Taking it to the Next Level

The transition from quaerterback to wide receiver complete, now Brett Brackett tackles a move into the starting lineup.

When he was being recruited, Brett Brackett shunned the schools that wanted him to play positions other than quarterback, the spot at which he won All-State honors as a prep player in New Jersey.

Then, in his freshman season at Penn State, the Nittany Lions needed someone tall to mimic lanky Notre Dame wide receiver Jeff Samardzija in preparation for a game against the Fighting Irish. The 6-foot-6 Brackett, one of three backup quarterbacks pulling scout team duty at the time, was cast in the role and went on to have a pretty good week of practice.

“I guess I made more catches than they thought I would,” said Brackett, who had never played wideout in high school. “So they left me at scout team receiver the rest of the year. The next spring, they presented me with the idea of playing wide receiver. I was all for it. I just wanted to get on the field and help the team as much as I could.”

Brackett will be making another big change in Penn State's season opener Saturday against Akron when he goes from backup to starter. The redshirt junior from Lawrenceville, N.J., is one of three new starters in Penn State's revamped receiver corps, with redshirt sophomore Derek Moye and redshirt junior Graham Zug joining him on the first team.

It's a moment he's been awaiting ever since making the unlikely position change.

“Last year, my role was to come in every once in a while and give someone a break or be a fourth wide receiver in a four-wide set,” Brackett said. “This year, I'll be looked upon as a more-reliable target on every down and in every situation. I'm excited for the opportunity.”

The new receivers' potential has been a matter of some conjecture in the off-season. Brackett, Moye and Zug were role-players last year, combining to catch 27 passes for 405 yards and four touchdowns in helping spell heralded starters Deon Butler, Derrick Williams and Jordan Norwood. But what the Nittany Lions lack in star power and experience this fall, they make up for in depth. They have a stable of eager young wideouts behind the starters, and elsewhere, they have two veteran tight ends and a sure-handed tailback coming out of the backfield.

“I think the tight ends are going to have a bigger part in what we do offensively, particularly in the passing game,” Joe Paterno said. “And I wouldn't underestimate [Chaz] Powell and Moye. Moye has played some. So we do have some kids that have played. I don't think you can put it all on one guy. I think you can always take one receiver out of a game.”

While the returning wideouts are eager to establish their own identity at Penn State, they are still close with their blue-chip predecessors.

“We were just talking to Deon on the phone the other night,” Brackett said. “He's excited for us. He keeps telling us, 'You guys are going to do your thing. It's your time.' We're all just excited and ready to start making some plays.”

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