STATE COLLEGE – The coronavirus pandemic has created a paradigm shift in the recruiting methods used by college football programs this spring.
Coaches have turned to video platforms to build rapport and connect with prospects and their families. Academic staffs have done the same, with some using the rediscovered technology to showcase their campuses during virtual tours.
Since Penn State on March 11 closed its campus to students for the remainder of the spring semester, nine class of 2021 prospects have given their verbal commitments to play for the Nittany Lions.
The recent recruiting haul has been the culmination of a program-wide effort by Penn State.
“When some of these guys want to take a deeper dive, we have the ability to do that,” Franklin said on Wednesday. “So, for example, if a young man has a bunch of questions about academics, the next night, the next couple of days, we can set up a Zoom call with our academic support staff and go through that with their parents — how that’s structured.”
Penn State entered the spring semester with four new assistants in Kirk Ciarrocca (offensive coordinator), Phil Trautwein (offensive line), Taylor Stubblefield (wide receivers) and John Scott Jr. (defensive line).
As sports have been halted, so have Penn State’s new assistants’ ability to hit the recruiting trail to evaluate Nittany Lions’ targets and form in-person relationships with their families.
Ciarrocca — who is also Penn State’s quarterbacks coach — joined the Nittany Lions in December from Minnesota ahead of the Cotton Bowl after former Penn State offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne became the head coach at Old Dominion University.
In April, Ciarrocca explained the difficulties brought forth from the reconfigured spring.
“It’s been just a little bit more challenging,” Ciarrocca said last month. “As far as recruiting goes, everybody is dealing with the same thing. I don’t see it being an advantage or a disadvantage for anybody. It would be great if I could get out and watch the quarterbacks throw. It’s great when kids can come on campus and we can spend time interacting with them in person and getting a feel for them and whether or not they’re the right people for your program.”
Last week, Ciarocca landed his first quarterback at Penn State when class of 2021 four-star Bullis School (Potomac, Md.) signal-caller Christian Veilleux pledged his verbal commitment.
Trautwein snagged his first verbal as a Penn State coach in March when class of 2021 four-star Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) offensive lineman Landon Tengwall gave his verbal. Penn State tight ends coach Tyler Bowen also helped with Tengwall’s recruitment.
Scott got on board when class of 2021 three-star defensive end Rodney McGraw (Elkhart, Ind.) flipped his verbal commitment to Penn State from Indiana. Penn State safeties coach Tim Banks also helped with McGraw’s recruitment.
“I’ve been proud of how the staff has handled it,” Franklin said Penn State’s recruiting efforts. “Obviously, it’s been a huge adjustment for the new guys because this hasn’t been the normal transition for them. Guys like Taylor and (Trautwein) and coach Scott, it’s been a big adjustment like it always is, but this has made it a little more complicated.”
Eleven class of 2021 members have given their verbal commitment to play for Penn State.
The methods the Nittany Lions have used this spring have been unconventional, but the results have been successful. While the program will receive a boost with each player’s commitment, Franklin said at the end of the day, they must ultimately feel confident in their decision to commit early and the impact it will have on their future as a student and as an athlete.
“So far, it’s been received well,” Franklin said. “We’re not in the pressuring recruits business. That’s not how we go about our business. But we also want to make sure when these young men, if they want to commit and they want to jump on board, we don’t want them to be doing it because of the current situation. We want them to be doing it because they feel great about Penn State, and they think it’s the right fit for their families and their futures.”