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Penn State Continues Upward Trend with Signing of 2019 Class

The Nittany Lions continue to bring in an absurd amount of talent.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

When James Franklin came to Penn State, there was one thing everyone was certain of: this dude can recruit. As it turns out, everyone was right as Franklin has increased the talent across the roster exponentially since he took over in January 2014. As Bud Elliot pointed out last August in his yearly Blue-Chip Ratio article, no team has made a more dramatic jump talent-wise since 2014 than the Nittany Lions:

The Nittany Lions have seen their percentage rise from 21, to 28, to 34, to 41, and now to 51 percent. The Sooners have seen a big jump from 36 percent two years ago, to 53 percent this year.

Among the teams who made the list, five saw their numbers jump more than 5 percent each: Penn State (up 12 percent!), Texas (9%), USC (9%), Oklahoma (8%), and Georgia (6%).

Last year was actually the first time the Nittany Lions passed 50% on the BCR — the threshold that Elliot notes is needed to win a national title. A big reason for Penn State’s big jump? Last year’s 2018 recruiting class. If you don’t remember, it was pretty good: 15 four-or-five-star prospects, six of which were Top 100 prospects, good enough for a 65% BCR and a 26% *Elite Ratio.

*Elite Ratio: Percentage of the class that’s ranked in the Top 100. Please credit Patrick Koerbler, thank you.

Heading into the 2019 recruiting year, I think most knew Penn State would recruit well. But with the talent around the region not being as strong as it was in 2018, and the Nittany Lions tasked with replacing two of their best recruits in Josh Gattis and Charles Huff, there were questions about what level of class Franklin and his staff would bring in.

As it turns out, a pretty dang good one.

While the class will certainly grow in the coming weeks with the traditional National Signing Day in February, the large majority of Penn State’s class signed yesterday, giving us a pretty good idea of the type of talent that’s coming to Happy Valley in 2019.

  • Four prospects are ranked in the Top 100 — LB Brandon Smith (No. 25), OL Caedan Wallace (No. 71), DE Adisa Isaac (No. 79), and RB Devyn Ford (No. 80) — giving this class a 22% Elite Ratio to this point.
  • Including those four above, 17 of the 18 prospects in Penn State’s class are ranked as four-or-five-stars, giving the Nittany Lions a ridiculous Blue Chip Ratio of 94%. To put this into context, only Alabama (96%) has a better BCR than Penn State.

This is far from a perfect class. Losing out on offensive tackles like Xavier Truss and Jakai Moore. Missing on high-caliber safeties like Lewis Cine and Nick Cross. Not being able to reel in wide receivers David Bell and John Metchie. Defensive tackle still looks like a bit of a question mark as they wait on D’Von Ellies and Jared Harrison-Hunte. But man, the fact that James Franklin followed up his 2018 class with one that is arguably better is a testament to his recruiting ability, and a testament to where Penn State is at as a program.

Despite a small step back 9-3 (soon to be 10-3) season in 2018, this is a Nittany Lions program that is trending in the right direction.

We’ll see how things shake out during the final signing period, but with the 2019 class joining the program, Penn State is poised to increase its Blue Chip Ratio by 9% and its Elite Ratio by 6% compared to last year. Those are dramatic enough jumps that Penn State will have a higher BCR next year than Clemson (59%) and Michigan (56%), according to my projections. When you can surpass a perennial Power Five conference champion (obviously not talking about Michigan here) in the “talent” department, well, that’s pretty good.

To me, yesterday was just further confirmation of where this program is headed. Franklin talked about that jump from “great” to “elite” a few months ago, and while it fell on deaf ears a couple weeks later, this the type of class that will help get you over that hump. Because these guys aren’t coming here to win eight or nine games — as Noah Cain said himself, they are coming to win a national championship.