James Franklin and Penn State attempting to flip four-star Ohio State edge rusher commit

James Franklin hasn't recruited Pennsylvania very well for the 2025 high school class, but he has a chance to turn it around this weekend.
Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin
Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin / Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch / USA

The best in PA stay in PA, at least that’s the message that James Franklin has attempted to spread as his Big Ten rivals routinely pillage the top talent in Pennsylvania. However, this time, Franklin appears to be fighting back on the recruiting battlefield, hosting Ohio State four-star edge rusher commit Zahir Mathis on an official visit to Happy Valley this weekend. 

According to 247Sports, Mathis is the No. 3 player in Pennsylvania, and Rivals ranks Mathis as the No. 35 player in the entire country. As a junior, the 6-foot-6 225-pound defensive end helped lead Imhotep Charter in Philadelphia to the 5A State Championship game. Despite his commitment on January 10, when he was the No. 1 ranked player in PA, Franklin has stayed involved in Mathis’s recruitment process and this weekend could be his last chance to flip Mathis and lend some credence to his currently baseless slogan. 

Matt Zollers, the No. 1 player in PA, and one of the best high school quarterbacks in the country is heading from central Pennsylvania to Missouri, Mathis intends to be a Buckeye, St. Joseph’s prep defensive lineman Maxwell Roy is likely heading to Michigan and his teammates Cameron Smith and Isaiah West are committed to Duke and Ohio State respectively. Dayshaun Burnett, the No. 9 player in Pennsylvania is currently the highest-ranked player planning to play for the Nittany Lions. 

If Franklin can land four-star tight end and the No. 2 player in the state Andrew Olesh, who was in Happy Valley for his official visit last weekend, and flip Mathis, then home-state supremacy will be restored. However, convincing Mathis to play his college football at Beaver Stadium when Penn State’s last win over the Buckeyes was in 2016, could be a tough task.

When Mathis originally announced his commitment in January, Tom Allen had just recently been put in place as defensive coordinator and Abdul Carter had just been moved to edge rusher. There was a lot up in the air on that side of the ball, potentially too much for Mathis to pick Penn State. Since then, Ohio State has retained J.T. Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer at defensive edge in Jim Knowles's defense, so the path to playing time in Columbus may be much longer.