Explosive WR KJ Hamler Weighs Big Ten Offers, Targets Expanded Pac-12 Interest

Tyler Donohue@@TDsTakeNational Recruiting AnalystMay 11, 2016

Credit: Tyler Donohue

Raised in Metro Detroit, wide receiver KJ Hamler grew up admiring the man Lions supporters call "Megatron" prior to his recent retirement.

However, admiration didn't exactly equate to imitation.

"I'm a big fan of Calvin Johnson and loved watching him play but I'm not a 6'5" dude so I've studied guys who are more similar to me," Hamler told Bleacher Report. "I watch film of receivers who use their speed and technique to beat defenders without a size advantage."

Standing 5'9", 155-pounds, the St. Mary's Preparatory standout cites Steve Smith, Andrew Hawkins, Tavon Austin and Antonio Brown as NFL receivers he emulates. His developmental process has involved lengthy YouTube sessions in which Hamler attempts to mimic what makes these diminutive playmakers effective at the sport's highest level.

"I try to be a student of the game and a technician," he said.

Of course, there's also his speed.

This explosive element is what initially shines when you watch Hamler compete. He's targeting a third straight state title in the 4x100 and 4x200 track events and clocked a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash Saturday at The Opening's Columbus regional.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

"I've heard a lot of coaches say I'm electric," Hamler said. "I can shake people at receiver in a way they don't usually see."

Rated No. 48 nationally among receivers in 247Sports composite rankings, he holds more than 20 scholarship offers nine months shy of national signing day. Some view this as a battle between Big Ten Conference rivals Michigan State and Penn State, but it's important to note interest extends well beyond the region at universities such as Louisville, Mississippi State and West Virginia.

Ultimately, this has the makings of a lengthy recruitment because Hamler hopes to add more options as things progress. He is particularly intrigued by several schools in the Pac-12, specifically mentioning Oregon, Arizona State, USC and Cal as programs he'd certainly consider if an offer is extended.

"I'm trying to get myself out more to the West Coast schools because I know their offenses fit me a bit more than some of these Midwest programs," Hamler said. "I want to see what kind of chances I could have in the Pac-12."

Oregon, the first school he mentioned when asked about non-offer interests, is set to visit his school later this month, according to Hamler. The Oklahoma staff is also expected to make an appearance at St. Mary's Prep in May, setting the stage for a busy recruitment to further expand.

Michigan State is viewed as the favorite here in his 247Sports crystal ball. The Spartans carry 86 percent of experts' commitment predictions and he recently attended the team's spring game.

"I saw what I needed to see," Hamler said. "I saw my boy Donnie Corley (freshman wide receiver) get a lot of reps and it looks like he's ready for a big year. Also saw my boy Messiah deWeaver (freshman quarterback) go to work. I spent time talking to the coaches and growing those relationships. It was all good vibes."

Given his familiarity with the in-state school, it's no surprise to see analysts pointing to East Lansing as Hamler's most likely landing spot. Although he hasn't visited Michigan yet, the Spartans face conference competition from Penn State.

He attended a Nittany Lions junior day earlier this year, where he enjoyed the environment. Hamler has also developed chemistry with one of head coach James Franklin's key commitments.

"One thing I can definitely say about Penn State is it's beautiful," he said. "Me and [2017 Nittany Lions quarterback pledge] Sean Clifford have a good relationship. He wants me there really bad."

Hamler, a first-team all-state selection as a specialist last fall, is capable of contributing in a variety of roles. Collegiate coaching staffs see him in the slot, lined up out wide, returning kicks and some believe he can enjoy success at cornerback.

He took reps at receiver in Columbus during Saturday's regional camp, impressing onlookers and torching opponents throughout the afternoon:

Those efforts secured Hamler a coveted invitation to attend The Opening national finals, held in July at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. For a guy looking to raise his profile in Pac-12 territory, the opportunity presents a perfect proving ground for the speedy pass-catcher.

Don't expect a commitment to occur before then, as Hamler remains ambitious about gathering more offers and exploring alternatives.

"I'm going to be patient about the process," he said. "I'm not going to rush anything. If it feels right, that's when I'll make my decision."

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.