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Blessed & Honored: Transfer Portal Rumblings Begin

It’s going to be a big recruiting offseason for James Franklin.

Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin leads his team to the field to start the second half against the Michigan State Spartans at Ford Field. David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Penn State football’s offseason.

Well, the Nittany Lions still have a bowl game to play. But, with the firing of Mike Yurcich and no bowl opponent in sight, it feels like James Franklin’s staff will enter full-on recruiting mode.

December is a big month for recruiting. The early signing period will open on Dec. 20 and the transfer portal window will open following conference championship games, on Dec. 4. But, some movement is already beginning.


It appears that the poachers are coming for Messiah Mickens. The Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, native is the lone verbal commit in Penn State’s Class of 2026 and recently received an offer from USC. Mickens, a running back, is considered a five-star prospect by 247Sports’ Composite rankings.

Mickens is just a sophomore in high school, so it makes sense that other schools think they can make a run at him. So far, the Trojans are the only program to offer him since his commitment to the Nittany Lions in August. He also holds offers from Alabama, Ohio State, and Michigan, among others.


While the transfer portal window does not officially open until December 4, some student-athletes are already announcing their intent to enter it. Penn State’s most obvious need is at wide receiver, and two intriguing prospects have already entered the portal.

Raymond Cottrell, who is leaving Texas A&M with three years of eligibility, did not see the field much during his freshman year but was a four-star recruit in high school. Indiana’s Donaven McCulley is also in the portal after recording 644 yards and six touchdowns in the Hoosier’s pedestrian offense this year. McCulley was recruited as a quarterback and is just now coming into his own as a full-time wideout.

For now, it might be hard for the Nittany Lions to nab big-name offensive transfers. A lack of explosive plays this year combined with a current vacancy at the offensive coordinator spot makes for a tough sell. Still, the Penn State brand and Drew Allar’s arm talent could be enough to lure some guys in for the time being. James Franklin has historically done well in the portal with recruits he already had a relationship with, so that will be a factor as well.


Four-star offensive lineman Andrew Dennis, who de-commited from Michigan State, is heading to Illinois. Despite a big recruiting push and an official visit, Penn State was not able to beat out its Big Ten foe.

Dennis was one of the last remaining targets on Penn State’s 2024 board. With the early signing period less than a month away, the Nittany Lions can now likely only put the finishing touches on its class. A name to keep an eye on is four-star defensive lineman Enrest Willor Jr., who visited Happy Valley in September. Maryland, Wisconsin, and Ohio State are also in the hunt for the Old Line State prospect.