By Jim Carlson
STATE COLLEGE —
James Franklin made the most of the little time he had to complete his first recruiting class at Penn State.
Hired Jan. 11 to take over the sanction-riddled program after Bill O’Brien left for the NFL’s Houston Texans, Franklin signed 20 recruits on Wednesday — 11 on offense, nine on defense — to complement five others who enrolled at Penn State in January. The class was ranked 21st by national recruiting services Scout and Rivals.
Franklin, who left Vanderbilt after three seasons, signed highly rated receivers Saeed Blacknall, De’Andre Thompkins and Chris Godwin to team up with quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who led the Nittany Lions to a 7-5 record last fall as a freshman.
Franklin’s defensive class is highlighted by California defensive back Koa Farmer and defensive lineman Tarow Barney, a 300-pound tackle from Northwest Mississippi Community College.
National rankings: Rivals 21; Scout 21.
Best in class: Saeed Blacknall, WR, 6-2, 210, Manalapan, N.J.
Best of the rest: De’Andre Thompkins of Swansboro, N.C., and Chris Godwin of Middletown, Del., were two of four wide receivers coach James Franklin recruited to fill void left by Allen Robinson, who left for the NFL draft. . Quarterback Michael O’Connor from Ottawa, Ontario, trained with former Florida State Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., and was one of five of Penn State’s 25 signees who began Penn State classes in January. . Franklin also added to his complement of tight ends with Mike Gesicki (6-5, 245) from Manahawkin, N.J.
Late addition: Torrence Brown, a three-star defensive lineman (6-4, 240) from Tuscaloosa, Ala., who de-committed from Southern Mississippi.
One that got away: Four-star defensive tackle Thomas Holley of Brooklyn, N.Y., de-committed from Penn State and opted for Florida when longtime Penn State assistant coach Larry Johnson became defensive line coach and assistant head coach at Ohio State.
NOTE: Recruits who faxed in letters of intent were welcomed by Franklin and his assistants via cellphone and were announced individually in NFL draft day fashion. There was a draft board that listed all players in the football offices as well.