NCF On The Trail: Troy Apke

Top position classes: WR 

February, 12, 2014

With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at the top position classes. For the full series, click here.

Nationally (and SEC)
While the Baylor Bears had an exceptional wide receiver class, the nod here goes to LSU. Not only did the Tigers sign the nation's No. 1 receiver in Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian), but also the No. 3 ranked receiver in Trey Quinn (Lake Charles, La./Barbe) and ESPN 300 No. 271 D.J. Chark (Alexandria, La./Alexandria Senior) and No. 283 Tony Upchurch (Pearland, Texas/Dawson). In Dupre, LSU snagged the No. 17 prospect overall on signing day. He has a tall, lengthy frame with a near ideal size-and-speed combination and elite high-point ball skills. Quinn will enter LSU as an advanced route-runner with separation skills and the ability to pluck the ball outside of the framework of his body. Chark brings initial quickness and the vertical speed to take the top off a defense, and Upchurch is a big body who continues to add bulk and could eventually transition to a flex type of position.

The Tigers had the nation’s best wide receiver class; here’s which schools had the best in each of the remaining power conferences:

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- James Franklin hasn't even spent one night in Happy Valley, but Penn State's new head coach has already thrown down the recruiting gauntlet against Pittsburgh and other teams in the northeast.

"Our recruiting philosophy," Franklin said Saturday afternoon during his introductory press conference, "we are going to dominate the state. We are going to dominate the region.

"I'm going to call all the high school coaches. I'm calling all the people in the state that we need to come together like never before."

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Matthew O'Haren/USA TODAY SportsJames Franklin didn't mince words when talking about recruiting, say that it's his mission for the Nittany Lions to dominate within the state of Pennsylvania.
Franklin emphasized every line about recruiting and spoke passionately during his first-ever news conference as the Penn State head coach. He's been widely regarded as an incredible recruiter -- he reeled in 22 four-star commits during his time at Vanderbilt -- and he didn't hesitate when asked about his high recruiting hopes.

The new coach's bold statement comes after years of PSU routinely losing out in western Pennsylvania. Sure, Penn State has earned commitments of some prospects such as wideout Troy Apke, but it's missed more than it's hit. PSU fell out of favor with ESPN 300 targets such as WR Tyler Boyd (2013 commit; Pitt), ATH Dravon Henry (2014 commit; West Virginia) and DB Montae Nicholson (2014 commit; Michigan State).

Beating Pitt out for recruits in its own backyard is a daring statement. So, a few minutes after answering his first recruiting question, Franklin was given a chance to soften his words. This time, he was asked where his recruiting focus lay -- but he again wasted no time in reinforcing his original point.

"I don't know if I mentioned this before, but we're going to dominate the state," he said matter-of-factly. "That's the first thing we're going to do."

And after that? Well, Franklin said next comes the region, in such states and areas as New Jersey, New York, New England, Virginia and Delaware. And, then, comes the nation.

"I think you sell yourself short when you don't do that," said the coach who got three commitments from California in Vanderbilt's last class.

Of course, Franklin never specifically mentioned Pitt at that point in the press conference. Maybe he'd back down if that was spelled out to him, maybe he'd try to soften up all this talk of dominating and controlling. It was an interesting thing to say, after all, for his first day on the job.

But Franklin just doubled-down on those statements when Pitt was specifically mentioned in one reporter's question.

"When I say Pennsylvania, when I say Penn State, that's the whole state," he said. "That is the whole state. We will recruit every corner of this state, every school of this state, every neighborhood of this state.

"And when I say recruit, not only just the student-athletes. I mean the people of the great state of Pennsylvania. We will recruit everybody, and that is with tremendous respect for the University of Pittsburgh. But we are ... Penn State."
Here are the top performances by Big Ten commits and targets from the weekend.

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Big visitors set to invade Penn State 

October, 11, 2013
Bill O’Brien isn’t missing a chance to put Penn State on center stage this week as the Nittany Lions prepare to play host to undefeated Michigan.

With an eye to the future, the reigning Big Ten Coach of the Year has more than a busload full of visitors coming to check in on his program.

Here are the biggest names scheduled to head to Happy Valley this weekend.

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Best Big Ten classes by position 

September, 10, 2013

Each class within the Big Ten has its strengths and weaknesses, but there is a lot of talent joining the conference. Here is a look at the top classes in the Big Ten by position.

