PSU news by
Penn State's student blog

Topics

About

Countdown To Blue-White: The Return Game

Penn State has no shortage of options in the return game, making it one of the more intriguing position battles of James Franklin’s fourth spring in State College.

John Reid surprised with his efficiency last season at punt returner, handling most of the duties (22 for 166 yards) before the coaches decided to give the starting corner a breather in favor of senior Gregg Garrity. It’s unknown when Reid will be back after suffering a reported knee injury in practice last week, but freshman Lamont Wade and former walk-on Josh McPhearson should provide plenty of competition for the vacant spot.

They were seen fielding punts alongside running back Mark Allen at Wednesday’s practice, while freshman receiver KJ Hamler, who’s working back from a knee injury of his own, looked on. DeAndre Thompkins also has experience returning punts for the Nittany Lions. He exploded for 58 yards on his first career attempt against Buffalo in 2015, but dealt with ball-security issues at times.

DeAndre Thompkins blows past a Maryland defender on Homecoming.

Charles Huff has shown a desire to get young skill position players their first taste of Power Five football in the return game. As a true freshman, Miles Sanders emerged as the primary kick returner last season, showing glimpses of breakaway speed but never quite putting it all together. He and Saquon Barkley traded opportunities in the Rose Bowl, but Barkley will likely be too busy burning defenders on offense next fall.

Huff could end up taking a long look at incoming freshmen Mac Hippenhammer and Journey Brown during camp this summer. Both were late-rising recruits who showed outstanding speed on the high school level. Hippenhammer is a touted shortstop and will also play for Rob Cooper’s Nittany Lions during the offseason, but it’s his effortless talent as a return man that has the football program most excited about his arrival.

Brown was a three-sport athlete for Meadville Area, where he enjoyed a ridiculously productive career despite flying somewhat under the radar, at least at first. Aside from his famous 10-touchdown, 722-yard performance in a 107-90 win over DuBois in 2015, Brown also earned PIAA state gold in the 60-meter dash this past indoor track season with a 6.87 — the 10th best high school time in the nation. His basketball team fell to Archbishop Wood in the Class 5A state final a few weeks ago in Hershey. The 5’11” running back can really soar above the rim.

Miles Sanders turns upfield during the Big Ten Championship.

Junior receiver Brandon Polk, who missed the majority of last season due to injury, could also play a part in the kick return competition this summer once he’s ready to go. Franklin stressed the importance of not just having speed back there, but the intelligence to make split-second decisions and an overall comfort level under duress.

Penn State’s special teams as a whole dramatically improved last season, but it’s been ages since a Nittany Lion returner found the end zone. Chaz Powell capitalized on the season-opening kick against Indiana State in 2011 and Derrick Williams brought back a punt at Wisconsin in October 2008.

The next step in Penn State’s special teams development centers on generating that elusive return game touchdown.

About the Author

Ethan Kasales

Ethan’s a senior journalism major who grew up in Lemont, a few minutes from campus. When he’s not covering Penn State sports, you can usually find him golfing or teaching snowboarding at Tussey Mountain. Feel free to email him at [email protected]

Comments

More by Ethan

Four-Star Safety Tyler Rudolph Commits To Penn State

Rudolph picked the Nittany Lions over a lengthy offer sheet that also included Clemson, Florida, Michigan, and Ohio State.

Penn State Women’s Volleyball Releases 2018 Schedule

Four-Star Athlete Marquis Wilson Commits To Penn State

Athletics

North Dakota Interested In Playing Against Penn State Hockey In Nashville

North Dakota is working towards an agreement that will see its hockey team play against Penn State in Nashville during the 2020-21 season.

Former Cal Swimmer Says She Emailed Sandy Barbour About Sexual Harassment Claims

Max Sauve Commits To Penn State Hockey

Penn State Women’s Volleyball Releases 2018 Schedule

Penn State Hoops Alumnus Joonas Suotamo’s Journey To Becoming Chewbacca Featured On ESPN’s ‘E:60’

Student Life

Penn State Love Stories: A Chance Meeting On A Service Trip

When Abby Wilt went on a service trip to Nassau, Bahamas, she had no idea she’d meet the love of her life.

10 Questions With 2019 Class Gift Director Tom Beeby

Career Services To Launch Integrated Career Management & Recruiting Platform

Plans Submitted For New KFC In State College

Developers have submitted preliminary land development plans to build a new KFC restaurant at 1780 S. Atherton St. in State College.

State Theatre Recognized As A State College Historic Site

As it approaches the 80th anniversary of its opening, the State Theatre has been recognized as a State College historic site.

Penn State Love Stories: A Chance Meeting On A Service Trip

When Abby Wilt went on a service trip to Nassau, Bahamas, she had no idea she’d meet the love of her life.

Be the first to know

  • Top posts and the best Penn State stories

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

10 Questions With 2019 Class Gift Director Tom Beeby

Tom Beeby will serve as the 2019 Class Gift Executive Director.

Send this to a friend