Player Spotlight: DeAndre Thompkins
When taking a look at James Franklin’s first recruiting class at Penn State, nearly every player has made a significant impact to this year’s team. Names such as Chris Godwin, Saeed Blacknall, and Mike Gesicki were all highly touted high school super stars.
Coming onto campus with fewer stars attached to their names were players such as Trace McSorley, Jason Cabinda, Marcus Allen, and Grant Haley. This class is the core group of players that are contributing right now to Penn State’s starting lineup. Along with all of these players came the undersized yet explosive DeAndre Thompkins.
When Thompkins arrived on campus he was a six foot, 170-pound wide receiver that desperately needed to add weight in order to play much less survive a solid hit. He red-shirted his freshman year in a reasonable attempt to gain muscle mass and round himself out as a polished wide receiver.
After this red-shirt year ended and his first year of eligibility began, whispers constantly surrounded Thompkins with many reports coming out of spring practice pointing to him as the fastest player on the Nittany Lions. Explosive players such as Thompkins and fellow wide receiver Brandon Polk quickly found a niche in the offense run by John Donovan.
Both players ran jet sweeps giving a nice outside rushing game to balance Saquon Barkley in between the tackles. Thompkins was also able to use his talents with the special teams’ unit as the primary punt returner. He finished the year seventh in the big ten in punt return yards with 7.7 yards per return. The highlight of his season came on the first return of the year when he returned the ball 58 yards to set his team up in the red zone.
In the offseason, Thompkins generated a lot of hype around performance in practice. The only problem: Penn State returned Chris Godwin, DaeSean Hamilton, and Saeed Blacknall, the three wide receivers from the previous year’s lineup. Penn State was fortunate to have this depth when Saeed Blacknall was unavailable for the second game against Pitt. Thompkins entered the game and stepped up making plays down the field including a spectacular one handed catch that would have made Odell Beckham Jr. proud.
Since then Thompkins has seen his role increase and his targets continue to grow. With players who have more than one catch on the year he leads the team in yards per catch. Currently he is fourth on the team in catches behind Chris Godwin, DaeSean Hamilton, and the emerging tight end Mike Gesicki.
Looking towards the rest of the season it is clear if Penn State wants to contend in the Big Ten they will need to develop the running game of star back Saquan Barkley. Opponents are countering his skills by stacking the line of scrimmage often blitzing the safety sacrificing coverage down field. DeAndre Thompkins is the guy who can change all of that. With the threats of other big targets over the middle or underneath with Godwin and Gesicki, Thompkins is going to continue to blow past cornerbacks on the outside.
This upcoming week against Maryland will be a telling week for how much Thompkins will play the rest of the year. Saeed Blacknall is supposed to return from injury and return to the lineup. Will this put Thompkins on the sideline where he started the year? Or will his recent production give him an opportunity to stay on the field? Only time will tell but one thing is for certain, when DeAndre Thompkins is in the game, make sure to look out for a flash of blue and white racing down the field, or you may miss his latest explosive play.
Brian McLaughlin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org.