Geno Lewis Fitting Snugly In Allen Robinson’s Big Shoes
For two years, Geno Lewis didn’t get many chances in Penn State’s offense. With a receiver like Allen Robinson around, it was tough.
Coming into this season, Lewis was the No. 1 wideout on the depth chart. Still, there were concerns about Lewis and his potential to be more than just a vertical, speedy wideout. Some analysts thought that Lewis would be overtaken on the depth chart by the younger talent suiting up for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State fans were realizing that they were spoiled by Robinson, a talented, do-it-all wide receiver who could be trusted to come up with insane, game-altering catches, like his now-famous play against Michigan. It should have been years before a pass-catcher as good as Robinson took the field in blue and white.
And then Lewis surprised everybody.
The junior receiver had a decent 2013 campaign, but with the exception of a couple big games, he was quiet through most of the season and didn’t see much field time. Through just four games this season, Lewis is already proving just how talented he is. He’s pulled in 25 catches for 462 yards and one score. That’s an average of 115.5 yards per game. Lewis has put up at least 82 yards in each of Penn State’s four matchups in 2014.
So what will Lewis finish with if he keeps up the monster pace he set early this season? Allen Robinson numbers. 75 catches. Over 1,000 yards. A ridiculous yards-per-catch average.
Numbers never tell the whole story, though. Lewis might top Robinson on the stat sheet. He might fall short, too. What matters is that he’s making big plays, hauling in long passes every game, quickly developing a tight relationship with his quarterback, and breathing life into an offense that has desperately needed it at times this season.
Take a look at this play from Saturday’s game against UMass:
Hackenberg was having an off day. He was struggling to make accurate throws and forcing balls into tight coverage. He was lucky not to get picked off on a few occasions, and this was one of them. The ball is severely underthrown. Lewis barely makes space between the corner and himself as he runs a go route down the right sideline. The defender has time to turn and see the ball, but Lewis makes a great read, slows up, breaks the corner’s rhythm, and makes a sweet jump-ball catch near the goal line while remaining aware of the sideline and staying inbounds.
How about this catch that turned around the game against Rutgers?
This is another brilliant play from Lewis. He lines up left and runs a quick slant towards the middle. Hackenberg fires a dart right on the money to Lewis, but typically this play results in a quick tackle after the catch for a 10-yard gain. In this case, Lewis expertly breaks free from two tacklers and takes off downfield.
Just a couple plays later, Bill Belton found the end zone for the go-ahead score that gave the Nittany Lions a victory in the Big Ten opener.
A player that was advertised as a vertical receiver who can utilize his speed for fly routes and nothing more has proven himself otherwise. He can break tackles. He has solid finesse moves. He can lay down blocks on wide receiver screens and running plays as good as anybody. He can read plays and adjust routes when needed.
Thanks to all of that, Hackenberg has placed a whole lot of trust in Lewis this season. If you didn’t see a different number on the jersey, you wouldn’t have realized that Allen Robinson was replaced as the No. 1 receiver and go-to option for Penn State’s young quarterback.
“We have a great relationship,” Lewis said of Hackenberg. “During the weekend, we watch film at nighttime and things like that. We’re just real good friends. We want to be on the same page at all times.”
“It’s great, just knowing that he’s comfortable with throwing me the ball and feeling confident that I’m going to come down with it and make the play. That’s the best feeling. I’m just glad to have Hack as my quarterback. I feel like he’s the best quarterback in the country and I wouldn’t want to have anything else.”
Something tells me that Hack would say exactly the same about Geno Lewis.