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Penn State Preseason Top 10: #3 KJ Hamler

Hamler rocketed up this list in his firs year of eligibility, leaving Nittany Lions fans excited for what’s to come.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 24 Maryland at Penn State Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s time for our annual preseason top 10! Each summer, the staff votes on its top 10 players ahead of the upcoming season. A first place vote is worth 10 points, second place is worth nine points, and so on. Last week, we began the countdown with Sean Clifford and Blake Gillikin tied for tenth, Steven Gonzalez at ninth, John Reid at eighth, Robert Windsor and Cam Brown tied for sixth, Tariq Castro-Fields at five and Pat Freiermuth coming in at #4. Full voting results will be published at a later date.

How He Got Here

It became abundantly clear from the very start that Hamler is a special type of playmaker. Without his services, Penn State likely starts off the season in the ‘L’ column with an upset at the hands of Appalachian State. His late-game heroics in week one helped Penn State force overtime when hope was dissipating into the humid State College air. From then on, Hamler remained the key playmaker for a Penn State offense that often relied on him, especially when not much else would seem to go its way.

While Hamler regularly made jaw-dropping plays, nothing quite encapsulated his rare playmaking abilities like his 93 yard touchdown catch against Ohio State, where he made one cut and outraced a plethora of five-star Buckeye defenders:

Hamler found the end zone six times in the first six games of the season, forcing defensive coordinators to keep close table on him. He would go on to lead the team in catches (42) and receiving yards (754) and finished second in touchdown receptions behind tight end Pat Freiermuth. he also finished third in the Big Ten in kickoff returns with a 24.9 yard average. On several occasions, Hamler provided a huge boost for the offense with a long return that just narrowly missed becoming a touchdown.

What to Expect in 2019

There’s one obvious thing Penn State fans are demanding of Hamler in 2019 - more touches. While Hamler had an exceptional redshirt freshman campaign, it became apparent he wasn’t used as much as he should have. While the phrase “a threat to score each time he touches the ball” gets thrown around a lot, it’s especially true for Hamler, who is reminiscent of former Ohio State star Ted Ginn Jr. Regardless of the competition, Hamler can make one cut and make his way to the end zone untouched. He’s a special player who demands regular touches because he can easily find a way to create a big play. Even when the defense successfully manages to bottle him up, forcing them to be accountable for Hamler on each play will open things up and create more productivity from others.

Expectations will be high for Hamler in his redshirt sophomore season, as made clear with his inclusion in the watch list for the Maxwell Award, given annually to the best overall player in college football. Don’t be surprised to see his name come up on the Biletnikoff Award (top wide receiver) and the Paul Hornung Award, which recognizes the nation’s most versatile player- something Hamler could have a legitimate shot at considering his role as a return man and the real possibility have having more carries this season.

Whenever Hamler touches the ball, you can expect something for certain- plenty of excitement and jaw-dropping plays will be on the docket for 2019.