As the Penn State Nittany Lions search for answers at wide receiver, true freshman DeAndre Thompkins is making a strong case in fall practice to take a shot at the task. What Penn State needs is someone who can provide the reliability and big-play quality of Allen Robinson, who exited for the NFL. Though no one on this roster is single-handedly capable of doing that, Thompkins is going to turn a few heads this season as he tries.
Robinson had the best year of any Big 10 wide receiver in 2013 with 1,432 yards, six touchdowns and 9.5 yards per target. Those numbers aren’t popping up again this season at Penn State.
Because of the lack of experience on the roster, many receivers are making strong bids for playing time right now. Junior tight end Jesse James and sophomore wide receiver Geno Lewis return as Penn State’s top two targets from a year ago, but neither of them showed anything that should separate them from the rest of the pack. Thompkins, a four-star recruit, naturally shines as a speedy option out wide.
At 5-foot-11, Thompkins is tied with wide receiver Richy Anderson as the shortest option on the roster. The shortest receivers have to make up for a lack of height with exceptional route-running. Creating space becomes a vital part of the game. Thompkins could learn a thing or two from former Wisconsin Badgers receiver Jared Abbrederis, who made a killing in the Big 10 last season with superb route-running. Thompkins, because of his speed and agility, does become a useful weapon underneath the coverage. He could get many chances to exploit that in any defense that chooses to play back and respect the arm of Christian Hackenberg.
Thompkins could very well emerge as a top option in Penn State’s offense this season. He has the skill to do it, and he’s putting himself on display early in fall practice. If he keeps it up, he’ll be seeing a lot of playing time at the very least.