The Penn State wide receivers have been up and down over the last few seasons. So much so that the Nittany Lions made a change at wide receiver coach at the start of January. Taylor Stubblefield was let go at the position and Head Coach James Franklin has already started his search for a new position leader. Don’t get us wrong, there was some consistency under Stubblefield. In the last three seasons, there was one lead guy that got the job done. KJ Hamler, Jahan Dotson, and Parker Washington were all very good for Penn State. However, behind that top receiver, the production was lacking. This left starting quarterback Sean Clifford relying on his running backs, tight ends, and his own legs. Going into the 2023 season with Drew Allar under center, the Penn State wide receivers are getting stronger. Let’s take a look.
Penn State Wide Receivers: Returners, Freshmen, and Transfers
There are a few solid Penn State receivers that are returning for the 2023 season. Namely, Keandre Lambert-Smith and Harrison Wallace III. Both ended the 2022 season with a strong showing in the Rose Bowl. These receivers were both behind Washington and Mitchell Tinsley in receptions in 2022, but have experience with Allar already that should only grow throughout Spring camp. Lambert-Smith finished his redshirt sophomore campaign with 24 catches for 389 and four touchdowns. He also averaged 16.2 yards per catch. Lambert-Smith finished the 2022 season with 10 fewer receptions than in 2021, but that was to be expected with the freshmen running back duo that the Nittany Lions had in 2022. If the rising junior can work on his consistency over the Spring, he will be a good target for Allar in 2023.
Wallace III finished the 2022 season with 19 receptions, 273 yards, and one touchdown. Like Lambert-Smith, Wallace III’s yards per catch was in the teens with 14.4. The redshirt freshman had at least one reception in 11 games this past season. In addition, his lone touchdown was off of his only reception against Indiana. The rising sophomore will look to improve and get more reps with Allar during Spring camp and should be in the conversation to stay in the rotation this Summer.
The Freshman Signee
The Nittany Lions signed one true wide receiver in the 2023 class. Carmelo Taylor out of Virginia signed with Penn State during the Early Signing Period and will enroll this Summer. Taylor is a four-star receiver according to the 247Sports Composite Ranking. He is the eighth-ranked player out of Virginia and the 46th-ranked wide receiver in the nation. The Roanoke, VA product is listed at five-foot-11-inches and 160 lbs. Taylor will need to add some muscle when he gets to Penn State, but that shouldn’t be an issue. He had offers from several Division I schools, including South Carolina and Maryland. Taylor is fast. He has the speed to get into the second level of the defense if he can break through that first tackle. If he gets loose in the open field, say bye-bye because you won’t see anything but the back of his jersey.
Penn State may not have signed many true wide receivers in the 2023 class, but the Nittany Lions received two huge commits from the transfer portal. Malik McClain and Dante Cephas are going to be joining the Penn State wide receivers for the 2023 season. These are two very experienced receivers for Allar to throw to. McClain is transferring to Penn State from Florida State as a true junior. He played in a total of 24 games for the Seminoles over two seasons. He has 396 receiving yards, 33 receptions, and five touchdowns throughout his career. McClain averages 12 yards per reception. The rising junior will have plenty of time to build chemistry with Allar as he has already enrolled at Penn State and will be a part of Spring camp.
Cephas comes to the Nittany Lions from Kent State. The rising (redshirt) junior is a two-time All-Mac First Team selection. He was second on the team in several categories in 2022, receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. Cephas tallied 48 receptions for 744 yards and three touchdowns. However, he did all of that in just nine games. In 2021 Cephas was a 1000-yard receiver. Through 14 games he had 82 receptions for 1,240 yards and nine touchdowns. He was very productive for Kent State during his time there. Unlike McClain, Cephas won’t be at Penn State in the Spring, he will be finishing his degree before (hopefully) arriving in State College for the Summer. So what made him so intriguing for Power 5 schools coming out of the transfer portal? He showed that his quick and strong releases aren’t just against Group of 5 teams. He had strong showings against the Power 5 programs that he went against while at Kent State. Especially against Maryland in 2021 where he carved the Terps’ secondary for 151 yards and a touchdown. Fingers crossed this one arrives on campus this Summer.