If Penn State is going to win games this coming football season, it will be because Christian Hackenberg has targets to throw to and that Nittany Lion receivers make the catches and plays they need to make. That's some deep analysis.
In turn, Penn State's receiving corps offseason is as key as any position on the team.
The talent is there, the experience is there. Now it's time to perform on the field.
Somewhat amazingly, Penn State didn't lose any talent at the receiver position this past offseason. It's not amazing because anyone was expected to leave. It's simply a rarity for an entire position to have no changes year-to-year.
Gordon Bentley, Saeed Blacknall, Kyler Diehl, Gregg Garrity, Chris Godwin, DaeSean Hamilton, Jake Kiley, Geno Lewis, Josh McPhearson, DeAndre Thompkins, Javon Turner, Luke Vadas, Matt Zanellato.
Everybody is back, so that makes things easier. Realistically, this position isn't nearly as deep as the numbers suggest, but having the likes of Geno Lewis, Saeed Blacknall, Chris Godwin, DaeSean Hamilton and DeAndre Tompkins in the fold doesn't hurt the cause.
Based on the success Penn State was able to generate late last year with its passing game, it's hard to imagine any drastic changes to the rotation beyond adding Tompkins to the mix. He is the unknown of the group. But Tompkins' speed will be a welcome sight for a unit that lacks a breakaway threat down the field. Franklin seems to think Tompkins is that threat, but it remains to be seen if that transpires.
Biggest Strength: Experience
Even if Penn State's receivers weren't always in top form last year, bringing back everyone for a second crack at a new system can't be a bad thing. Lewis is the head of this unit, but Hamilton isn't far off in that department. With those top two spots locked down by veterans, that leaves a lot of room for the rest of the receivers to grow into their roles. Christian Hackenberg needs weapons to throw to, and having a bunch of fairly young players with a year under their belts isn't something to overlook.
Biggest Weakness: Consistency
That's not to say Penn State's receivers weren't good last year, nor to suggest they weren't the only problem with the offense. But unlike the Allen Robinson era, Penn State doesn't quite have a go to man who can get the ball with no questions asked on key downs. Lewis and Hamilton both have catches in some key moments, but that feeling of automatic success isn't there the way it was with Robinson. Offseason work can do wonders though, so there isn't any reason why this weakness can't and won't be addressed.
There is more speed and talent and experience at this position than Penn State has had in a while. The unit as a whole has some work left to do to make the passing attack a real threat, but all of the parts are there to give Hackenberg what he needs to succeed.
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