Allen Robinson is gone. No matter how much it sucks, it’s an inevitability that all Penn Staters will need to accept. Maybe you already have, maybe you won’t accept it until the offense takes the field on August 30 against Central Florida in Ireland, but it has to happen.
With arguably the best receiver in school history gone, someone has to step up and replace his historic production from 2013. Finding one guy to replace Robinson’s 97 receptions, 1,432 yards, and 6 touchdowns is likely going to be impossible — especially because the team’s leading returning receiver is now tight end Jesse James, who registered 25 catches, 333 yards, and 3 touchdowns last year — the team has several capable receivers and a stud quarterback to help with the transition. Here are five potential replacements:
1) Eugene Lewis
Lewis is the team’s leading returning wide receiver. Of course, due to Robinson’s production, the then-redshirt freshman didn’t have to do too much last season: 18 receptions, 234 yards, 3 TDs. However, going into 2014, he is as tenured of a player in Penn State’s wide receiving corps as you will find. He has all the talent in the world, and at 6’1″, 201 lbs., he has the size to play on the outside.
Maybe the biggest thing in Lewis’s favor is that he has established a bit of a report with Hackenberg. In the team’s final game of the season against Wisconsin, Lewis had 3 receptions for 91 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also had a 6 reception game during the 2013 campaign. He has the talent and the chemistry with Hackenberg to potentially do something special next season.
2) Adam Breneman/Kyle Carter/Jesse James
When you discuss Penn State’s tight ends, it’s almost always collectively and not as individually. Breneman, Carter, and James were such an integral part of Penn State’s offense last year because they all bring something unique to the table, and their production showed. The trio combined to catch 58 balls for 741 yards and 7 touchdowns last year, even though Carter dealt with nagging injuries all season and Breneman started the season playing special teams.
The old adage is that tight ends are a quarterback’s safety valve, and that’s the case here. James (6’7″, 257 lbs.) is a matchup nightmare because of his size, while Carter (6’3″, 243 lbs.) and Breneman (6’4″, 235 lbs.) are essentially oversized wide receivers. Don’t be surprised if all three see their numbers go up in 2014.
The scary part? The team’s tight end unit is going to be even more loaded next season due to the addition of four star recruit Mike Gesicki and Brent Wilkerson coming back from an injury that kept him out all season. That’s terrifying.
3) Richy Anderson
Anderson’s numbers don’t blow you away, with 13 receptions for 111 yards and zero touchdowns last year. He was a nice albeit unspectacular slot receiver for most of the season. The former three star recruit has the size (5’11”, 175 lbs.) and the talent to line up in the slot next season and up his production.
4) DaeSean Hamilton
If there’s a forgotten man in Penn State’s WR corps, it’s Hamilton. That’s not his fault, as he missed all of last season due to lingering wrist injury from when he was in high school. The former four star recruit will enter next season as a redshirt freshman, and is a dynamic option capable of impacting the game all over the field. If healthy, he could possibly have a monster season next year.
5) De’Andre Thompkins/Chris Godwin*
The two star freshmen get asterisks next to their names because there is a growing belief that both will back out of their verbal commitments from Penn State due to Stan Hixon — the team’s former wide receivers coach and the lead recruiter for both players — joining Bill O’Brien’s staff in Houston.
This is incredibly unfortunate, because both Thompkins and Godwin have the potential to be stars. The two are insanely talented with sub-4.5 second 40 yard dash times and threats from all over the field to take the ball to the house whenever they get their hands on it.
If the two top-250 players stay, they both have the potential to start from day one and become impact players sooner rather than later. Luckily, Thompkins plans on enrolling early, while Godwin has said that he still plans on attending the university — although both of them said that before Hixon left, so take what they say with a grain of salt. If the two hold true to their word, the almost impossible task of replacing Robinson won’t be nearly as difficult.