The raw statistics indicate that the production of wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton has diminished since 2014 when he caught 82 passes, the second-most receptions in a season in Penn State history. But the numbers don't tell the whole story.
The depth of talent among the Nittany Lions' wide receivers has grown in the last two years. This season, in the Lions' new no-huddle offense, the wealth is shared among a number of receivers – five have 17 catches or more. Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead is not afraid to have quarterback TraceMcSorley go deep; the top five average between 13.5 and 18.6 yards per catch.
Hamilton has 23 catches for 337 yards, a 14.7-yard average, and one touchdown. He had his best game of the season for receiving yards on Saturday against Indiana. He caught three passes for 85 yards, including a career-long 54-yard reception on a flea flicker that set up the first touchdown in a 24-point fourth quarter.
More than the numbers, a significant aspect to Hamilton's game is his experience and his leadership.
"We have a lot more talent than we did back in 2014," the 6-foot-1, 205-pound redshirt junior said Wednesday, "so there are going to be a lot of guys that have to get touches and spreading the wealth as Coach [James] Franklin has liked to say.
"I would say I've adjusted well being a leader and making sure the guys are always ready for the opportunities that they get. Basically I've accepted my role and making the plays that come to me whenever I can is the most important thing that you've got to do week-in and week-out. But it's definitely been fun basically transforming from 2014 to 2016."
Hamilton, who last season had 45 receptions for 580 yards, said he enjoys working with and helping the younger receivers, a group that includes former South Jersey high school stars Irvin Charles and Juwan Johnson.
"It's the respect that the guys have shown me," he said. "It's just what comes along with being here for so long and knowing the ropes of college football and what it takes to be successful on Saturday. So I've embraced that role."
Franklin said the Lions are rotating wide receivers more than they have in the past because "it makes us difficult to stop because [the opponent] can't key in on anybody." He is a big fan of Hamilton.
"DaeSean has had a big year for us in so many different ways – leadership, production, work ethic, blocking, receiving, the whole deal," he said.
Hamilton has rededicated himself to his craft since a key fourth-quarter dropped pass against Pittsburgh that might have gone for a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Lions lost, 42-39.
He said the drop "honestly still haunts me to this day."
"But I can't really focus on that," he said. "I can't really change what happened in the past. It really helped on Saturday that I made that catch on the flea-flicker just to spark our offense in the fourth quarter to get us the lead back."
He said one way of making sure "it never happens again" is to do some extra pass-catching, like 500 to 600 balls per week, which he does with teammate Chris Godwin.
"That's just a matter of staying ready," he said. "Bouncing back from that, obviously just waiting for my chance to come again to make a play and do my best for the team . . . just moving on and going week by week and taking advantage of the opportunities that I do get."