Penn State head coach James Franklin has been operating under the idea of dominating the state of Pennsylvania in recruiting, and he has expanded Pennsylvania’s borders into New Jersey and Maryland with this philosophy. Despite having two years of NCAA sanctions to work through, Franklin and his staff have been hard at work sparking the energy within the program and the results are showing in the recruiting rankings.
According to Rivals.com, Penn State is currently ranked second in the team recruiting rankings, trailing only Alabama. Of the 16 players committed to Penn State, 10 are rated with four stars and the remaining six are three-star prospects. Among those recruits are some of the top prospects in the region. Offensive tackle Sterling Jenkins is the top-ranked prospect in Pennsylvania. Athlete Kamonte Carter is the fifth top recruit in Maryland. Offensive guard Steven Gonzalez is the third top recruit in New Jersey.
Franklin’s philosophy in winning key recruiting battles within the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and in neighboring states New Jerseys and Maryland is doing wonders in reaching out to the collective talent in the region, but can Penn State build the core of its roster around talent from the Mid-Atlantic region and be able to compete on a national level once the sanctions expire?
“I think so,” Franklin said Wednesday in a meeting with reporters in Philadelphia before an alumni luncheon. “I don’t think your entire roster can come from that, but I think the majority [can].”
“A lot of programs that are going around the country and making a living off of their state but they’re plucking one kid from Jersey, they’re plucking one kid from PA… if we can keep those kids back in our part of the country and taking pride in our part of the country, the northeast, the way other kids do in their’s, I think you can be successful.”
Penn State is working with 25 available scholarships for the Class of 2015, Franklin’s first full recruiting class at Penn State. The NCAA agreed to hand back lost scholarships to Penn State as a result of a good report from George Mitchell as part of the sanctions levied against the program. Penn State will get back to offering a full 85-scholarship limit by 2016.
For now, Franklin is focusing on welcoming as many players as he can, scholarship or not, in order to have the best chance to defeat UCF in Ireland in the 2014 season opener in Ireland.
Ask any football coach what one of their top requests of their administration is and, outside of perhaps an increase in the staff salary pool, just about every one of them will reply with better facilities.
It seems Bronco Mendenhall is helping out his own cause on that front as the school announced that he and his wife Holly have pledged $500,000 that will go building the Cavaliers’ new football operations building.
“Holly and I are excited to be a part of the process that transforms Virginia football,” Mendenhall said in a statement. “We love developing young people through football and the new Football Operations Center will provide our young men a home where they can develop into exceptional football players, students and leaders.”
“I am very thankful that Bronco and Holly have further demonstrated their commitment to the University of Virginia with this gift,” added Virginia AD Carla Williams.” Bronco’s vision for the impact this facility will have on the football program is inspiring and I hope his and Holly’s gift will motivate others to invest in the future of Virginia student-athletes.”
The gift, the largest ever by a UVA head coach back to the school, is the first public pledge toward the Hoos’ $180 million master plan campaign that will see a complete revitalization of the campus’ athletic facilities. This includes a new football building located next to the team’s indoor practice facility/outdoor fields and will also include a full renovation to the existing McCue Center that the program currently calls home. Construction of the vast majority of the plan is expected to start in 2020.
The half-million dollar gift to the school won’t put a huge damper on Mendenhall’s wallet despite being a very nice gesture for the program. According to the USA Today salary database, the head coach will take home nearly $3.55 million in 2018 and seems firmly tied to the Cavs for the foreseeable future given his whopping $18 million buyout.
There’s long been a debate in scouting circles about how much track speed can translate into football speed but, if we’re lucky, we might be able to add another data point to the discussion.
On Tuesday, Auburn wide receiver Anthony Schwartz tweeted at Kansas City Chiefs star Tyreek Hill and wondered when the two could race. While both are in the middle of the respective seasons on the gridiron, it seems the two speedsters are at least open to squaring off in the near future to figure out just who might be the fastest man in all of football based on Hill’s response on Thursday.
Now, this isn’t just some crazy college kid challenging one of the NFL’s fastest receivers to a race, there’s enough intrigue here for fans at both levels of football to get excited.
Schwartz, a freshman wideout who has 12 catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns with Auburn this year, was named 2018 Gatorade national boys’ track and field athlete of the year coming out of high school and took home a silver in the 100m at the IAAF U20 world championships in July. Hill has been running away from defenders for years now at just about every level of football but was quite the track star of his own back in high school and, briefly, at Oklahoma State.
No details were given on the surface or timing of any potential race but it’s safe to say it could be a close one if the two do indeed lace ’em up. Hill’s best 100m time was 10.19 back in 2014 while Schwartz posted a personal best of 10.09 in June and got his silver medal in Finland at the IAAF world championships with a 10.22.
It’s Michigan-Michigan State week in college football which means hijinks are bound to happen around the region between supporters of Big Blue and the Spartans.
Case in point came on Thursday as police opened an investigation into an incident near MSU’s Sparty statue on campus after a bit of vandalism occurred yesterday morning that had many blaming their cross-state rivals. Per the Lansing State Journal:
Michigan State University Police were called Tuesday just before 4 a.m. to the area of the Sparty statue for a report of vandalism, Capt. Doug Monette said. They found a blue “M” spray painted on the sidewalk near the statue, likely in support of the University of Michigan. Monette said the investigation is open and ongoing.
Yeah, going to go out on a limb there and confirm the ‘blue M’ was the handiwork of somebody who roots for the Wolverines on Saturday.
The story didn’t specify where the spray-painted logo was in relation to the Sparty statue but it couldn’t have been too close because it appears that students typically sit around the statue during rivalry week to protect it from vandalism just like this. Head coach Mark Dantonio was caught delivering pizzas to those watching over the statue by Big Ten Network just hours before the reported spray painting took place as luck would have it.
Next year it appears as though Michigan State will have to expand their perimeter of student onlookers so as to discourage such hijinks in the future after this latest incident in East Lansing.
No. 5 LSU hosts No. 22 Mississippi State this weekend in Death Valley for a big game within the SEC West that also holds some significant national implications as well. This contest between the Tigers and Bulldogs has been an underrated game the past few years and you can bet the night game atmosphere on Saturday will only add to that.
LSU is ramping things up a bit more however with a surprising new uniform for the game however. The new look, unveiled on Twitter Thursday afternoon, is designed to pay homage to the 1918 “Silent Season” at the school where students and players left campus to fight in World War I instead of clashing on the gridiron.
The video below details everything that goes into the all-white uniform thanks to a pretty epic voice over that is sure to fire up Tigers fans about the clean, yet sharp look the team will take the field in. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the entire thing is the helmet, which is called “color-shifting” from gold to purple depending on how you look at it in the lights — similar to a set of Mardi Gras beads.
LSU generally has a pretty slick set of uniforms when they use their home whites but this is a nice step up while also doubling as a good history lesson for those not too familiar with the school’s past. We’ll have to see just how good that helmet looks under the lights in Death Valley but the early returns are pretty good based on what we’ve seen so far in the video above.