NCF On The Trail: Chance Sorrell

Chance Sorrell stuck his finger in the air to hush his parents.

The Vanderbilt commit had waited for this phone call for close to two weeks. He had wandered the halls of Middletown (Ohio) High School and been stopped, several times, and asked by his teammates and teachers: "What's going on with your coach?" Back in early January, he didn't know where James Franklin would wind up -- or, by extension, where he would. No one did.

So, on the night of Jan. 11, he didn't want to miss the thrust of this phone call while his parents whispered in the background. It could determine his future. It could answer all the questions that raged inside the mind of the three-star offensive tackle. It could put an end to those difficult mornings waking up because it was so hard to fall asleep with this weighing on his mind.

So, on a Saturday night, when an unknown number flashed on his cell -- from Pennsylvania -- he leaped from the couch, muted the TV and sprinted along with his parents to the quieter kitchen. Franklin had been formally introduced as Penn State's head coach less than five hours earlier. It was 9 p.m. now.

And, sure enough, Franklin was on the other line.

Chance, we really like you and we want you to play here. And we're offering you a scholarship at Penn State --

Sorrell couldn't make out the last few words of Franklin's pitch because his parents, literally bouncing with excitement, whispered loudly: "Commit right now!" Sorrell pointed his finger toward his parents, as if to signify, "Just a second here."

When Franklin finished speaking, Sorrell's grin widened: "Yes, sir, I'm committing."

Can I take that as you committing to Penn State?


Sorrell had never before even stepped foot on campus, so Franklin asked him to repeat himself twice more. And then, his voice rising as it's wont to do when he gets excited, Franklin asked one final time: So, you're telling me that Chance Sorrell is committing to Penn State?

"It got to the point," Sorrell said with a laugh, "where I finally just said, 'I, Chance Sorrell, am committing to Penn State.' And I guess he had about 10 people in the room because they started cheering when I said that. I think he just wanted me to say it like that."

Sorrell was the first commit of Franklin's Penn State coaching career, and it came less than four hours after Franklin stepped off the dais inside Beaver Stadium -- while T-shirts emblazoned with Franklin's slogan of "Dominate the region" were still ideas in business owners' heads. Franklin had landed in Happy Valley on a twin-jet less than 11 hours before.

Sorrell's commitment would set off a chain of other pledges -- seven more in less than a month -- and he promised Tuesday night he'd scan and email in his letter of intent by 7 a.m. Wednesday.

For the 265-pound prospect, the decision was an easy one. Hours before Franklin's call, he sat at his kitchen table while his father sprawled out a three-inch deck of coaches' business cards and pulled one at a time to ask whether he was interested. Wake Forest, Bowling Green (his first offer) and Tennessee were tossed into the "yes" pile.

But as soon as Franklin offered, those business cards were cleared off the table for good. He trusted Franklin and, although he had been committed to Vanderbilt since June, he felt even more loyal to his coach.

A day after originally committing to the Commodores, a dejected Sorrell picked up the phone to inform his head coach he had torn his labrum. And, if Franklin needed to rescind the offer, he totally understood.

"He told me, 'Chance, you committed to me -- and I'm committed to you. Even if you don't play a single snap, you're graduating with a degree from Vanderbilt,'" Sorrell said.

"So, of course, I wanted to follow him at Penn State. It just seemed like a tremendous fit."

Sorrell has since visited Happy Valley. He stared in awe over the 107,000 seats in Beaver Stadium, took in the players' lounge ("Vanderbilt didn't actually have a players' lounge," he added) and envisioned himself playing on the practice field and lifting in the blue and white weight room.

His recruitment to Penn State started with a phone call and, well, really ended with that same phone call. There was no doubt in Sorrell's mind that he wanted to play for Franklin and, when he received the Penn State offer, he didn't even really need to hear Franklin's pitch to become Franklin's first Penn State commit.

