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Penn State HC James Franklin Talks Process of Landing Julian Fleming

James Franklin and Penn State take on Ohio State in a top ten matchup.

The biggest Penn State football transfer portal addition this winter was a player PSU fans have wanted to see commit for years.

Julian Fleming was the No. 1 receiver in the country from the 2020 recruiting class and the No. 2 overall player.

He’s also a PA guy, having played at Southern Columbia High School in Catwissa, which is roughly an hour and a half from State College. 

Penn State coach James Franklin and co. pride themselves on landing the state’s top talent and the results speak for themselves. PA’s last three No. 1 players– Nicholas Singleton (Shillington), J’ven Williams (Wyomissing) and Quinton Martin (Belle Vernon) all committed to Penn State out of high school and signed.

But it didn’t happen that way for Fleming at first. 

Fleming didn’t pick Penn State out of high school, which disappointed PSU fans. 

Even worse, he signed with rival Ohio State.

But Fleming didn’t blossom into a superstar at Ohio State the way many expected, and this was largely due to an absurd amount of talent OSU recruited at that position. In his four seasons, Fleming’s teammates in the receivers’ room included first-round picks Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Jaxon-Smith Njigba. The current Buckeye team has a man named Marvin Harrison Jr., who many feel is the best player in the country, and Emeka Egbuka, who had more than 1,000 receiving yards in 2022. That’s also the year Fleming had his best statistical season, ending up with 533 yards and six touchdowns on 34 catches and helping Ohio State to its second consecutive College Football Playoff appearance, where it lost to Georgia in the semifinals. 

This past season, Fleming had 26 receptions for 270 yards and no touchdowns. 

In early December, Fleming hit the transfer portal, and instantly, Penn State fans and pundits alike started to talk. 

The receivers room was generally thought to be the biggest weakness during Penn State’s 2023 regular season. Aside from KeAndre Lambert-Smith (53 catches, 673 yards, four TDs), no Penn State WR had more than 246 yards. 

A few days into January, Fleming committed to Penn State.

Now, he’s signed an on campus, competing in winter workouts. 

At coach James Franklin’s winter availability, he talked for the first time about the process of landing Fleming.

He said the fact that Penn State recruited him in high school benefitted the program years later. 

“It’s a shorter amount of time for the players, parents and our staff to get to know each other,” Franklin said. “It’s a mad dash to figure those things out during a short period of time. 

Franklin also said Penn State has “a challenge that a lot of schools don’t.”

“We start about a week earlier than most schools for the spring semester, which that’s something I don’t think it’s talked about a whole lot. The schools that have a huge amount of time over their Christmas break for when their spring semester starts, they have a huge advantage in the transfer portal. 

“The earlier your school starts, the more challenging it is. Then you also see a lot of schools that have a ton of second-half classes. The last eight weeks of the semester they have a bunch of options that way, or online classes. We don’t have a lot of those things. If we can’t get guys accepted early and here, it’s going to be really challenging. Julian was a really good example.”

For Franklin, Fleming’s familiarity with Penn State helped make it the place for him, as well as him already knowing how to play in the Big Ten.

“Then obviously his ability to play in this league I think is helpful,” Franklin said. “He kind of understands what this league is all about. He also has an understanding about the (College Football) Playoffs, as well. I think those things are valuable. He’s an older guy, which I also think helps in that room.”

So how is Fleming doing at Penn State so far?

“Julian has done a really good job,” Franklin said. “Like most scenarios, whether it’s a job or a team you’re joining, I think the first thing you do is you kind of keep your mouth shut and your ears open and put your head down and go to work and earn everybody’s respect. Over time, gradually you start to become more vocal, if that’s part of your leadership style and personality. 

 I think he’s done a good job of that. I’ve heard really good reports from the strength staff, from the coaches and from the players probably most importantly. He’s done a good job with all those things. So far so good.”

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