Junior wide receiver Chris Godwin is entering the NFL draft this spring — a decision that’s left Penn State fans wondering who will fill his role come next fall.
Godwin was one of Penn State’s most prolific receivers in recent memory, and will rightfully go down as one of the best. In his three years in the blue and white, Godwin accumulated 154 catches for 2,421 yards and 18 scores. He was able to burst onto the scene in the fall of 2015 by becoming Christian Hackenberg’s primary target then continued his dominance in 2016 with Trace McSorley heaving him deep balls every Saturday.
Godwin’s departure won’t railroad the Nittany Lions, but the unit will need one of its seasoned veterans to step up and fill his shoes.
The most glaring negative about the Delaware native’s departure is that Penn State is losing one of the most receiving threats in the country — it’s going to have an impact no matter which way you slice it. Godwin accounted for 11 of McSorley’s 29 touchdown passes this season while drawing a majority of the defensive attention away from other playmakers.
A more concerning reality is the lack of overall proven talent in the receiving department. Yes, DaeSean Hamilton hauled in more than 80 catches during his freshman campaign, but in each of his last two seasons he has seen a dramatic drop off in production by failing to eclipse more than 45 catches in 2015 and 2016. Saeed Blacknall’s story follows suit; the junior possesses plenty of talent, but he’s managed has just 33 catches for 690 yards and five touchdowns in three seasons at Penn State. After those two, there sits plenty of young potential but not much proven depth. In all, somebody is going to need to step up and fill Godwin’s spot next year or the offense could stagnate.
The previous point may be a more pessimistic view, but the emphasis should really be on proven. These young wide receivers might not have much to show on the field yet aside from DeAndre Thompkins, Blacknall, and Hamilton.
Even though Hamilton hasn’t been as productive in recent seasons, there is no doubt he’s this offense’s senior leader of this group who will be counted on to mentor the younger players surrounding him. With guys like Thompkins, Juwan Johnson, Irvin Charles, Brandon Polk, Saeed Blacknall and highly regarded recruit KJ Hamler, this group is out to prove their worth. The size is the most intriguing aspect of this group, with Johnson, Charles, and Blacknall all measuring at least 6-foot-3 or taller and Thompkins, Polk, and Hamler all measuring less than 6-feet tall. With these seven players all fighting for valuable playing time in the fall there is no doubt that Trace McSorley will have plenty of targets to choose from. With the height that Charles, Johnson, and Blacknall possess they’ll possess a clear height advantage over most defensive backs that Godwin wasn’t always fortunate enough to have. Also, bigger bodies lined up on the outside it will allow more nimble receivers like Thompkins and Polk to line up in the slot and create problems in the middle of the field.
When Allen Robinson left after the 2013 season, the thought of who might replace his staggering production was reason enough to be alarmed — but Godwin answered the call. With Godwin moving on to the NFL ranks — though uncertainty still remains — there’s still plenty of talent on the roster to ensure the offense carries its wave of momentum into the 2017 season.