Saeed Blacknall Poised To Take A Bigger Role In Penn State’s Offense
It’s important to be aware of the general unimportance of spring scrimmages, and to take their results with a grain of salt. Still, Saeed Blacknall, the Blue-White Game’s leading receiver, may have just given his teammates, the fans, and the media a meaningful taste of what he’ll be capable of this season.
Penn State’s receiving corps is very young and very good. Geno Lewis and DaeSean Hamilton are typically the two names that come to mind when thinking of who will be catching Christian Hackenberg’s passes, and they’re fortified by an impressive collection of tight ends. Regardless of all of the big names surrounding him, Blacknall may be someone to watch out for in big-time situations this upcoming season.
“As a unit, we’ve grown a lot,” he explained after the game. “Coach hammers on details, assignment alignment, and every practice is critical in our game.”
Last season, Blacknall was tied for seventh on the team with 11 receptions and 112 yards in 13 games, and caught a single touchdown. The score came in the fourth quarter of his team’s double-overtime loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes, and once again, may have just been a flash of what he’s capable of.
Saturday afternoon, in front of 68,000 fans at Beaver Stadium in the team’s annual scrimmage, Blacknall’s Blue team did what it was supposed to do in a 17-7 win over the White. The Blue squad was mostly composed of returning starters, so they were heavily favored, and if it wasn’t for a heroic Nick Scott run, Blacknall’s team would have likely won with a shutout. On the offensive side of the ball, Blacknall was the receiver who appeared to have the most chemistry with Hackenberg — not Hamilton, not Lewis, not Carter or Gesicki or Lynch. On an early drive, Hackenberg and Blacknall hooked up multiple times in a row and kept moving the chains. Early in the second half, Hackenberg completed the longest pass of the day when he found a streaking Blacknall 41 yards down the right sideline. Three plays later, the duo connected for a two-yard touchdown and the game’s final points. Blacknall finished the day with six catches for 71 yards and a touchdown, turning in a performance that was as productive as half of his last season. Hackenberg ended up with 17 completions, more than a third of which went to Blacknall. He was aware of the increased pressure on him, and turned in a big performance in the first and only game of the spring.
“I just had to get better overall, just kinda grow up,” Blacknall said after the game. “I’m not a freshman so I took a bigger role in the offense, learned from my mistakes from last year.”
The Hackenberg-Blacknall connection was one of the most frequently exciting aspects of the game, and the two players aren’t shy in displaying their respect for one another.
“In my opinion I think [Hackenberg] guides us,” Blacknall praised. “With a captain like that, you want to follow him.”
“[Another year together] makes a huge difference,” Hackenberg said. “A lot of [the receivers] were so young coming in last year, so being able to work throughout the entire winter and spring with those guys, getting to learn things, how they see things and how they move, that’s huge and it can only get better from here.”
With very significant names in its aerial offense having left Penn State in the past two years, James Franklin and Co. will be looking for someone to step up when Sept. 5 rolls around and the team heads to Temple. With a foundational freshman year and an exciting spring under his belt, Blacknall may just make a name for himself this season.