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Midweek Musings - How Many Does It Take?

A-one? A-two? A-three?

Michigan State v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Early National Signing Day is (technically still ongoing until Friday, but for all intents and purposes is) over, and Penn State sits with the #13 class in the land. There is still at least one more unsigned player they would like to land that might bump them up a bit, but overall they have to feel pretty good about things.

I’m sitting here wondering, however, how many good recruiting classes does it take before the team takes that next jump? Given that Ohio State is in the same division, the answer may be infinity, but I’m overall curious.

Since Franklin arrived, here is how the classes have panned out per 247 (Blue Chip Ratio (BCR) in parentheses):

  • 2014 - #24 (BCR: 20%)
  • 2015 - #14 (BCR: 52%)
  • 2016 - #20 (BCR: 40%)
  • 2017 - #15 (BCR: 50%)
  • 2018 - #6 (BCR: 65%)
  • 2019 - #12 (BCR: 78%)
  • 2020 - #15 (BCR: 41%)
  • 2021 - #21 (BCR: 39%)
  • 2022 - #6 (BCR: 64%)
  • 2023 - #13 (BCR: 70%)

Of course it comes as no surprise that there was an uptick in recruiting in 2017-2019, following the Big Ten Championship and Fiesta Bowl seasons. Similarly, a downturn in 2021 following the COVID season of 2020.

But Penn State has never finished worse than #24 under Franklin, and that was his first year (month) on the job. Top 15 classes were stacked from 2017 through 2020, and the team never broke through to the playoffs. Now, it seemed like they were always missing one piece, whether it be at a certain position (quarterback) or a certain coordinator, plus COVID factored in there as well causing players like Micah Parsons to opt out of what could have been a very solid 2020 season.

Global pandemics can’t be helped, I suppose, and so the lack of success from those 2017-2019 recruiting classes can be explained away. As it is, those classes did bring home a Cotton Bowl win, so all was not for naught.

But Penn State needs to start cashing in on these high BCR classes when they come in back-to-back. The 2023 class looks to add a few more key pieces that the Lions could use when the 2023 season gets here, and with the returning production the team may look to make some serious noise next year. Which, as we all know, success begets success.

But this level of (fairly) sustained recruiting is not new for the Lions, and they’ve yet to punch through the OSU barrier into the playoffs (add Michigan to that barrier now as well). Will the 2022-2023 back-to-back classes propel them there? Or will they still be one missing piece away? Will they need to stack a third class in 2024 to do it? Four classes? Five?

Time will tell, but it sure would be nice to break on through to the other side before the playoffs expand.