Penn State recruiting: Running backs react to staff changes; James Franklin makes international visit

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Stay updated as Penn State rises toward the top of the recruiting rankings! Don’t miss the coverage from Tyler Donohue, who brings a decade of experience as a national college football reporter and recruiting department staff member with a Big Ten program. Read his daily notebooks here at 7:20 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, and follow us on Twitter for the latest Nittany Lions recruiting news.


RB targets react to reported departure of Charles Huff

On Wednesday, we focused on how Penn State commits responded to news that Joe Moorhead would no longer serve as Nittany Lions offensive coordinator. Now, we shift focus to the latest staff development and how it may impact recruiting efforts.

Penn State running backs coach/special teams coordinator Charles Huff will reportedly follow Moorhead to Mississippi State as assistant head coach and co-offensive coordinator. Huff has served on James Franklin’s staff since 2014, and the two previously worked together at Maryland and Vanderbilt.

Along with his role as a trusted voice in player personnel and strategic matters, Huff has been a valuable recruiter at Penn State. He is routinely mentioned in a positive light while discussing the recruitment process with Nittany Lions commits and targets.

Considering his oversight of the running back position, those recruits entered the spotlight Thursday while attempting to gauge the impact of Huff’s potential departure.

Naturally, attention turned toward Penn State pledge Ricky Slade. The C.D. Hylton (Woodbridge, Va.) High School senior and his father, Ricky Slade Sr., didn’t stay silent on the subject.

“Ricky’s still 100-percent committed to Penn State,” Slade Sr. told Michael Clark of 247Sports. “The thing about James Franklin and his staff is that they recruit as a staff. Ricky has a great relationship with Coach Franklin and [wide receivers] coach (Josh) Gattis — and really the whole staff. … We’re extremely happy for Coach Huff. He deserves it.”

Slade Sr. added there is no intention to schedule any visits elsewhere. Then, following the publication of those comments, Ricky weighed in and doubled down.

He quote-tweeted a headline that mentioned his 100-percent commitment, adding one simple phrase that should put the minds of Penn State fans at ease.

“And it’s staying that way,” Slade wrote.

It’s huge for Franklin & Co. to get this handled so swiftly, as Slade is among the gems of Penn State’s 2018 recruiting class. The Under All-American collected 2,785 all-purpose yards and 40 total TDs in 13 games as a senior (highlights below).

Examining this situation with high school juniors, Jordan Houston has been on Penn State’s target board since July 2016. The Nittany Lions presented his first scholarship offer, though opportunities have since arrived from schools such as Boston College, Tennessee and Virginia Tech.

Houston actually came into contact with Huff on Wednesday at the Flint Hill School (Oakton, Va.). The news that he may be on his way to Mississippi State took him by complete surprise.

“He just came by my school yesterday. He didn’t tell me he was leaving though,” Houston said. “That is crazy though. I can’t believe that. I don’t really know what I’m going to do.”

The son of a Penn State graduate, Houston enjoyed a dominant junior campaign. He rushed for 1,971 yards (11.9 per carry) and 25 touchdowns, according to MaxPreps, adding 342 receiving yards and 4 scoring receptions while leading his team to an 11-0 record.

Along with Houston, Keilan Robinson (Washington, D.C.) and Devyn Ford (Stafford, Va.) — a teammate of 2018 Penn State offensive tackle commit Nana Asiedu — are key names to know at running back in the 2019 cycle.

RELATED: 2018 Penn State recruiting big board

The Nittany Lions didn’t take long to make a strong impression on Chris Tyree, the top-ranked running back in 247Sports 2020 rankings. The Thomas Dale (Chester, Va.) High School sophomore picked up a Penn State offer June 11 and shortly before this season he explained the paramount presence of Huff in his recruitment.

“I’ve been talking to Coach Huff probably more than anybody else,” Tyree said in August. “I feel like he’s a really cool, down-to-earth person, but when it’s time to work he’ll push you. I saw that when I went to camp for just one day, and I think that’s why the running backs there are so successful. He pushes them so much, but at the same time he’ll care for them when they need him.”

His father Richard Tyree spoke with Land of 10 on Thursday afternoon about how the family plans to handle both this reported coaching change and the many ahead that will impact a widespread recruitment still in its early stages.

“One thing we are trying to teach Chris is to fall in love with a school as well as have a good relationship with coaches,” Richard said. “He is so young that there will be several coaching changes at a lot of different schools before it is time for him to commit. No matter what happens we will be patient, keep a close eye and then hopefully when the time is right, Chris will find the perfect fit for him. Academically and athletically.”

Richard Tyree added it’s important to look at the big picture when these things happen.

“That is great news for Coach Huff,” he said. “He is a great coach and even better person. Hopefully the new [Penn State] staff will still think highly of Chris the same way the current coaching staff does. Great things happen to great coaches.”

Tyree rushed for 1,113 yards (10.2 per carry) and 10 touchdowns this season, according to MaxPreps. He added 55 tackles and 4 interceptions on defense, scoring 3 times on defense and special teams.

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Chris Tyree is considered one of the premier talents among 2020 prospects. (Student Sports/Courtesy)

James Franklin travels to Canada for visit with recruit’s family

We mentioned earlier this week the Penn State staff is spending several days traveling across America. Clearly, that was too small of a scope.

Franklin journeyed to Ontario, Canada, on Thursday. He crossed international borders for some personal time with the family of 4-star linebacker Jesse Luketa.

Luketa, who attends Mercyhurst Prep (Erie, Pa.), pledged to Penn State in February and will enroll early at the university in January. His mother, Rose, shared a photo of the meeting in Ottawa:

Franklin, who began this week in Texas before traveling through the Midwest, has developed a track record with Canadian recruits at Penn State. Luketa will make it three consecutive Nittany Lions classes with a transplant from Canada, joining safety Jonathan Sutherland and defensive end Daniel Joseph.

Penn State is targeting another Canadian, receiver John Metchie, in the 2019 recruiting cycle.

Luketa, considered a 2018 Nittany Lions class leader, appreciated the effort Franklin invested Thursday to spend time with his family.

“Means a lot to me,” he said. “Franklin’s biggest thing is family. That’s what our entire class is and that’s what the entire football program is based upon.”

Things got even better for Luketa later in the day, as Franklin flew back to Pennsylvania for a visit with the future Nittany Lion. This time, he was joined by Penn State defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Brent Pry and offensive line coach Matt Limegrover.

“Having him make the trip to Ottawa and fly directly to see me shows how invested [Franklin] is,” Luketa said.

Miss any previous editions of our daily Penn State recruiting notebook? You can find them all here.

The post Penn State recruiting: Running backs react to staff changes; James Franklin makes international visit appeared first on Land of 10.

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