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Penn State Football: For Franklin, Fixing Wideout Consistency Issues Comes Down To Everyone

by on October 03, 2018 7:10 PM

There are a handful of realities that make Penn State's issues at receiver difficult to truly source.

For one, it's not a lack of athletic talent. KJ Hamler, Juwan Johnson and the like have shown that when the ball is in their hands they can make plays. They've also show they're capable of making difficult catches at key moments. 

Equally true, the Nittany Lions are still looking for an answer, a player that has glue for hands, a consistent threat -- not a lingering one. The ability shows in flashes but Penn State's receivers have generally proven to be more of a threat with the ball than a threat to catch the ball.

And maybe somewhere that thought sat in the back of Ricky Rahne's mind on fourth down. For all of the uproar over the decision to run instead of pass, there was a very real possibility a throw would have resulted in a drop as this group stands right now, especially with Hamler out of the mix at that particular moment in time.

Behind the unit there is David Corley, who, as mentioned previously, wasn't initially hired by James Franklin to coach receivers in the first place. And coming from Army his group was essentially a non-factor, the leading receiver during the 2017 season hauling in a single-digit catch total throughout the entire year as a part of a run-first, run-only offense.

And while Corley was never an overly impressive hire, it doesn't preclude him from becoming one, and until Penn State becomes a program that attracts the Josh Gattises of the world, Franklin's best bet might be to continue to develop them in-house as best he is able. His success rate and ability do so no small question in its own right.

Finally, there is Trace McSorley, who has attempted his fewest number of passes through the first five games of the season while matching his career high for incompletions over the same span.

Through five games

2016: 93/158 for 65 incompletions, 58.8%

2017: 105/160 for 55 incompletions, 65.6%

2018: 73/138 for 65 incompletions, 52.8%

Simply put, there are plenty of areas to point to when it comes to the team's receiving woes.

For James Franklin identifying the fix is perhaps more important than finding a problem whose source is propagating across all the areas the Nittany Lions' passing game touches. 

In the meanwhile, there are more pressing and less philosophical issues to resolve.

"I think obviously, yeah, I think we can be more consistent," Franklin said after practice on Wednesday. "I don't think there is any doubt about it. The receivers individually would say that. I think David Corley would say that as well. So that's what we're working towards. Everybody owns it. It's not any one person, everyone owns it including myself. I know it's not for a lack of effort. We need to be more consistently focused. We need to make sure our techniques and fundamentals are so second nature that we don't even need to think about it."

Ownership has been a buzzword in the days following Penn State's loss, coaches and players alike taking a share of the load for the result and all of the ways it came to be. The challenge now will be creating ownership for the solutions and the difficult choices, sacrifices and commitments that will make them come true. DaeSean Hamilton's career was as much his own doing as it was Gattis'. Credit, change and improvement — much like blame — is a group effort.

“I said ultimately, it's on me," Franklin said earlier in the week. "But I guess what I am proud of is that we've created an environment here and a culture here where players want to take responsibility, where assistant coaches want to take responsibility. I think there's a lot of value in that. That makes me proud of what we're building here. But again, as I said on Saturday night, ultimately I'm the head coach and I'm responsible.”

And of course if McSorley's start to 2018 matches that of 2016, there's nothing saying the endings can't be the same too.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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