Penn State football: James Franklin expected to steal Ohio State wide receiver

The Nittany Lions are desperate for wide receiver talent and they are projected to get one of the best receivers in the transfer portal.
Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Julian Fleming (4)
Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Julian Fleming (4) / Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

A few years ago, Ryan Day beat James Franklin and Penn State for the top wide receiver in the 2020 recruiting class, Julian Fleming. In four seasons at Ohio State, the Bloomsburg Pennsylvania native has amassed 79 catches for 963 yards and seven touchdowns playing in the shadow of Marvin Harrison Jr. Emeka Egbuka, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Garrett Wilson, and Chris Olave. 

Following the 2023 season, Fleming decided to enter his name into the transfer portal, and now, 247 Sports is projecting that he will sign with Penn State. Their experts have "crystal balled" him to the Nittany Lions which is the site's highest level of certainty. There is always a chance that things change, but it’s looking increasingly likely that the 2024 Penn State roster will have a new No. 1 wide receiver. 

The 6-foot-2 210-pound receiver never grew into the star that many expected when he was coming out of high school. He was like a sapling planted at the bottom of Redwood National Park, he just never had enough sunlight or water because the monsters planted next to him took up all the resources. 

During his four seasons, the Buckeyes produced three NFL first-round draft picks, and that number will jump to four this season when Marvin Harrison Jr. inevitably declares for the draft and is likely selected No. 3 overall behind the two stellar quarterbacks, Caleb Williams and Drake Maye. 

With Penn State's thin wide receiver room, this was a position of need in the transfer portal. That also means there will be ample opportunity for Fleming to make good on the projections of his talent level coming out of high school.

While Fleming did not get many targets he was willing to do the dirty work to earn snaps. In his 232 run-blocking snaps in 2023, he was Ohio State’s second-highest-graded run blocker by Pro Football Focus with a grade of 74.0, only behind offensive tackle Josh Fryar. 

As a receiver, he averaged 1.42 yards per route run despite an average target depth of 6.5 yards. Only KeAndre Lambert-Smith produced a higher y/rr among Penn State receivers and his ADOT was 9.6. 

His role will be completely different in Happy Valley if 247’s prediction holds true. He’ll be used much more often as a downfield receiver and could unlock his full potential like we saw Jameson Williams do at Alabama. 

Williams is the last big-time wide receiver to transfer from Ohio State and with the increase in targets, he became a first-round NFL draft pick after posting 1,572 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in his one season with the Crimson Tide. However, even if Fleming doesn’t have a breakout statistical season, he will still be a useful player to aid in the run game with his blocking. 

Fleming is considered one of the top receivers on the market this offseason, and Franklin needs to prove he’s capable of attracting big-time transfers if he ever wants to beat Ohio State again.

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