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Smeltzer: Penn State Fans don’t Need to Worry About NIL yet

Penn State Head Coach James Franklin

The Name, Image and Likeness phenomenon is a big deal, and Penn State, along with every college football program with the necessary resources, needs to have a plan of attack regarding NIL.

Without one, schools risk falling behind in recruiting, the transfer portal and in the win column.

Penn State coach James Franklin knows this and made it clear that he knows it Wednesday afternoon on the team’s practice field outside Holuba Hall.

“It needs to be now,” Franklin told reporters. “It needs to be yesterday. The long haul in college football, college football has changed probably more in the last five years than it has in maybe the previous 20. NIL is not long haul. We’ve got to do everything we possibly can to put Penn State in the best position this season.”

How much will it cost?

“More than the numbers you’ve heard,” Franklin said.

A number that people have heard is $13 million, which Ohio State coach Ryan Day said would be the cost for his program to keep its roster intact consistently.

Regardless of the exact figure, the number will be high, and Penn State needs to be ready.

But what I’m confused about is why Penn State fans, at least on Twitter, are worried about Penn State’s NIL commitment.

To be sure, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about Penn State football. Franklin’s program is 11-11 over its past two seasons and hasn’t won the Big Ten east since 2016, which is the peak of Franklin’s tenure.

Many criticize Franklin’s on-field decision (that fake field goal against Michigan, anyone?)

Franklin’s ability to accumulate talent, however, shouldn’t be one of those concerns.

The fact that Penn State had more NFL draft picks in 2022 (eight) than wins in 2021 (seven) says a lot of things, both good and bad, about Franklin and the program.

One of the good things it says is that Penn State knows how to recruit and develop players.

Whether it’s a traditional recruit like Jahan Dotson (16th overall pick), a Divison I transfer like Arnold Ebiketie (second-round pick) or a junior college transfer like Jaquan Brisker (second-round pick), Franklin’s staff knows how to coach players to reach their full potential at Penn State.

As for bringing in high school recruits, few head coaches do it better than Franklin. Penn State finished 2022 with the sixth-ranked class according to 247Sports’ composite rankings, and the 2023 class might be even better, currently ranking third.

So why are Penn State fans worried about NIL? In defense of the cynics, Franklin has let on in the past that the program hasn’t been as aggressive as it should be, and it’s also June, where there isn’t all that much to talk about regarding Penn State football.

Maybe the day will come when Penn State falls behind and suffers in recruiting because of it. But there’s no evidence that suggests that day is here yet. So, for now, Penn State fans can relax and assume that the school’s wide network of alumni and boosters will spend whatever is needed.

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