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Last updated: April 01. 2014 7:09PM - 3877 Views
By - dlevarse@timesleader.com



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Penn State's new coaching staff is making this whole recruiting thing look remarkably easy.
 
It's not just that the Nittany Lions, only two months into the recruiting calendar for the class of 2015, have more verbal commitments than anyone else in the country. And it's not just that the class is rated No. 2 in the nation by the recruiting services at this very early date.
 
No, the most impressive aspect of this surge on the recruiting trail came this past weekend when the Lions secured commitments from two out-of-state players in New Jersey lineman Steven Gonzalez and Indiana linebacker Josh Barajas.
 
Neither of these guys, both with consensus four-star ratings, were what you would call low-hanging fruit.
 
Gonzalez was considered a lean to Ohio State and Barajas was one of Notre Dame's top targets. A visit to State College apparently changed both of their minds as both have already pledged to James Franklin and his staff. In interviews with multiple recruiting services, both players said their minds are made up with Barajas canceling an upcoming scheduled visit to South Bend.
 
If you're counting at home, that's now 11 verbals with about 10 months left until signing day. That, of course, is the main caveat to all of this success. When you're targeting and landing some of the best prospects around — eight of the 11 recruits have a four-star rating on the 247Sports composite list — you have to work hard to keep them in the fold.
 
Certainly the Fighting Irish aren't going to suddenly stop recruiting Barajas, who plays his high school ball at a Catholic school that's roughly an hour from the Golden Dome itself.
 
For his part, Franklin treats a verbal commitment (non-binding though it may be) very seriously. Just a few weeks ago, he compared it to getting married.
 
“What you'll find with us is, I tell them, 'Don't commit unless you're 100 percent sure. There are only two things you have in your life, that is your word and your reputation,' ” Franklin said. “So I would rather a kid not commit to us if he's still looking around and wanting to go through the process. I think there's nothing wrong with that.
 
“If you're not sure that's what you want to do, keep looking around until you figure it out. But once you stand up and shake my hand and look me in the eye and say this is where you want to go, we're engaged. There is no more dating and there is no more flirting. Come signing day, we get married, and there is no divorce.”
 
Of course, like most every school, Vanderbilt would have a verbal commitment ultimately sign elsewhere during Franklin's time there. And as seen just this past winter, Franklin has no qualms about pursuing players committed to other schools. He fully expects his early recruiting haul to be challenged by other coaches.
 
So while Franklin and his staff deserve full credit for such a fast start — with the program still under sanctions, no less — they will ultimately be judged at how they finish this year-long marathon. It may not finish at its current No. 2 national ranking, but the foundation of a Big Ten-best class is possible.
 
Below is Penn State's updated recruiting map, which can be expanded by clicking on the full-screen icon in the upper right corner of the frame. Click on either of the other two categories in the box on the left side to reveal offers to see where Penn State is concentrating its recruiting efforts.
 
—derek
 


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