Penn State will head to the Citrus Bowl later this month with two players, freshman defensive lineman Judge Culpepper and senior corner Amani Oruwariye, who grew up in Florida, and a receiver, freshman K.J. Hamler, who played high school ball there at IMG Academy.
The Lions have been working to up their Florida recruiting game in recent years, and the roster offers just one piece of evidence in that regard. There’s also first-year assistant coach Ja’Juan Seider, who is an ace recruiter in the Sunshine State and has already netted one commit, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., four-star receiver John Dunmore, from his key recruiting territory in this cycle.
NCAA recruiting rules forbid coaches from having contact with recruits in-person after Dec. 16, and so Dunmore nor any other Florida prospect will get to shake hands with head coach James Franklin, Seider, or any other member of the Nittany Lions’ coaching staff when they touch down in Orlando to prep for the Jan. 1 contest opposite No. 14 Kentucky.
That said, can the Lions still use the location of the game to their advantage?
“Probably not as impactful as you’d think, because it makes it difficult with a lot of the recruiting rules to have much of an impact,” Franklin said.
“Most games for us are nationally televised, so whether you’re close to [the recruits] or far away, as long as people can see you play, I think that’s probably the biggest thing that has an impact, but obviously Florida is an area that we’re trying to make a bigger push in.
The Lions will play on national television one final time, as ABC is carrying the bowl matchup. According to 247Sports, the program has offers out to 30 Florida prospects in this cycle, the most of any state, and they’ve already offered 24 players there in the Class of 2020, making it the only state with double-digit prospect offers out already.
Penn State will continue to look to add talent from the south, and Florida figures to be a big part of it, regardless of how the Citrus Bowl impacts things in the end.
“I don’t think it hurts being in Florida and playing an SEC opponent, but I don’t know if it’s as impactful as everyone thinks,” Franklin said.