Penn State’s 2016 recruiting class headlined by trio of in-state standouts
February 4, 2016 12:00 AM
Woodland Hills star Miles Sanders is Penn State's top in-state coup.
By Audrey Snyder / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Running back Miles Sanders, sporting a blue and white tie with the Nittany Lions logo on it, hugged his mom as James Franklin, Charles Huff and Terry Smith joined in on the celebration halfway across the state.
Video chatting back and forth with his future coaches, the Woodland Hills standout, and one of the top signees in the Lions’ 20-player class of 2016, watched as Penn State’s coaches erupted in cheers after receiving his letter of intent and added a magnet with his photo to the team’s big board in their coaching suite turned national signing day war room.
“At the end of the recruiting period, it can get aggressive, and it can get nasty, and it can get relentless at times,” Franklin said later Wednesday at his news conference. “I think we’ve been fortunate that we’ve got kids that get that.”
Franklin said Sanders, Rivals’ top-ranked player in the state and the site’s top-ranked running back in the class, was sold on Penn State for the past six months or so. It helped that his mom was onboard too, Franklin said, highlighting her role in her son’s recruitment, even joking with her that one day the two should write a book together about Miles’ recruitment.
Sanders joins a backfield where former Whitehall High School standout Saquon Barkley eclipsed 1,000 yards this past season as a true freshman and former Bishop McDevitt standout Andre Robinson is coming off a redshirt season. Barkley’s early success showed the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Sanders that he, too, could make an early impact, and Franklin assured Sanders he’ll need to continue be be a “low-maintenance, high-production” type player when he arrives and joins the deep backfield this summer.
For the coach who vowed to dominate the state when he was introduced in 2014, some of Penn State’s most pressing needs in this class— which finished with the No. 22 ranking by Rivals, No. 21 by Scout and No. 19 by 247Sports composite rankings — were filled by Pennsylvania talents. Of the six Pennsylvania players ranked in the Rivals250, three —Sanders, offensive lineman Michal Menet and center Connor McGovern — signed with Penn State while the Lions lost out on Damar Hamlin, Karamo Dioubate and Naseir Upshur. In the 2015 class, Franklin’s first full one at Penn State, the Lions landed four of the five in state Rivals250 prospects while Jordan Whitehead selected Pitt.
With the commitment of Hamlin and the flip of Aaron Mathews from Penn State to Pitt Monday, is the rivalry heating up on the recruiting trail?
“In my opinion, no,” Penn State defensive recruiting coordinator/cornerbacks coach Terry Smith said. “We talk about dominating the state and we have more top-10 recruits, we got the best player in the state of Pennsylvania, we got the top two players in the state in Menet and Miles Sanders. … We’re getting the kids we want. … Penn State is not a place for every kid out of Pennsylvania, but Penn State is a great place for the kids that we choose to bring to Penn State.”
McGovern, who enrolled early and at 6-3, 310 pounds, has a shot to play this year, Franklin said. Menet, from Exeter Township High School, is versatile enough to play anywhere on the line, helping bolster an offensive line that was the team’s most troublesome spot the past two seasons.
Penn State’s coaching staff, with new offensive line coach Matt Limegrover and new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, both Central Catholic graduates, looks to continue strengthening the staff’s in-state ties. While the Lions’ bus trip from Pittsburgh to Happy Valley last month with Hamlin, Khaleke Hudson, Mathews and Sanders on board for official visits yielded only one signing, securing the commitment of Sanders was a focal point for the class.
“It’s not something that we just preach that we’re going to go in and recruit Pittsburgh,” wide receivers coach/offensive recruiting coordinator Josh Gattis said. “We got guys that were born and raised and that know Pittsburgh so we’re always thinking of different and creative ways to reach kids, we’re always thinking outside the box. … We take pride in being in the forefront of recruiting.”
Audrey Snyder: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @audsnyder4.
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