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The Biggest Stories From James Franklin’s Signing Day Press Conference

The coach spoke in front of reporters right after Penn State finalized its 2017 class.

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl Game-Penn State vs Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Following all the excitement yesterday with the fax machines and the commitments that came through them, Penn State head coach James Franklin held a press conference to talk about the 21-man class that will suit up as Nittany Lion football players for the first time in 2017. It must be an emotionally exhausting day for Franklin and his staff, since all their hard recruiting work is culminating in one big day, but the coach still had plenty of energy left to talk at length about Penn State’s newest student athletes. You can read the full transcript at Penn State’s official site. We’ve also summarized the most exciting points below.

Franklin thanks everyone on campus

A lot of the recruiting process is about football, but Franklin reminded us at the start of his conference that part of the decision process for recruits is the same one that other prospective Penn State students go through. How does it feel to be on campus? Does the community support the university? Does the school offer the major I want to enroll in? Football players have questions like these just like any other student.

I want to thank everybody. To be honest with you, I want to thank everybody in the community because it goes a long ways. I want to thank the people that work on this campus because it's amazing to me how many people talk to me about how beautiful the campus is, how clean the campus is. That's OPP (Office of the Physical Plant). That's all the people that work on campus, cleaning things up, shoveling sidewalks, picking up trash. That's the president reinforcing that football is important, but academics are number one. That's our athletic director Sandy Barbour. That's the people that work in the restaurants and the hotels and the stores, people walking down the street.

This is a true college town. It's a true community. For the kid that's looking for that, for the family that's looking for that, we're hard to argue with. You talk about one of the best educations in the world, U.S. News and World Report rankings back it up. You talk about great tradition and history when it comes to athletics, not just football but athletics in general. You talk about a caring and supportive community. We're going to check a lot of boxes for people.

Lack of sanctions is good for recruiting

Of course, for fans and alumni of Penn State, football success is the first thing on their mind today, and Franklin made sure to boast about how his first three recruiting classes compared to the last three that were brought in before his tenure.

The one stat I will throw out to you that I'm pretty proud of, if you look at the three previous years, before we got here, I think the average class ranking was 40, almost 41. The last three years, that one year where we got the job, that was kind of a combination year. If you take that out and go to the three previous years, then the past three, it's 16. Average class rank of almost 41, average class rank of 16. We still have a lot of work to do. We've made really good progress.

It always helps to have a Michael Robinson connection

Ellis Brooks was seen as a backup plan to make up for the loss of Dylan Rivers, but it turns out Penn State was in contact with Brooks way before the commitment of Rivers fell through. Plus, Brooks has a history with Penn State.

The guys that choose not to come here, we wish them nothing but success. But the guys we do have coming here, we're really, really excited about. Fortunately with Ellis, we were able to get in there and get in his home. Really, really sharp kid, sharp family. What I would characterize as a Penn State kid and a Penn State family.

Obviously it helps that this was a school he was always fond of. There's a really cool picture I think they put out where you see him at Michael Robinson's knee at Michael Robinson's graduation from here, him and his dad. There is Ellis down by his knee as a little kid looking up at this place.

The future of the defensive line

Penn State fans got a pleasant surprise early this morning when Corey Bolds, a defensive tackle out of Paterson, New Jersey signed with Penn State. He should go a long way towards rebuilding a defensive line that will be without both Garrett Sickels and Evan Schwan next season.

Corey Bolds, you talk about a huge pickup. We have a need at defensive tackle. We lost some guys to the transfer process. Corey Bolds is a guy we recruited really early on. Once his mom and him got on campus, it changed completely. We got some commitments. Corey stayed patient. We just kept talking. I really got to know him really well from a great high school. Coach (Ricky) Rahne did a really good job. Coach (Sean) Spencer. We're jacked about having that guy. You talk about a big, physical, strong, athletic guy that's going to have a chance to come in and compete, we're really excited.

Such a nasty lineman

One of Franklin’s biggest projects since taking over at Penn State has been the development of the offensive line. In 2017, he expects the unit to be a strength for the Lions, and that could continue in the future with prospects like C.J. Thorpe in the fold.

Thorpe is a grown man. He's got something that I think most coaches are looking for. It's hard to find. He's an offensive lineman with a nastiness to him. He plays with a really nasty demeanor. He wants to finish it. He wants to be physical. When you can find guys like that, they're really valuable.

If you look really at this entire offensive line recruiting class, they all show that. He was able to do that in one of the better, more competitive high school conferences in the country, the WPIAL, and specifically with Coach (Terry) Totten over there at Central Catholic, and then be able to go to an All-Star Game and jump out again. He's got really long arms. He's over 300 pounds. His dad played here.

Don’t stop believing

Journey Brown was a curious addition to the class of 2017 because he was not highly recruited and Penn State is already deep at running back. However, it’s clear that Franklin and his staff feel like they have found a diamond in the rough with the youngster from Meadville.

Then Journey is a great story. You don't really see it a whole lot now where -- you know, guys usually have offers at the latest their junior year. He's a guy obviously that's done some really special things in his career. When he came to camp, kind of things changed for us. We saw him on tape. He did a great job at Meadville. Whenever you rush for over 700 yards and 10 touchdowns in one game, you know, when I offered him and he committed, I said, We got one deal here. For this to work, you have to promise me you're going to rush for 700 yards and 10 touchdowns in one game at Penn State. He guaranteed me that's going to happen.

We are the champions

Although most of the class committed to Penn State before the Lions won the 2016 Big Ten title, it never hurts to have some hardware to show off on the recruiting trail. The high-profile games that Penn State played in at the end of the season may have been the turning point in Lamont Wade’s recruitment.

Obviously the Big Ten Championship didn’t hurt. This is the first time since the game that I have not had the ball in my possession. I've taken it into every high school. I sleep with it. My wife rolled over the other night and almost broke her elbow on it. That obviously helps. That success on the field helps, as well, because the type of kids that we're recruiting, they want it all.

Yeah, I think it helped us a little bit. Lamont Wade, for example, I think it helped us a little bit about Lamont. Mom, dad, and really the star of the family is his little sister. I felt like we were in really good shape with his family. The dad realized that Lamont wanted to see that. Lamont is a guy that had been going through this recruiting process for a long time and wanted to see it all.

Two-sport superstar

In addition to being a wide receiver on the football field, Mac Hippenhammer is a switch hitter on the baseball diamond, and Franklin is working with baseball coach Rob Cooper to allow the Fort Wayne, Indiana prospect to play both sports. It’s not going to be easy, but the option is there for Hippenhammer if he can handle the workload.

At the end of the day, my focus is on football and making sure he's ready to do that. I think we all know it's hard enough to get into Penn State. It's hard enough to study and be successful here without football on your plate. So to have football on your plate and baseball, then do all the things he needs to be successful in all those different areas, it's going to be a challenge.

But we're going to support him every step of the way. We'll see what happens, how it plays out.

Four-star sleeper?

Even though he’s ranked highly by recruiting experts, Yetur Matos could be the most underrated players in this class due to his combination of length and athleticism. That could turn him into a fearsome pass rusher in the not-so-distant future.

He came to camp and ran one of the more ridiculous times that I ever timed a guy for the position he plays. He's just going to get bigger. He's just going to get stronger. He's going to get more explosive. He's 6’5”, 240 pounds right now and he's playing basketball. We're really, really excited about him. Him and his family have been awesome. His little brother and sister, his mom and dad, they've just been really, really good the whole time. Very supportive. Never wavered, reinforcing the message.

For more on Penn State’s 2017 Signing Day, check out our recruiting class superlatives and finalized draft board with links to all of our prospect profiles!