Young Receiving Corps Expected To Carry Load Of Penn State Offense
James Franklin’s wide receiver room will lose a couple of experienced veterans next season.
Juwan Johnson and Brandon Polk are in the NCAA’s transfer portal, and fifth-year senior DeAndre Thompkins is out of eligibility. Losing experienced talent at any position can hurt, but the Nittany Lions are in good shape to replace the outgoing wideouts.
Both Johnson and Polk struggled throughout the 2018 season. Johnson had some well-documented issues with dropped passes last season, and Polk was largely ineffective, only posting nine catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
Penn State will also bring back its leading receiver from last season, KJ Hamler, who led the team in receptions (42) and receiving yards (754) while hauling in five touchdowns.
Hamler made a handful of highlight-reel plays last season, including a breathtaking 93-yard catch-and-run against Ohio State. With a lack of other proven options at receiver next season, the Nittany Lions will need Hamler to take another step forward.
Hamler wasn’t always expected to be a key piece of Penn State’s passing game, but he clearly emerged as a star on Ricky Rahne’s offense. It should be interesting to see how he manages expectations for the first time in his career.
Justin Shorter is another player to watch at wideout next season The talented youngster preserved a year of eligibility and will enter next season as a redshirt freshman. Shorter is a former five-star recruit who didn’t take the field much last season, but expect him to step into a big role in 2019. Like Johnson, Shorter boasts excellent size with a 6’4″, 226-pound frame. He could become Penn State’s most reliable deep threat and jump-ball specialist in 2019 if he develops as anticipated over the course of the offseason.
Freshman Jahan Dotson was also impressive in limited playing time in 2018, posting 13 catches for 203 yards. In the absence of Thompkins, Johnson, and Polk, Dotson should have the opportunity to make a case for himself this spring when the coaching staff decides who will start opposite Hamler.
Based on his efficiency in 2018, Dotson may be the most promising prospect Penn State has at wide receiver. Nine of his 13 receptions throughout the season resulted in first downs, including a season-long 35-yarder against Rutgers.
Other young receivers who could push for more playing time next season are Mac Hippenhammer, Daniel George, and incoming freshman John Dunmore. Hippenhammer made just six catches for a solid 103 receiving yards, and Daniel George was on the receiving end of the longest touchdown pass in Penn State history against Kent State.
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