Franklin, Nittany Lions announce 2016 signing class

Tony Mancuso
February 03, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin and the Penn State staff celebrated the signing of a third-straight top-25 recruiting class with the formal announcement of 20 signees for 2016 inside the Lasch Football Building on Wednesday.

"You really want this process to be about relationships and about the things that we think it should be about, which is getting a world-class education and surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals that want to go on and be really, really successful," said Franklin. "So it's been fun. It's been crazy and looking forward to getting these guys on campus so we can continue to build on the foundation that their parents have laid and help these guys mature and leave here as educated men and prepared for life."

Franklin walked into the Lasch Building just after 6 a.m. ready for the signing day festivities to begin. The entire football staff congregated inside the building before 6:30 a.m. with an eye on the fax machine just outside the door Franklin's second-story office.

The first signed letter of intent arrived just after 7 a.m., with offensive lineman Will Fries taking the honor of sending the first letter of intent in to Penn State on signing day. Defensive lineman Shane Simmons followed quickly after.

Signing day emcee Jevin Stone (Penn State Football video coordinator) emerged from behind a blue curtain, walked to a podium in the Penn State war room and introduced the signing of Simmons to a rousing cheer from approximately 70 staff members and supporters.

Simmons' biography magnet was placed on the Penn State Signing Day "Big Board" at 7:13 a.m., with Fries and linebacker Cameron Brown and defensive lineman Antonio Shelton following to begin the celebration on an exciting day for Nittany Lion football.

As the 16 letters of intent were approved on Wednesday, each signee had his own announcement.  Additionally, the four early enrollees who are already on campus were part of the announcement ceremony. The announcements included the signees and their families, who called in via FaceTime and were then projected on big screens inside the war room to watch the festivities.

Representatives from across campus and the football staff participated in the announcement process on Wednesday morning. The list included former Nittany Lion greats Matt McGloin and Wally Richardson, coaches Rob Cooper (baseball), Guy Gadowsky (men's hockey), Erica Walsh (women's soccer), Deputy Athletic Director Phil Esten, Senior Associate Athletic Director Rick Kaluza, the Blue Band, cheerleaders, Nittanyville and THON representatives.

Franklin and the staff could not have been prouder to make the announcement of all 20 signees in another strong recruiting class tabbed as the third-best in the Big Ten.

The 2016 class features 12 signees ranked as a five-star or four-star prospect by at least one of the four major recruiting outlets. The class includes two five-star prospects -- offensive lineman Michal Menet and running back Miles Sanders -- for the first time since 2006 (AJ Wallace and Maurice Evans). During the last two recruiting classes, Penn State has signed 21 prospects tabbed as either four or five-star signees. In the three years prior to 2014, Penn State signed a total of 11.

"We recruit every single one of these guys with the mentality they're going to come in and play and impact the roster and play as freshmen," said Franklin. "The guys that aren't ready, we'll have those conversations with them. It has to do with them. It has to do with our depth. It has to do with their physical maturity, their emotional maturity, and their ability to pick up the playbooks on offense, defense and special teams."

There are 10 defensive players, eight offensive players and two specialists in the class. The positional breakdown includes one quarterback, one running back, one wide receiver, four offensive linemen and one tight end on offense. On defense, the class includes seven defensive linemen, one linebacker and two defensive backs. Punter Blake Gillikin and kicker Alex Barbir comprise the specialists.

The class includes 16 signees from within a 350-mile radius of State College. There are eight states represented in the class, including five signees from Pennsylvania and Maryland, three from Ohio, two from Georgia and one from Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Virginia. According to Rivals, the Penn State class featured three out of the top six prospects out of Pennsylvania, including the top-ranked prospect in Sanders.

"I would make the argument that every year that we want to obviously do a great job of recruiting the state of Pennsylvania," said Franklin. "That's very, very important to us, and the region."

The football staff put in a tremendous amount of effort to secure the class, seemingly since National Signing Day in February of 2015. Following a few days off this weekend, recruiting will continue almost immediately for the 2017 recruiting class. For now, though, the Nittany Lions will celebrate the addition of 20 new members of the football family.

Complete coverage of Penn State's National Signing Day 2016 can be found at

Last Updated February 26, 2016