"I'd follow him anywhere," Sorrell said. "And it just seemed like a tremendous fit with a prestigious collegiate program like Penn State."
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- James Franklin likes to tell recruits that he leaps out of bed at 4 a.m. and performs a back handspring.

That's an exaggeration, of course, a joke to give recruits an idea of his high-energy personality. But that also seems appropriate now, especially given how many flips he has produced from Vanderbilt's class to Penn State's.

He has flipped five pledges from his old school -- six, if defensive end Lloyd Tubman (Louisville, Ky./Seneca) sticks with PSU -- which is the second-most of this college football offseason. Only Washington's Chris Petersen possesses more (six), but he was hired in early December and boasted more than a month's head start.

Franklin has averaged more than a flip per week. And he also has reeled in eight hard verbals from eight different states in less than a month on the job. So his success has a lot of fans and fellow recruits shaking their heads and wondering just how he managed to achieve this so quickly.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
AP Photo/ John BealeJames Franklin's enthusiasm is a key to his recruiting success.
"It's kind of surprising how many of us really did follow, but it's not surprising," said three-star quarterback Trace McSorley (Ashburn, Va./Briar Woods), who initially committed to Vanderbilt in July. "It's just the kind of guy Coach Franklin is. He's energetic; that's the reason everyone wanted to go play for him at Vanderbilt."

In separate interviews, four of those flips told that energy is exactly what sold them on Franklin. He's the kind of coach who awoke on a recent Sunday morning and high-fived and hugged visiting recruits at breakfast. He speaks quickly and loudly, as if he perpetually just polished off a six-pack of Red Bull.

Three-star offensive tackle Chance Sorrell (Middletown, Ohio/Middletown) said that energy is a big reason for his relationship with Franklin. He recalled with a laugh the time an assistant told him how Franklin pulled alongside a Tennessee car sporting a Georgia Bulldogs flag. Franklin stepped out of his vehicle, knocked on the window -- and asked the driver what it would take for him to attend a Commodores game.

"The way he's involved, you can just tell he genuinely cares about all of his players and everyone he meets," said Sorrell, who flipped to Penn State five hours after Franklin was introduced as the head coach. "He's very persuasive. It doesn't matter where you're from; he'll make you want to play for him."

Sorrell's future teammate McSorley said he spoke to about 10 head coaches over the course of his recruitment, and none came close to matching Franklin's energy. That's Franklin's trademark, his signature, and it's what's helped fuel Franklin as the pied piper of Vanderbilt commits.

McSorley watched part of Franklin's introductory news conference, when he loudly proclaimed -- several times -- that he intended to "dominate the state" and "dominate the region" in recruiting. Franklin's hour-long talk impacted the fan base so much that it led to the instant creation of at least three T-shirts with his adopted slogans.

One of the few people who wasn't surprised? McSorley. He knew Penn State's new head coach wasn't in a good mood or wasn't "on" that day. "That's just how he is. That's exactly the person he is. All the time."

Added three-star offensive tackle Brendan Brosnan (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine Township South): "It's the way he carries himself, with all that energy. That energy shows he wants to be there, that he's giving it his all every day. It's contagious; his energy is contagious."

This isn't to say Franklin's energy, or even Franklin himself, is the sole reason for all these commitments, but it certainly seemed to play the largest role. A lot of these commits believe in Franklin's vision of Penn State reclaiming its spot as a national powerhouse.

Seven assistant coaches followed Franklin to Penn State because they believe that as well, and recruits also believe in the theory that because Franklin brought success to Vanderbilt, he certainly can do it at Penn State. Penn State has a bigger fan base and better facilities -- Vanderbilt doesn't even have a players' lounge -- and plays in a less competitive conference. It's a program that offensive line coach Herb Hand deemed as one of the 15 "haves" in a college football world of "have-nots."

"The biggest piece of advice people gave me during the recruiting process is don't commit to a coach, commit to a school," Brosnan said. "And I agree with that a little bit.

