Those shiny new toys Penn State has at wide receiver may be coming out of their boxes right away.
Three scholarship players — two of them receivers — will not return to the Nittany Lions for the 2014 season. Sophomore wideouts Richy Anderson and Jonathan Warner along with junior offensive lineman Anthony Alosi are no longer with the team, Penn State confirmed on Friday.
Anderson and walk-on quarterback Austin Whipple will seek transfers. Alosi and Warner remain enrolled at Penn State, with Alosi on track to graduate this summer.
“We thank them for their contributions to the program and wish them well in their future academic and athletic endeavors,” Lions coach James Franklin said in a statement.
Lions247 first reported the departures.
In the short term, Penn State's overall depth was damaged. In the long term, the Lions will be able to use those scholarships to add to the 2015 recruiting class.
Most affected was the Lions' already inexperienced receiving corps, as Anderson was the only outgoing player to have seen meaningful snaps for the team. Former coach Bill O'Brien was looking for a slot receiver last season and elected not to redshirt Anderson, who made 13 catches for 111 yards as a true freshman.
Former WVC star Eugene Lewis, Penn State's top returning receiver, singled out Anderson as one of the unit's most improved players in April.
“Richy Anderson, he's looked great,” Lewis said at the end of spring practice. “He's looked better than I've ever seen him before.”
It was welcome news for the Lions. O'Brien had been frustrated with Anderson's habits at times last season, even electing to leave him off the travel roster for the Ohio State game because of poor grades.
“He needed to study,” O'Brien said at the time. “To open his books and study this weekend.”
Warner had redshirted in 2012 and appeared in just two games in 2013. Both receivers, coincidentally, are sons of former standout running backs at Penn State — Richie Anderson and Curt Warner.
Alosi's exit is the least surprising of the bunch. The reserve lineman had been indefinitely suspended by Franklin during the spring after he was charged with misdemeanor simple assault from an alleged incident in January.
He had seen the field in seven games a year ago but was not expected to challenge for a starting job in 2014, even with the team's depth woes on the line.
Whipple had fallen behind fellow walk-on D.J. Crook last year and was not expected to contend for the backup role behind Christian Hackenberg. The redshirt freshman announced Friday night that he would be transferring to UMass, where his father, long-time pro and college coach Mark Whipple, is the new head coach.
“After a lot of thought, I've decided to transfer to UMass,” Whipple wrote on his Twitter account. “Couldn't pass up the chance to play for my Dad at a school that I watched as a kid.
“Couldn't be more thankful for the opportunity Coach O'Brien and Coach Franklin gave me to play for such a great school. Unbelievable year.”
As for the receivers, Penn State could end up turning to its impressive freshmen class to bolster the group.
Lewis, a sophomore, and junior Matt Zanellato are now the only wideouts on the roster who have recorded a catch in a college game. Injuries have kept sophomore Jake Kiley and redshirt freshman DaeSean Hamilton off the field entirely in their early careers.
That gives the true freshman crew — Troy Apke, Saeed Blacknall, Chris Godwin and De'Andre Thompkins — a significant opportunity to play right away.
“We're going to play the best guys — no matter what,” Franklin said last month during a stop at Genetti's in Wilkes-Barre. “I think a lot of people say that, but they really are seniority-driven. You see that in high school, you see that in Little League, you see that in college. I don't believe in that.
“If you've been a three-year starter, and someone comes in and beats you out — I'm sorry. We're going to play the best guys.”
Thompkins already has a leg up, having graduated high school a semester early to enroll at Penn State in January. He would be the most likely to take over Anderson's role in the slot, having split reps with him at the position in the spring.
Coaches and players have already raved about Thompkins' speed, with some saying the rookie is already the fastest player on the team.
Franklin has lauded Apke for his versatility, while Godwin and Blacknall were two of the country's highest-rated receivers coming out of high school in this past recruiting cycle.
Blacknall was a late addition to the class, switching his commitment from Rutgers after Franklin took over in Happy Valley. Lewis said he got to talk to Blacknall a few times during the process and was anxious to see him on the field.
“He's a good dude,” Lewis said. “I can't wait to see what he's capable of doing.”