Luckily for Penn State, one of its deepest position groups is wide receiver — but losing Saeed Blacknall certainly isn’t ideal.
Blacknall, along with linebacker Manny Bowen, are suspended for a violation of team rules and won’t play in the Rose Bowl, Penn State announced Wednesday afternoon, and now the Nittany Lions have to replace one of their most electric options down the field.
“It’s unfortunate,” Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead said Thursday at the LA Galaxy’s StubHub Center complex. “Our thought process is to have a next-man-up mentality, and when someone goes down, the person that replaces them is expected to do as good or better of a job.”
The Nittany Lions have pushed on without Blacknall before. The junior wide receiver missed five games due to injury earlier in the season.
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However, the 6-foot-3 target really came on down the stretch, averaging 24.8 yards per catch since coming back from his injury and recently hauling in six catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game.
With Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton firmly entrenched as the other starting receivers, it’s expected that DeAndre Thompkins, Irvin Charles and Juwan Johnson will fill the gap left by Blacknall.
Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, who has built a connection with Blacknall over the last seven games, echoed Moorhead’s “next-man-up mentality” and said the wideout, who is with the team in Los Angeles and practicing, has made his presence felt despite the situation.
“I know it’s hurting him that he’s not going to be able to play with us on Monday,” McSorley said, “but he’s doing everything he can to still be a leader on this team and still be there for the team.”