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
Penn State v Memphis / Benjamin Solomon/GettyImages
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No. 1 Micah Parsons

Recruiting Profile: 

  • Weak Side Defensive End
  • Harrisburg HS  (Harrisburg, PA)
  • 247Sports Composite Five-star
  • Rated as top overall prospect in the state of Pennsylvania and the nation’s No. 2 weak side defensive end in the Class of 2018. Overall, 247Sports rated Parsons the No. 5 overall recruit in their composite.

Recruiting Expectations:

Around 2018, James Franklin was establishing himself as a top-level recruiter, but he had to pass one final in-state test.

As Parsons became a bigger name, Ohio State had a full-court press for him and the EDGE rushers they were sending to the NFL were going No. 1 overall in the draft. There were ghosts of Bishop McDevitt’s Noah Spence, who ended up at Ohio State in the Class of 2012. As it got closer, Oklahoma became a viable competitor.

When Parsons made his announcement about wanting to stay home, it was Penn State’s biggest recruiting commitment since Derrick Williams, who was the No. 1 overall recruit in the Class of 2005. With the 2018 class having so much high-end talent, many thought this was the class to put Penn State over the top.


Parsons was a star from Day 1 and lived up to the great expectations in his abbreviated career at Penn State. Earning Freshman All-American in 2018 and was a Consensus All-American in 2019, he finished his Penn State career with 192 career tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks.

Micah Parson. INC. . . Micah Parson

In a lot of ways, this is a glass half-empty and half-full grade. How you view the glass is how you grade Parsons. Parsons is Franklin’s greatest NFL export as he is a perennial Defensive Player of the Year threat for the Dallas Cowboys and invokes comparisons to New York Giants immortal Lawrence Taylor.

If you view Parsons' career complete, this is an easy A+ to assign because of how dominant he was over his 26 games as a linebacker at Penn State. I look at how Parsons was used in the Cotton Bowl against Memphis coming off the EDGE and absolutely terrorizing the Tigers backfield. Parsons had an epic day having 14 total tackles, three TFLs, two sacks, and two forced fumbles. In my mind, Parsons' career at Penn State will forever be incomplete and it's not Franklin’s fault, COVID-19 turned the world upside down and the Nittany Lions weren’t immune.

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