STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton has the tendencies of an offensive lineman – he’s all about protecting his quarterback.
The Penn State redshirt freshman, who finished among the Big Ten’s top five in three statistical categories, said public criticism his team and his quarterback, Christian Hackenberg, have taken is ”annoying.”
The Nittany Lions (6-6) will face Boston College (7-5) in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 27.
Hackenberg led Penn State to a 7-5 season as a freshman under coach Bill O’Brien in 2013. This year’s numbers were off pace under first-year coach James Franklin and an inexperienced offensive line.
He threw eight touchdowns and 15 interceptions this season, compared with 20 TDs and 10 interceptions last season. His completion percentage fell 4.5 percentage points and his passing yardage tumbled by nearly 350 yards. He was also sacked 42 times.
”It bothers me because a lot of fans don’t know what they’re talking about,” Hamilton said. ”They can say whatever they want because they’re behind a computer screen. We go out to prove everybody wrong and are not really playing to necessarily please fans. We’re playing to win games and do our jobs right and get W’s on Saturdays.”
Those wins started quickly when Penn State won its first four games, including the opener against Central Florida in Dublin, Ireland, when Hackenberg threw for a school-record 454 yards.
Hackenberg hit Hamilton 75 times in 12 games for 848 yards but just one score. Hamilton caught 14 passes during a double-overtime loss to Ohio State but managed just 17 receptions over the team’s final five games.
One of the problems Franklin cited this season was wide receiver separation from defensive backs while running pass routes.
”It’s getting open as quick as you possibly can to help our offensive line and our quarterbacks out,” Franklin said.
”Eliminating the wasted movement, eliminating the false steps, and that’s at every single position, and definitely wide receivers as well.”
Breakdowns were across the board, according to Hamilton, who has earned postseason freshman-team honors nationally and within the Big Ten.
”Somebody was open on probably every play but either like a breakdown in protection or things didn’t go our way, that’s when the mishaps happen on offense,” he said.
”We have a year under our belt and we know what we can do and we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”
Hamilton said and he and Hackenberg will continue to work on the fundamentals.
”I’m learning from him and at the same time he’s learning from me – what type of player I am and what he can expect from me,” he said. ”Me and Hack are great friends off the field and we can go and talk about anything — football, life, things like that. We just keep up the good chemistry and other guys have to continue to follow suit.”
They’ll continue to talk, but not necessarily listen.
”There was a lot of noise because the offense didn’t really produce as well as we could have this year,” Hamilton said. ”We know exactly what goes on and what our struggles are. People looking from the outside in act like they know what they’re talking about but they really don’t.”