signing day.”
A 2018 recruit. And the way things are going lately for Penn State, the coach’s prediction might just come true.
The Nittany Lions continued to continued to clean up on the trail, landing commitments from two more juniors on Friday, including one from one of the country’s top running backs.
Virginia five-star prospect Ricky Slade, rated as the nation’s No. 1 all-purpose back in the 247Sports Composite rankings, and three-star Erie linebacker Jesse Luketa, a Canadian transplant with a growing profile, both pledged to Penn State.
Just two days after putting a bow on a 2017 class that checked in at No. 15 nationally, Penn State is nearly halfway filled for 2018 with 10 commitments already in the fold.
Slade and Luketa join Cumberland Valley linebacker Charlie Katshir, who announced that Penn State was his pick on Thursday.
According to multiple recruiting databases, all three players were on campus this past weekend for visits.
Altogether, the Lions a sizable lead over the rest of the country in 2018 recruiting, checking in at No. 1 in the very early team rankings.
Of those 10, five are ranked among the country’s top 100 overall recruits, with Slade checking in at No. 24 as the highest-rated player in Virginia.
As a junior at C.D. Hylton High School — alma mater of prolific Penn State receiver Deon Butler — Slade ran for nearly 1,800 yards and 20 touchdowns while earning first-team all-state honors in Virginia’s top classification.
Despite a 5-foot-9 frame, Slade checks in at 195 pounds and has shown he’s comfortable running between the tackles as well as bouncing outside.
With star rusher Saquon Barkley almost certainly heading to the NFL after the 2017 season, Slade would have a chance to see the field as a freshman as part of a stable that would include Andre Robinson another five-star recruit in Miles Sanders.
Slade already had offers from the likes of Ohio State, Florida, Miami and national champion Clemson.
Though Luketa isn’t rated as highly as Slade, odds are good that he’ll rise during his senior season.
A native of Ottawa who plays at Mercyhurst Prep, the 6-foot-3 Luketa is starting to draw some attention from some major programs. Both Stanford and LSU offered him along with Penn State recently, but his long-running admiration for the Lions won out.
Penn State director of player personnel Andy Frank, who keeps tight watch over the Lions’ scholarship situation, predicted Wednesday that the Lions would sign in the low-to-mid 20s for 2018.
And while the Lions are off to one of the their best starts in years, Franklin cautioned on Wednesday that recruiting rankings at such an early stage are “ridiculous.”
Part of that is because there’s no telling if all 10 players who have committed early to the Lions will sign with them next February.
For example, Penn State’s top-rated recruit, No. 5 overall prospect Micah Parsons out of Harrisburg, told PennLive recently that he would make a final decision on New Year’s Day. He plans to take official visits to other schools and dropped in on Ohio State last weekend.
And, of course, Penn State has a 2017 season to play.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do in a lot of areas,” Franklin said. “We have made great progress, but we still got a long ways to go. For us to catch the programs that we view that we’re competing against, we still got a long ways to go in a lot of different areas.”