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Wednesday, May 15, 2013
PSU's WR class bodes well for future

By Josh Moyer

Four-star WR Chris Godwin would have none of it.

Penn State might just have the top class of receivers in the nation, he was told. The Nittany Lions are one of the few teams to have a pair of four-star wideouts, he was informed. But the soon-to-be four-year starter didn't want to weigh in on a discussion -- Who has the best class of WRs in the nation? -- that was meant more for fans and the media.

After all, Godwin added, those projections don't mean anything yet.

"That's definitely something to be proud of," he said. "But, at the same time, that doesn't mean anything if we don't get out there and prove it. So, right now, it's still just talk."

Usually, quotes like that come from a player who's underrated or on a team that struggles and uses buzz words like "potential" and "inexperienced," if only to boost its esteem. This is the opposite situation, but Penn State's three wideouts hemmed and hawed when asked to weigh in on the argument.

It's a close one. Only three other teams in ESPN's top-25 class rankings possibly boast a pair of four-star receivers: Tennessee, Louisville and Florida State. Tennessee's Vic Wharton might play on the defensive side, and the Vols' collective Scout Grade with wideouts is still one point below PSU's anyway. Same goes for Louisville, which doesn't have either receiver in the ESPN 150.

And Florida State? Well, that's a bit trickier. J.C. Jackson and JoJo Robinson are both athletes who could play wideout, but Robinson is a soft commit who might end up in the backfield. So, really, the argument could come down to those two similar WR groups -- especially when the Seminoles have three-star WR C.J. Worton and PSU has unrated Troy Apke, who reportedly runs in the 4.4.s

Apke, who enjoys media interivews as much as suicide sprints, declined to weigh in. And ESPN 150 athlete De'Andre Thompkins would only go so far as to say it's exciting.

"It's great," Thompkins said. "I can't wait until I see them in person."

It's clear that PSU has either the best -- or, OK, maybe the second-best -- group of receiver recruits in the nation at this point of the recruiting cycle. And that's part of a larger trend, a trend that's leading to the renaissance of the Penn State offense.

In the 2000s, Penn State's top wideouts were usually the unknowns. There was Jordan Norwood, a current NFL player who came in weighing less than the typical placekicker. And Deon Butler, an unrated player by ESPN and a one-star wideout by other services.

Graham Zug was a former walk-on, and Derek Moye wasn't rated by ESPN either. Even the record-breaking Allen Robinson was a no-name, two-star recruit. These wideouts all found success, but none were very heralded. It wasn't an easy sell to for past coaches to persuade wideouts to join a run-first offense.

But, from 2012-2014, PSU now has a quartet of four-star wideouts -- players with higher ceilings and fewer question marks than their older counterparts. This year's group -- Thompkins, Apke, Godwin -- are the exclamation of that trend.

In the six classes before 2012, PSU managed to reel in a total of four wide receivers that ESPN rated four stars -- and one of them, Nick Sukay, played safety. That's obviously changed now, and that's finally something Godwin would address.

"I think that future wide receivers will definitely want to play at PSU because they will want to be a big part in whatever offense they play in," he said. "And, in PSU's offense, the wide receivers play a big role."