Strongest class: Penn State

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ESPN 150 OT has top eight in mind 

May, 20, 2013
It was a Thursday night in late April and Alex Bookser (Pittsburgh/Mount Lebanon) was watching the NFL draft. A 6-foot-6, 295-pound prospect, Bookser is being recruited as a lineman on both sides of the ball.

Bookser was an offensive lineman by the end of the night Thursday.

“Ever since I saw the draft I decided to go O-line,” said Bookser, referring to the run on tackles in the first round, including three among the first five picks. “That was the biggest draft I’ve ever seen, so I was like if I can get that far it’ll definitely pay off.”

With more than 20 offers to his name, Bookser was already being recruited mostly as an offensive tackle, where he is ranked No. 14 nationally. As a two-way player for Mount Lebanon, Bookser likes defense a little more because he can play with a little more emotion on the defensive line. He understands why coaches project him best on offense, though.

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WR Chris Godwin commits to Penn State

April, 23, 2013
It looks as if Penn State doesn't mind taking three wideouts in this class, after all.

Penn State landed its sixth commitment of the 2014 class on Tuesday night when Chris Godwin (Middletown, Del./Middletown) told the staff he wanted to become a Nittany Lion. He said just last week that he planned on taking his time -- even though he knew PSU's offer wouldn't remain on the table forever -- but said late Tuesday he was pleased with his decision.

"I think I realized it was a great situation for me all over," Godwin said. "And, from there, it didn't seem like I was rushing into it because I knew what I wanted."

Godwin's pledge comes on the heels of a commitment from ESPN 150 wideout De'Andre Thompkins, who became the fifth commit Saturday. Wideout Troy Apke (Pittsburgh, Pa./Mt. Lebanon) was the first receiver to commit, just 10 days ago.

Godwin, who is 6-foot-2 and 197 pounds, picked Penn State over offers from Boston College, Cal, UConn, Maryland, UMass, NC State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Rutgers, South Carolina, Stanford and Virginia Tech.

Godwin finished his junior season with 42 catches for 834 yards and a dozen touchdowns. He also rushed for 427 yards and five scores. That averages out to 106 total yards and one TD every game. He also averaged close to 20 yards a catch.

WR Godwin taking time with recruitment 

April, 18, 2013
video Chris Godwin (Middletown, Del./Middletown) insisted he felt no pressure from Penn State's coaching staff to commit. But the ESPN Watch List wideout said he could still read between the lines.

He expects the Nittany Lions to take no more than two receivers. And with the commitment of Troy Apke over the weekend, he understands waiting too long now could mean he loses that PSU scholarship offer.

"It's not like they're pressuring me," he said. "But they let me know that I'm the top receiver on their board and they would love to have me. But, then again, they have limited scholarships -- so they told me, 'You have to keep that in mind.'

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Wide receiver Troy Apke (Pittsburgh, Pa./Mount Lebanon) became Penn State's fourth commitment of the 2014 class Saturday.

He chose the school over Pitt, a short drive from his home and despite his father playing linebacker for the Panthers in the 1980s. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound recruit said there were two reasons the Nittany Lions are on top.

"I like the atmosphere of their games, and it's like a family up there," Apke said Saturday afternoon.

PSU offered the in-state receiver on junior day in February, and Apke said then it was too early to really gauge his interest in Penn State. Despite his recruitment picking up over the next two months, the Nittany Lions still managed to come out on top.

He held offers from a half-dozen other schools, including Bowling Green, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Minnesota, Pitt and Toledo.

Despite his size, he said he's been timed as fast as 4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash -- and that speed really helps him gain yards after the catch. He caught 54 passes for 1,058 yards and 13 touchdowns in his junior season. He accounted for about a quarter of the offense at Mount Lebanon.

Apke is the first wide receiver in Penn State's 2014 class.

Humble receiver Apke with 3 offers 

February, 14, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- Considering the era, Troy Apke (Pittsburgh/Mt. Lebanon) breaks the mold at wide receiver. Playing a position that has bred some of the game’s flashiest players of the last decade, Apke is humble to a fault.

Asked how he felt about his offer from Pittsburgh this summer, he said “I was happy.”

What about his parents, who both were student-athletes at Pitt? “They were happy.”

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