Just 10 days removed from a Citrus Bowl appearance, Penn State has undergone swift changes in its receivers room.
Less than 24 hours after kickoff against Kentucky, the Nittany Lions announced receivers coach David Corley had been relieved of his duties. The former Army assistant spent one season in State College and, to this point, his firing represents the only Penn State coaching staff change.
“I appreciate David’s efforts this season but feel it is in our program’s best interest to make a change at this time,” Penn State head coach James Franklin said on Jan. 2 in a university-issued statement.
“He has a comprehensive background and knows the Big Ten,” Franklin said. “He is a terrific fit for our staff, university and community. He has a great opportunity to come in and make a significant impact both on and off the field with a very talented position group!”
That position group is also in flux.
Senior DeAndre Thompkins wrapped up his collegiate career in the Citrus Bowl, and Friday night brought another substantial development. Juwan Johnson, who earned his Penn State degree in December, confirmed plans to leave Penn State and will be eligible to play elsewhere next season without sitting out.
A redshirt junior, Johnson arrived in Happy Valley in 2015 as a four-star prospect out of Glassboro (N.J.) High School. He started 20 games during the last two seasons, and totaled 81 receptions for 1,123 yards and two touchdowns during his time on campus.
Standing 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, he entered the 2018 season surrounded by intrigue as a potential breakout performer following the exit of leading Penn State pass targets Saquon Barkley, Mike Gesicki and DaeSean Hamilton.
His six receptions in a Week One win over Appalachian State proved to be a season-best, and Johnson surpassed 60 receiving yards in only three contests — 72 yards during the first half at Indiana was his top 2018 output. Johnson accomplished that feat on seven occasions in 2017, when he established personal-highs for catches (54) and yards (701), and caught a game-winning touchdown toss as time expired at Iowa.
In 2018, Johnson dealt with injury setbacks and drop issues en route to 352 yards and one score on 25 receptions in 10 matchups.
“(He) obviously faced a little bit of adversity this year,” Franklin said before the Citrus Bowl. “I think it’s a positive. That’s kind of how we view things like that. You embrace it. He’s going to grow from this. He’s going to learn from this, not only as a football player but as a man. It’s no different than any other adversity or challenge you face — if you approach it with the right mindset, you’ll grow from it. You’ll probably grow more than you would through success or things going easy.”
Penn State — at this stage — is left with eight scholarship receivers in 2019. Only one of them has participated in more than 13 college games and, even with his inconsistencies and three missed contests, Johnson tied for third (with Thompkins) among Nittany Lions in total catches.
In 2017, Penn State players combined for 301 catches in the Big Ten’s top-ranked passing offense.
Suddenly, among those who remain on roster, QB Tommy Stevens had the most catches that season (12).
A new era is underway for Nittany Lions’ aerial attack.
As things stand now, here’s a look at scholarship players set to fill the PSU receivers room moving forward.