James Franklin’s normal volume is a few ticks above average. But after the Blue-White Game this month, even a microphone in Beaver Stadium’s media room couldn’t save his voice from being drowned out.
The buzz was coming from up above. Penn State has a recruiting lounge a floor above the media room with a large balcony that overlooks the head coach. And on this day, the railing was packed.
Recruits and their families had flocked to Happy Valley to watch Franklin and the Nittany Lions as part of another Penn State recruiting weekend. Upwards of 100 prospects — from players who already signed with the Lions in February all the way down to kids finishing their freshman year of high school — were in attendance.
Franklin and his staff even scored a big-time victory on the day, securing a verbal commitment from defensive lineman Adam McLean, considered by some services to be the top overall recruit in Maryland.
McLean’s commitment gave Penn State 12 for the upcoming 2015 signing class. The question now for the program is just how many players can the Lions ultimately sign next winter?
For now, the NCAA sanctions are still a handicap. Though the yearly cap on scholarships has since been lifted — Penn State will be permitted to sign up to the maximum of 25.
What still remains, however, is the limit on total scholarships. Barring further sanction reductions by the NCAA this fall, the Lions won’t be back at the normal cap of 85 scholarships until the 2016 season.
The number for the upcoming season is 75. That won’t be an issue to hit. Penn State is projected to have 74 scholarship players on campus for preseason camp in the summer. That figure includes former player Anthony Stanko, who left the team during the free transfer period but elected to stay at Penn State to earn his degree.
For the Lions, the bigger issue is the 2015 roster, which will be capped at 80 scholarships. Penn State has very few scholarship seniors on the team for the 2014 campaign — 10 to be exact — which doesn’t clear much room for a large recruiting class next February.
Though Franklin and his staff would love to sign the full 25, they won’t know just how many they’ll be able to squeeze in for awhile yet.
• Players may transfer. And soon, given that the semester is just about over in State College. This is an inevitable result from a complete coaching change. Players who signed with Bill O’Brien may not like their chances of seeing the field under the new staff and look for a better opportunity.
• Recruits may not qualify. Much can happen between now and late July for the 20 freshmen still set to enroll. A year ago, recruits Zayd Issah and Neiko Robinson ultimately didn’t end up on the team for legal and academic reasons, respectively.
• Veteran players may not return for a fifth season. Another common occurrence, especially for players who have finished a degree and don’t plan on trying for a shot at the pros.
• The scholarship sanctions may be further reduced. A less likely situation that the others but still possible. Penn State is anxiously awaiting former Senator George Mitchell’s latest recommendation to the NCAA based on the school’s progress in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Upon suggesting the NCAA restore scholarships last September, Mitchell said it was entirely possible further rollbacks could follow this fall. The Lions are cautiously optimistic that could mean a lifting of the postseason ban for the 2014 season, but it’s also conceivable that they could be permitted to give 85 total scholarships a year earlier for the 2015 season. That would be a considerable boost to the next recruiting class if it were to happen.
But even at only 80 total scholarships for 2015, the Lions will likely be able to sign 20 or more players in the upcoming class because of the above factors. Ultimately, the quantity and quality of the class will determine just how quickly Franklin will be able to rebuild the program back into a top-25 outfit.
Report: Franklin knew victim
A filing by defense attorneys in a high-profile sexual assault case at Vanderbilt asserts that Franklin had previously known a student who was allegedly raped by four Commodores football players in June 2013.
In a 24-page filing reported by The Tennessean in Nashville, attorneys for one of the accused players, seeking to have the charges thrown out, wrote that the alleged victim was involved as a recruiting assistant for the football program.
Because of that relationship, the filing said that both Franklin and strength coach Dwight Galt — both now employed at Penn State — contacted her four days after the alleged assault to see how she was doing.
Franklin declined comment to The Tennessean on Tuesday.