Penn State Football 2017 Position Preview: Wide Receiver

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 03: DaeSean Hamilton /

The Penn State football team enters the 2017 season with one of the best wide receivers corps in the Big Ten.

James Franklin and his staff have done an excellent job of recruiting high-end talent during their time in Happy Valley. One position where this is especially true is at wide receiver. Due to this, the Nittany Lions should have one of the best wide receivers corps in the Big Ten in 2017.

Despite losing Chris Godwin to the NFL following the 2016 season, the Penn State Football team is still absolutely loaded at wide receiver in 2017. DaeSean Hamilton, DeAndre Thompkins, and Saeed Blacknall all have starting experience. Redshirt sophomores Juwan Johnson and Irvin Charles both have limitless potential, while fellow redshirt sophomore Brandon Polk is back from injury and adds a new dynamic to the Nittany Lion offense.

Hamilton enters 2017 as someone who can play both in the slot and on the outside. He is already one of the most successful receivers in program history and could serve as Trace McSorley’s safety net.

In his career, Hamilton has 161 receptions, 1,985 yards, and nine touchdowns. Barring injury, he will become the program’s all-time leader in receptions this season. The redshirt senior is poised to finish his career with a strong 2017 campaign.

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Blacknall is a player that has always flashed great potential, however, he has yet to put it all together. He has 33 career receptions and has averaged 20.9 yards per reception in his career. Blacknall has shown the knack for being clutch, though, as his 6 reception, 155 yards, and two-touchdown performance against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game last season showed. Look for Blacknall to have a big breakout senior season.

Hamilton and Blacknall are both shoe-ins to start for the Nittany Lions in 2017. The other starting job will be a competition between redshirt junior DeAndre Thompkins and redshirt sophomore Juwan Johnson.

Thompkins has starting experience from 2016. He has 473 yards and touchdown on 30 career receptions. Thompkins has also rushed for a touchdown in his career. Rather he starts or not, Thompkins will play a key role for the Nittany Lions this fall.

As a redshirt freshman last fall Johnson caught a pair of passes for 70 yards. There may not be a wide receiver on the roster with a higher ceiling than Johnson. After being the star of spring ball, look for Johnson to have a big season in 2017.

Redshirt sophomores Irvin Charles and Brandon Polk will also see action at the wide receiver position in 2017. Like Juwan Johnson, Irvin Charles has an insanely high ceiling. In fact, James Franklin has called Charles the most talented wide receiver he has ever coached.

In 2016 Charles caught just a pair of passes. However, one of them was one of the most important plays of the season. This, of course, was his 80-yard touchdown catch against Minnesota in the third quarter to spark the Nittany Lions’ come from behind victory. This fall, Charles will need to clean up mental miscues but he should see action on the outside.

As for Polk, look for him to get reps in the slot this season along with Hamilton and Thompkins. As a true freshman in 2015 the speedy Polk had 57 receiving yards and a touchdown, he also rushed for 159 yards and touchdown. In 2016, he appeared in just two games before getting hurt and picking up a medical redshirt. Polk brings a speed element that Penn State’s offense did not have in 2016, this should make him a new wrinkle to the offense in 2017.

Speaking of wide receivers, do not forget about tight end Mike Gesicki. The senior tight end is coming off a season in which he emerged as arguably the best tight end in the country. After two years of maddening drops and mental lapses, Gesicki caught 48 passes for 679 yards and five touchdowns in 2017.

Next spring, Gesicki could very well be the first tight end selected in the NFL Draft. This is a great weapon for the Nittany Lion offense to have. Redshirt sophomores Jon Holland and Nick Bowers (health permitting), as well as redshirt senior Tom Pancoast could see action at tight end as well.

Next: Recruiting Roundup: August 1, 2017

This fall, Penn State should have one of the best offense in the entire FBS. A big reason for this is a deep, talented group of wide receivers. Having arguably the best tight end in the country helps, too. The Nittany Lions have an embarrassment of riches at wide receiver, and fans should expect big things out of this group in 2017.