Penn State football: Grading James Franklin’s past transfer portal additions by year

The best teams in the country are dominating the transfer portal. James Franklin isn't, is that why Penn State isn't one of the best teams in the country?

Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Dante Cephas (3)
Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Dante Cephas (3) / Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
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The best programs in the country don’t just have a great base on their roster from high school recruiting, they also dominate the transfer portal. Three of the four Heisman Trophy finalists were transfers. Despite consecutive seasons with double-digit wins, Penn State hasn’t gotten that same impact from the portal. 

This week, James Franklin made his first addition in the transfer portal, signing offensive tackle Alan Herron from DII Shorter University in Georgia. Herron figures to factor into the starting group up front, but it remains to be seen if he will successfully make the jump from DII to the Big Ten. 

Penn State will no doubt add other talent in the portal this offseason, but will it be enough to get the Nittany Lions over the hump in the Big Ten? So far in the transfer portal era Franklin hasn’t quite gotten it right in the offseason, at least not as right as his biggest competitors. 

Franklin was not busy in the early years of the portal and even in 2020, he didn’t bring any transfers into Happy Valley. So, we’ll grade the last three seasons 2021, 2022, and 2023 and analyze if Franklin is doing enough in December to help his team with next November. 

Penn State Transfer Portal Grades. B-. Incoming: 7. Outgoing: 15. 2021

Transfers:

  • John Lovett, RB (Baylor)
  • Arnold Ebiketie, DL (Temple)
  • Johnny Dixon, DB (South Carolina)
  • Derrick Tangelo, DT (Duke)
  • A.J. Lytton, S (FSU)
  • Eric Wilson, IOL (Harvard)

On the defensive side of the ball, Franklin did well in this 2021 cycle. Arnold Ebiketie was the crown jewel of the class and finished 2021 with 9.5 sacks and 62 total tackles. He was the team’s only pass-rushing threat, which is a big reason why the Nittany Lions went 7-6 and played in the Outback Bowl. 

Derrick Tangelo had two sacks and 29 tackles from the defensive line but wasn’t a major impact player for the 2021 team. Johnny Dixon actually ended up being the more important player, but he was a long-term addition, who just finished up his final year of eligibility as the starting corner opposite Kalen King and is headed to the NFL draft. 

On offense, Franklin whiffed. John Lovett carried the ball 52 times for an underwhelming 177 yards and no touchdowns. He only averaged 3.4 yards per carry. Eric Wilson was the biggest get on that side of the ball. He played 825 snaps at left guard and only allowed 17 pressures and two sacks. 

The fact that Wilson played a rock-solid left guard in 2021 helps the grade of this transfer portal class considerably, but I couldn’t go higher, especially considering Franklin let Will Levis leave for Kentucky and subjected fans to two more seasons of Sean Clifford.