DaeSean Hamilton had a very strange year. The wide receiver spent 2014 as Christian Hackenberg's favorite target, racking up 82 catches for 889 yards and two touchdowns in the process, putting together arguably the most impressive freshman season by any Penn State receiver in history. He was a preseason All-Big Ten nominee, and seen as a candidate to break out in a massive way. However, Chris Godwin announced his presence with authority in the Pinstripe Bowl, and never looked back. We'll get to him later on in the series, but the targets became far more spread out. Once armed with Hamilton, Geno Lewis, and tight ends, Hack had options in 2015. Hamilton's total number of catches dropped to just 45, with 580 yards to go with them, while Godwin exploded for 1,101 yards on 69 catches. So, why is he here?
For one, DaeSean's talent went nowhere. Opposing defensive coordinators knew how dangerous he was and game planned to stop him. Because of his presence opposite Godwin, the offense had opportunity, which is a rare thing to say about the John Donovan era. Hamilton was still the clear cut second option, ahead of Lewis, Kyle Carter, Saeed Blacknall and Brandon Polk among others. Despite the decrease in targets and catches, Hamilton was actually more productive when he did get his hands on the ball. His yards per catch jumped from 11.0 to 12.9, and he tripled his touchdown total to six. Part of that is a product of Penn State's reliance on big plays to make up for deficiencies, but you can't rely on them and succeed without players who can perform. Hamilton's catching in traffic improved, and his routes were crisp as ever. He had some drop issues and some invisible games (the less we ever say about the Army game, the better), but so did the entire team. He had some big games, like the 5 catch, 86 yard performance against Rutgers, and caught touchdowns in three straight games against Indiana, Ohio Stateand Maryland. His 8 catch, 78 yard performance against playoff-bound Michigan State and 5 catches for 71 yards and a gorgeous touchdown catch against Georgia showed he can play with anyone. He'll be overshadowed by Godwin and the defense, but all he needs is opportunity and he shines.
He may not have led the Big Ten in receptions again, but he was a key part of the offense. If he had more support around him, he would have posted a bigger season. Unfortunately, the passing game was rarely in a position to succeed, so effective target utilization on a designed play came second to who is open on a broken play far more often than you'd hope. The surface numbers may lack a bit, but Hamilton proved to be a consistent threat, and if he can build a rapport with new starting quarterback [Insert QB here but probably Tommy Stevens], he could bust out again in Joe Moorhead's offense next season. He's a threat with the ball in his hands, and the type of player who can make you pay if you don't give him the attention he deserves. With Godwin, Blacknall, Irvin Charles, Juwan Johnson, and the rest competing for touches next year it'll be interesting to see how Hamilton develops. He could be much higher on this list a year from now if all goes according to plan.