National Signing Day, Franklin, Pry

Penn State football head coach James Franklin talks with defensive coordinator Brent Pry during National Signing Day in the 'war room' at the Lasch Football Building on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017.

James Franklin’s 2022 recruiting class is shaping up to be one of the best of his head coaching career.

With seven 4-stars already committed, the Nittany Lions currently sit as the No. 6 recruiting class in the nation, according to 247Sports.

While 11 hard commits in June is a great spot to be in for any program, the blue and white is nowhere close to putting a bow on this incoming recruiting class.

If Franklin wants to finish with a top-five recruiting class for the first time in his career — or hold a spot in the top-10 for the first time since 2018 — then there are a few guys he must lock up.

Here’s a breakdown of four targets Penn State needs to land in order to return to College Football Playoff contention for years to come.

Keon Sabb, S

The Nittany Lions have landed a top-100 defensive back each year since Lamont Wade joined the program in 2017.

Now that Wade has moved on to the NFL, the blue and white need a new anchor in the defensive backfield.

Joey Porter Jr. seems to be a safe project piece in pass coverage, but Franklin desperately needs a physically gifted athlete who can do it all on defense.

See no further than Keon Sabb: a 6-foot-2, 200-pound defensive back from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida — the same school 4-star Penn State commit Drew Shelton attends.

With Sabb’s unique build and range, he could fill Wade’s shoes and then some as early as his first year on campus.

It’s also worth mentioning that Sabb would be Penn State’s first 5-star recruit since Brandon Smith in 2019.

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Dani Dennis-Sutton, DL

Some say building a strong interior is the first step to winning football games.

With a top offensive line recruit already committed in Drew Shelton, it’s time Franklin gets back to the drawing board to rebuild his once-dominant defensive line.

Just two years ago, Penn State was rolling with a rotation of three NFL-level defensive ends in Yetur Gross-Matos, Shaka Toney and Odafe Oweh.

Now, there are questions surrounding who will be next to take the torch as the next great Nittany Lion edge rusher.

These questions could all be answered with a commitment from one Dani Dennis-Sutton.

Listed as a 4-star on 247Sports, Dennis-Sutton’s recruitment is gaining momentum. His rankings are too, as he’s now listed as a 5-star on Rivals.

At 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, Dennis-Sutton is a physically imposing specimen. He is built almost exactly like Gross-Matos but only just finished his junior year of high school.

Dennis-Sutton is literally “built different” and could revolutionize Penn State’s edge.

Nicholas Singleton, RB

After Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders glided through the Penn State program straight to the NFL, it was looking like the blue and white was on pace to become the next RBU.

However, two years have passed since Sanders was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles, and it’s looking like Franklin could use his next NFL-level running back.

Having been compared to Barkley by Penn State quarterback commit Beau Pribula, Nicholas Singleton seems like he can easily be that guy for the Nittany Lions.

With an official visit already in the books, Singleton has spent quality time with Franklin and the offensive staff.

The No. 2-ranked player in Pennsylvania, Singleton is a key in-state recruit who could see the field in bunches as a freshman.

Keenan Nelson Jr.

On June 5, 4-star cornerback Keenan Nelson Jr. took an unofficial visit to Happy Valley. A week later, he was back — this time visiting officially.

If one thing is evident, it’s that Nelson Jr. seems to want to be a Nittany Lion.

As a Philadelphia native and playing his high school ball at St. Joseph’s Prep, Nelson Jr. wouldn’t have to travel too far to play for the Nittany Lions.

Like Sabb, Nelson Jr. could transform Penn State’s secondary.

As the No. 3-ranked player in Pennsylvania, Nelson Jr.'s commitment would make the 2022 recruiting class an in-state bounce back after Franklin missed out on key in-state recruits in 2021.

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