How the 5 highest rated recruits of James Franklin's tenure panned out at Penn State

Franklin scores impressive grades with notable failures and a questionable incomplete.
Penn State v Memphis
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Entering his 11th season in the shadows of Mount Nittany, James Franklin has had some major recruiting wins that have ranked him amongst the best recruiters in the nation. As with anyone who is a top recruiter like Franklin, you have a mixture of recruiting wins that elevated the program and some recruiting wins you want to forget about. 

Here are the marks Franklin has earned on his top recruiting victories:

No. 5 Brandon Smith

Recruiting Profile: 

  • Linebacker
  • Louisa County HS  (Mineral, VA)
  • 247Sports Composite Five-star
  • Rated as top overall prospect in the state of Virginia and the nation’s top inside linebacker in the Class of 2019. Overall, 247Sports rated Smith the No. 19 overall recruit in their composite.

Recruiting Expectations:

Many felt Smith was going to be the heir apparent to Micah Parsons at linebacker and be the next great linebacker at Linebacker U. Former 247Sports Scouting Director Barton Simmons’ scouting report, said of Smith, “will develop into an impact Power Five starter over time and has tools to become a first-round NFL Draft pick.”


Smith never materialized as a worthy successor to Parsons, and would even struggle to make an all-time Top 50 at “Linebacker U.” Smith earned third team Coaches recognition on the 2021 All-Big Ten team. In perspective, Ellis Brooks, who had a less heralded prep career and was rated as a three-star in the Class of 2017, was selected by conference coaches to be on the second team.

. Brandon Smith. Smith. D.

Smith had the physical traits and displayed the athleticism and instincts that had analysts marvel - notably Matt Millen. Millen on many Big Ten Network telecasts would explain you can’t teach or develop those skills at the next level. While Millen was correct, there was something a miss that never materialized for Smith. While it was a great recruiting win for Franklin, the results at Penn State did not match the immortal prep accolades Smith had.