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Penn State’s 2019 Breakout Player: WR Justin Shorter

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The 2019 season should see much better production from the wide receiver spot for Penn State, and Justin Shorter is a big reason why.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Penn State offense had a lot of issues in 2018, with a strong argument being made that dropped passes were the biggest of these issues. Led by new wide receivers coach Gerad Parker, the Nittany Lion wideouts will look to turn things around this fall.

There are certainly reasons to be optimistic about the receivers. KJ Hamler is a bonafide stud, Jahan Dotson is primed for a breakout season (as Jared pointed out on Monday), redshirt freshman Daniel George is ready for a bigger role, and grad transfer Weston Carr has a track record of production at the Division II level. However, the biggest reason to believe in a turnaround for the Nittany Lion wide receivers this fall is redshirt freshman Justin Shorter.

The story of Shorter’s 2018 season was injuries. Shorter arrived in Happy Valley as the top wide receiver recruit in the country, and one of the top 10 players nationally according to 247Sports. Had he not spent a majority of his season battling a lower body injury, odds are he would have made a significant impact last season.

That being said, Shorter also had a lot to learn about playing the wide receiver position. In high school, Shorter played in a wing-t offense, which is one that does not feature the forward pass very often. This played a role in Shorter needing to learn how to effectively run routes, get off the line of scrimmage, get into his breaks, and other nuances of the receiver position. After a full calendar year on campus, Shorter should be ready to make his impact.

At 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, Shorter is a physical specimen. He should be a terror on opposing defenses in the red zone, utilizing his elite size and athleticism to either overpower or out jump opposing cornerback. Outside of the red zone, Shorter has the long speed to stretch the field for the Nittany Lions, giving Sean Clifford a deep threat any quarterback would love to have.

Despite the slow start to his career, Shorter could very well emerge as one of the top wide receivers in the Big Ten next season. Not very many players are capable of making a jump from 3 receptions to an all-conference level player in a matter of on year, but fortunately for the Nittany Lions, Shorter just might be one of them.