James Franklin Making Life Difficult for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes

By Kyle Rowland on May 12, 2014 at 8:30a

James Franklin isn’t one to mince words. At his introductory press conference, he threw down the gauntlet at Big Ten coaches – most especially Urban Meyer. Four months later, Franklin’s delivered on his vow to out-recruit the competition.

Some scoffed at his boisterous declaration, but the Penn State head coach targeted the Northeast and let fire a bold strategy. It’s resulted in verbal commitments from Brandon Wimbush, Sterling Jenkins and Steven Gonzalez. All three were recruited by Ohio State.

“Our recruiting philosophy, we’re going to dominate the state,” Franklin said in January. “We’re going to dominate the region.”

Wimbush and Gonzalez hail from New Jersey and Jenkins is from Pittsburgh. Together, the trio makes up part of the second-ranked recruiting class in the nation, according to Rivals.com, trailing only Alabama. That, of course, is subject to change – it is only May.

The Buckeyes’ two-man class, which could be wilted to one pending the outcome of Eric Glover-Williams’ troubles, is ranked 56th, behind Northwestern, Michigan, Iowa, Western Michigan, Louisiana Tech, Texas-San Antonio, Florida Atlantic, Rutgers, Michigan State and Illinois.

Yes, that is correct.

But recruiting classes aren’t finalized in the spring, calming masses of Ohio State fans who’ve experienced episodes of panic in recent weeks. Still, Franklin and Penn State should be taken serious. This is a guy who not only turned Vanderbilt into a winner, but attracted major recruits to the SEC’s only private institution.

Wimbush, a highly touted quarterback, was one of the Buckeyes’ most sought after targets for the class of 2015. Jenkins and Gonzalez, four-star offensive linemen, could have provided depth in an area lacking bodies. Instead, the Buckeyes get none of the three, while a divisional rival attempts to close the talent gap.

In the past two recruiting cycles, Ohio State had 13 commitments in May 2012 and seven in May 2013. Both classes already included at least one five-star. The class of 2014 looked to be more of the same in February with three players secured. But safety Ben Edwards flipped to Auburn and Glover-Williams’ status is in jeopardy.

When Ohio State beat Penn State 63-14 last October, it acted as a seismic shift in one of the Big Ten’s marquee series. Less than a year later, though, it appears the Nittany Lions have once again steadied their turbulent ride. Franklin’s four-month tenure could already be deemed a rags to riches story.  

“I feel like they’re going to come in and dominate the Big Ten.”– Brandon Wimbush on Penn State

His arrival coincided with Year 3 of unprecedented sanctions. Now is the time where Penn State’s depth could reach the point of no return. But Franklin is making sure the cupboard is always overflowing. Of Penn State’s 16 commitments, 10 are four-stars. One could describe those as Meyer-esque numbers.

Those aren’t the only ones. Franklin’s paycheck at Penn State is more than $4 million annually. Penn State paid Vanderbilt a $1.5 million buyout just to hire him. Without coaching a game, Franklin is already among the biggest names in the Big Ten. He might be the closest thing to Urban Meyer in the country – confidence verging on cocky and charisma.

Franklin, like Meyer, is a rock star among his fan base. On Penn State’s caravan trips, he’s bombarded with handshakes, autograph requests and flashbulbs.

“All of these things are part of the job,” Franklin said, “so why not embrace them and enjoy them and have fun with it? I’ve always been interested in people and getting to know their story and what makes them tick and why. We all have a story.”

Top-five recruiting classes are second nature for Meyer. February is just another harvest. In the Midwest there’s corn, soybeans and football players. A Hatfields and McCoys sequel could surface if Meyer and Franklin continue a recruiting turf war.

In a speech last week to boosters, Franklin said he considers Maryland and New Jersey in-state in terms of recruiting. He went one step further, saying other schools in the region “might as well shut down because they don't have a chance."

All but one of Penn State’s current commitments is from the East Coast.

When Meyer was hired at Ohio State, he burst onto the scene in the Big Ten with a similar brashness to him, albeit with national championships in his back pocket. Franklin has yet to win 10 games in a season. Meyer plucked four players away from the Nittany Lions that first recruiting cycle – Noah Spence, Armani Reeves, Cam Williams and Joey O’Connor – setting in motion a lingering disdain from the peeved citizens in Happy Valley.

A 2-0 record, 49-point margin and the flipping of Larry Johnson only inflamed a simmering relationship between the two programs. Now Penn State is attempting to turn the tide, and it’s coming up successful thus far. Factor in that the Nittany Lions return to 80 scholarships in 2015 and the full 85 in 2016 and the picture of a crumbling Beaver Stadium becomes sturdier.  

Ohio State’s golden ticket resides with quarterback Torrance Gibson and running back Damian Harris. If the Buckeyes receive commitments from the duo, they’ll have one of the top recruiting classes in the country. And it would set in motion a Wimbush-Gibson rivalry that could wow the college football world for years to com.

Said Wimbush: “The energy right now that [Penn State] has around the program, I feel like they’re going to come in and dominate the Big Ten.”

James Franklin already is. 


