Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Coach talk: WR Troy Apke
By Josh Moyer
What kind of player is Penn State getting in Troy Apke? And what can fans expect?
NittanyNation turned to one of the people who knows most what Apke is capable of on the field -- Mike Melnyk, his high school coach at Pittsburgh (Pa.) Mt. Lebanon -- and asked what separates him as a player, how he first noticed Apke's ability and when he especially showcased his potential.
Melnyk, on what separates Apke from others at his position: "He's got a big frame -- he's 6-2 and up to 190 already -- and he's got explosive speed. It just jumps out at you. He can accelerate, and he's really a tall kid who has long strides. He's able to make subtle movements, and he can make a short play explode into a big play just like that. That's what we try to do, really: Just get the ball in his hands and let him run.
"I'll be honest: I think his best football is ahead of him. He did a great job this past season because he wasn't like a route runner because he didn't do that much of it before. But he was like a sponge and kept doing better and better. I had a non-highlight tape of him, where he could've taken those big gains even further -- so I know he's going to be able to get that speed to mean even more for him. He has like a 35-inch vertical, has good hands and isn't afraid of getting hit. He had a touchdown catch where a kid literally hit him so hard his helmet came off, and he just tosses the football nonchalantly to the referee and picks his helmet up."
When he first knew Apke would be special: "Well, he runs like the wind and caught everything. So, literally, it took me one workout to know he would be special. I was more concerned if I could find a quarterback, but I didn't have any doubts he would be special.
"I've coached some pretty good receivers. I've coached some first-team all-state receivers. But he's the fastest kid I've ever coached. Most of the receivers I coached were on the smaller side and some were quick, but none had that 4.4 speed. Maybe they had 4.6, never 4.4. So I knew he would be special. He's just a real humble kid."
When Apke surprised him or really showcased his ability: "You know, there were several early in the season. We opened up with North Allegheny, and he caught an out route, jumped up over a defender and took it to the house for a touchdown. That was a glimmer. Our next game was against Bethel Park, and we ran a deep post route from the 50-yard line -- and he was like 10 yards behind every defender they had. So that's when I was like, "This is really happening.'
"And, then, there was no doubt against Woodland Hills. It was our fifth game of the year, they have a good team and a good tradition -- and he had 11 catches for over 250 yards of offense and three touchdowns. And that last touchdown he caught was [with] less than a minute to go when he had a corner in his face. He took an inside release and bent back outside in the corner of the end zone. We ended up winning in overtime. For my offense, it was pretty easy for me to find him and see I needed to get him the ball."