James Franklin and his staff always have eyes toward what’s next.
Four days before the 2019 cycle all but came to a close with National Signing Day, the Nittany Lions earned commitments from two 2020 recruits and even a 2021 prospect. And on Wednesday, Franklin was asked about where the strengths lie in 2020. Good news for Penn State fans: It’s right in the Nittany Lions’ backyard.
“The region is really strong. And that’s important,” Franklin said. “Obviously, the closer they are, the better chance you have to develop the type of relationships that you need. So we’re going to have to take advantage of that.”
Franklin’s motto when he arrived in Happy Valley in Jan. 2014 was to “dominate the state.” Even with Pennsylvania recruiting talent relatively down in 2018, the Nittany Lions inked five Keystone State products, including State College’s Keaton Ellis. They nabbed three of Virginia’s top-10 prospects and signed six players from Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Maryland.
In 2020, Penn State already has commitments from four players: Four-star linebacker Curtis Jacobs (Owings Mills, Md.), four-star cornerback Joshuah Moten (Fort Washington, Md.), four-star linebacker Derek Wingo (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and three-star lineman Grant Toutant (Warren, Mich.).
Franklin said Wednesday that the Nittany Lions are “excited” about that. “We’ve got a pretty good start,” the coach added. But he and his staff are really just getting started.
With the 2019 cycle in the rearview mirror, here are five names to know for the 2020 class.
WR Julian Fleming
High school: Southern Columbia (Catawissa, Pa.)
Pedigree: Five stars, No. 5 overall, No. 1 WR, No. 1 Pennsylvania
Breakdown: Fleming is priority No. 1 for Penn State in the 2020 cycle.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound wide receiver, recently named Pennsylvania’s 2018-19 Gatorade Player of the Year, was a stud from the get-go. He caught 36 passes for 956 yards and 13 touchdowns as a freshman. He followed that up with 69 receptions, 1,462 yards and 20 scores as a sophomore. And in 2018, he added 1,497 yards and 22 touchdowns to his tally.
Fleming, who has visited Happy Valley at least seven times since the 2018 Blue-White Game, is a Nittany Lion lean. Nine of 11 247 Sports Crystal Ball predictions have him pegged for Penn State; the other two experts believe he’ll end up at Ohio State.
Fleming has offers from 30 programs, including Clemson, Georgia, Michigan, Alabama and Notre Dame.
DE Bryan Bresee
High school: Damascus (Damascus, Md.)
Pedigree: Five stars, No. 1 overall, No. 1 DE, No. 1 Maryland
Breakdown: Bresee, who has a 247 Sports rating of .9996, is actually tied with Adrian Peterson and Leonard Fournette as the 15th-best prospect ever ranked by the recruiting service. So, yeah, it would be a big deal if the Nittany Lions secured his signature.
As expected, the Nittany Lions aren’t the only school after Bresee’s commitment. The 6-foot-5, 290-pound pass-rusher has offers from 33 programs. According to his 247 Sports page, he has “warm” interest in five schools: Penn State, Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson and Georgia. His Crystal Ball predictions are split 30-30-30-10 percent between Penn State, Ohio State, Clemson and Maryland, respectively.
The 2018-19 Maryland Gatorade Player of Year, who tallied 36 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks in 2018, has been on campus several times. Penn State was the second Power 5 program to offer him after he attended the Nittany Lions’ Junior Day as a sophomore. Bresee visited for the 2018 Blue-White Game, last summer’s Lasch Bash, the Penn State-Ohio State game and as recently as Jan. 20.
RB Chris Tyree
High school: Thomas Dale (Chester, Va.)
Pedigree: Five stars, No. 25 overall, No. 1 RB, No. 2 Virginia
Breakdown: The Nittany Lions have racked up running back talent over the years. First and foremost, four-star Coplay native Saquon Barkely became a star. Then Penn State signed five-star backs Miles Sanders and Ricky Slade, and in 2019, inked two of the nation’s top-10 rushers in Devyn Ford and Noah Cain. Can the Nittany Lions nab another?
Tyree — a 5-foot-9, 178-pound rusher — is as quick as they come. He has a verified 40-yard dash time of 4.38 seconds, which would have tied Nyheim Hines’ top running back time at the 2018 NFL Combine. Tyree, who rushed for 1,829 yards and 17 scores as a freshman and sophomore, also posted a 3.95-second shuttle time and 38.2-inch vertical at The Opening Finals in July.
Three of four Crystal Ball predictions, including 247 Sports lead expert Steve Wiltfong, have Tyree picking Penn State. The other pick in is for Virginia Tech. The back has offers from 31 programs, including Alabama, Florida, Florida State and Georgia. He also had “warm” interest in Mississippi State after being recruited by former Penn State assistant Charles Huff, who is now at Alabama. Something to keep an eye on.
OT Aaryn Parks
High school: National Christian Academy (Fort Washington, Md.)
Pedigree: Four stars, No. 132 overall, No. 18 OT, No. 7 Maryland
Breakdown: For Parks, it seems like a matter of time before he commits to Penn State.
The 6-foot-5, 309-pound blocker visited last weekend for Junior Day, and all four of his Crystal Ball predictions point in Penn State’s favor. Another thing the Nittany Lions have going for them? Parks goes to school with four-star 2020 cornerback Joshuah Moten, who committed to Penn State on Junior Day.
Of course, Parks could always go elsewhere. He has offers from 15 schools, including Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon, Michigan and Maryland. But the Nittany Lions are clearly in the lead to land the tackle.
OT Michael Carmody
High school: Mars Area (Mars, Pa.)
Pedigree: Four stars, No. 196 overall, No. 25 OT, No. 2 Pennsylvania
Breakdown: Penn State is in pole position to nab another tackle, too. And this one is in-state.
Carmody, a 6-foot-6, 285-pound standout from western Pennsylvania, is an athletic lineman Matt Limegrover would love to have. The former tight end ran a 5.54-second 40-yard dash, posted a 4.77-second shuttle time and recorded a 23.8-inch vertical.
Carmody has offers from 16 schools, including Michigan, Virginia Tech, Nebraska, Pitt and Wisconsin. But all five of his Crystal Ball predictions have the lineman staying in the Keystone State, which would be significant if the Nittany Lions are able to sign him and Parks.