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Spring Preview: Wide Receivers

On April 18, the Penn State football team will take the field for their annual Blue/White scrimmage. In the midst of spring practice, and headed into the spring game, we'll be taking a closer look at all of the position groups. Up next: wide receivers.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State's funnest (funnest? most fun?) position on offense heading into spring ball is wide receiver. It's not even close. The Nittany Lions legitimately have four guys who can go off for 10+ catches and 100+ yards in a game, and that's not even including the team's freshmen, both incoming and redshirt.

Seriously, have you looked at Penn State's wide receiver depth chart? It rules! Unlike last year, where there were question marks about who would assume various roles within the WR corps, everyone on campus currently knows what they are expected to do, and that is a really, really fun thing.

Key Departures: Nobody

*puts on pinwheel hat*

*mounts bicycle*

*rides around town with a goofy smile on my face*

Definite Starter: DaeSean Hamilton

This may be the biggest difference between Penn State's 2014 receiving corps and its 2015 receiving corps. Last year, there was no real answer to the question "who is Penn State's No. 1 receiver?" In the wake of Allen Robinson's departure to the NFL, there were a lot of guys who hadn't really done anything. In fact, the team's top returning wide out had a stout 18 catches for 234 yards in 2013.

Then, about 30 seconds into Penn State's season-opening game against UCF, it became obvious that DaeSean Hamilton was going to be Christian Hackenberg's primary target. And throughout the year, that was the case. BaeSean, as Chad began to call him to the chagrin of everyone over 27, reeled in 82 balls for 899 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Hamilton's ability to do anything he needed to do made him especially impressive. He could kill opponents on screens, deep routes, stuff across the middle, anything. His body control was also impressive, as he showed a knack for being able to adjust mid-air to snag a ball. The scariest thing about him is that this is only his redshirt sophomore year, so it's conceivable that he will only get better.

Rotation Guys Who Can Make A Major Impact: Saeed Blacknall, Chris Godwin, Geno Lewis

The thing that makes Penn State's WR corps so tantalizing this year is the depth that it has beyond Hamilton. It's perfectly reasonable to think that any of the Nittany Lions' top four guys can be the team's No. 1 receiver, not just for individual games, but for the entire season.

The most consistent No. 2 option is probably Geno Lewis. Sure, he's arguably the worst of the Blacknall-Godwin-Hamilton-Lewis quartet, but he has proven that he can be a consistent option who is capable of making big plays. He was second on the team in receptions (55) and receiving yards (751), and while Lewis probably has the lowest ceiling of any receiver on Penn State's roster, he also has the highest floor. Lewis finished the season out with a big performance in the Pinstripe Bowl: 7 catches, 82 yards and a touchdown.

Speaking of guys who had big performances in the bowl game, Chris Godwin was a monster against Boston College. He tied Lewis and Hamilton with seven receptions, but led the team with 140 receiving yards, including this unreal 72-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown early in the game.

Of course, that doesn't mean that Godwin is going to turn into the next Larry Fitzgerald, but it showed that he has the potential to explode. Which is good, because the rest of his 2014 campaign was basically what you expected from a freshman. Save for the bowl game, he had no more than three receptions or 31 yards in a game, and tallied 19 receptions and 198 yards with a score. Still, he's insanely talented, and with his excellent hands and size, he can be a star.

This leaves Blacknall, who had a really nice game during Penn State's win over Ohio State but not much else. Ten receptions and 95 yards with a touchdown is a nice first year for a wide receiver, but in a way, it's fair to say that we may have expected a little more. He came into the year hyped as "Megatron Jr.," was one of the top recruits in New Jersey and nearly caused a riot among Rutgers fans when he flipped his commitment from the Scarlet Knights to the Nittany Lions because he's such a spectacular prospect. If he gets more comfortable to the offense, and if he can do stuff like this consistently, there's no reason to think that he won't be a potential No. 1 receiver for the Nittany Lions.

The New Guy Who Could Be A Superduperstar: DeAndre Thompkins

The one thing that Penn State really doesn't have in Blacknall, Godwin, Hamilton or Lewis is a guy who can get behind the defense and open things up way down the field. All of those guys are obviously fast, but they aren't game-changers with their speed, which limits the offense in what it can do in the passing game. And as we all know, when Hackenberg decides to take a downfield shot, it's exciting as all hell.

Ideally, we'll see a few more of these downfield shots, because DeAndre By God Thompkins is done redshirting and is ready to set fire to opposing secondaries.

Ok, that's a bit much, but there are still plenty of reasons to be excited about Thompkins' game. He's one of the fastest guys on the team, and the kind of home run threat that the Nittany Lions didn't have last year. Thompkins can not only make an impact in the passing game, but he is also adept at killing it on jet sweeps and a dangerous kick returner, because he has that extra gear that makes him dangerous as all hell. Look at this! He looks like fun!

Matt Zanellato: Matt Zanellato

His hair is majestic.

Incoming Freshmen Who Aren't Here Yet But Oh My God: Irvin Charles, Juwan Johnson, Brandon Polk