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Examining a Shakeup at Wide Receiver on the Penn State Football Depth Chart

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Two wide receivers are switching positions for the Nittany Lions

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Penn State vs Washington Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Penn State Nittany Lion football team is now more than halfway through spring practice.

Part of spring practice every year involves players switching positions. On Tuesday, via a conference call, we found out about a positional shakeup at wide receiver.

Redshirt junior wide receiver Brandon Polk alerted the media that he has moved from the H (slot) wide receiver spot to the Z. Furthermore, Polk informed those listening that he has been playing only the Z this spring.

With Polk moving to the Z, this leaves returning starting Z wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins looking for a new home. Well, according to Andrew Callahan of Lions247, that new home this spring has been at Polk’s old H receiver position.

Polk also mentioned that redshirt freshman KJ Hamler, who has been a star of spring ball, has been pushing him at the Z receiver spot. Hamler can also play the H for the Nittany Lions and may have even been considered the favorite to take over as the starting H entering the spring.

So why the change?

Well, it would appear that the Nittany Lion coaching staff is looking to create more positional flexibility among the wide receivers. Juwan Johnson is locked in at the X receiver spot, and smart money would be on true freshman Justin Shorter also playing the X once he arrives on campus in June, but everything else seems interchangeable.

Creating positional flexibility makes it more likely that the Nittany Lions can roll with more four wide receiver sets during the 2018 season. And there are plenty of reasons for Penn State to roll with more four wide receivers sets in 2018.

First off, next to defensive end, the Nittany Lions might be deeper and more talented at wide receiver than any other position.

Due to this, it makes sense for James Franklin and his staff to look to create positional flexibility at wide receiver. If receivers such as Thompkins, Polk, and Hamler can play multiple positions, it makes it easier to get all three on the field at once.

Secondly, tight end is, to put it lightly, a question mark.

If Nick Bowers is healthy, the Nittany Lions are in great shape at tight end. But that's a huge if. Jon Holland has shown a little in minimal playing time and Danny Dalton has never seen the field. The offense may end up being better off playing four wide receivers over three wide receivers and a tight end as their base set in 2018.

Finally, Mike Gesicki was essentially a fourth wide receiver in many formations for Penn State the past two seasons. Though technically the Nittany Lions often had three wide receivers and a tight end on the field, they functioned as if it were four wide receivers.

Using a four wide receiver set in the Nittany Lion offense would require two receivers capable of playing the H on the field at the same time. Having three receivers that know the H position would make running four receiver sets much more doable.

Will we see more four wide receiver sets from the Nittany Lions this fall?

There are plenty of reasons to think so. We may start to get some answers in 10 days when the Blue White Game is played. But odds are, we will not know for certain until Appalachian State comes to town on September 1st.