Penn State helicopter recruiting targets two Franklin football prospects

It's not every day a helicopter lands near a high school football field to drop off a major college football coach on a recruiting trip.

Thursday afternoon, Penn State coach James Franklin made such a splashy entrance at Woodlawn to see a couple of Franklin's top prospects. While recruiting by helicopter is nothing new for the Nittany Lions coach, it was something new for the Franklin high school players he was there to see.

Indians coach Anthony Burgos said Franklin was looking at senior offensive lineman Patrick Allen and junior wide receiver Steven Smothers. Allen, a 6-foot-5 offensive tackle, is committed to Georgia but still making official visits. Smothers, a 5-11 junior who excels as a wide receiver and return man, has not committed but has nearly 20 scholarship offers.

Arkansas coaches were also there to scout Allen and Smothers on Thursday, but they arrived by the more mundane automobile.

Burgos said he and the players knew Franklin would arrive by chopper and he was already there when the Indians' bus pulled up to the Woodlawn field.

Franklin has become known for his use of helicopter recruiting. He did it while coaching at Vanderbilt, but it was going on even before he became a head coach.

In 2007, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen landed at Poly during a night game to see Dunbar star Tavon Austin. However, Austin spurned the Terps for a terrific career at West Virginia and now plays for the St. Louis Rams.

Burgos said Rutgers coaches also came to Franklin by helicopter in 2011 to recruit All-Metro wide receiver Ian Thomas, but their chopper could not land at the school, so their arrival didn't have the same impact.

"I guess it's just a matter of making sure the kids know how important they are to them," Burgos said, "and it's convenient. It can get them to a couple places in one day.

Burgos said Jemel Griffin, a member of the Penn State football staff, is a Woodlawn graduate and set up the helicopter arrival. Franklin left Woodlawn in the second quarter and reportedly stopped off for another recruiting visit at a Montgomery County game Thursday night.

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