Lewis ready for big opportunity
Geno Lewis started the year with a fourth quarter, 54-yard touchdown reception and finished with a fourth quarter 59-yard touchdown reception.
Hardly a bad way to kick off a complete his redshirt freshman season with the Nittany Lions.
But, with all three of his touchdowns and five of his 18 total receptions for the year contained within those two games, Lewis is eying a real opportunity to take the next step in his young career at Penn State. Specifically, following the early departure of record-holding wideout Allen Robinson to the NFL this spring, the increased expectations for the Wilkes-Barre, Pa., native this season are of a dramatic nature.
"I'm excited to be put in this position," he said. "I can't wait for the season and I'm ready to step up in this new role that I have.
"I'm just working hard and doing what I do. I go out every day and give everything my best."
Following a year in which Robinson shattered his own record-breaking numbers from 2012, Lewis found himself as the Nittany Lions' fourth-leading receiver, totaling 18 receptions for 234 yards and three touchdowns. Robinson's 97 receptions led the way, with senior wideout Brandon Felder's 28 and tight end Jesse James' 25 receptions following suit.
With Robinson and Felder gone, plus the departure of Richy Anderson this off-season, Lewis immediately joins James as one of the Lions' top returning targets for quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
For his part, Hackenberg is frank when discussing just how necessary filling the void will be at wideout.
"Just seeing a big-time playmaker emerge," Hackenberg said, asked what the main factors would be to this team's offensive successes and failures this season. "Whoever it may be, just sort of see which guy really steps up and assumes that role outside of the backfield. Whether it be a tight end, whether it be a receiver, or even a running back, whoever it is, just see someone step up and be that big-time explosive player on the outside. I think those two things along with the tight ends are going to be important for us."
Of course, for as much as the expectations are for Lewis to lead the way among the wideouts, the additions of freshmen Troy Apke, Saeed Blacknall, Chris Godwin, and DeAndre Thompkins to the corps this year is expected to help.
Understanding the necessity, Lewis said he and his wideout teammates are excited to tackle the challenge ahead.
"We're going to need some guys to step up. That's clear," he said. "Even though we're young, we're very talented. I think we're going to do well and I think the young guys are going to do well. They just got here, so they're still getting adjusted, but I think we'll be fine."
Working every day, running routes in the morning and taking in film with the quarterbacks and wideouts, Lewis is doing everything within his power to be ready for that moment when it arrives. And, given an opportunity to impress fans and onlookers who may have been expecting more from his debut a year ago, Lewis hopes to show what he can do soon enough.
"Time will tell. When I get out on the field, we'll see what happens," he said. "At this point, it doesn't really matter if they know or not because I'm ready to have a great year this year and I'm just really excited."