Penn State's small recruiting class fails to dent national top 20, lacks top Pa. players

Penn State head coach James Franklin makes a point during an NCAA college football game against Michigan State in State College, Pa., on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

By 10 a.m., the excitement was over.

There were no surprises Wednesday when Penn State's most recent football recruits officially signed their national letters of intent.

Fifteen players were expected to sign on with the Nittany Lions and all 15 followed through on their previous verbal commitments.

The class was smaller than usual, and was not ranked especially high.

According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, as of 3 p.m. Wednesday, Penn State was ranked 21st nationally and fifth in the Big Ten, behind No. 2 Ohio State, No. 10 Michigan, No. 16 Wisconsin and No. 19 Maryland. 

Top top-five ranked teams in the 247Sports national rankings were: No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Georgia, No. 4 LSU and No. 5 Clemson. The rest of the national top 10 included No. 6 Oregon, No. 7 Oklahoma, No. 8 Florida, No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 10 Michigan.

For head coach James Franklin, who once promised to "dominate" the state of Pennsylvania in recruiting, the PSU class did not include any of the top six prospects in the state, according to 247Sports. Of those six, four are headed to Big Ten rivals, including three to Ohio State, and one is headed to in-state rival Pitt.

Those six, in order, according to 247Sports were:

Warwick offensive lineman Nolan Rucci, who is headed to Wisconsin.

St. Joseph's Prep quarterback Kyle McCord, who is headed to Ohio State.

St. Joseph's Prep linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr., who is headed to Ohio State.

Gateway safety Derrick Davis Jr., who is headed to LSU.

St. Joseph's Prep wideout Marvin Harrison Jr., who is headed to Ohio State.

(Pittsburgh) Central Catholic defensive lineman Elliot Donald, who is headed to Pitt.

The top PSU recruits: Penn State's top Pennsylvania recruit is Malvern Prep's Lonnie White Jr., who is listed as an athlete. White, however, could be a first-round pick in July's Major League Baseball draft and could still opt to sign with a baseball organization and give up his college football career. White is ranked the No. 7 football recruit in Pennsylvania.

Of the state's top-20 recruits, only three picked the Nittany Lions. The other two PSU recruits from Pennsylvania in the state top 20 are Harrisburg offensive lineman Nate Bruce (No. 14) and North Allegheny tight end Kahlil Dinkins (No. 17).

The Lions' class did not include any elite five-star recruits, according to 247Sports. The class included five four-star recruits and 10 three-star recruits.

White is one of PSU's four-star recruits. The others are offensive lineman Landon Tengwall from Olney, Maryland; cornerback Kalen King from Detroit; safety Jaylen Reed from Detroit; and safety Zakee Wheatley from Severn, Maryland.

Penn State did recruit one quarterback: Christian Veilleux from Potomac, Maryland.

The Lions' class also included wideout Liam Clifford from Cincinnati. Clifford is the brother of Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford.

Transfer additions possible: Franklin, of course, could still add more players for the 2021 team, especially transfers. A one-time transfer exception is expected to be voted on next month by the NCAA Division I Council. Under the proposal, athletes are given the chance for a one-time transfer during their athletic careers without having to sit out a season. If approved, the exception will go into effect on Aug. 1.

For Franklin, that would mean a need to study rosters of other teams so his program could be ready to take transfers if he deems it necessary.

"You're going to see that on a significant level across college football," he said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. "I think of how much college football has changed the last five or 10 years. It's very different. You have to be willing to change with those times.

"I know sometimes people get frustrated with it or don't understand it or want things to go back to how they were. That's not happening. You have to embrace it and you have to move forward. Over the last number of years, a lot of programs have saved scholarships for transfers even before the new rule. You're going to see that even more."

Reach Steve Heiser at The Philadelphia Inquirer, through the TNS news service, contributed to this report.


Here are the high school players who signed national letters of intent Wednesday to Penn State and play on scholarship:

Nate Bruce, 6-4, 320, OL, Harrisburg, Harrisburg, Pa.

Jamari Buddin, 6-2, 210, LB, Belleville, Belleville, Mich.

Liam Clifford, 6-1, 195, WR, St. Xavier's, Cincinnati

Jeffrey Davis, 6-0, 170, DB, Kingswood-Oxford School, West Hartford, Conn.

Khalil Dinkins, 6-3, 220, TE, North Allegheny, Wexford, Pa.

Kalen King, 5-11, 170, DB, Cass Technical, Detroit

Kobe King, 6-0 1/2 , 223, LB, Cass Technical, Detroit

Rodney McGraw, 6-5, 230, DE, Elkhart Central, Elkhart, Ind.

Jaylen Reed, 6-0, 190, S, Martin Luther King, Detroit

Sander Sahaydak, 6-1, 170, K, Liberty, Bethlehem, Pa.

Landon Tengwall, 6-6, 300, OL, Good Counsel, Olney, Md.

Christian Veilleux, 6-4, 195, QB, Bullis School (Md.), Ottawa, Ont.

Harrison Wallace, 6-1, 185, WR, Pike Road, Pike Road, Ala.

Zakee Wheatley, 6-2, 180, DB, Archbishop Spalding, Severn, Md.

Lonnie White, 6-2, 210, WR, Malvern Prep, Coatesville