Ninety-seven catches, 1,432 yards, and six touchdowns.
These are the numbers that First Team All-American Allen Robinson produced last season. Unfortunately, they also represent the level of production that will be missing from Penn State’s offense in 2014, as Robinson now dons the jersey of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
With Robinson gone, there will be a number of receivers vying for playing time as the season-opener against UCF approaches. Between the new true freshman additions (DeAndre Thompkins, Chris Godwin, Saeed Blacknall) and returning faces (Geno Lewis, Matt Zanellato, Jake Kiley, DaeSean Hamilton), competition is sure to be heated during camp. However, out of all these names, one is set to take the spotlight and steal the show.
With 18 catches for 234 yards and three scores in 2013, Lewis is the team’s top returning receiver for the upcoming season. The only difference is, he isn’t playing in the shadows anymore.
“I’ve been patient these last couple years, and I’ve waited my time,” Lewis said at Penn State Media Day. “This is the year I feel like I need to prove myself and show everybody my talents.”
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound wideout certainly will have to prove himself, but in a wide receiving corps that lacks veteran presence, Lewis finds himself as one of the most experienced players. The leadership element that he brings will be pivotal for the freshmen wide receivers as they develop, and he will be counted on to serve as a mentor.
Lewis showed flashes of promise last year while playing secondary roles to both Allen Robinson and Brandon Felder. He shows great poise going fearlessly across the middle on slants and in-routes, giving quarterback Christian Hackenberg a reliable option on short yardage situations. He’s also shown a knack for catching the deep ball, which was evident in his 54-yard touchdown snag in the opener against Syracuse and his 59-yard grab versus the Badgers. His deep route ability is bolstered by his 4.4 40-yard dash speed, allowing him to blow by opposing defensive backs.
The redshirt sophomore was the Nittany Lions’ leading kickoff return man last season with 23 kicks returned for 491 yards, but with the freshman class bringing in such speed, he isn’t sure how often he will be fielding kicks. “[I’ve been returning kicks] here and there, but I’m not really sure how that’s going right now. I’m sure during camp we’ll figure out more,” Lewis said.
Either way, expect to see a lot of Lewis in 2014. All in all, Lewis is confident about his abilities, and is ready to show the rest of the Big Ten what he can do.