Comments Show All Comments

Poison nuts's picture

Meh. Let's see them in a few games before we go handing out crowns & scepters.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

+14 HS
Crimson's picture

Dammit, I want the scepter now.  They're so cool!

+2 HS
BoFuquel's picture

Franklin isn't making things as hard on UM as UM is. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

+1 HS
brandonbauer87's picture

Let's avoid calling Urban Meyer "UM".

+24 HS
mh277907's picture

I think Urban should actually run up the score this year.


+16 HS
Poison nuts's picture

Amen & double Amen!

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

+2 HS
MN Buckeye's picture

I'll believe the hype when they get a few September Heismans.

+8 HS
buckeyeradar's picture

Since the coach of the year in the Big Ten isn't given to Ohio State, I believe they already gave it to Franklin.

I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box but I'm one of the most colorful.

+10 HS
route4buckeye's picture

scUM lite in recruiting.

southbuc's picture

This is like Denard Robinsons Heisman Campaigns. 

+7 HS
Colerain 2004 G.O.A.T.'s picture

I hope Urban gets emailed the over abundance of Franklin/Psu pieces leading up to the drive to Happy Valley. I have never wanted to win a game 70-0 more in my life.Ill take a resemblance of the 2013 Purdue road game.

I speak the truth but I guess that's a foreign language to yall.~~Lil Wayne

Bamabucknut's picture

I don't understand why they would have such recruiting success.

-school sex scandal

-no bowl games to be played.......scholarship number sanctions

-no history of performance in the conference

-new unproven (in the Big 10) coach

-member of the Big 10 (a conference with a lack luster reputation )

Must be the coach the young men are responding to..... that overcomes all of the above.

BME_Buckeye's picture

Let's not act like Penn state isn't a blue blood. They've had plenty of success on the field before and after joining the Big Ten.

Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see.


+8 HS
Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Let's not act like Penn state isn't a blue blood. They've had plenty of success on the field before and after joining the Big Ten.

But not as much success as Penn State fans like to pretend. 3 conference titles in 21 years? Not anything to brag about.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

+4 HS
bucksk1n's picture

The truth is that Ohio State benefited from having Joe Paterno as coach.  He stopped recruiting right after they joined the B1G and really should have been forced out for not doing his job but the Joebots clung to the past.  

Pennsylvania and the east coast have a lot of talent and they should get most of the players but Joe's ineptitude let other schools into that area.  They've been a powerhouse in waiting and all they needed was have a full time coach and get off sanctions to turn the program around.

I'd prefer them to be good as after we beat them we don't have to hear all that BS like last year that we didn't play anyone.

route4buckeye's picture

Kids really don't give two shits about any of that. The scandal is almost 4 years old. these kids were 13. lol.

Bowl games don't mean everything.

Franklin's charisma is what is drawing them in. He is a likeable guy.

They see a depth chart that is begging for them to come and start as a true freshman.

Recruiting is about comfort and relationships. Not winning.

+11 HS
NuttyBuckeye's picture

You seem to be forgetting two important issues here.  One, early playing time.  These young men can come in and practically start from game one.  Due to all the sanctions from the scandal, PSU's recruits have not been up to par for their standards.  And two, Franklin has charisma.  Young men with attitude see this and like it.  They feel he CAN DO all that he is saying, and they believe the hype he talks.

What's round on the ends and high in the middle? Tell me if you know!

+1 HS
EvanstonBuckeye's picture

Penn State has been a sleeping giant for some time now. Prior to the Sandusky mess, the end of the Paterno era was really more about fans waiting out his last year(s), growing increasingly impatient with the inconsistent product on the field. The 2005, 2008, and 2009 seasons stand out, but only in the context of a bunch of 9-4 seasons. They've long had an extremely strong East Coast recruiting base, have a rabid fan base (slightly delusional though they may be), and have been competitive over the last couple of years when many were ready to write them off due to the crippling sanctions. I'm not as surprised as many at how Franklin has been able to really re-ignite the energy.

+4 HS
BierStube's picture

Remember, even Hoke had recruiting success early on.

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

+12 HS
Ahh Saturday's picture

It was obvious from the beginning, or should have been, that Franklin can recruit.  People unwilling to concede that just make themselves look bitter or jealous.  Now, having said that, I think it's also worth putting his recruiting success into proper context. Bobby Bowden, one of the all-time great recruiters, had a couple simple rules for recruiting.  One was the hat rule, which noted the difficulty or ease of landing a recruit based on the whose hats the kids in his high school were wearing.  The other rule which is relevant here is the airplane rule which states that your chances of landing a recruit diminish with each university he has to fly over on his way to yours.  Franklin announced his intention of dominating the region and so far he has, but the only prospect that chose PSU over OSU that violates the airplane rule was Barajas out of Indiana, and he got a relatively late offer from the Buckeyes.  Franklin is a formidable recruiter, and a reasonably good coach, better than Hoke imo, but I won't worry about him until he starts landing some guys from outside his region.

