PSU Nike Analysis Part 1

Our first installment of who did what at the combine on the Penn State campus Saturday. In this update, Cory James breaks down the prospects who project to the offensive side of the ball in college (and a couple of defenders).

The Penn State Nike Camp got off to a slow start for me upon my arrival at Holuba Hall. I learned via text message that Altoona, Pa., standout A.J. Alexander had decided to go to track practice instead of attending. This wasn't a huge disappointment since Alexander had told me that if he had attended, he wouldn't work out.

Blue-chip quarterback Terrelle Pryor was also a no-show, which was to be expected with his prom being the previous night. Linebacker Andrew Sweat was also expected to attend, but he did not show up. My guess is he felt he had nothing to prove since he has the offers that he wants and he will probably be making a decision soon.

Now let's get to the guys who did show up at Penn State. This is part 1 of a two-part series, where we focus (kind of) on the offense.

For the quarterbacks, it was E.J. Manuel (Virginia Beach, Va.) and a bunch of other bodies for me. It was quite clear that Manuel had the build, athleticism, mechanics and arm strength to be a great one. I would actual compare Manuel favorably to Tyrod Taylor from last year's quarterback class. Manuel is several inches taller than Taylor and probably has a little less quicks, but the rest of the tools are very similar in my opinion.

The other quarterbacks in attendance that caught my eye were Mike Glennon (Chantilly, Va.), Nolan Kearney (Downingtown, Pa.), and Devon Lessesne (Washington, D.C.). Glennon was very tall and very thin, but he had good arm strength and moved pretty well. Kearney was about as I expected him to be after the combine in New Jersey. He does a lot of things that are good, but nothing that is great. He has average arm strength. I just keep seeing Zack Mills in Kearney, with a little less athleticism than Mills.

Lessesne is only a rising junior, so he has another year of maturing to do. Taking that into consideration, I think he could be a good one with some work. He has a lot of athleticism. Not a lot of speed, but he has a good feel for things. His arm isn't as accurate as you would like right now, but he has some decent arm strength. Consistency is his problem right now, which obviously can be improved.

That is about it for the quarterbacks, from what I saw.

The running backs featured a few guys with Penn State offers in Brandon Beachum and Christian Wilson. Wilson looks like he should be a linebacker for sure. Beachum looks like he should be a running back for sure. Despite those observations, Penn State is recruiting both at the linebacker position.

I had to catch up with Beachum afterward to make sure that Penn State was recruiting him as a linebacker. The reason for that was that as far as I know he has been working out at all camps as a running back, and he also appeared to be less than 6-foot tall, which isn't exactly a screaming endorsement for linebacker. Beachum did reiterate that Penn State has offered as a linebacker. Beachum remains wide open and is nowhere near a decision, like his teammate Mike Zordich.

I was pretty impressed with Beachum overall. His athleticism is unquestioned and he even showed some nice leadership, jumping to the front of the line on every drill and calling for his drillmates to pick it up.

Wilson is a house out there. He doesn't have the speed of a Beachum, but my guess is that you don't want to get hit by him. That being said, Wilson is far down the list for linebackers that Penn State has offered at this point. I came in with an open mind, but I left with him still behind Jon Major, Michael Mauti, Zordich and Sweat for sure.

The last running back, I didn't even notice until I was walking out of the camp. If you remember, I highlighted a smaller running back from New York named David Zapata at the combine in New Jersey. Zapata was in attendance Saturday, although I did not see him work out. He said that he thought he did well, but he dropped some balls in some route running drills. That didn't really surprise me, as his hands along with his size were the two drawbacks for me on Zapata. At least now we know that the PSU coaching staff has seen Zapata. Maybe an offer is in his future pretty far down the road, but at this point I do not thing he is a Plan A running back target for any of the big schools.

The wide receivers lacked the star power that a Deion Walker or a DeJuan Miller would have brought, but there was more talent out on the field than I expected.

There was a rising junior prospect in Devon Smith (Greenbelt, Md.) that won the wide receiver MVP. I didn't know who Smith was going into the combine, but I did notice him running some routes. He was a smaller receiver along the lines of a Cameron Sadler (Monroeville, Pa.), but he seemed to have high end speed and quicks even a notch up from Sadler. Smith could be a name to remember for the future.

Since I mentioned Saddler, I will comment on him next. Saddler is the real deal in my opinion. He was a very outgoing personality in the one-on-one's, and no one could cover him. He could be a threat at so many different levels for a creative offensive mind. I came in thinking no offer should be tendered to Saddler because of his size, but after Saturday I'm on board.

I still don't think that Saddler gets an offer, but PSU assistant Mike McQueary had his eye on him more than once so we shall see.

D.J. Woods (Strongville, Ohio) was the best of the bunch for me as far as future college talents. Woods is a bit bigger than the other guys that I previously mentioned, at what I would guess to be about 6-foot, 175-pounds.

Woods couldn't be covered all day, ran great routes, had great hands - just not much to pick on. He is a bit smaller than guys with PSU offers such as Deion Walker, Kenny Tate, and DeJuan Miller, but he is on that next tier. I would put him just below Vaughn Carraway in my wide receiver rankings.

Morgan Carter (Woodbridge, Va.) was the last wide receiver I kept an eye on after his Elite Combine performance. I was pretty disappointed with Carter. He did nothing to really wow me. He won't beat people on the college level deep because he doesn't have that blazing speed. He has a lot of size and could be a nice possession/blocking wide receiver, but nothing that a team is going to have to game-plan against.

The offensive line group at this year's Nike Camp was far below any other year that I can remember. Just seeing the entire group running toward me, I could tell there was nothing special. R.J. Dill (Camp Hill, Pa.) was the biggest name there and he was probably the best built guy there with a huge frame. Dill was not really all that strong though, and that showed big time later in the day.

Dill was matched up with Leon Mackey (Newark, Del.), who may have been the best prospect there in close competition with Manuel. Mackey beat Dill with ridiculous ease, getting to the quarterback in less than two seconds. Mackey was a few inches shorter than Dill and definitely a few pounds lighter, but he showed what quickness and muscle mass can do against a “promising frame.”

So as you can see, the best offensive line prospect wasn't even competition for the best defensive line prospect. I wouldn't consider any of the offensive line prospects in camp today for an offer from Penn State.

In the next segment, I tackle many of the defensive prospects who were at the Nike event.


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