The success of DaeSean Hamilton at Penn State is one of the most storied in school history, leaving as the career leader in receptions, second in yards and tied for fourth in touchdowns. His production may have gone down with the play of Chris Godwin, but he is one of the best receivers in program history.
Replacing a player like him is not easy for the next receiver in line as some players do not have the ability to move into a starter’s role. The one good thing for Penn State is redshirt junior Juwan Johnson returns to lead the receiving corps. His combination of size and speed makes him the ideal number one for any offense.
The depth order at receiver, after Johnson, is a little more questionable as players like DeAndre Thompkins and Brandon Polk have not had the opportunity to be a major contributor in the Penn State offense. Thompkins has been the more productive of the two, but Polk’s position switch has put him in a good position to start over him.
Polk has 18 career receptions for 205 yards and two touchdowns, numbers that Thompkins surpassed this season alone. His three receiving touchdowns are the most of any returning player and the Nittany Lions will need his ability to impact the game in order for the passing game to be successful.
Redshirt freshman KJ Hamler has been burning the secondary in the slot position, allowing James Franklin to move the speedy Polk to the perimeter. His play in the slot could potentially move him to perimeter, but Franklin might want a little more height outside than the diminutive Hamler.
The one wildcard of the wide receiver group is a player that has not even taken part of practice yet. That player is Justin Shorter, the consensus five-star recruit from New Jersey. The lanky 6-foot-4 receiver has a catch radius and body control that the other three receivers do not have.
Shorter’s receiving numbers were not high because his team played in a run heavy system, but his speed and athleticism proved that he is capable of contributing right away. His route running is behind the receivers on campus, but he is the most talented receiver in the group as soon as he steps on campus.
At the end of the day
Whoever wins the number two job will be catching passes from a potential Heisman trophy candidate in Trace McSorley. His ability to lead the offense is unquestioned after leading Penn State to back-to-back 11 win seasons for the first time since 2008-09. McSorley is capable of leading the team to the College Football Playoff, but he will need a receiver other than Johnson to step up.
Thompkins is the safe choice to start the season opener against Appalachian State on September 1, but Shorter has the talent to overtake the pack by the Ohio State game on September 29.