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Penn State Preseason Top 10 Players for 2017: #10 Saeed Blacknall

Today we begin our annual top ten preseason football players of 2017 list as voted on by the BSD staff. In creating this list, we considered players’ abilities, value to the team and past performance, among other factors. We begin our countdown with number 10 on our list, wide receiver Saeed Blacknall.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Championship-Wisconsin vs Penn State Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Mention the name Saeed Blacknall to any Penn Stater (or really, anyone who knows of Penn State football), and immediately the first thing to come to mind will be this:

Or perhaps this:

Unfortunately, due to injuries, suspension, and a lack of consistency performance-wise, those are virtually the only two instances that come to mind when most people think of him. However, he’s still get one more chance as a rising senior to leave Happy Valley as someone known for being a go-to receiver for Trace McSorley.

How He Got Here

Much like his teammate Saquon Barkley, Blacknall was originally verbally committed to Rutgers before James Franklin and his merry men rode into Happy Valley and subsequently set about on their quest to dominate the state(s). A 4-star receiver according to 247 Sports, there were high hopes that he could develop into a weapon for the Nittany Lion offense.

Arriving on campus in 2014, Saeed first made a name for himself on the field during his freshman year with his fourth quarter touchdown grab against Ohio State that helped narrow PSU’s deficit to three points, sparking an improbable rally from a 17-0 halftime deficit to force overtime. In fact, four of his ten catches during his freshman season came from that OSU game.

Sophomore year saw more of the same, where Saeed would have one game where he lit it up (in this case, San Diego State, where he caught four balls for a then career-high 101 yards) and then would virtually disappear, only catching a ball here and there. His junior year was hampered by an injury suffered during the season opener, causing him to miss the next four games. While he was good for a catch or two upon his return, it wasn’t until the Iowa game in early November that he would notch his first touchdown of the 2016 season, hauling in a lob from McSorley in the back corner of the end zone.

As we all know by now though, Saeed’s best performance would be saved for the biggest stage in the Big Ten, when he caught six passes for 155 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the conference championship game against Wisconsin in Indianapolis. In fact, it could be argued that he had the two most important momentum-shifting plays of the game, as his first touchdown came within the final minute of the first half, cutting into a 28-7 Wisconsin lead. As a result, PSU trailied by merely 14 points instead of 21. The second touchdown, a beautiful 70-yard bomb, came literally on PSU’s first play in the second half, after Wisconsin’s opening drive resulted in a missed field goal.

What To Expect In 2017

We all saw what Saeed was capable of when he’s on top of his game, as evidenced with his amazing performance in the B1G title game. While it would be ridiculous to expect him to have similar performances in every game, he needs to become good for a few catches every game and can’t disappear for several games in a row like he has done in previous seasons. With Chris Godwin now gone, he has an opportunity to step up and become that go-to ‘safety valve’ type receiver for McSorley that Godwin was last year. Whether he will do so of course, remains to be seen.