Over the last two weeks, Penn State football news has centered around the state of Florida — and not just because the Nittany Lions are in Orlando prepping for the Citrus Bowl.
James Franklin and his staff have been hot on the recruiting trail in the Sunshine State.
Penn State held off Miami for the signature of 2019 four-star wide receiver John Dunmore, a Hollywood, Fla., native, last Wednesday during the early signing period. Hours later, four-star IMG Academy running back Noah Cain grabbed a Penn State hat on national television and announced his commitment. And on Christmas Day, 2020 four-star outside linebacker Derek Wingo — a star at St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) who had offers from Ohio State, Florida, Michigan and more — verbally committed.
Now, Penn State coaches can’t talk about verbal commits who haven’t signed; Offensive recruiting coordinator Tyler Bowen couldn’t boast about Wingo or discuss any other prospects the staff may be eying when he met with reporters on Friday. And Penn State’s staff can’t meet with any Florida prospects face-to-face while in Orlando because of the NCAA’s mandated recruiting dead period.
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But Bowen still believes having a physical presence in the Sunshine State — playing at Camping World Stadium — has some value when it comes to recruiting Florida.
“It doesn’t hurt playing playing an SEC team in a bowl game. … It doesn’t hurt being around,” Bowen said. “But I think the biggest thing is, with some of the recruiting battles we won and Coach (JaJuan) Seider’s relationships down here, there’s no cookie-cutter way to recruit. Guys have strengths and weaknesses in areas, and that’s obviously showing through with Coach Seider and the relationships we’ve been able to build down here in such a short time.”
Bowen reiterated what Franklin has stated before: Penn State isn’t looking for Florida to become its go-to destination to fill a recruiting class. The tight ends coach said the Nittany Lions are “always going to be regional in our footprint,” with the goal to own the tri-state area and the state of Pennsylvania.
But plucking a kid like Dunmore and securing an early commitment from Wingo — even beating Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl — can go a long way in establishing a budding relationship with coaches and prospects in the Sunshine State.
“There are a ton of prospects in this state that are going all over the place to play Division I football,” Bowen said. “If we can lay a foundation there, hopefully that can pay dividends for us with a couple guys a year.”