Gone are what felt like decades of Penn State having DaeSean Hamilton lined up out wide. Now, the Nittany Lions have one of their least experienced – not to be misread as ‘least impressive’ – wide receiver cores in a few years.
Coach David Corley takes over for Josh Gattis after the latter left to head the Alabama offense, as well as coach their wide receivers. Corley arrived at Penn State after coaching Army’s wideouts with the intention to take over the running back room, but moved to wide receivers after the hiring of Ja’Juan Seider.
Let’s take a look at a few of the wide receivers that Penn State fans can expect to see reeling in deep balls this season.
The redshirt junior burst onto the scene in 2017 with 54 total catches, good for second highest on the team behind Mike Gesicki’s 57. He also picked up 701 yards and a touchdown, which you might remember being the buzzer-beater walk-off against Iowa.
In 2018, you can expect Johnson to become a national name. Standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing around 230-pounds, he will be a force to be reckoned with on the outside of the field.
Thompkins is heading into his redshirt senior year as a grad student in Psychology and will likely be moving even farther up the wide receiver totem pole. In 2017 he started eight of the 13 games he appeared in, and he has the second-most receptions of returning players with 28.
The 28 receptions brought Thompkins a combined 443 yards downfield and three touchdowns, one of which went for 70 yards against Maryland.
Thompkins will likely take over DaeSean Hamilton’s former role and move inside to the slot for a ton of targets. His 5-foot-11, 188-pound frame will help him get open over the middle and do some damage.
Thompkins is also a likely nod to continue returning punts in 2018, especially after setting the school record for punt return average in a game with 31.8 yards per return against Akron – including the first punt return touchdown for Penn State since 2008.
Polk appeared as a rotation slot receiver in 2017, his redshirt sophomore season, playing in 13 games off the bench and snagging 10 catches for 130 yards and a touchdown.
He has mentioned at camp that the team is starting to move him to the outside of the slot receiver, which Penn State refers to as the “Z” receiver as opposed to the “H” slot receiver.
Polk’s speed and agility will certainly help the team stretch the field in his new position, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him back in the slot at some point, given that he’s 5-foot-9, 170 pounds — a bit small for a typical “Z” receiver.
Fans can also expect to see Polk returning punts and kicks for the Nittany Lions this year. He brought back three kicks in 2017, including one for a long of 34 yards.
Hippenhammer, one of the most enjoyable names to say on the team, is coming off of a redshirt season. A three-star recruit out of high school, Hippenhammer also plays baseball for Penn State.
His 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame, as well as the praise he’s received over his potential, land him as a possibility to rotate with Polk at the “Z.” He doesn’t yet have the experience, but his physicality will be useful in a backup role in 2018.
Hamler is heading into his redshirt freshman season after injuring his ACL in his senior year of high school and sitting out the duration of 2017. Once healed, he made plays on the scout team and has been heavily praised during preseason practices.
With a huge and goofy personality, the 5-foot-9, 156-pound former four-star recruit will certainly make his name known both on and off the field.
Expect Hamler to appear as a rotating slot receiver throughout the 2018 season as well as a punt or a kick returner here and there. Once he earns greater opportunities, you can guarantee he will be a fan favorite.
I mentioned Shorter in my exciting freshmen to watch article. The five-star recruit stands at 6-foot-4, 226 pounds – just about the same size as Johnson. He’s a beast and will be a future star receiver at Penn State.
If they don’t decide to burn his redshirt in year one, Shorter will see time rotating as the outside man with Johnson for four games. If they do burn the redshirt, he might see more use than just behind Johnson.
Either way, keep the name Shorter in the back of your mind. It’ll soon find its way to the front, you’ll find it easier to keep up when it does.