Wide receiver has become one of the strengths of a Nittany Lion offense that will be breaking in a new quarterback and running back (albeit players with game experience). Although they must replace Juwan Johnson and DeAndre Thompkins, a ton of talent remains. It will be exciting to see what this receiving corps can do with a full season of playing time.
X: Justin Shorter (So/Fr)
Shorter seems to have this spot locked down at this point and is fully healthy after a somewhat injury-prone true freshman year where he appeared in the maximum four games, catching three passes for 20 yards and rushing once for nine yards. At 6’4’’ and 232 pounds, Shorter is the ideal replacement for Juwan Johnson and his 4.52 40-yard dash time means he can run away from defenders if necessary.
H: Jahan Dotson (So/So)
Dotson stepped up when his older teammates faltered a bit in the 2018 season, proving himself to be a reliable target for Trace McSorley. The rising sophomore from Nazareth appeared in eight games, starting four in his first season and caught 13 passes, ten going for first downs. Dotson’s track skills were on display in his somewhat limited action in 2018, and he should showcase that agility and athleticism in his second season as he becomes a full-time replacement for DeAndre Thompkins.
Z: KJ Hamler (So/Jr)
The electric redshirt sophomore may be the most proven wide receiver on the roster in 2019. 50-plus yard kickoff return and game-tying touchdown catch against Appalachian State? Check. Touchdown run against Pittsburgh? You can put that on the board. Then there was the 93-yard slant score against the Buckeyes (I won’t get into the “What if he doesn’t get hurt?” discussion). Hamler finished 2018 with the most all-purpose yards for a freshman in Penn State history, including 754 receiving yards (tops on the team) and 523 kick return yards. The redshirt sophomore from Pontiac, Michigan will undoubtably be kicked away from on special teams, but starting in the slot position should allow him to have a breakout year receiving in 2019.
Whoever ends up at quarterback for the Nittany Lions is blessed with not only three solid projected starters at wideout, but also a wealth of reserves. Cam Sullivan-Brown had a brief flirtation with the transfer portal this offseason, but withdrew his name and returns to provide valuable depth. Daniel George and Mac Hippenhammer also offer explosiveness behind Shorter, Dotson, and Hamler, as both wideouts caught touchdowns in 2018. Hippenhammer finished with six catches for 103 yards and a score against Pittsburgh, while George had two grabs for 112 yards, the long being a 95-yarder against Kent State from the greatest quarterback in Penn State history, Sean Clifford. It remains to be seen what Hippenhammer’s impact will be, given that he will miss the 2018 spring playing for the Nittany Lion baseball team. Let’s not forget 2019 freshman four-star John Dunmore, who should be able to redshirt but may make an impact early on in the year.
Is anyone else excited about Penn State’s receivers in 2019?