Class of 2021 commits support Franklin & staff
Following what was surely the lowest moment since James Franklin took over the program in 2014 - a 35-19 loss to a Maryland squad that was nearly a four touchdown underdog - Happy Valley has felt anything but in the days since. It wasn’t just that the Nittany Lions didn’t win, but rather the way they lost.
If getting blown out by the Terps wasn’t bad enough, Penn State also missed out on its top remaining prospect in the Class of 2021 while all of that was taking place, as Rivals100 safety Derrick Davis Jr. announced his commitment to LSU. Davis chose the Tigers without ever meeting Ed Orgeron or his staff in person.
But sometimes, that’s just how it works in recruiting. Penn State has stolen prospects out from underneath other schools in the past, and they'll do it again. It can be cruel game sometimes. Fortunately for Franklin and his staff, the players that have already committed in the 2021 class haven’t wavered following the slow start. In fact, quarterback Christian Veilleux made it clear that he feels like his classmates have bought in now more than ever.
“Everybody is pretty chill about the situation,” Veilleux said. “We have our group chat and stay in touch with each other everyday. We’ve all talked about it, and obviously want to see them do better, but we also like the challenge that’s ahead of us. Everyone is still super high on Penn State and we’re all excited to make an impact there as soon as possible. Honestly, I get the impression that our class loves Penn State now more than ever. Everyone is all-in.”
For players like linebacker Kobe King, one of four players from Michigan that are committed in this class, he believes that the class sees opportunity more than anything.
“I think our class knows that we’ll be expected to make an impact early, and that’s OK with us. We want to be given that opportunity,” King said. “The coaches have been telling us that for awhile now, and that’s why all of us are just so anxious to get up there, especially when you see them get off to a slow start. Those guys are going to be our brothers soon, so we just want to get up there and help mainly.”
One of the key position groups that has taken some heat in recent weeks is the offensive line. With four returning starters, the offensive front was expected to be one of Penn State’s strengths in 2020. Though three games, however, quarterback Sean Clifford has been sacked 13 times. The next closest team in the Big Ten is Illinois with nine. In fact, if you average out the other 13 teams in the conference, the number is slightly under 5.5 sacks allowed. Of course, all of those sacks aren’t exclusively to blame on the line - Clifford has been too patient at times, while receivers need to gain more separation - but the point remains that it’s a major concern for Penn State fans.
But rather than be concerned for what he’s seen, Penn State’s top overall commit, Landon Tengwall, says he hasn’t wavered at all when it comes to new offensive line coach Phil Trautwein.
“To every Penn State fan reading this, I’d really like for them to remember that he’s changing everything they’ve done there in the past and they didn’t have a spring or summer to really implement those changes,” Tengwall said. “I know a lot of fans don’t want to hear that, they just want results, which I understand, but I really think that’s a big part of it. I have complete faith in Coach Trautwein and those guys. They’re a good group of players. They’re experienced. I think it’s just taken some time for them to put it all together, but I really feel like it’ll happen soon.”
As should be expected, schools across the country have stepped it up in recent weeks in trying to flip a few of Penn State’s commitments. Veilleux said that Rutgers reached out to him recently, while King and his twin brother, Kalen, have been hearing from a few of the schools they were seriously considering before committing back in the spring.
“We’ve heard from Michigan, Kentucky and Michigan State,” King said. “There are a couple other schools, too, but I’m not showing them any love or anything like that. It’s the same with Kalen, too. Penn State is what we’re focused on, no one else”
Tengwall, who is as open as just about anyone on social media, said that he hasn’t heard from many schools.
“Because I’m so active on social media and open about some things, I really think a lot of schools see that,” Tengwall said. “I really haven’t had too many schools trying to pull me away. I’ll get a text every now and then, but I really haven’t gotten as much as some might thing. I made it clear to all of these coaches that I was all-in when I committed and nothing has changed. They see how committed I am, and I really don’t want any of those conversations. I’m just ready to get to school, get to work.”
While this season may be on pace to fall short of preseason expectations, there’s still time for the Nittany Lions to right the ship. Every team on the remaining schedule also currently holds a losing record. But regardless of what happens, a mass exodus isn’t expected.
“Look, no one wants to be part of a losing team, but that’s not Penn State,” Tengwall said. “They’re going through a funk right now, but that doesn’t make them a losing team. That happens sometimes. From talking to everyone, I really think this has just made us commits want to work even harder. It’s not fun watching them struggle right now, but we also see opportunity there to help make an instant impact for the coaches that we all love. Same with the players, too. We just want to help, not quit on them.”
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