Breakout prospect No. 1: Justin Brown

Wide receiver Justin Brown was one of the final players to commit to Penn State’s 2009 recruiting class, but he’s the first player I’m highlighting in my week-long series of seven players ready for breakout seasons for the Nittany Lions.

Brown saw the field as a true freshman, catching five passes for 78 yards to go along with seven punt returns, including an 18-yarder against LSU in the Capitol One Bowl, but the 6-foot-3, 214-pounder showed glimpses of his vast talent last season. Brown pulled in 33 passes for 452 yards — both third best on the team — and one touchdown. At times Brown’s concentration was lacking, with balls clanging off his hands and/or pads, but it never seemed to stay with him throughout the game. He’ll need to have the same attitude, and better focus, this season.

With Derek Moye and Brett Brackett, Brown getting most of the attention last season Brown didn’t get a lot of balls thrown his way, but that will change this season. Brackett is gone and Moye is now a known quantity who teams are going to have to game plan against stopping. That’s going to give Brown plenty of opportunities to show why Penn State fans were so excited when he finally committed to the Nittany Lions on signing day in February 2009.

Defensive backs are going to have a hard time with his size, while safeties won’t be able to match his speed. Despite his drops last season, Brown showed really good hands in high school and an offseason of catching the ball and not letting it get to his body should prove beneficial for him and the Lions. Another positive about Brown is that he’s a willing, and pretty good, blocker. He uses his body well to shield defenders and knows how to block, something a lot of receivers struggle with when they transition to the college game. That’s going to be key in allowing Silas Redd and Stephfon Green to pick up extra yards in the running game.

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