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Thursday, March 7, 2013
Versatility a key to PSU's recruiting class

By Josh Moyer

Jabrill Peppers
The ability for DB Jabrill Peppers to play multiple positions is a positive for PSU.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Jabrill Peppers, an ESPN Watch List cornerback, couldn't have been all that surprised when the staff told him they foresee him playing on both sides of the ball.

He's the top overall player on the Nittany Lions' big board, one of the best high school athletes in the country. And, starting in 2014, Penn State must deal with 20 fewer scholarships for four seasons.

With those limitations, the Nittany Lions are going to have to utilitize their top talent -- and top recruits -- as much as possible. That's not to say fans will see a field covered in Owen Marcecics, but it's clear that Bill O'Brien is placing a premium on versatility. Most of Penn State's high school recruits can play more than one position in college -- and that's no coincidence.

Take wideout De'Andre Thompkins, for example. The Nittany Lions have put in a lot of hours to woo the Swansoboro (N.C.) native, and Thompkins said they project him as a wideout and, if all goes well, also as a nickelback. Oh, and as a kick returner, too.

And recent PSU commit Nick Scott? Although most signs point to him playing tailback, the staff's left open the possibility he could also play safety instead. Troy Reeder will play middle linebacker, but he can also wind up on the outside.

Point to a prospect on Penn State's board, and there's a good chance he's not one-dimensional. Penn State's turned toward its "run-on" program to fill a recruiting glass that's half-empty, and now it's evident O'Brien is attempting to recruit versatile athletes to make sure that cup is nearly filled to the top.

Diagnosing film for one position is hard enough, but O'Brien told ESPN before that this staff is willing to put in extra work to find ways around those scholarship limitations. And recruiting these kinds of players, watching that extra film, appears to just be another part of a detailed plan.

Jeremiah Clarke, a lineman out of Alexandria (Va.) T.C. Williams, is being recruited by different schools as an offensive tackle, defensive end and defensive tackle. PSU offered him a scholarship. Sharieff Rhaheed (Fort Pierce, Fla./Fort Pierce Central) is a linebacker whom teams have told would project nicely to defensive end if he gains 20-30 pounds. Safeties coach Anthony Midget called him last week. Noah Beh, a blue-collar player from Scranton (Pa.) Prep, is mostly being recruited by schools for his abilities as a defensive end. PSU offered him as an OT.

Even some of the run-ons -- such as Von Walker, Chris Geiss and Evan Galimberti -- are athletes who can play multiple positions.

Overcoming these sanctions will be no easy task because the roster might not return to normal until 2018 or later. But O'Brien has shown himself to be incredibly resourceful during this time. He's taken the penalties in stride and has tried to adjust his gameplan. In short, he's shown a lot of versatility during the the most trying time in Penn State history.

And now, it appears, he's just looking for the same thing out of his recruits.