The following is part of an ongoing series that is taking an early look at each position for the Penn State Nittany Lions in 2014.
One position for Penn State that will have question marks as the 2014 season approaches is wide receiver. As everyone knows, Penn State’s best wide receiver the last two years, Allen Robinson, decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. The Nittany Lion offense relied so heavily on Robinson last season and he was by far Christian Hackenberg’s favorite target. Robinson was named the Big Ten Receiver of the Year for the second year in a row and came up with numerous clutch catches and spectacular plays. Penn State also loses a veteran receiver in Brandon Felder (28 catches, 312 yards, 3 touchdowns in 2013). So replacing Robinson and Felder’s productivity won’t be easy, but it can be done.
Penn State does return some receivers that have experience (albeit not a ton of experience) in Geno Lewis, Richy Anderson and Matt Zanellato. As a redshirt freshman last season, Lewis had 18 catches for 234 yards and three touchdowns. Anderson had 13 receptions for 111 yards as a true freshman and Zanellato played in all 12 games while catching four passes for 53 yards.
If a prediction was needed to be made now, Lewis would most likely slide into Robinson’s No. 1 receiver spot and Anderson would probably play in the slot a lot due to his Wes Welker-like size (5-11, 175 lbs.) and quickness. Zanellato, who will be a junior in 2014, hasn’t really been consistent enough to earn a ton of playing time, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens with him.
Some good news for the Nittany Lions, however, is that they are bringing in an excellent group of wide receivers in their 2014 recruiting class. There are four receivers in the class: 3-star Troy Apke from Pittsburgh, 4-star Saeed Blacknall from New Jersey, 4-star Chris Godwin from Delaware and 4-star De’Andre Thompkins from North Carolina. Thompkins is currently enrolled at Penn State and the other three will arrive in the summer. With questions surrounding Penn State’s wide receiver unit, it’s quite possible that at least three of these four freshmen could contribute immediately next season.
New wide receiver coach Josh Gattis won’t have a ton of experience to work with, but he will have a lot of new, young talent to coach up. Even if Penn State’s wide receivers struggle this year, they certainly have a bright future ahead of them.