Penn State Football: Are the Nittany Lions Poised to Become Wide Receiver U?

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Penn State Football: Are the Nittany Lions Poised to Become Wide Receiver U?
Wide receivers Chris Godwin and De'Andre Thompkins.

Penn State football could be getting a face-lift.

Historically known as Linebacker U for its tough, gritty linebackers, the current era of Nittany Lion football could spring a new unofficial nickname similar to the aforementioned one: Wide Receiver U.  

When former head coach Bill O'Brien took over in 2012, he injected life into an offense that had gone stale. In time, both he and current head coach James Franklin have brought in loads of offensive talent by way of recruiting. There's now a foundation with which to work. 

After Allen Robinson's breakout campaign in 2012, it seemed a similar output in 2013 would lead to an early jump to the NFL. That scenario became reality, and Penn State is now forced with attempting to replace him. 

To do that, the team has loaded up on talented wide receivers the past few years. 

Since the 2013 recruiting cycle, the Nittany Lions have added seven new receivers. Five of them are either on campus right now or have signed a letter of intent, while two are current verbal commits. Here's a breakdown of the group:

Penn State Wide Receiver Recruits since 2013
Name HT/WT 40 time Status
Troy Apke 6-1/187 4.47 Signed
Saeed Blacknall 6-3/210 4.45 Signed
Chris Godwin 6-1/193 4.48 Signed
DaeSean Hamilton 6-1/198 Not listed Enrolled
Juwan Johnson 6-4/200 4.40 Verbal
Brandon Polk 5-9/152 4.36 Verbal
De'Andre Thompkins 5-11/171 4.46 Enrolled


While none have seen the field just yet—Hamilton was injured last year and Thompkins just started classes—the list oozes with potential. So is Penn State just a few seasons away from being dubbed Wide Receiver U?

Quite possibly. The talent level is there and so is a solid coaching background. Franklin has been the wide receivers coach at various places throughout his career: James Madison, Maryland and even with the Green Bay Packers, to name a few. Over the last few years at Vanderbilt, he even coached record-setting wideout Jordan Matthews.   

For Penn State, the talent it has at the position offers inherent benefits elsewhere. A plethora of wide receivers is attractive to a quarterback coming out of high school.

The same can be said for a wide receiver recruit—having a top quarterback in place is equally important. As Bleacher Report's own Tim Tolley puts it, this sort of intertwined relationship could spring a cycle for the future:

The process makes total sense. Once Christian Hackenberg was in place, the wide receiver recruits started pouring in. When said wideouts start to play, Penn State could use the bevy of options to attract a top-tier high school quarterback. If he commits, the process begins anew. 

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If you consider the likelihood that quarterback Michael O'Connor redshirts this fall—and that he stays until his senior season—Penn State would be set at quarterback until 2019. Show a wide receiver recruit this projected continuity, and it can only impact his decision positively. 

For Penn State to become Wide Receiver U, it's as much about the quarterback situation as it is the wide receivers on the roster. Franklin and Co. seem to have the former well under control. 

The seven players listed above all have the opportunity to follow a path similar to that of Robinson. While the sheer number of bodies will likely impact each individual's stat sheet, all seven can be impactful in their own right.

With how Penn State's quarterback situation has been set up, the Nittany Lions could be sending a handful of wideouts to the NFL for years to come. 

Only time will tell how they all pan out. From initial observation, Penn State's recent surge in recruiting wide receivers could lead to the school becoming a hotbed for that position. 

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