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Why Losing DaeSean Hamilton And Mike Gesicki May Hurt Penn State More Than Losing Saquon Barkley

After a near catastrophic upset at the hands of Appalachian State, Penn State heads into week two with a lot of problems that need solving.

The talk of the town was how Miles Sanders would fare in Saquon Barkley’s place after No. 26 was chosen with the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but he looked solid in Barkley’s absence.

However, tight end Mike Gesicki and receiver DaeSean Hamilton also said farewell to Penn State when they were chosen in the second and fourth round, respectively.

The loss of those two might end up being the Nittany Lions’ achilles heel this season.

Sanders and Slade Look Sharp

Although Saturday ended up being a barn-burner, there were some bright spots for the Nittany Lions.

Miles Sanders made some noise with his 19 carries, rumbling for 111 total yards along with two touchdowns. We saw a brief glimpse of this explosiveness late last season, but his first start at Penn State proved that Sanders is ready to take on a heavier workload.

Additionally, true freshman Ricky Slade made some noise, scoring his first career touchdown right up the middle of the defense from 27 yards out.

Slade, a former five-star recruit, really only got an extended look on one series, but he impressed with his speed and explosiveness on full display. He finished the game with 39 rushing yards and a score on six carries.

Both players look more than capable of giving Trace McSorley the help he needs in the backfield, making Barkley’s departure a much easier pill to swallow.

Less Dependability On The Outside

Nittany Lion fans are quick to lose sight of DaeSean Hamilton’s contribution in the midst of the hype surrounding Trace McSorley. Hamilton quietly almost broke the school record for career receptions last season.

He provided McSorley with a reliable safety net, something that No. 9 didn’t have against Appalachian State. Headed into this season, Juwan Johnson looked like he was going to be the best receiver on the team, but he struggled at times throughout Saturday’s game.

Johnson led the team in receiving yards, but dropped several key passes to disrupt the offense’s momentum.

Mike Gesicki, a 6’6″ monstrosity with great hands, is also gone after a stellar career in Happy Valley. Gesicki holds the Penn State tight end records for most touchdowns in a season and for his whole career. His replacements, Jonathan Holland and Danny Dalton, didn’t factor into Saturday’s game much at all.

The tight ends combined for three receptions for 38 yards, but this isn’t as much of a cause for concern. Gesicki was held under 30 receiving yards in four of Penn State’s games last season, and all four ended in Nittany Lion victories.

Lack Of Jump Ball Threats

A staple of Trace McSorley’s game is the deep ball, and he usually has big targets to rely on for just that.

Having a 6’1″ Hamilton and 6’6″ Gesicki made it really easy on James Franklin for the past few seasons. A traditional 50-50 ball was never truly even, as both receivers had the size and skill to come down with big gains more often than not.

Now, other than Johnson, Penn State has two 5’9″ players (K.J. Hamler and Brandon Polk) to go along with the 5’11” DeAndre Thompkins.

This doesn’t bode well for Penn State’s offense, which loves to sling the ball down the field. As far as tight ends go, Jonathan Holland has the size. He may not have the athleticism that Gesicki had, but can certainly become a factor in the red zone as the season goes on.

Listed as 6’4″ and 225 pounds, Juwan Johnson may be the only legitimate jump ball threat for the Nittany Lions. If Johnson doesn’t step up, it may be tough to get many big plays going through the air.

Players like Hamler and Polk may have to make deep plays work by burning safeties and cornerbacks in coverage with their pure speed and explosiveness. You can’t teach size, but you can teach safeties to sit in deep coverage and shut down speedy slot receivers.

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About the Author

Austin Smith

Austin Smith is a junior broadcast journalism major. He grew up in New Jersey and is a writer for Onward State. He specializes in football, basketball, and the New York Knicks.

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