Breaking Down Penn State's Chances at Landing Top 5 National Signing Day Targets

Troy Weller@@troywellerContributor IIIJanuary 20, 2014

Nov 17, 2012; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions helmet sits on the field prior to the game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Beaver Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

For Penn State fans, national signing day might be a little more eventful with the recent hire of James Franklin.

Even with limited room left in the Nittany Lions' 2014 class, Franklin has made a strong push to bring some of the nation's elite to Happy Valley. Since being hired, he's handed out multiple scholarship offers and flipped three kids from Vanderbilt to Penn State.

With just under a month to go before players can sign, Franklin and his staff are working tirelessly to add a few more pieces to the puzzle. With past relationships in place, he might be able to do just that. 

Penn State's recruiting efforts are likely centered around a handful of prospects, and the Nittany Lions stand a certain chance of locking up each one. 

Damian Prince

Penn State turned up the heat on 5-star recruit Damian Prince once Franklin took over.

At 6'5" and 295 pounds, the Maryland native already has the size to play at the next level. If he picks Penn State, Prince would likely compete with redshirt freshman Andrew Nelson for the starting right tackle job. The Nittany Lions currently have four offensive tackles committed to their 2014 class but none as talented as Prince. 

Florida, South Carolina and Maryland are all high on his list. He took his official visit to South Carolina on January 17 and will visit Florida at the end of the month.

Right now, Penn State is a little further back in the race for Prince's services. He has neither visited nor scheduled a visit to State College as of now. However, he seems interested in what the Nittany Lions may have to offer: 

Courting Prince is arguably the toughest recruiting battle Franklin will face in the next month. 

Outlook: Penn State probably came in a little too late to nab Prince. While you can't underestimate Franklin's recruiting prowess, pulling this off might be hard for him to accomplish in such short time. I'll give the Nittany Lions a 20 percent chance at landing Prince.

Koa Farmer

Currently committed to Cal, Koa Farmer didn't receive a Penn State offer until last week. Farmer was targeted by Franklin when he was the coach at Vanderbilt.

The California native is a 4-star safety prospect. Penn State already has a verbal from another 4-star safety, Marcus Allen, but added secondary depth is never a bad thing.

Farmer's interest in Penn State could revolve more around Franklin and his staff than the school itself. He was looking to visit Vanderbilt before Franklin left, but his plans have since changed, according to PennLive's Andrew Shay:

New PSU assistant coach Bob Shoop is handling Farmer's recruiting, and will make a home visit early next week to Farmer with the hope of securing an official visit on January 24.

Farmer has said he is considering visiting Penn State instead of Vanderbilt, who at this time does not have a head coach, next weekend.

He's scheduled to visit Vanderbilt on January 24. 

Outlook: With Farmer's commitment to Cal viewed as "soft," I think there's a 30 percent chance he's a Nittany Lion by signing day. He does have another serious offer from Washington, and he could very well end up taking that official visit to Vanderbilt now that the Commodores have a head coach in place.

Amani Oruwariye

Like Prince, Amani Oruwariye is a name that's been hot on Penn State's radar of late. 

He was offered by Penn State on January 11, the day Franklin was formally introduced. Later that week, he announced his decision to open his recruitment back up:

Although listed as a safety, Oruwariye has the frame (6'1", 180 lbs) to play cornerback, too. His instincts and change of direction are strengths of his game, both of which are important regardless of which secondary position we're talking about. 

With Troy Vincent Jr. recently flipping to N.C. State, the Nittany Lions now have only one cornerback recruit in their 2014 class—Daquan Worley. Vincent's departure opens up a spot for Oruwariye in Happy Valley.  

Outlook: Oruwariye—like Farmer—could be another guy who's more interested in playing for a particular coach than a specific program. Penn State will try to bring him in for an official visit, and I'll set their chances to sign him at 70 percent. 

Saeed Blacknall

The fact that the name Saeed Blacknall is appearing in connection with Penn State's final recruiting push is surprising.  

A 4-star wide receiver from New Jersey, Blacknall is rated as the No. 130 overall player in the nation. He committed to Rutgers back in August. Since then he hasn't seemed open to other options—despite offers from the likes of Alabama, Clemson and LSU. 

That all might have changed Saturday, when Blacknall was spotted at Penn State will James Franklin:

Forget that Penn State's class is chock full of wideouts—if Blacknall wants in, Franklin will make it happen. Even with Chris Godwin expected to sign and De'Andre Thompkins already enrolled, a talent like Blacknall would be welcomed. After all, he's rated higher than both Godwin and Thompkins by 247Sports. 

Outlook: His recent visit to State College should be enough to cause worry among Scarlet Knight fans. Blacknall's 247Sports profile indicates no recruiting activity since he committed to Rutgers—he seemingly closed off all other options until now. While we don't know what was discussed between him and Franklin, it's hard to think Blacknall isn't having a change of heart. 

Considering that, I'll give Penn State a 75 percent chance of landing him.   

Emmanuel Smith

Emmanuel Smith is yet another guy who Franklin targeted while at Vanderbilt. Yet unlike Oruwariye, Smith is still committed to Vanderbilt—but he has an open mind. 

A 4-star recruit, Smith is ranked as the No. 24 safety prospect in the country. He decided to commit to Vanderbilt back in March over schools such as Tennessee, Ole Miss and Louisville.

Smith has solid instincts and possesses the ability to make plays. He has good size already (6'2", 200 lbs) and could probably challenge for playing time right away. The Nittany Lions recently lost Malcolm Willis to graduation. With limited depth and talent on the roster, the door is certainly open for a guy like Smith.  

The interesting thing about him? His brother, Josh Smith, is a 2015 prospect. Although early, he's rated as a 4-star recruit and the fourth-best inside linebacker for next year. Both brothers were offered by Penn State on the same day. 

Outlook: Considering the talent the Smith boys would bring to the table, I'd expect Franklin and Co. to push as hard for Emmanuel as they would anyone else. Getting Emmanuel on board wouldn't lock up a commitment next year from Josh, but it would probably give Penn State the inside track to him. 

Since he's been committed to Vanderbilt for so long—and there hasn't been much chatter outside of him receiving an offer—I'll give Penn State a 40 percent chance of signing Emmanuel Smith. 


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