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Could Penn State actually top 2018 class?

James Franklin has made waves on the recruiting trail since arriving in State College four years ago.

John Dunmore. - TWITTER

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. James Franklin has made waves on the recruiting trail since arriving in State College four years ago. Each year since 2015, Penn State has improved in national ranking according to 247Sports and in 2018, landed the No. 5 recruiting class in the country. That class featured five-star recruits such as linebacker Micah Parsons, wide receiver Justin Shorter, and running back Ricky Slade.

How can they top that for the 2019 recruiting cycle?

Four-star wide receiver John Dunmore of Hollywood, Fla. is a good start. Dunmore marks the eighth four-star recruit of the 11 so far who have committed to the Class of 2019.

The 6-foot-2 Dunmore, out of Chaminade-Madonna Prep, joined fellow four-star recruit Lance Dixon as Penn State verbal pledges in July. Franklin landed Dixon out of West Chesterfield, Mich. where he was recruited heavily by Big Ten foes Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State.

With the additions of Dunmore and Dixon, the Nittany Lions have moved up to No. 18 in the 2019 Composite Team Rankings according to 247Sports and currently sit at No. 3 in the Big Ten for this recruiting cycle. In addition to the eight four-star verbal pledges, Penn State has commitments from one five-star and two three-star recruits.

Franklin and company landed five of their 11 commitments during a three-day period in May as they brought in five-star linebacker Brandon Smith of Mineral County, Va., four-star running back Devyn Ford of Stafford, Va., four-star safety Tyler Rudolph of Oakdale, Conn., four-star safety Marquis Wilson of Windsor, Conn., and three-star safety Jaquan Brister of Scranton, Pa.

The Class of 2019 currently has a higher average rating than the Class of 2018 at 0.9202 compared to 0.9170 which put Penn State at No. 2 in the Big Ten for the 2018 recruiting cycle. So far, the Nittany Lions sit at No. 3 in the conference behind Michigan and Ohio State for the 2019 recruiting cycle.

The defense has benefited the most from the 2019 recruiting cycle as five of the commitments play defense. And when you look at who they stand to lose, linebacker Koa Farmer, and defensive backs Nick Scott and Amani Oruwariye, it makes sense a focus has been given to getting quality defenders.

Landing talent like Smith, Rudolph, and Wilson gives Brent Pry’s unit an opportunity to pick up right where the seniors left off. At 6-foot-4, Smith is long for an inside linebacker, but with some work in coverage, Smith will have the opportunity to see action once he steps foot on campus.

Shoring up the secondary for years to come gives Pry additional athleticism at his disposal as soon as Rudolph, Wilson, Brister, and three-star cornerback Keaton Ellis hit the field for the Nittany Lions.

Dixon and four-star defensive end Hakeem Beamon round out the rest of the defensive commitments for 2019 and should add to the depth on the defensive line for the Nittany Lions early. Dixon is ranked No. 15 overall by 247Sports for his position while the 6-foot-3.5, 254-pound Beamon sits at No. 17 overall at defensive end.

With the athleticism and ability of the players Franklin and Pry recruit defensively, a fast, athletic defense is sure to be had in Happy Valley for years to come.

Four-star running back Devyn Ford looks to be the next in a long line of Penn State running backs whose success on Saturdays has developed in to success on Sundays. The Stafford, Va. native has the ability to develop into a five-star recruit by the end of his senior season, but will most likely be taking a redshirt year when he arrives. When he does finally see the field, he has the potential to be a game-changing running back for the Nittany Lions.

Dunmore will be joining Ford on the offensive side of the ball and at 6-foot-2, the long wide out from Florida also has the opportunity to be an impact player for Ricky Rahne and the offense once he steps foot on campus in 2019. The person who has the potential to be throwing the ball to Dunmore and handing off to Ford is four-star dual-threat quarterback Ta’Quan Robison. The DePaul Catholic product stands at 6-foot, 185 pounds and has been committed to the Nittany Lions since October of 2017.

The Nittany Lions have had the most growth on the offensive line in recent years under offensive line coach Matt Limegrover. Limegrover will get another quality lineman in four-star Caedan Wallace who verbally committed April 21st of this year and will add depth to an experienced offensive line when he steps on campus.

Penn State is in good hands as far as scholarships go and will assuredly get as many guys who can help their roster as they can during this recruiting cycle. Transfers, injuries, and entering the draft will have an impact on how the roster is formulated moving forward, but are still high on the boards of many top recruits.

The Nittany Lions, by my calculations, have 14 players who classify as seniors in class according to their roster. That means they have at least three open spots heading in to the 2019 season sans players leaving early, transfers, or players leaving the sport.

Things very well could change between now and then, but Franklin will look to bring in the best available players whether on offense or defense to improve his roster and very well could take more than what the roster can technically handle scholarship wise.

Franklin has changed the recruiting game at Penn State and made it a premier destination for student-athletes to want to compete at the highest level both academically and athletically.

How have Franklin and his coaching staff restored the roar in recruiting for the Nittany Lions?

Franklin treats his players as people first and players second. And most coaches might say that, but with Franklin, what you see is exactly what you get, an honest, passionate coach who treats his players as if they were his own children.

Building relationships goes a long way in recruiting the best of the best to come to a school in the middle of Pennsylvania, but with grit, determination, and an ability to relate to his players, Franklin has set his Nittany Lions up for success for many years to come.

Franklin’s ability to relate to players and make them feel at home as well as success on the field in Happy Valley will allow Penn State the opportunity to bring highly-touted recruits to campus. For the Nittany Lions to top the Class of 2018, it will require the addition of one to two five-star or four-star prospects who have the ability to make an impact on the roster right away.