Spotlight: Penn State Receiving Corps in 2014
The Nittany Lions are having a relatively good year on offense under true freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The running game has produced big yards from both Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak and should continue to perform well next year. The main question mark for the Nittany Lions is who Hackenberg will target in the passing game in 2014.
Allen Robinson is having the best year of any Penn State receiver ever. He has 1,310 yards receiving, more than half of Hackenberg’s total passing yards. Most people believe that Robinson will probably declare for the NFL Draft after this season, and it would make a great deal of sense. If Robinson declares for the NFL, Hackenberg will lose his best receiver, and it seems that no one is available to replace him. The Nittany Lions second leading receiver, Brandon Felder, is a senior and will be graduating, leaving another hole for head coach Bill O’Brien to fill.
For Penn State to have any success on offense next year, the running game will have to come up big. Running back Bill Belton should return and be the lead back for O’Brien’s offense, but the team will need a receiving threat. There is no point in having one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in Hackenberg if he has nobody to throw to.
As most of you know, O’Brien was the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots. In the NFL, he utilized his two main weapons, his tight ends, the most. Both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez had great years under O’Brien, and many people expected the tight end to be used at Penn State. This has not been the case. Last year Kyle Carter had a pretty good year, but has been misused this season. This year sophomore tight end Jesse James has 309 receiving yards, which isn’t bad but really does not make an impact. Next year O’Brien should look to his tight ends to make a larger impact on the game, controlling the ball on offense, and to give Hackenberg easier targets in the middle of the field.
The Nittany Lions leading receiver that will be returning next year is Eugene Lewis, who has 15 catches as a freshman. Lewis has not had many chances to make an impact, and maybe next year he can explode onto the scene, but can O’Brien really count on this?
The good news for Penn State is that help is on the way. Even with the limited amount of scholarships Penn State has to offer, O’Brien has been able to reel in some good recruits. De’Andre Thompkins is a four- star recruit and the number eight athlete according to ESPN. Thompkins is a quick player from Swansboro, North Carolina, and could definitely be a good slot receiver for Hackenberg. O’Brien also landed the 21st-ranked wide receiver, Chris Godwin. Godwin hails from Middletown, Delaware,
and should be thrust into the starting role right away. Godwin has good size at 6-foot-2, 203 pounds. Hackenberg and O’Brien will have the tough task of replacing one of the best wide receivers in Penn State history and incoming freshmen should help. However, the learning curve will be steep and the struggles will be noticeable early next season.
Timothy Alvarez is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)