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Friday, July 5, 2013
Friday mailbag: Lewis, Shell & 'ships

By Josh Moyer

Welcome to NittanyNation's mailbag! We asked you to tweet or email your questions, and we've selected three to answer this week.

Jack Brown writes: What kind of season can we expect from Eugene Lewis? Can he catch 50 balls this season, and do you think he can be as good as Allen Robinson?

Josh Moyer: Obviously, that's a tricky question -- and I'll try my best. I'll start off with the easiest part. I think 50 is definitely pushing it, for a couple of reasons. For one, the tight ends really emerged last season. Wideout Brandon Moseby-Felder didn't see increased production even when Kyle Carter went down. (Fact check: He caught one ball in every 6.75 completions when Carter was injured and one in every 6.625 completions in the four games prior.)

So, for Lewis to have a big season -- even if he rises to the No. 2 WR at some point -- the tight ends will have to see fewer targets. And I don't see that happening. I think, as a best-case scenario, the No. 2 WR sees receptions in the low-40s. Fifty is way, way too high. I'm trying to project a lot here, so take this with a grain of salt, but if I had to guess, I think Lewis would likely land between 20 and 30 catches. I could be totally off, but that's my best guess right now.

Can he be as good as Robinson? Well, he's not going to have the immediate impact that A-Rob did. And it's hard for me to tell you that, yeah, he'll be as good as one of PSU's best-ever wideouts when I haven't seen him take meaningful snaps. He's a great athlete; his main concern is route-running since he played high school quarterback. Can the QBs consistently depend on him since that area's new to him? Eventually, yeah, but not right now. By the time he's a redshirt junior, A-Rob will be gone and it'll be his time to shine. But I don't think he really has a shot to even reach 50 catches until the 2015 season.

Again, I'm projecting an awful lot here. But that's my best guess at this early point in time.

Rushel Shell
Penn State is out of the hunt for former Pitt running back Rushel Shell, which is probably a good thing for the image-conscious Nittany Lions program.
George Klayko writes: With the seemingly greater interest in attracting junior college players to Happy Valley under the Bill O'Brien regime, do you see Penn State trying to lure Pitt defection and the PIAA all-time leading rusher Rushel Shell to State College?

Josh Moyer: Well, it looks like PSU is out of the race anyhow. Shell is now down to Kentucky and West Virginia. But let's address a couple things here -- from why PSU didn't really want him to how this will affect PSU's recruiting. (And it will.)

This staff has done its research on every recruit by not just talking to coaches and players' families -- but also teachers, principals and ancillary people like that. They're trying to make sure these players can qualify and stay out of trouble. Because talent doesn't mean a thing if you can't get on the field.

We saw that with juco DT Cory Johnson (Chambersburg, Pa./ASA College). He would have competed for a starting job next season in a position that really needs it. But he had a few red flags and some academic trouble. Ditto for juco OT Jermaine Eluemunor (Denville, N.J./Lackawanna College). For a while, we didn't even know for sure if PSU would have welcomed back 2013 signee Zayd Issah (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin).

And Shell? He's got more red flags than all of them combined. He would've been a constant distraction, a bizzaro Tim Tebow if you will. He could have butted heads with the coaches, and it wouldn't have looked good for PSU. And PSU is very conscious about its image right now. As far as recruiting, it definitely would've helped -- but it simply wouldn't have been worth the headache. And if Shell heads to West Virginia, there's a good chance that ESPN 300 athlete Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa) will follow.

Robert Passaro writes: PSU is limited to 15 scholarships per year, and they currently have offers out to about six other kids. How does the staff now handle giving out their last two scholarships? What happens if Thomas Holley, Henry and Alex Bookser want to commit and then there are no scholarships? Are you telling me we'll have to say no to these kids while holding on to a Mark Allen who may not see the field because of injuries?

Josh Moyer: I think PSU is currently at the point where it's trying to feel these last few players out. If Holley was a month away from committing to PSU, there's no way the staff would have accepted Antoine White's commitment. But Holley's not, and he seems to be leaning toward Notre Dame. PSU is trying to balance all that information, play the odds and get a commit soon. If Ricky Walker commits tomorrow and Henry follows the day after, what happens if Holley tries to commit? Well, he's out of luck.

I don't see PSU pulling a scholarship offer like that of Mark Allen unless he can't play football. Allen, for example, was big in grabbing other pledges like three-star safety Marcus Allen. And he plays for a powerhouse school in DeMatha. I know a few high school coaches who no longer allow certain college programs to visit their schools anymore because they yanked a scholarship. The long-term play is to allow someone like Allen to keep his 'ship, as long as he continues to make a good recovery.

O'Brien said he'd never let PSU turn into the "Wild West." And I think that "Wild West" involves playing a shell game with scholarships. You can't yank 'ships from the guys lower on your list when someone higher on your list wants to accept. PSU's not in the SEC. PSU's targets know the situation right now -- that PSU has two spots left and if they don't accept soon, there won't be room. If they want to join PSU, it's not like they don't have fair warning right now.