+2 HS
iamcbs's picture

While James Franklin is having a lot of early recruiting success, let's remember NLOI Day is in February, last time I checked. The score of last season's game with PSU was 63-14 and tOSU will be better on defense this season. As far as the comments of Brandon Wimbush, he committed to PSU, what would you expect a 17 year-old HS Senior-to-be to say. He needs to be concerned about beating out Christian Hackenburg, before he concerns himself with dominating the B1G. All of this May talk is just that, games are still to be played and in the immortal words of the 'Nature Boy', "To be the Man, you've got to beat the Man."

I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep, I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion~Alexander the Great

+5 HS
route4buckeye's picture


+2 HS
WezBuck28's picture

Your "star" ranking is one thing, how you perform on the field in the trenches is another..we will see you this fall Mr.Franklin..

+2 HS
Ball-Z-Buck's picture

Everybody is out recruiting us at the moment.

+3 HS
WezBuck28's picture

I think that reason is due to our depth..we are young, and stacked in most areas..not a bad problem to have though I guess

+2 HS
IH8UOFM's picture

This was the only logical conclusion I could come up with, as well.

+1 HS
Byaaaahhh's picture

Yeah, I mean I think the difference between us and PSU is the assurance of playing time. We are better at a lot of things, but playing time's just so hard to offer when the people ahead of you are just as talented. At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

+1 HS
JohnnyKozmo's picture

So is Bama, FSU, etc.

Pain don't hurt-Dalton

+4 HS
BukFan's picture

I guess the narrative that PSU will only get 1*s for years to come is officially dead now.  

+1 HS
m5987usus's picture

On the field actions (playing the game) speak a lot louder than off the field (recruiting).  I'm glad that Urban Meyer can do both!


Eph97's picture

I just watched a Jordan Belfort sales seminar. One of the things he said was a good salesman has to be competent, of course, but he has to have passion and charisma to sell. Franklin seems to have these traits.

However, I'm not ready to crown him until I see him going down to Georgia and grabbing a Raekwon McMillan beating out Nick Saban or down to Florida to grab a Joey Bosa. Right now Franklin's success is regional, like Hoke's was.

-1 HS
blocko330's picture

You can learn a lot from Mr. Belfort - watch his videos frequently.

On the other hand you can't learn shit from Hoke, besides how to take one.

Can't stand scUM!

“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”

- TruthTeller

BuckFam's picture

This is good for OSU and the Big 10 - we need PSU to step it up and be a consistent top 20 team - this conference needs strength.  Also, our victory last year in the Shoe vs PSU meant nothing outside our conference - everyone knows Penn State was playing w/ roughly 55 scholarship players ( which makes their wins over UM & UW worse for us).


+3 HS
Scarlet_Lutefisk's picture

Ohio State was playing with roughly 65 scholarship players.

Riggins's picture

Iron sharpens iron. Bring it on. Get PSU, MSU, and TSUN firing on all cylinder and we might actually have a competent SOS in the coming years.

+2 HS
jpbuckeye's picture


If the following is true, Franklin is definitely throwing the gauntlet. If so this one could come back and bite him back.

I read on another site that Frankilin stated that he would take all the recruits he wanted. He was quoted as saying that not all would make the 105 roster and that the cuts would come from scholarships as well as walk ons.

This could have serious recruiting implications. If OSU offers 4 years and Franklin can cut you in 1 year; who would you sign with (if the schools are close in a recruits head)?


+1 HS
Hovenaut's picture

I have no issue with what Franklin has done from a recruiting standpoint. I want a stronger conference - and Penn State absolutely needs to be a part of it.

They should (and need) to be on solid ground with a stable regional footprint. Franklin is getting talent, and also building depth - which they've not had the past couple of years.

It's not as if Ohio State hasn't gone into the Keystone State and recruited - Pryor, Spence to name two - and has since expanded efforts nationwide.

We'll see how it all plays out come the next few falls.


+2 HS
CowCat's picture

Play at Ohio State or lose to Ohio State

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

+3 HS
irishfury's picture

I hope we run the score up to 100 this year.  Thats all.

BuckFam's picture

...oh - what about Mich St and Clemson...?


The Rill Dill's picture

James 'Forcier' Franklin.  Settle down, little fella.  Order will be restored ----when we hang 70 on em.

Humbuck's picture

PSU hasn't had swagger....ever.  Even when JoePa had them elite they were never making swag speeches, pronouncing ownership of NJ and taking verbal aim at vastly inferior opponents.  This is new and exciting, it makes recruiting seem simple.  It is also in the larval/honeymoon stage.  Franklin hasn't won a game yet.

I'm not sold on Franklin being a mastermind coach.  Vandy beat a lot of really bad teams in the final minute of games and didn't keep it respectable against the elite teams in the SEC.  When you schedule 4 absolute step sisters, play Kentucky, Tennessee and the worst UF team in recent memory, you're gonna win 7 games. 

He is the new Burt Bielema of the B1G.  Bullying the weakest schools, talking smack about Rutgers and Maryland. It will be interesting to watch.   Notice he hasn't planted a flag in Ohio or started to take elite southern players.  He has won battles in traditional PSU recruiting grounds for some very good players. 

+1 HS
ohiobobg's picture

It may be time to update this article. j/s

"you can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning"