Penn State wideouts ready to help ease offensive transition
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Penn State receiver Chris Godwin is comfortable carrying things on his back.
Opposing defenders can attest to that as Godwin dragged plenty of them for a hefty chunk of his team-best 1,101 yards last season. Now, he and the rest of Penn State's receiving corps are ready to do it again and lift their offense – led by a new quarterback and coordinator when the team opens against Kent State on Saturday – in the process.
''We're taking full responsibility because of the fact that we're one of the most mature groups on the team with the most returning players, guys that all saw playing time last year,'' DaeSean Hamilton said. ''We know exactly what's at stake this year.''
That's potentially a third-straight season where lackluster offense leads to a mediocre finish in the Big Ten East. Godwin, Hamilton and Saeed Blacknall are determined to prevent that.
They're ready to ease quarterback Trace McSorley's transition and help Joe Moorhead's spread-based offense grind defenses down. Their size and gritty styles coupled with Moorhead's up-tempo attack could be the perfect recipe to do so.
''The physicality that we have at the receiver position, it's huge,'' McSorley said. ''Saeed is a big receiver, DaeSean is right around 205 pounds, 210 maybe, and Chris too. They're all big receivers. They're all physical guys. They're not ones to shy away from contact.''
Godwin shines here. His breakout season saw him break a handful of tackles nearly every week en route to 27 plays of 15 or more yards. His teammates fondly remember his effort against Ohio State when he dragged Eli Apple nearly 20 yards to spark a late rally in Columbus.
''Anytime I get the ball I'm trying to score, so if that means you drag a couple of players or break a couple of tackles, I'll do whatever,'' Godwin said.
Hamilton emerged in 2014 to lead the Big Ten with 82 catches. A sneaky route-runner capable of handling big target volumes, he'll shift into the slot where he believes he'll be able to exploit matchups regularly.
At 6-foot-3, Blacknall is the tallest of the starters and will look to pick up where he left off as the team's biggest deep threat having averaged 31 yards per catch in 2015.
Their physicality will be felt in the run game, too.
''They do a great job of just continuing to play and never quitting,'' running back Saquon Barkley said. ''A lot of times last year when I would break a long run, Godwin, Hammy and Saeed would be down there setting up blocks for me to go farther.''
There's a cerebral effect to that, Hamilton said. Leaning on defensive backs down the field will only open things up in the passing game and Hamilton said he can sense when a defender is on tilt.
A corner concerned with trash-talking him at the line isn't focused on coverage calls coming from his teammates. A wide-eyed stare at Hamilton's jersey number is another sign the defensive back is worried about getting hit rather than reading a quarterback's drop steps.
Hamilton's favorite bit of evidence? An opponent with his hands on his hips, sucking wind after big gains. It's a potential hallmark of the team's new offense, one that depends on its three wideouts to develop.
''Being out there and wearing down your DB on an every play basis, obviously you're going to find out when they're tired and when you're not tired,'' Hamilton said. ''You're going to realize, `Okay, now I'm in their heads. Now I've got them psychologically.' Being able to wear down your opponent is a great feeling.''