Penn State lost its top three receivers, Derek Moye, Justin Brown and Devon Smith, from a year ago. That’s never good for any team but the Nittany Lions have gotten used to rolling over their receivers in bunches…and they’ve been pretty successful at it this decade.
Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood were one of best trios of wide outs PSU has seen in a looong time. From ’05 to ’08, the Smurfs ranked 1-2-3 in receiving every year for the Lions. We were all a little nervous for the ’09 offense after the ’08 team went 11-2 and saw the school’s all-time leading receiver in Butler graduate along with D-Wheels and Norwood but the Lions responded by going 11-2 in ’09 and QB Daryll Clark put up career highs his senior year thanks to some 6’5 sophomore named Derek Moye.
The following year, Moye got help from two up-and-comers, Brown and Smith, and those three ranked first, third and fourth respectively in 2010 with Rob Bolden at QB to start the year and Matt McGloin finishing the season when Bolden got concussed. And with McBolden at the helm last year, Moye, Brown and Smith ranked 1-2-3 respectively on the team in receiving Lions, and that was after Moye missed two games with a broken foot.
In fact, they were the only players to record more than 108 receiving yards last year but it wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. Yea, Moye graduated and was headed for an NFL practice squad but Brown was supposed to step up big time his senior year and Smith was finally poised for a breakout in his final year at PSU. Buuuttt we all know what happened next. Smith got kicked off the team for having a head shop in his apartment and Brown decided to transfer to Oklahoma via free agency after the Sandusky sanctions. And that’s how the Nittany Lions lost their three best receivers in the same year – again – but this was nothing like when the Smurfs left.
Moye was one of the lankiest wide outs PSU had ever seen at 6’5. Smith was a track star that was one of the fastest receivers in the nation. And Brown had the all-around skills to have one of the best years a PSU receiver has had in a long time – and that’s with McGloin as the starter (no offense). That’s a huge loss and now Bill O’Brien is looking for Allen Robinson (So.), Shawney Kersey (RS Sr.) and Alex Kenney (RS So.) to step up the way Moye, Brown and Smith did a couple of years ago to be the face of Penn State’s receiver corps. That might be a little difficult considering that in their college careers, ARob, Kersey and Kenney have combined for 9 catches and 139 yards, and individually, they don’t compare to Moye, Brown or Smith, but filling the void might not be as hard as it looks.
For starters, with BOB installing his new offense, maybe it’s better that the three young guys are stepping in right away – that means next year, ARob and Kenney should dominate. And just because they don’t have the stats – YET – doesn’t mean this year’s threesome can’t outperform last year’s.
Moye was the leader last year, he was one of the offensive captains. At 6’5, if McBolden chucked a ball , more often than not, Moye would come down with it. He caught 144 balls in his college career for 2,395 yards and 18 touchdowns – imagine what he could have down with a full-time consistent QB. The new crew has leadership and size taken care of though. Kersey has all the experience; he had 5 catches for 108 yards last year and 1 catch for 2 yards the year before – WOOOOO. And this is his last year of college ball; if he wasn’t ready to take charge of this corps, BOB wouldn’t have put him so high on the depth chart. He has a nice combo of size and speed with some big-play ability that could finally show itself with a chance to prove it.
BOB is already looking at ARob to take over the leadership role for the future, and he’s also going to rely on him for his size and skill. No one on PSU’s roster has Brown’s hands, route-running ability or flat-out skill, but ARob is the closest. If BOB is confident enough to name a true sophomore WR1 with the offenses he’s conducted in the NFL, that’s good enough for us. ARob’s been a monster all offseason and only getting better with more responsibility put on him. He may not be 6’5, but at 6’3 with a thicker frame and more physical presence than Moye played with, ARob could end up being a decent combo of Moye meets Brown. Brown put up 30+ catches for 450+ yards his sophomore year that got fans pumped. ARob could do the same.
That leaves Kenney to pick up the speed game. He’s not going to be what Smith was – not many players outside of Jamaica have 4.30 40 speed – but at 6’0, 192, Kenney’s more of a complete receiver than just a deep ball, stretch-the-field guy. And from what we know so far, we don’t have to worry if Kenney’s ever asked to piss in a cup. Smith was all speed with dicey hands. Kenney can catch the ball and apparently he ran a 10.6 100-meter dash before coming to PSU…if that’s true, that’s pretty damn fast. He’s pretty much this year’s Chaz Powell only a full-time receiver – he already has the hair and ink to match.
This year’s top wide outs may not warrant a Smurfin nickname – especially since we haven’t even seen them play – but if they ball as well on Saturdays as they’ve looked through camp, they could Smurf up some defenses this year, especially if they get some Smurfin play from their quarterback. ARob has a buttload of potential and he’s going to be HUGE for BOB & Co. down the road, Kersey needs to embrace his final and really first season as a contributor to this team and Kenney just needs to work the field.
The way Penn State lost Moye, Brown and Smith was insane…something like that will probably never happen again. For BOB to have to rely on McGloin throwing to ARob, Kersey and Kenney in his first year in charge is just as insane…but we’re optimistically OK with this trifecta.