The 2009 football season will have a very noticeable change in the names being called for catching first downs and touchdowns for the Nittany Lions.
Since Penn State's trio of Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood, and Derrick Williams will have all moved on to life after college football, Penn State will be looking for guys to step up and become the new targets for quarterback Daryll Clark.
Butler, Norwood, and Williams were the top receivers respectively for the Lions in 2008, each with over 40 catches. They also accounted for 17 of the 24 receiving touchdowns for the team. The next most effective receiver was running back Stephfon Green, who had a mere 15 receptions and one touchdown.
There are three key receivers who will be returning for the 2009 season that have opportunities to be the go-to guys in the passing game. Graham Zug, Brett Brackett, and Andrew Quarless will try to build on the experience they gained during last season in key situations.
Zug took advantage of his time on the field by pulling down 11 receptions for 174 yards and a touchdown. He also hauled in a key 49-yard reception during the Ohio State game. He could be a decent downfield threat for Clark, as he averaged 15.8 yards per catch.
Similar to Zug's numbers, Brackett had 13 receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown in 2008. At 6'6" and 235 pounds, he provides a tight end-like target at the receiver position, which is a big advantage in a conference known for physical defense.
Tight end Andrew Quarless has an opportunity to be a big-play guy for Clark to go to if he can stay out of Paterno's doghouse. He didn't play in seven of the Lions' games last year, but he has a huge upside if he can stay on the straight and narrow. He has 46 career receptions for 610 yards and five touchdowns. He should be able to be the guy next year.
In addition to these standouts, there are three wide receivers in the 2009 recruiting class.
The most outstanding of the group is four-star recruit Justin Brown from Concorde High School in Wilmington, DE. At 6'3", he provides good size, and his evaluations say he has good speed and great hands. He may have an opportunity to make an impact as soon as this year.
The upcoming football season is going to be a new era for wide receivers in Happy Valley. Let's hope they can live up to the standards of their predecessors.