Penn State Football Position Preview: Wide Receivers
The 2019 season was a tumultuous one for the Penn State receiving corp. Inconsistency issues plagued what was, on paper, an extremely talented receiving corp.
Entering the 2020 season, the Nittany Lions have more questions than answers amongst their receiving group.
The Nittany Lions lost three key pieces in the offseason from last year’s group.
KJ Hamler was Sean Clifford’s number one option and the most dynamic playmaker on the Penn State offense. He was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the second round of the NFL Draft.
Another big departure was former five-star recruit Justin Shorter. Shorter always had the talent but could never put it together in Happy Valley. He took his talents to Florida where he has been a depth receiving option for quarterback Kyle Trask and the high-powered Florida Gator offense.
The last piece that left came last week in the form of redshirt freshman John Dunmore. Dunmore withdrew from the university for personal reasons, according to a university spokesperson.
Dunmore was a four-star recruit who only played in one game for Penn State last season. He was a player who had a shot to see some serious playing time.
So, what are the Nittany Lions left with?
The undisputed number one receiver to start the season will be Jahan Dotson.
The junior from Nazareth, Pennsylvania hauled in 27 receptions last year for 488 yards and five touchdowns. He ranked fifth in the Big Ten with 18.07 yards per reception.
In a year of struggle, Dotson wasn’t a game-breaker, but he was consistent. Expect Dotson to build upon last season and try to solidify himself as one of the best receivers in the Big Ten.
Underneath Dotson is a whole lot of question marks. On the spring depth chart, Daniel George and TJ Jones are listed as the other starting receivers with Dotson.
George, a redshirt sophomore, appeared in 12 games last season catching nine passes for a solid 100 yards. His best moment over his college career came in 2018 when he hauled in a program-record 95-yard touchdown versus Kent State.
TJ Jones is an extremely interesting player. The redshirt freshmen only made one appearance last season, but even with a small sample size on the field, Jones still found himself towards the top of the depth chart come springtime.
It’ll be interesting to see if his spring depth chart spot means anything come to the start of the season, but it’s promising to see a young, dynamic playmaker getting a look from the coaching staff.
Another veteran who will see some serious snaps this year will be Cam Sullivan-Brown. Sullivan-Brown only appeared in four games last season after playing in 13 the season before. He still doesn’t have a touchdown in his college career, but as one of the older players amongst the receivers, he will be a leader of what is a young receiving corp.
The last two names are two players who are perhaps the most intriguing pieces - the true freshman duo of Parker Washington and Keandre Lambert-Smith.
Lambert-Smith was a four-star prospect out of Norfolk, Virginia. He was touted for his playmaking ability and elite route running skills.
Washington, a three-star recruit from Sugar Land, Texas, is deemed by most to be the more college-ready of the two. Expect to see at least one of these players to break out in some capacity on the field this season.
Penn State’s receiving corp is the position group with the most question marks coming into this season.
New offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca helped players like Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman become all-Big Ten and All-American level receivers at Minnesota.
A good passing game, which Penn State lacked last season, can open up the offense to levels not seen since the miracle 2016 season. Another subpar season from the receiving corp may cost Penn State in their bid for the College Football Playoffs.
Connor Donohue is a junior studying broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.