Penn State is hoping DaeSean Hamilton can find his form again in 2017. AP PHOTO

This week, Times Shamrock Penn State football beat writer Donnie Collins will break down the 2017 roster, as it currently stands, position-by-position. Here is a look at the wide receivers.

The players

Receivers

Years to play

Eligibility

DaeSean Hamilton

1

1

Cody Hodgens

1

1

Josh McPhearson

1

1

Saeed Blacknall

2

1

DeAndre Thompkins

2

2

Brandon Polk

3

2*

Christopher Welde

3

2

Irvin Charles

3

3

Juwan Johnson

3

3

Tyler Shoop

3

3

Dae’lun Darien

4

4

Isaac Lutz

4

4

Colton Maxwell

4

4

K.J. Hamler

5

4

Mac Hippenhammer

5

4

Cameron Sullivan-Brown

5

4

*Penn State’s roster lists Polk as a true junior, so that’s where we’ll list him. But James Franklin said last season that the team planned to redshirt him, and Polk didn’t play after the third week. Probably a hint that they are going after a medical redshirt from the NCAA that either hasn’t yet or straight up didn’t come through. But it’s worth watching. The Lions clearly are hoping he’ll play this season as a redshirt sophomore. That was the plan, anyway.

Scholarships used at position: 10-11

Scholarships likely to be completed at end of 2017 season: 2-3

Projected 2017 Depth Chart

X

Z

H

Blacknall

Thompkins

Hamilton

Johnson

Charles

Polk

Sullivan-Brown

Darien

Hamler

The situation: Penn State’s receiving corps is very top-heavy in experience. It would be naive to think Saeed Blacknall, DeAndre Thompkins and DaeSean Hamilton won’t be the top three receivers this fall, unless Juwan Johnson or Irvin Charles makes a big leap forward to challenge them.

An argument can be made that the three most important players for the Nittany Lions in 2017 are the three players who wind up starting at receiver, because if this team is going to get where it wants to go, all three of those players will have to be significantly better in some regard. Blacknall has to be more consistent — on the field and off. Thompkins has to overcome the Rose Bowl disaster and be a more well-rounded force. Hamilton has to be more like the player he was in 2014 than the one who disappeared for stretches in 2016.

Why? Because there just aren’t a lot of meaningful catches after them on the second and third teams. Johnson and Charles are physically gifted, for sure. But outside of the ball that Charles caught against Minnesota that many credit for turning the 2016 season around, there just hasn’t been enough there to base much on. Polk started 2015 strong, but that was a long time and some injuries ago. Johnson hasn’t been the immediate force many hoped. And the next four receivers in line — Darien, Hamler, Sullivan-Brown and probably Hippenhammer — haven’t played a collegiate game.

To its credit, there aren’t many opportunities to say this. But it’s true for the receiver position: This is one of the spots where Penn State looks like a team coming off sanctions, but just getting scholarships back. There’s plenty of talent at the bottom. But the experience at the top — in a year where this team is going to be a contender for another Big Ten title and maybe more — is going to be the key.

What the scholarship future holds: Well, most of what you need to know about how Penn State wants to build the wide receiver talent can be told in this fact: In a recruiting class in which it netted three receivers and pushed the class of players to the maximum that Franklin said he wanted to numbers-wise, the staff was still recruiting Philadelphia-area receiver Mark Webb hard on signing day.

Webb stayed committed to Georgia, in the end. But it’s obvious Penn State would have added a terrific talent at receiver if it could have done so. It’s an indication, of course, that the coaching staff will really look to hit the position hard on the recruiting trail heading into 2018, when up to three scholarships will open (depending on whether Josh McPhearson has one in the fall). It would not be a surprise to see 4-5 receivers in this upcoming class as the team looks to move forward.

Walk-on who could net a scholarship: McPhearson is a solid special teams player who said on Twitter that he received one in the spring. Maybe he’ll keep his. Outside of him, though, there’s no walk-on here pressing for playing time.