James Franklin completely replenished one of Penn State’s most depleted position groups in one offseason

With Monday's commitment from four-star cornerback Jahmir Joseph, Penn State has completely rectified its issues in the secondary and replaced Kalen King, Johnny Dixon, and Daequan Hardy who all left for the NFL.
Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin
Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Penn State Nittany Lions and new defensive coordinator Tom Allen came into the 2024 offseason with a noticeable hole at cornerback. Kalen King, Daequan Hardy, and Johnny Dixon left Happy Valley for the NFL and Cam Miller struggled mightily with his starting opportunity in the Peach Bowl. 

Now, after Monday’s commitment, less than six months removed from the Peach Bowl debacle, the shelves have been restocked. The Nittany Lions landed four-star cornerback from New Jersey, Jahmir Jones as the 15th verbal commitment to their 2025 high school recruiting class. This addition came exactly one week after Franklin and Allen landed Daryus Dixson a California four-star corner who is even more highly regarded. 

For many programs in college football, even some of the best of the past few seasons, the transfer portal has become just as important for team-building as high school recruiting. Penn State is not one of those programs. 

Yet, Franklin brought in two impact cornerbacks as a part of his six-player transfer class, Jalen Kimber from Florida and A.J. Harris from Georgia. That break from standard operating procedure said everything about his coaching staff’s assessment of the cornerbacks on the roster. Franklin used the portal to plug the hole for next season with two SEC-caliber players on the outside but with Kimber entering his final year of eligibility, more needed to be done. 

The 2024 recruiting class features four-star Jon Mitchell, who should blossom into an impact player in the secondary early, but three-star freshmen Kenneth Woseley and Antoine Belgrave-Shorter project as long-term developmental projects. The Nittany Lions needed to prioritize the position in 2025 and as long as both Joseph and Dixson put pen to paper this winter, they’ve done about as well as possible. 

There was stiff competition for Joseph who took official visits to Notre Dame and Stanford this summer and was fielding offers from Auburn and Rutgers. He still has a visit scheduled for this upcoming weekend at South Carolina, so this verbal commitment coming out of his trip to Happy Valley last weekend, is a huge sigh of relief. 

The transfer portal and NIL era have been difficult for Penn State to navigate. Its coaching staff has yet to fully embrace the portal and the NIL opportunities in central Pennsylvania haven’t quite measured up to other Big Ten contenders. The inactivity at other positions of need reflects those struggles and amplifies the fanbase's frustration, but the aggressiveness at cornerback this offseason has been a refreshing reminder that when Franklin identifies a problem he has the resources and recruiting chops to fix it and fix it quickly.