BWI publisher Phil Grosz continues his midseason look at the under-recognized Nittany Lions that have helped propel the program to its unbeaten record.
For the previous two seasons to 2017, Chris Godwin was Penn State’s go-to receiver for both Trace McSorley and Christian Hackenberg. Godwin had 153 career receptions for 2,404 yards and 18 TDs. In the Nittany Lions’ Big Ten Championship season last fall, Godwin had 59 catches for 982 yards (16.6 YPC) with 11 TD receptions.
Coming out of spring practice, James Franklin made it perfectly clear that just one wide receiver wasn’t the way Godwin would be replaced this fall, “You need a guy who’s a playmaker (at wide receiver). But there are a lot of ways to do it. We’ve had guys like (Robinson and Godwin) who have been able to high-point the ball and go get it in traffic, but you can have other guys who can just blow the top off the coverage or make people miss and do it that way and go 80 yards, or big, physical guys who can go get it.”
That’s what has happened in this first half of the season replacing Godwin.
Penn State has four receivers that have totaled 20 or more receptions.
Barkley leads the way with 29 catches for 395 yards (13.6 YPC) with two TD receptions, one good for 85 yards against Georgia State. Juwan Johnson is next with 24 catches for 303 yards (12.6 YPC) with one TD catch. DaeSean Hamilton and Mike Gesicki both have 22 receptions. Hamilton has 22 catches for 366 yards (16.6 YPC) with four TD receptions, and Gesicki has 22 catches for 176 yards (8.0 YPC) and also four TD receptions.
Then there’s DeAndre Thompkins with 16 receptions for 190 yards (11.9 YPC) and Saeed Blacknall with nine catches for 162 yards (18.0 YPC) with one TD catch. Brandon Polk and Stevens have 12 combined catches for 112 yards and three TDs.
Barkley is the receiver that can make players miss. Thompkins is the receiver that can blow the top off of coverage. Johnson and Blacknall are big, physical receivers that create mismatches and are capable of vertically stretching the field. Hamilton, Polk and Stevens are possession receivers that excel in the Red Zone and run precise routes.
It’s why I believe Penn State’s group of wide receivers is the best in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country. Coach Franklin found the perfect way to fill Godwin’s shoes.