Penn State receiver Godwin quick learner as playmaker
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Chris Godwin is a quick learner. Take his odd personal transportation system, for example.
The Penn State receiver needed just 30 minutes to figure out how to balance and glide on his red motorized scooter with no handles, which moves him forward, backward or sideways in response to the slightest weight shifts.
''It helps keep the legs fresh,'' Godwin said. ''It just takes a little bit more practice, just using it and getting comfortable with it.''
The same could be said for Godwin's assimilation to college football.
In 16 months, the sophomore has gone from slightly used backup to the team's most dependable receiver. He's drawn praise from the coaching staff each of the past three weeks for bringing consistent effort to the nation's 112th-ranked offense, which needs a playmaker besides running back Saquon Barkley.
So far, Godwin is it.
He's a popular target for quarterback Christian Hackenberg and has emerged as his most-trusted receiver on 50/50 balls down the field. Godwin is second in the Big Ten with seven catches of 25 yards or more. Without his 30 catches for 493 yards, Penn State's passing offense - ranked 12th in the conference - would have no consistent vertical threat.
''He's obviously playing with a lot of confidence right now,'' Hackenberg said. ''Very crisp in his routes. He understands a lot of things going on. He's been able to, through his route running, through his technique, through his fundamentals, create some separation and make some plays down the field for us.''
Most of the time, Godwin's had to fight for extra yards and make the most of limited opportunities down the field. Penn State completed just two passes beyond the line of scrimmage against Ohio State - both were to Godwin.
He hauled in a short pass on a slant route and bounced off Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple for a 45-yard gain in the first quarter Saturday to set up a field goal on Penn State's opening drive. In the third quarter, Godwin went deep, battled through tight coverage to make a bobbling catch and dragged Apple another 20 yards to cap a 56-yard play that set up the Nittany Lions' lone touchdown two plays later.
''It just comes down to focus,'' Godwin said. ''We do ball drills before and after practice, so just things like that just allow you to be able to make the 50/50 catches when they present themselves.''
He arrived at Penn State from Middletown, Delaware, facing a steep learning curve with an outside shot to earn playing time. The versatile DaeSean Hamilton worked out with Hackenberg and developed chemistry with the quarterback all summer, and Geno Lewis was back as the team's top returning wideout. A recruiting class heavy on receivers deepened the corps.
''The thing that's really stood out about him is his maturity,'' coach James Franklin said. ''His intelligence, his football IQ. He picked up the playbook very quick, makes very few mistakes in games or in practice. He's a guy that you can depend on.''
And Hackenberg leaned heavily on him in the Pinstripe Bowl win over Boston College. Godwin hauled in a 72-yard pass, high-stepped through a tackle and down the sideline to open the scoring and finished with seven catches for 140 yards in his breakout game.
''I think a lot of that goes to his balance,'' Hackenberg said. ''You see him bounce off guys and keep his feet.''
Godwin's scooter has paid off.