I’m done trying to decipher what, exactly, has gone sour with Geno Lewis’ season.
Penn State trotted out Geno Lewis as the lone player available at the podium during the weekly news conference Tuesday. Trust me, PSU would not have done that if it didn’t want to, or if it was a sensitive situation with his status on the team or if it didn’t want him talking.
Lewis then started Saturday. All is forgotten for the player who entered the season as by far the Lions’ most accomplished receiver and began it with 25 catches for 462 yards over its first four games but then quickly (inexplicably?) became an afterthought in the offense, right?
Wrong. Lewis was targeted just three times (once each during the first half, second half and overtime). He ended up with one reception for 11 yards (it came during the tying drive late in the fourth quarter).
For whatever reason, freshmen Saeed Blacknall (six targets) and Chris Godwin (four targets) both have surpassed Lewis on the depth chart and/or in the minds’ of the playcallers and/or in terms of the trust quarterback Christian Hackenberg has in him.
After being cryptic about the reasons for Lewis’ apparent demotion following the Michigan game, Franklin said Tuesday that Lewis is “back to feeling 100 percent” and that the two had a meeting that “went extremely well.”
**Spreading the wealth?**
Lewis’ near-disappearance from the offense helped contribute to DaeSean Hamilton being targeted 22 times by Christian Hackenberg on Saturday – accounting for almost half of Hackenberg’s 49 attempts. The rest of the wide receivers accounted for 12 targets, the tight ends eight (four to Jesse James and two each to Mike Gesicki and Kyle Carter) and the running backs four (Akeel Lynch, 2; Bill Belton, 2). Two others were intercepted and one a spike.
Penn State’s offense is in danger (if that’s the right word) of emulating the 2013 version in which the passing game became Allen Robinson… and then, everyone else.
Robinson, now with the Jacksonville Jaguars, had 97 catches for 1,432 yards last season. He had 40 percent of the Lions’ overall receptions and 60 percent of the wide receivers’ share.
Over the past three games (since Lewis went AWOL), Hamilton has 36 percent of all PSU catches and 60 percent of the wide receivers’ catches.
As I’ve said in this space before, I never was a recruiting kinda guy – as a consumer. I totally get it and why it’s interesting to some people and why so many people are so hyped to track it. And more ppower to them, to each his own, etc., etc. I just, in my mind, have always wanted to draw a line somewhere (again, as a consumer/fan). I’ll start tracking athletes once they get to a certain level – not before it (I have similar thoughts about the NFL Draft).
Anyway… without getting too deep into this tangent, what I’m getting at is that Saturday was my first visit to a pregame field to mingle with the bevy of prospective recruits (and their guests) who are there for a game. The annual Whiteout game at PSU, more than most, draws people. It’s the “showcase game” (for lack of a better way of putting it) for the program.
What struck me was how festive the atmosphere is. The mood is celebratory – and this is pregame. Coaches – who have to be weighed down mentally from countless hours of game prep that is about to be put to use at kick off – are enthusiastically greeting kid after kid after kid.
Nobody made a verbal commitment, but there are plenty of other reasons to celebrate. Some – like Gateway lineman Robert Hainsey – have a reason to celebrate in receiving a scholarship offer. Others are happy just to be invited (let’s face it: Of the roughly 100 high school players who are invitees of the program, most will never receive a scholarship offer. And while there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with playing for a Division II or I-AA or, say, MAC school, some of these kids just get to get a kick out of being in a 107,000-seat stadium – even if just to watch). Then, there’s the families. Little brothers and sisters are in heaven. Heck, BIG brothers and sisters, too. Dads, moms, grandpa and grandma? Yep.
What I’m saying, basically, is that everyone is jovial and the mood is festive. Throw in a couple of juiced-up teams about to embark on a nationally-televised game, a growing number of tens of thousands of (many-intoxicated) revved-up fans… and, of course, a DJ blasting tunes… and it’s quite the scene.
Just wanted to share. When it comes to actual useful takeaways? Baldwin’s Sterling Jenkins (whose family was there; it was his official visit) seemed like one of the VIPs of the VIPs. Seemingly always at the center of attention.
Often next to him? Matthew Burrell. Burrell, another one of the top linemen in the country in the 2015 class (he has dozens of scholarship offers), was hanging with Jenkins throughout most of the roughly 90 minutes I was on the field.
Players who I ran into who have scholarship offers from Penn State included Central Catholic junior Damar Hamlin, Kittanning tight end Nick Bowers (a Pitt verbal recruit), junior receiver Trevon Diggs, and cornerback Julian Briscoe.
Additionally, several players who have made verbal commitments to PSU were on hand – among them were Jenkins, Sanders, Jonathan Holland, Andre Robinson, Ruan Buchholz, Brandon Polk, Adam McLean, Juwan Johnson and Irvin Charles.
Aiden Howard (Gateway), Malik Mathis (Penn Hills), Aaron Matthews (Clairton), Khaleke Hudson (McKeesport), Darius Wise (Beaver Area) were among the WPIAL players I came across, in addition to Hamlin, Jenkins and dynamic Woodland Hills running back Miles Sanders.
Speaking of the WPIAL:
WPIAL was deep up PSU last night pic.twitter.com/WBt84AnukL
— Damar Hamlin (@HamlinIsland) October 26, 2014
Left tackle Donovan Smith left late during Saturday’s game with an apparent undisclosed injury. Smith was the only returning starter entering the season. … An injury to safety Ryan Keiser meant only four seniors were in the Penn State starting lineup. … The Lions’ tying field-goal drive late Saturday lasted 19 plays – their longest in five years. … Penn State’s 16 net yards rushing were its fewest since having minus-14 against Michigan in 2006.