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Penn State’s 2018 Breakout Player: KJ Hamler

Redshirt freshman wide receiver KJ Hamler is back to full health and ready to light up Big Ten defenses

NCAA Football: Penn State Blue White Game Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

This is the first of a 10-part series detailing potential breakout players for Penn State in 2018

Speed kills.

It’s a cliche you often hear in sports when discussing a team’s offense.

In football, if a player has elite speed, he’ll be able to beat opposing defenders.

In basketball, it will allow for faster transitions.

In baseball, it can allow for a routine double for most players to become a triple.

No matter what the sport, it’s simple: speed kills.

Players who possess elite speed are among the most valuable in sports and are highly coveted. For a while, Penn State lacked players with elite speed, but in the James Franklin era the program has seen an influx of just not players with elite speed, but players who are elite athletes overall.

One of the those elite athletes is wide receiver KJ Hamler.

When Hamler steps on the field on Sept. 1 for the NIttany Lions, it will be almost two years since he last played football. The former four-star recruit tore his ACL his senior year of high school and missed the entirety of his true freshman season.

If he were healthy, Hamler could’ve seen a good deal of playing time. That being said, Hamler now can be a secret weapon for Ricky Rahne and the Lions offense.

At 5-foot-9, 172 pounds, Hamler is ideally sized for the slot receiver position that was left open followed the departure of DaeSean Hamilton. While Hamler won’t have an easy time replacing Hamilton’s production, he could easily slide into the open starting spot and become and dangerous weapon for the Lions.

Coming out of high school, Hamler ran a 4.43 40-yard dash according to his 247Sports profile, which would be among the best on the Nittany Lions’ roster.

Not only does he have elite speed, but also elite elusiveness as a ball carrier. His skills earned him the nickname “The Human Joystick” from his former high school teammates.

In the spring, Hamler was among the most notable performers and was constantly praised by the coaching staff and players for his performances in practice. Fans got their first look at the Michigan native during this year’s spring game and while he only made one reception in the game, Hamler was able to show off his speed and abilities which left fans with wanting more.

It was a great sneak peek at what Hamler could do both before he has the ball and with the ball. Hamler’s battle for a starting spot will be among the biggest position battles to watch this summer in what is expected to be a big year for Penn State wide outs.

With the departure of Saquon Barkley, hype around both Juwan Johnson and 2018 five-star recruit Justin Shorter continues to build.

For Hamler, his time to shine will come, whether it’s this year or next.

With his speed and agility, he could give the Lions a deep home run threat that they haven’t had the likes of in years.

Unlike recent standout receivers Chris Godwin, DaeSean Hamilton, Juwan Johnson, and Allen Robinson, Hamler is like a different breed.

He lacks the height to make catches on the 50/50 balls, but his speed and elusiveness allows any quarterback to feel comfortable to let the ball rip and feel that Hamler will be on the connecting end every time.

Any time Hamler makes a catch over his the next few years, he will have a chance to the take the ball to the house. When combining him with the likes of Johnson, Shorter, and DeAndre Thompkins, it’s easy to see that the Lions could have one of the best receiving cores in the country and Hamler could be a major part of its success in 2018.