Examining Penn State Football’s ROI from 2018 recruiting Class

Wide receiver Justin Shorter #6 of the Penn State Nittany Lions (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Wide receiver Justin Shorter #6 of the Penn State Nittany Lions (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /
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Penn State Football’s 2018 recruiting class was ranked 6th in the nation at the time, now three years later let’s examine to hits and misses of coach Franklin’s best class.

National Signing Day has come and gone and Penn State Football’s 2021 recruiting class is signed, sealed and delivered. According to 247sports, the Nittany Lions‘ class ranks 21st in the nation which would be head coach James Franklin‘s worst class since his arrival in Happy Valley.

With the arrival of his lowest ranked class, it got us thinking about the 2018 recruiting cycle, a Penn State Football class that ranked No. 6 in the nation according to 247sports, Franklin’s highest ranked class.

That freshman class came on the heels of a 2016 season where the Nittany Lions won the Big Ten Title and played in a Rose Bowl, and a 2017 season highlighted by a Fiesta Bowl Victory and well, Saquon Barkley.

At the time, the sixth ranked class of 2018 looked to be a turning point for the program, proving Franklin could recruit at the most elite level and compete with the likes of Alabama and Ohio State. That did not necessarily materialize however, as the next years’ classes were ranked 12th and 15th respectively.

The step back to 2021, this cycle has a lot of fans worried about the future of this program, especially coming off a 4-5 season.

However, the 2018 class, for all its praise, had a number of big misses for Franklin’s staff, a reminder that stars matter, but they are not the only thing.

Now three season’s later, lets take a deep dive into the Return On Investment of that infamous 2018 class, and whether or not it is fair to wonder if Franklin and this program should have gotten more out of that talent pool.

Misses, home runs, honorable mentions and what it means:


1. WR Justin Shorter

Wide receiver Justin Shorter was as highly touted a recruit as they come, a five-star prospect ranked No. 8 in the entire nation coming out of New Jersey, and the No. 2 ranked recruit of Franklin’s 2018 class.

Shorter, with a six-foot-4 and 220 pound frame looked NFL ready coming out of high school and looked to be one of those cornerstone pieces that any national championship team has; just an absolute freak, built from the Julio Jones cloth.

However, Shorter is undoubtedly the biggest bust of the 2018 class, but all the blame is certainly not to be placed on his shoulders. In his two seasons with Penn State Football, he caught 15 passes for 157 yards with zero touchdowns.

Shorter was listed as a starter in his sophomore season in 2019, however, after an injury in Week 4 against Maryland he seemingly lost his job to Daniel George. Even when he was playing, it seemed offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne had a hard time incorporating him into the mix.

Considering the other two starters, KJ Hamler and Jahan Dotson were both under six-foot, it is hard to imagine the Nittany Lions offense could not make use of Shorter’s six-foot-four body, even if just in the red zone or on fade routes for him to go up and get it. He struggled to get seperation and seemed to not be quick in and out of breaks though, which is why the blame goes both ways.

Shorter entered the transfer portal and ended up in Gainesville with the Florida Gators, where last season he caught 25 passes for 268 yards and three scores. In their bowl game, even with three starting receivers not playing and Heisman hopeful quarterback Kyle Trask, Shorter caught two passes and was not a difference maker.

Penn State Football should have found a way to put his skills and frame to use, however if he fails to catch on in Florida, it may be nobody’s fault but his.