Over the last year, a lot of shake-ups have occurred at the Wide Receiver position.
First, Derek Moye, who has been their number one receiver for what seems like forever, has graduated and is moving on to the next level. It will not be easy to replace the pro caliber length and speed that Moye brought to the table, along with his leadership factor. Justin Brown will most likely bump up from the #2 to the #1 spot. He has been receiving a majority of the reps at this position in the spring season. Brown, like Moye, possesses great length and pretty decent speed. He is also a pretty good route runner. He just needs to improve his hands and secure catches. Brown in the one slot seems to be the only sure thing in terms starting line up at the WR position.
Also, the shift of two receivers to different positions has already ready been made. Bill Belton has been moved to RB and Curtis Drake has been moved to defensive back in order to offset depth issues on that side of the ball. Both guys looked like they were going to at least have a shot to make an impact at the WR position in the upcoming season. The move now sets up more competition for the number two, three, and four spots at wide out. However, do not overlook the possibility of Bill Belton being used in multiple formations at different positions throughout the year, in particular the slot.
The small speedster, Devon Smith will likely make an impact in the slot. In most of his career he has been utilized in vertical and deep patterns attempting to stretch the defense. However, it appears that he will be used as a slot threat, which makes more sense because of lack of size, incredible speed, and ability to get in and out of his cuts. He should be much more effective this year with linebackers and safeties matched up on him, as opposed to trying to go over the top of corners and free safeties that have a distinct height advantage. This will be a more natural fit for him and I expect him to excel.
Shawney Kersey, a redshirt Junior, has been getting consistent repetitions at the number two spot. It was rumored last year that he considered transferring over lack of playing time, but he looks as if he is here to stay. Kersey has elite speed and great athleticism. He has a great opportunity to prove himself and contribute in O’Brien’s system. Brandon Mosley-Fedler is also getting looks at this position as well.
Penn State will be versatile this year in terms of formations and personal groups. We will probably see anywhere from two to five WR’s at any time during a game. Which means guys like Christian Kuntz, Matt Zanellato, Shane Phillips and Alex Kenney will have to compete in practice for these three, four, and five spots. They all possess good size and speed, but have not yet separated themselves in their young careers. Also Penn State’s highest rated recruit according to Scout and Rivals, Eugene Lewis will compete to see playing time and make an impact in the offense. He displayed great athleticism in both basketball and football at Wyoming Valley West High School in Northeast PA. Hehas good straight-line speed and leaping ability; he could be used as vertical threat.
Although it appears certain guys are getting reps at different spots, the only position that appears to be set in stone is Justin Brown at number one spot. Behind him is a bunch of young, athletic, but at this point, unproven receivers. The WR position holds more intrigue, in terms of competitions, than any other position because of this lack of experience and depth of athletic ability. I nonetheless remain optimistic that O’Brien will put these players in the right position to make plays. Also, be prepared to see the slot receiver used like never before at PSU.