"But I think a coach, especially in Franklin's case, plays a large part. He played a large part in Vanderbilt's success and, the way I see it, the ceiling for success is higher at Penn State. It really is."

5 to watch: Big Ten signing day preview 

January, 21, 2014
Signing day is inching closer and closer, which means there are questions out there. The Big Ten has plenty of top targets remaining.

Here are five things to watch within the conference as signing day approaches:

Four-star DB flips from Penn State

January, 16, 2014
Only a few days after ESPN 300 defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) decommitted from Penn State, the Nittany Lions have lost another commitment.

Defensive back Troy Vincent Jr. (Baltimore, Md./Gilman) switched his commitment from Penn State to N.C. State on Thursday according to multiple reports.

The four-star prospect was the fifth highest-ranked commit for Penn State in the 2014 class and one of three defensive backs committed. Vincent Jr.’s decision leaves coach James Franklin with 20 commits and, despite not having a ton of time until signing day, there might still be plenty of options to fill that spot.

Defensive back Trent Sherfield (Danville, Ill./Danville) was a Vanderbilt commit under Franklin, decommitted after Franklin left for PSU, and now is expecting an in-school visit from the Penn State coaches on Friday.

Sherfield is already familiar with the coaching staff, and the three-star prospect would help fill the hole left by Vincent Jr.

Franklin has already flipped three Vanderbilt commits to Penn State in Chance Sorrell (Middletown, Ohio/Middletown), Lloyd Tubman (Louisville, Ky./Seneca) and Brendan Brosnan (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine Township South), so there might also be some familiarity for Sherfield with the recruits in Happy Valley.

The departure of Vincent Jr. is a big hit to the class, but it looks as though there will be options for Penn State.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

January, 13, 2014
We are almost out of the dead period, which ends on Jan. 15. That means things are starting to heat up for Big Ten teams on the recruiting trail. Here is a look at what happened throughout the conference this past week.

Biggest commitment:
Indiana landed ESPN 300 receiver Dominique Booth (Indianapolis/Pike), when he announced his decision on Jan. 7. Booth had been committed to Tennessee, but he decommitted and will now enroll early for the Hoosiers.

He is a big pickup for the Indiana offense and is a high ranking in-state prospect who coach Kevin Wilson and his staff are keeping home.

Nebraska also secured a wide receiver with Jariah Tolbert (New Orleans/Edna Karr) on Thursday. Tolbert joined his teammate, athlete Jaevon Walton, in Nebraska’s 2014 class.

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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

January, 13, 2014

As the last weekend before the dead period comes to an end, there is still plenty of recruiting news throughout the Southeastern Conference. Vanderbilt suffered through a difficult weekend, there were a few important commitments and some key prospects backed off their pledges. Here’s a closer look at the top recruiting news around the SEC:

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Penn State flips two Vandy commits 

January, 11, 2014
James Franklin is not wasting time as head coach of Penn State. The boisterous coach said at his introduction press conference that he would dominate the region in recruiting and he is already off to a great start.

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Vandy wins battle for TE Chance Sorrell

June, 26, 2013
Three-star tight end Chance Sorrell (Middletown, Ohio/Middletown) is set to play in the SEC for Vanderbilt, according to multiple reports.

Boston College, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Indiana, Kent State, Louisville, Middle Tennessee, Ohio and West Virginia also extended scholarship offers to the 6-foot-5, 245-pound prospect.

The Commodores have nine verbals for 2014. Their class is currently ranked 26th by ESPN RecruitingNation.

Chance Sorrell has two teams on top 

February, 19, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Chance Sorrell's (Middletown, Ohio/Middletown) trip to Florida State on Saturday probably wasn't a comfortable ride.

The giant 6-foot-5, 225-pound 2014 tight end and his family elected to go the road trip route instead of flying. But Sorrell said it was worth it.

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