Spring Practice Central
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions held their fourth practice of the spring season on Wednesday. Throughout spring practice, GoPSUsports.com will break down each position on the depth chart. Today, we focus on the wide receivers.
The Wide Receivers
Players Returning/Lost: 12/3
Who's Back: Gordon Bentley (Sr./Jr.), Saeed Blacknall (Jr./Jr.), Irvin Charles (So./Fr.), Dan Chisena (So./Fr.), Gregg Garrity (Sr./Sr.), Chris Godwin (Jr./Jr.), DaeSean Hamilton (Sr./Jr.), Juwan Johnson (So./Fr.), Josh McPhearson (Sr./Jr.), Brandon Polk (So./So.), Tyler Shoop (So./Fr.), DeAndre Thompkins (Jr./So.)
Arguably the deepest unit on the Penn State depth chart in 2016 will be the receivers. Under the direction of coach Josh Gattis, the Nittany Lions will field a talented, diverse and athletic corps of wide outs when the season kicks off in September.
The unit boasts a great variety of skillsets and will be among the most challenging units to defend in the Big Ten because of its experience and depth. Any scouting report of the Lion receivers begins with the unit's top statistical leaders from last season in juniors Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton.
Godwin is coming off a stellar sophomore campaign where he became just the third Penn State wide receiver to eclipse 1,000 yards in a season. A second team All-Big Ten selection in 2015, Godwin registered 69 catches for 1,101 yards and scored five touchdowns last fall. Thanks to a team-high 11 receptions of 30-plus yards, Godwin reached the 100-yard plateau in five games. With a superb blend of size, speed and strong hands, the Delaware product has made at least one reception in 25 of his 26 career games and is poised to be a focal point in the passing game again this fall.
Hamilton enters his third season on the field as the program's active leader in receptions. The Virginia native has registered 127 catches for 1,479 yards and scored eight touchdowns during the past two seasons. A crisp route runner, Hamilton is No. 7 on Penn State's all-time receptions list. Hamilton added 20 pounds of muscle to his frame during the offseason and will again be a consistent weapon for the Nittany Lions in the offense.
Fellow junior Saeed Blacknall is on the cusp of a breakout season following a superb winter in the weight room. Hailing from New Jersey, Blacknall was clocked as the team's second-fastest in the 40-yard dash during testing (4.39). The 6-foot-2 wide out has appeared in each of the past 26 games, including four starts, and has made 19 catches for 360 yards and has scored two touchdowns. With continued progress, Blacknall is primed for a much bigger role in the offense when the season begins.
Adding to the group's dynamic lineup is the duo of Brandon Polk and DeAndre Thompkins. Polk was clocked at 4.43 in the 40-yard dash this winter and has game-changing speed with the ball in his hands. The Ashburn, Va., product appeared in all 13 games as a true freshman, notching six receptions for 57 yards with a touchdown and rushing 18 times for 159 yards and a touchdown. Thompkins also appeared in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman, notching five receptions and a touchdown. Polk and Thompkins are potential impact players for the Nittany Lions in 2016.
New to the rotation in 2016 will be a pair of Lion receivers each standing taller than 6-4 and weighing more than 220 pounds. Irvin Charles and Juwan Johnson made big strides in their first fall on campus and turned heads with their efforts as key members of the scout team offense in 2015. Keep an eye on Charles and Johnson this spring as they work into the Nittany Lion receiving rotation.
Look for Gordon Bentley, Dan Chisena, Gregg Garrity, Josh McPhearson and Tyler Shoop to all provide depth to a unit that will play a host of guys each Saturday. With the increased tempo on the offensive side of the ball, the Nittany Lion receiving corps, from top to bottom, will be paramount to the team's success.
Quoting Coach Gattis:
"I'm excited about this young group. Considering that all of the guys who have been here and returning, we've got depth at the position. We've got guys that bring special skillsets. I think we've got a lot of leadership at the position given the amount of time a lot of guys have played in the past. I'm excited. I think we've got unlimited amount of potential. I think you are starting to see guys mature as football players, not just off the field but on the field as well. I'm excited about the direction we are headed in the future. And in this offense, I think it's going to allow our skill position players to get the ball in space and be the playmakers that they can be."