BLACKSBURG – Is the recruiting landscape in Virginia shifting?
Penn State didn’t celebrate many recruiting victories in Virginia before James Franklin’s arrival in Happy Valley.
The Nittany Lions landed quarterback Christian Hackenberg — a Fork Union native — in 2013. Hackenberg was the top recruit in the state, but Penn State only signed two other top 10 recruits from Virginia going back to 2004, according to 247Sports composite rankings.
That’s changed under Franklin.
Franklin has gone 45-20 since taking over at Penn State in 2014. The program has made appearances in two New Year’s Six Bowls under the former Vanderbilt coach.
Penn State added the No. 1 recruit (Louisa County linebacker Brandon Smith) in Virginia for a second straight year. The team also signed the No. 2 (North Stafford running back Devyn Ford) and No. 9 (Manchester defensive end Hakeem Beamon) ranked recruits in the state. Ford picked Penn State over Virginia Tech in May.
The trio gives Penn State as many top 10 players from Virginia (seven) as Virginia Tech the last three years. Clemson, Ohio State and Notre Dame are the only other programs to sign multiple top 10 recruits out of Virginia since 2017.
Penn State’s obvious inroads into Virginia haven’t been a topic of discussion for Virginia Tech. The Hokies main focus is on their own messaging, and the coach Justin Fuente is confident in that approach.
“Well, we don’t put too much stock into what other people do,” Fuente said.
Fuente pointed to Virginia Tech’s continued success with instate recruits to illustrate how that message is resonating. The Hokies signed the No. 4 ranked recruit (Lloyd C. Bird receiver Jaden Payoute) from Virginia and No. 10 ranked recruit (Frank W. Cox receiver Tayvion Robinson) this year.
“I’m pretty excited about the kids from our state that decided to stay home,” Fuente said. “I think they’re a really talented group of guys that want to be here for the right reasons. We try and do things the way that we want to do them, and focus on the things that are important to us, and the good news is we have a great product to sell.”