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Penn St. in top 5

Published March 19. 2014 05:00PM

This is now becoming more than just a fast start for a new coach.

James Franklin and staff have only been on the job at Penn State for a little more than two months, but they continue to piece together a rather dominating beginning to this 2015 recruiting class.

The latest verbal commitment comes from New Jersey's Juwan Johnson, a 6-foot-5, 205-pound receiver who is ranked among the top 25 at his position nationally.

Penn State already has eight commitments and five of them are of the elite four-star ranking, including Johnson, who had his pick of Ohio State, Michigan, Rutgers, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and others. He also reported a recent scholarship offer from Alabama.

"He can really stretch the field and he's not afraid to go over the middle," said Adam Friedman, a mid-Atlantic recruiting analyst with

And though it is early (more than 10 months until signing day), Penn State is ranked as high as No. 4 nationally in recruiting. It hasn't had this many four-star players (or higher) in an entire class since 2011.

The Lions' other elite commitments so far include tailbacks Saquon Barkley and Andre Robinson, offensive lineman Ryan Bates all in-state prospects as well as Maryland defensive end Kamonte Carter.

"It's not so much that Penn State is ranked in the top five, it's that Penn State is IDing high-level players and closing them out quickly," said Brian Dohn, a recruiting analyst with

As for Johnson, he could team well in years to come with another New Jersey native, 6-3, 210-pound receiver Saeed Blacknall.

Johnson began learning about Penn State years ago when his brother, George, was recruited by Joe Paterno's staff before picking Rutgers. George Johnson has been in the NFL since 2010.

Juwan Johnson first got to know of Franklin and his staff at Vanderbilt. Johnson (Glassboro High) is the sixth New Jersey recruit Penn State has landed since July.

"It started about January when the new staff came in," Johnson told "If you'd asked me if I wanted to go to Penn State last year, I would have probably said no, but the new staff really felt fresh and I wanted to be a part of it."

And then there's this factor: With sophomore Christian Hackenberg blossoming into one of the nation's top young quarterbacks, the Lions landed four standout receivers in last year's class, to go along with Johnson now.

"I think Hackenberg has played a crucial role in this," Dohn said. "If you're one of the marquee quarterbacks in your class, you can go to Juwan Johnson and say, 'Man, we really need you, you can play right away, and I'll get you the ball.

"Hackenberg is a great kid who has turned into a really good recruiter. Prospects really respond well to their peers."

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