Penn State has been trying to find a solution to their kicking problems since the departure of 2014 Second-Team All-Big Ten selection Sam Ficken. The Nittany Lions used a walk-on platoon last season, going back and forth between Joey ‘Big Toe’ Julius and Tyler Davis. James Franklin may have found his kicker of the future, as Cumming, Georgia native and former Rutgers commit Alex Barbir has flipped to the Nittany Lions.
Davis was perfect on the season in relief of the often ineffective Julius, but he only attempted one kick beyond 39 yards. Julius has more range, but he struggled to convert routine kicks. Julius was 10-of-12 on field goal attempts, but just 20-of-24 converting extra points. In a competitive conference, one or two points is often the difference between a win and a loss.
Things were looking up when the nation’s top kicker, Quinn Nordin committed to the Nittany Lions, albeit with a somewhat ridiculous video.
Nevertheless, Franklin seemingly found his solution. While it’s still possible Nordin remains committed to Penn State, it’s looking more and more likely that he’ll be flipping to Michigan.
It was announced this morning that Barbir would be shifting his commitment from the Scarlet Knights to the Nittany Lions. According to 247Sports, he is the seventh-ranked kicking prospect in the country. The high school kicker had been committed to Rutgers since July 24. In the time since then, chaos took over the program in Piscataway, leading to the dismissal of head coach Kyle Flood.
Franklin currently has the fourth-ranked recruiting class in the conference. In addition to Barbir, he’ll also be bringing in punter Blake Gillikin, who, according to 247Sports, is the second-ranked punter in the country. Punting has also been a position of need for the Nittany Lions, so it looks as though Franklin is committed to fixing the glaring problems on special teams.