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BSD Blue-White Position Preview: Wide Receiver

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What’s in store for Johnson, Thompkins, Hamler, and Co. in 2018?

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

This is the sixth in a series of position previews for the 2018 Penn State football team heading into the Blue-White game. Check out Friday’s preview of the tight ends here.)

Our newest scribe Marty gave us a great look at the recent changes to the wide receiving corps for 2018, but let’s take a deeper look at the depth chart for what may be Penn State’s strongest position group this fall.

The Starters

Juwan Johnson is cemented as the “X” receiver. The redshirt junior proved himself in 2017 as a reliable target, grabbing 54 passes for 701 yards and seven touchdowns, including...

Johnson figures to be a more focal point in the offense this season with the departure of Saquon Barkley, DaeSean Hamilton and Mike Gesicki.

As Marty detailed last week, former slot man Brandon Polk was moved from inside to the outside this spring, and may be in line to start at the “Z” receiver spot. Polk spent the 2015 and 2017 seasons in the slot (he was injured early in the 2016 season and was given a medical redshirt), and was the primary recipient of the wide receiver screen in his first year. The move outside comes despite former receivers coach Josh Gattis saying Polk would have “an easy transition” to DaeSean Hamilton’s slot position in 2018. However, new offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne and new wide receivers coach David Corley decided to move Polk outside early in the spring. His speed on the outside could lead to opportunities for receivers on the inside, including last year’s starter at the Z spot.

After a year where he started eight games at the Z position, DeAndre Thompkins moves back inside at the “H” spot for his fifth season with the program. Thompkins’ primary impact last year was as the punt returner, but he did average nearly 16 yards per catch in 2017. Pushing Thompkins for playing time will be the darling of spring ball, redshirt freshman K.J. Hamler. Hamler was one of the first-year offensive players that coaches had difficulty keeping the redshirt on last year, and his progress in the spring has wowed players and coaches alike. Trace McSorley calls Hamler, “an explosive play waiting to happen”, and Polk says the 5’9’’ 165 lb. wideout looks like “he has been playing for a couple of years at the college level.”

The Others:

While the above three wideouts are penciled in at the X, Z, and H spots, James Franklin, Rahne, and Corley will have quite a rotation to work with. Sitting behind Johnson at the X receiver is true freshman and top recruit Justin Shorter, who will arrive in June. The 6’4’’ wideout has shown great ability to high-point the ball, as well as the skills to out-run defensive backs as seen below.

Redshirt freshman Mac Hippenhammer should see playing time behind Thompkins and Hamler, as could fellow redshirt freshman Cam Sullivan-Brown. True freshmen Daniel George and Jahan Dotson should redshirt pending an emergency situation.

Tune in tomorrow as Chris T. breaks down the safeties!