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Reception Is Reality: Stacked Wide Receiver Position Looks to Deliver Again in 2017

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The Nittany Lions are certainly deep at receiver, but who will step up to replace Chris Godwin’s production?

NCAA Football: Penn State at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As much as we love to talk up the emergence of Trace McSorley and the continued stellar play from Saquon Barkley as the reasons for why the offense took off in 2016, the wide receiving corps stepped up to the plate as well, led by none other than Chris Godwin. Godwin’s team-leading 982 yards and 11 touchdowns receiving (not to mention, his highlight reel-worthy catches) will not be easily replaceable as he takes his talents to the NFL, but thankfully, a deep stable of wideouts are poised and eager to prove themselves worthy of such a task.

Definitely Starting

DaeSean Hamilton (RS Senior) - “BaeSean” (as he’s so aptly nicknamed) enters 2017 as PSU’s most accomplished returning receiver, having caught a total of 161 balls for 1,985 yards and nine touchdowns. However, his production has declined from his breakout season in 2014 when he caught 82 passes for 899 yards. Part of this you can chalk up to the swift emergence of Chris Godwin as PSU’s best receiver, as well as the fact that DaeSean was hands-down the most reliable receiver for Christian Hackenberg to feed the ball to in 2014 and was thus, consistently targeted. Not to mention the fact that Hamilton was the recipient of many screen passes, given that PSU lacked a capable running back and was playing behind an offensive line so porous that not even MacGyver could salvage it.

Additionally, with Joe Moorhead taking over the reins as offensive coordinator last season, came a greater emphasis on spreading the ball around to many different recievers, and thus another dip in Hamilton’s overall production. That being said, expect DaeSean to bump his numbers back up in his final season as a Nittany Lion, as part of a collective team effort to fill the production void left behind by Godwin’s departure.

Saeed Blacknall (Senior) - Saeed’s career thus far has been the quintessential story of a naturally gifted player who has showcased flashes of brilliance but is plagued with inconsistency. After a Big Ten Championship game performance last year that saw him haul in arguably the two most critical touchdowns (the first TD came with less than a minute to go in the first half and PSU trailing 28-7, the second TD came early in the second half, which swiftly cut PSU’s deficit to 28-21), he will seek to provide similar performances on a weekly basis. Given that he was the starter against Kent State last season and eventually won his starting job back after missing four games with an injury, Blacknall looks like a safe bet to start.

Fighting For a Starting Spot

DeAndre Thompkins (RS Junior) - DeAndre did an admirable job filling in Blacknall’s starting spot while Blacknall was hurt and later hanging onto it as long as possible before Blacknall reclaimed it. When he first arrived in Happy Valley, he was lauded for his game-breaking speed, which many hoped would lead to him becoming the punt returning threat this program hasn’t had since Derrick Williams in the late 2000’s. While the whole punt returning thing didn’t work out for him, Thompkins did establish himself a guy capable of using his speed to become a deep threat. Here’s to seeing more highlights like the one below from him

Irvin Charles (RS Sophomore) -

Believe it or not, that clip showcased half of Irvin Charles’ receptions in 2016 (Charles had two catches in total, for you non-math, science, or engineering majors). The next step obviously for him, is to establish consistency and work his way into the rotation. While I’m going to go out on a limb and predict he will catch more balls in 2017, he has his work cut out for him as far as actually becoming a starter is concerned.

Juwan Johnson (RS Sophomore) - Much like his classmate Irvin Charles, Juwan Johnson also caught only two passes last season. However, Johnson appears to be establishing himself as the heir apparent to Godwin’s old starting spot, earning universal praise from the coaching staff for his improvement. Keep a very close eye on #84 during the Blue-White Game next Saturday, as he attempts to showcase to the rest of the fan base what he has apparently been showcasing to his coaches.

Brandon Polk (RS Sophomore) - Much like Thompkins, Polk also had a reputation coming into PSU for being a speedster and his big gain on a jet sweep on his very first collegiate touch at Temple in 2015 seemed to indicate perhaps that a star was being born in the receiving corps. Obviously, such thoughts were very premature, and an injury-plagued 2016 season did Brandon no favors. Without question, Brandon has plenty of work ahead of him.