For decades, Penn State has been affectionately known as Linebacker U. The name is appropriate considering some of the players who have played the position there. Some of the many greats include Jack Ham, Shane Conlan, Lavar Arrington, Paul Posluszny and NaVorro Bowman. However, with the emergence of Allen Robinson and recent moves made in recruiting, Penn State may be on its way to earning the name Wide Receiver U.
Robinson came from seemingly nowhere in 2012 to have a fantastic season and lead the Big Ten Conference in receiving. He followed that up with an even better year in 2013, setting school records with 97 receptions and 1,432 yards receiving. Robinson is now on his way to the NFL and is a likely first-round pick in April’s draft.
Though Robinson is gone, Penn State won’t be short on receivers in the upcoming years. Two young, talented receivers already on the roster are Geno Lewis and DaSean Hamilton. Lewis saw plenty of action this past season, catching 18 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns. Lewis had his best game in the season-finale at Wisconsin, putting up 91 yards and two touchdowns. He now enters the 2014 season as a likely starter. Hamilton missed 2013 with an injury and could be a contributor in 2014.
With the 2014 recruiting class taking shape, one thing is clear, the Nittany Lions are loaded at wide receiver. Before leaving the school to coach in the NFL, former head coach Bill O’Brien had already assembled three wide receivers in the class. New head coach James Franklin has been able to keep those players and even add yet another receiver.
4-star recruits Chris Godwin and De’Andre Thompkins and 3-star recruit Troy Apke all gave verbal commitments to the Nittany Lions previously and chose to honor those promises even after the coaching change. Recently, another 4-star wide receiver chose to come to Happy Valley.
Saeed Blacknall, who was formally committed to Rutgers, announced his decision late Sunday night via Twitter.
I have officially committed to THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY #WeARE….
— Saeed RaaShad (@RaaShad_TTG) January 27, 2014
That makes four wide receivers in the 2014 class who could all play a major impact moving forward.
Godwin is a receiver from Delaware who is ranked as the 146th overall recruit in the country by Rivals. He is also the top recruit in the state and one of the best receivers in the nation. He chose Penn State over schools like Ohio State, Virginia Tech and even Vanderbilt, where he was recruited by Franklin.
Thompkins, a recruit from North Carolina, is also considered one of the most talented receivers available. He’s the 10th best recruit in the state of North Carolina and also had offers from Clemson, Notre Dame and Tennessee.
Blacknall’s decision to flip to Penn State was a bit surprising, considering that just months ago, he reaffirmed his commitment to Rutgers. However, the hiring of Franklin made him consider the Nittany Lions. Blacknall is ranked among the top-300 recruits in the nation and again is one of the best receivers available.
Apke, though the lowest-ranked receiver in Penn State’s 2014 class, likely won’t see the field for a while, but has a chance to develop into an important piece of the Penn State offense. The Pennsylvania native chose his in-state school over the likes of Minnesota, Georgia Tech and Kentucky.
With the success that Robinson had the last two seasons, and the desire of some of the top receivers in the nation to attend Penn State, the Nittany Lions have a bright future at that position.
Of course, top-rated recruits don’t always work out, but Penn State has the potential to be a yearly landing spot for top receivers, especially with a quarterback as talented as Christian Hackenberg throwing them the ball.
If the trend continues, the best receivers in the country will want to come to Happy Valley, earning Penn State the new moniker of Wide Receiver U.
Follow VBR Lead Editor Barry Leonard Jr. on Twitter