To begin his press conference at the start of spring practice, Penn State coach James Franklin rattled off a list of players who had made significant physical improvements in the offseason.
The name that should have opened the most eyes was that of DaeSean Hamilton, who, according to Franklin, “gained 20 pounds of muscle, lean mass.”
That would not have been particularly surprising for an offensive or defensive lineman, whose huge bodies are more apt to add that amount of muscle mass.
But Hamilton is a wide receiver. At the end of last season, he was listed at 6-foot-1, 209 pounds. Now he is listed at 214. Going by those figures, he dropped 15 pounds of body fat while adding the 20 pounds of muscle.
“I feel a lot bigger than I did last year,” Hamilton said after practice Wednesday. “… It’s a big difference, just packing on pounds, and still being able to keep my footwork and agility and acceleration — I feel like I’ve (improved on) that from last year to this year.”
“I feel a lot bigger than I did last year. … It’s a big difference, just packing on pounds, and still being able to keep my footwork and agility and acceleration — I feel like I’ve (improved on) that from last year to this year.”
What Franklin did NOT say at the start of spring ball was something Hamilton revealed at the end of his post-practice media session Wednesday — that the weight gain came at a time the redshirt junior was making the move from being primarily an outside receiver into the slot.
This is no small thing. Playing mostly on the outside, Hamilton had a total of 127 catches for 1,479 yards the past two seasons. He is already seventh all-time at PSU in career receptions and 15th in career yards.
But when asked to move to the slot, Hamilton could read the writing on the wall. The Lasch Building weight room wall, that, is. There, he could see the posted 40-yard dash times of fellow outside receivers Chris Godwin (PSU’s leading pass-catcher last year) and Saeed Blacknall — both of which are sub-4.5 seconds.
Hamilton is a 4.6-plus guy, and he knows those 10ths can make a huge difference.
“Obviously, the guys on the outside are faster than me, being able to take the top off and stretch the field and things like that … having the speed in space and being able to be deep, vertical threats,” Hamilton said.
Wednesday marked Hamilton's fourth full practice in the slot, and he said parts of the transition were tough and parts not so tough.
“The first couple of days were kind of hard to get adjusted to,” Hamilton said. “I wasn’t in there so much the past couple years. Now I’m in there basically full time. … But I like it more now. It’s an easy adjustment (in terms of) reading coverages, being able to get open, being able to expose linebackers or safeties who line up across from you.”