The newest batch of Nittany Lions became official as they each signed on the dotted line earlier this month. Now we wait to see who rises to the top and becomes the next group of Penn State legends. This is the point where we can throw the recruiting stars out the window- anyone from the new class can go on to reach All-American status, or be completely forgotten about in another couple years.
While much is unknown, we all have gut feelings about the new guys in blue and white. Today, we discuss which offensive recruit we're most excited to have at Penn State.
Bill: Saeed Blacknall
The one thing that Penn State's receiving corps needs next year is a big target. It has guys like Geno Lewis and DaeSean Hamilton, but there isn't really one massive target who can use his size, strength and physicality to separate from receivers to go up and catch the ball. Blacknall has the potential to be that guy. He's a monster, and he was nicknamed Baby Megatron in this video. He's 6'3", he's strong as hell and he has excellent hands. Sure, he isn't as fast as Chris Godwin or DeAndre Thompkins, but I think he's going to make a major impact sooner rather than later. And later. He's going to be awesome.
Devon: DeAndre Thompkins
DeAndre Thompkins is the very obvious pick here, for a number of reasons. There's no doubt that Penn State is going to look to plug in at least a couple of the true freshman wideouts, with little more than Geno Lewis as a known commodity returning. It wouldn't be much of a surprise to see all four get significant playing time -- although I doubt they'll be too reminiscent of the 2005 grouping of Butler, Williams, Norwood, and King. Regardless, I expect to see Thompkins separate him from the rest of the group for two reasons: first, his versatility and athleticism--it would make sense for James Franklin and company to gameplan based on getting ball in Thompkins' hands in space, whether that's through the air, on the ground, or in the return game. Additionally, since he's been on campus since January, he'll have a five-month head start on the other freshmen when it comes to his training, development and knowledge of the playbook. We'll get a sneak peak of Thompkins' stuff during the Blue/White game, and if he turns heads, look out for what could be a dynamic freshman campaign.
Cari: Saeed Blacknall
This was a really difficult pick for me. If it weren't for Breneman and James being ahead of him on the depth chart, I'd have picked Gesicki in a heartbeat. Same goes for Hackenberg and O'Connor. So I instead went for the guy who, on paper, seems to be the most talented of the bunch (and heads one of the best WR corps in the class of 2014); and possibly the smartest, who actually reached out to the coaching staff when announced to try to get the hell out of New Jersey. I'd be remiss if I didn't admit that the fact that we poached him from Rutgers also didn't make me excited to see him on the field.
Jared: Mike Gesicki
There was plenty of excitement when Gesicki committed to Penn State, and there are no reasons for those feelings to subside. Most assumed that the number-one tight end in the nation was a lock for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes. But Gesicki stunned many by announcing he would become a Nittany Lion, and held on to that promise even after tight end guru Bill O'Brien moved on to the NFL. Gesicki is a 6-6 215-pound prospect with the athleticism that 99.999% of the world can only dream of. He has soft hands, runs extremely hard with the ball and can jump into the upper deck. After a year to develop, Gesicki will be a dangerous option who will cause nightmares for defensive coordinators.
Nick: DeAndre Thompkins
This is tough. I love the potential in all of our offensive recruits, so it's a little difficult to choose just one who stands out to me. I will say that I think Mike Gesicki will go down as the most statistically-productive recruit in this class. However, I am most excited for De'Andre Thompkins. He is a fast, fast man. For those that know/follow track, he has a 200-meter time of 20.9 seconds, and a 400-meter time of 47.8. That is stupid fast. Before you go and write off his track speed as a poor indicator of his football potential (see Kenney, Alex and Smith, Devon "MooMoo"), know that De'Andre is much more than a speedster who was thrown onto the football field. He was a do-it-all threat in high school, and will be a do-it-all threat for Coach Franklin. During his junior season at Swansboro High School in North Carolina, he rushed for 1,359 yards on 175 carries (good for 7.77 a clip). During his senior season he spent more time at receiver so he only took 82 handoffs, yet still managed to pick up 8.52 ypc on his way to 699 yards. His receiving numbers weren't huge in high school, but it's rare to find such numbers anyway, due to the run first nature of high school football. As he is now, he is extremely dangerous in open space, and can break a big play at any time. His route running is improving, and he has good hands already. With added experience, he will be a dynamic slot receiver that defenses will be forced to plan around. He will also be a major asset in the return game, and could be showing off this skill as early as Ireland. Over his junior and season seasons, he averaged 40 yards per kick return, and 34.5 yards per punt return. You can go ahead and pick up your jaw from the floor now.
And finally, a very honest take from Ben: No one
It's not that I think this stuff is creepy. Alright, maybe sniffing around 17 year olds to interpret twitter comments is creepy. But, that's not why I don't have a "most excited about" selection here. It's because I just don't care very much; and, I don't care very much because I understand that I have no real information at this stage, with which to make any kind of determination. Some jerkoff from ESPN thinks the kid is "a game changer"? What the hell does that mean? They say that shit about 100 different kids every year, and we'll never hear from 90 of them after signing day. The highlight videos are mostly useless. They are, of course, "highlights". They last 2 - 10 minutes, and, in someone's opinion, show "the best" plays for one dude, irrespective of opponent or situation. They won't show a receiver dropping a ball, or getting alligator arms over the middle. And they won't show a massive offensive tackle false starting, or whiffing on his block. So - whatever. About the only thing you can tell from the highlight videos is if the kid is fast. We could probably make a highlight video of Devon that would get him 2 or 3 stars from Scouts, Inc.
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