James Franklin wants guys with big heads. That’s not a descriptor for an overconfident player. He literally wants guys with big heads.
At his Signing Day press conference, Franklin was asked about the Penn State staff constantly using the word “length” to describe players in its 2014 recruiting class. How much does physical size play into interest?
“If you're going to recruit a guy that's undersized. he better have tremendous leaping abilities and ball skills,” Franklin said. “Ball skills make guys bigger because they can play the ball. The other thing where length is important is in growth potential. I'm a big features guy. I like to recruit guys with massive heads, big hands, long arms, and big feet because that shows growth potential. We talk about that all the time, recruiting guys with big features and those guys have a chance to grow into big, physical guys on the field and still have the athleticism that we're looking for.
“You will see our model at offensive line typically we recruit the 6-5, 6-6 guys that are 275, 280 pounds that are high school basketball players, because we want speed and athleticism at every position. That's kicker, punter, long-snapper, O-line. A lot of times, when you talk about speed, everyone thinks about cornerback and running back. We're talking about speed throughout the (program).”
Franklin also looks for the little details at the high school. That includes asking random students about the player he’s recruiting.
“The first thing is we want winners. Guys that are handling their business academically, challenging themselves in course work,” Franklin said. “I think you look for absences and tardies on the transcripts. I think that's a strong indicator of work ethic. We want guys that are going to go to class and handle their business academically, and we want guys that we can talk about and ask people in the community. It's amazing. You're sitting in the office, and there is a student there, and you can ask him about one of the recruits, and you're going to find out a lot. When you talk to the guidance counselor, the teachers, other students, when you talk to do custodian staff, (you learn). My mom was a custodian where I went to school, and those people are the eyes and ears of the schools.
“Asking opponent coaches in the area what they think about them. We want to find out as much as information as we possibly can. You go do the home visit, you see how they interact with their mom or dad or one of their parents at home or their little brother or sister. It's all those things. What we're trying to do is take all that information and try and figure out who this kid is long term. I think we got a good process of doing that.”
Penn State’s class is No. 24 in 247 Sports’ composite team rankings.