The 2016 football season has come and gone, and with the offseason upon up — begin the way-too-early predictions and accolades. This may be taking a glance down the road, but that’s alright if the buzz is about the Nittany Lions.
Led by returning seniors DaeSean Hamilton and Mike Gesicki, ESPN writer Brian Bennett tabbed Penn State’s exciting group of receivers the best in the conference heading into the 2017 season. Despite losing a huge chunk of production — roughly 27 percent of Penn State’s production through the air — the team should be able to rebound with the talent that’s still there. Here’s what Bennett had to say about James Franklin’s skilled group that accounted for 18 receiving scores in 2016:
The Nittany Lions’ No. 1 wide receiver in 2016 was Chris Godwin (59 catches, 982 yards, 11 touchdowns). He decided to skip his senior year and enter the NFL draft. The depth here is still good, though, especially since we are including tight ends.
DaeSean Hamilton had an up-and-down year and didn’t record a catch in the Rose Bowl. He did perform well in the Big Ten championship game and should be a bigger factor as a senior. Saeed Blacknall was suspended for the Rose Bowl but is a good deep threat when available. Irvin Charles has earned a lot of hype around the program for his pure talent and could break through in 2017. Juwan Johnson is in a similar boat as Charles.
What really puts this group over the top, however, is tight end Mike Gesicki. A rare big-time playmaker at his position, Gesicki is a go-to guy for Trace McSorley who is capable of making spectacular catches.
Bennett slotted the Nittany Lions ahead of Indiana, Michigan, and Michigan State. Franklin was among the fortunate in that he didn’t have to endure a complete overhaul at the position — similar to the one Ohio State’s currently experiencing after its top three wideouts declared for the NFL.
We’ve got some time between now and the start of spring ball. Offseason accolades are fun to consider, but the Nittany Lions need to prove they’re worthy of such praise.