Don’t look now, Alabama, but a former SEC coach has his new football program nipping at your heels on the 2015 recruiting trail.
Friday evening in separate “events,” four-star recruits Sterling Jenkins and Brandon Wimbush announced that each has verbally committed to play their college football at Penn State. Both have been considered Nittany Lion leans, particularly Jenkins, who has taken four different trips to Happy Valley the past three months.
James Franklin and his coaching staff, in their first year with the Nittany Lions, have pushed hard for both players of late.
The 6-9 (!), 308-pound (!!!) Jenkins is rated as the No. 6 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 1 player at any position in the state of Pennsylvania. Wimbush, who plays his high school football in New Jersey, is rated as the No. 6 dual-threat quarterback in next year’s class.
Ohio State and Miami of Florida were the other finalists for Wimbush, with the Buckeyes serving as the Nittany Lions’ stiffest competition. Virginia Tech and Boston College were also in Wimbush’s Top Five. Franklin’s gain came at the expense of his counterpart at OSU, Urban Meyer, as well as Jenkins picked the Nittany Lions over the runnerup Buckeyes.
If Jenkins’ commitment holds through National Signing Day next February, it will mark the first time since at least 2006 the top-rated player in the state of Pennsylvania signed with the Nittany Lions.
The coaching staff in general and the offensive line coach specifically helped seal the deal for the Nittany Lions when it came to Jenkins.
“I really admire [OL] coach [Herb] Hand, everything he has told me and seeing how he coaches,” Jenkins said according to Rivals.com. “It feels like the right place for me to grow. I had already met Coach Hand when he was at Vanderbilt. We got along even then, and I knew when he came to Penn State it wouldn’t be a sales pitch. He is the same guy he was there, a guy I can trust.
“I’m not the first person in my family to go there so that’s a pretty cool thing. It was really surprising to see how the visits there are different. Coach [James] Franklin and all the coaching staff were all there to introduce themselves to me and talk to me. They all took time to come and see me while I was there. The finer details of what they do up there really showed me how much they care about me.”
Coming into Thursday night, No. 1 Alabama had a sizable lead (2,213-1,385) on No. 2 Penn State in Rivals.com‘s 2015 team recruiting rankings. With the twin commitments, both the Tide and Nittany Lions have 15 verbals for next year’s class. Two of the Tide commits are five-stars while 11 are four-star; PSU has zero five-stars (yet) and 10 four-stars already committed.
The Tide’s lead in the Rivals’ rankings was sliced to 2213-1688. Auburn, incidentally, is No. 3 with 1,242 points.