Penn State Preview: WIDE RECEIVER Edition
Along the way, we predicted the forthcoming of an epic 3rd Year Edition of "Hack Attack". The foundation was laid on a new dawn for what was a less than stellar running game in 2014 and we let the blue and white faithful know that our tight ends were ready to rock with the best of them.
All of which leads us to our offensive culmination. A group of weapons that may truly go unrivaled, as a unit, when all is said and done. The Wide Receivers.
GONE, BUT NOT FORG......
STOP THE PRESSES!!! This section can be summed up quite easily and with one word. NOONE is gone from last year. I include this because it actually says a lot about the "state" of Penn State and where we stood in 2014.
On a team with only 43 scholarship players, our receiving corps was as young as it could have possibly been. Not one senior in the starting rotation. In fact, Matt Zanellato was the lone junior of the bunch and most of his contributions were with the special teams. The nation’s 2nd youngest team in 2014, for all intent and purpose, still has a lot of catching up to do in terms of age and veteran status.
If there was any kind of silver lining to the sanctions (aside from the decision of Nittany Nation, as a whole, to stand up and FIGHT) is the irony that Penn State stands here today both young and fresh in all facets of the game. As strong as it has been in a long time.
A PLETHORA OF OPTIONS
Returning for another go-around in 2015, is a mixed bag of speed, size, athleticism, and determination. In other words, a little bit of everything you want from a set of wideouts. And then some. Of the four featured targets in last year's offense, each one had his shining moment.
The oldest of the group, redshirt junior Geno Lewis, began the year with a bang in Dublin, Ireland. His one-handed, falling to the ground grab against Central Florida in the Croke Park Classic was one for the ages. The season ended with a monster performance by Chris Godwin in the Pinstripe Bowl. The true freshman took NYC and Boston College by storm with 7 catches for 140 yards and a touchdown.
In between those bookends, another true freshman, Saeed Blacknall, made his lasting impression with a corner of the end-zone catch that tied Penn State up 17-17 against the eventual National Champions during last year’s White Out. Leading the way amongst them all was the mark of consistency, DaeSean Hamilton. His 82 receptions led the Nittany Lions and helped pave the way to his earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors in 2014.
Hamilton heads into 2015 garnering all the preseason accolades and predictions, rightfully so. But the truth is, any one of these four pose a major threat on every down. Each one of them comes in with big-game experience, and a firmer grasp on the playbook. The best is clearly yet to come from this group.
As established as we seem to be at wideout, there is always room for more and DeAndre Thompkins is poised to add his name to the mix. The speedster from N. Carolina came to Happy Valley as an early enrollee in 2014. After a redshirt year to add some weight, Thompkins seems destined to be used as an outside threat and in the return game.
The stellar Class of '15 also welcomes the addition of 3 more wideouts. Juwan Johnson and Irvin Charles both stand at 6'4"-6'5" and pose immediate red-zone threats because of it. Brandon Polk is another speedster along the lines of Thompkins. The jury remains whether any will see the field this year. If I had to guess, just based on high school film, you can pencil in Johnson (known as Megatron Jr.) as having an instant impact on this squad. His ability to grab the "jump ball" could separate him from the rest.
The lowdown on this unit is pretty cut and dry. The quartet of Lewis, Hamilton, Godwin, and Blacknall are only a decent O-Line away (much like the other three skill positions we covered) from becoming a force to be reckoned with in college football. They have already been compared to the triple threat of Derrick Williams, Deion Butler, and Jordan Norwood, that arrived on campus in 2005. Can they surpass the Legendary status that those three hold in our hearts? Only time will tell.
As much potential as this offense carries as we head into 2015, I believe the addition of Thompkins and Johnson will only add more ammunition to the arsenal that Christian Hackenberg has at his disposal. The combination of all of these weapons put together, could be just the beginning of one that goes down in the history books. Only three short weeks till liftoff!