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Penn State Position Spotlight: Wide Receivers

The Penn State wide receivers will have several options for the top three or four spots heading into the 2023 season.

So far in this series, we have focused on the returning, the newcomers, and the transfers at both running back and special teams. Next in the Penn State Position Spotlight series, we will focus on the wide receivers. Two years ago the leading receivers were Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington. Last season it was Mitchell Tinsley and Washington. All three are now in the NFL. Dotson was drafted by the Washington Commanders after the 2021 season. This past NFL Draft saw Washington taken in the sixth round by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Finally, Tinsley didn’t hear his name called at the Draft, but soon after it ended he signed an undrafted rookie free agent contract with the Washington Commanders.

Penn State Position Spotlight: Wide Receivers

All three leading receivers in the last two seasons are now in the NFL. So, who is left? Who will step up in a room that has improved dramatically over the last few seasons, despite turnover at the wide receiver coaching position? Let’s take a look at the Penn State wide receivers heading into Summer workouts.

The Returners

Third in receptions in 2022 was tight end Brenton Strange. He was taken in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Strange will be covered more in the tight end spotlight. Fourth on the list with 24 receptions for 389 yards and four touchdowns is Keandre Lambert-Smith. Lambert-Smith’s receptions were down from 34 in 2021, but he did tally one additional touchdown. The senior has been highly touted since he arrived on campus as a freshman. And after his touchdown catch in the Rose Bowl to punctuate an up-and-down junior campaign, Lambert-Smith is looking to turn a corner and take that momentum into 2023. During Spring practice Head Coach James Franklin asserted, “We need him to be the guy, like a true No. 1, not just at Penn State but really in the conference,” referring to the senior.

Franklin and the new wide receiver coach Marques Hagans, are pushing for Lambert-Smith to be the number one receiver in 2023. He has the most experience in the group and should be ready to make the jump, but who will be there behind him as the number two and three guys? Harrison Wallace III jumps off the page to assume the number two receiver role out of this group of returners. He didn’t see any meaningful action as a freshman in 2021. During his redshirt freshman season in 2022, Wallace III played in 13 games and tallied 19 receptions for 273 yards. He also added one touchdown last season. Along with Lambert-Smith, Wallace III ended his 2022 season on a high note. He had two receptions for 47 yards in the Nittany Lions’ Rose Bowl win.

Who is Wide Receiver Three or Four?

Behind Lambert-Smith and Wallace III, there are a few returners that could also contribute this season. Omari Evans had a good Spring and capped it off with a strong Blue-White Game outing. He saw action in 13 games last season and scored a touchdown. Malick Meiga is a player fans want to see succeed and see meaningful snaps. There is quality talent already on this roster. It will just come down to who is consistent and who breaks out in 2023.

The Incoming Freshman

Incoming freshman Carmelo Taylor joins the Penn State wide receiver group after being projected to sign with South Carolina for the majority of his recruitment. However, he signed with the Nittany Lions during the early signing period and will enroll this Summer. Taylor is a four-star recruit according to the 247Sports Composite Ranking. He is the eighth-ranked player out of Virginia and had seven offers out of high school Those schools included South Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia Tech.

The Roanoke, VA prospect is listed at 5’11” and 160 pounds. As a senior, Taylor tallied 17 touchdowns off of 47 receptions. He amassed 943 receiving yards to finish his high school career. Taylor also ran track in high school and he is fast. He might not be very tall for wide receiver standards, but he has the ability to get behind the defense due to his speed and agility. He also has the potential to excel on special teams. When he arrives on campus coaches will likely start to get him into the weight room to add mass that will help his smaller size on 50/50 balls and being physical in route running. Overall, Taylor has a huge upside.

The Transfers

There are two transfers joining the Penn State wide receivers in 2023. A former four-star recruit out of IMG Academy, Malik McClain comes in from Florida State. He will add size to the wide receiver group at six-foot-four-inches. At Florida State last season he played in 13 games, tallied 17 receptions, and three touchdowns. He will have two seasons of eligibility remaining after seeing action in 11 games during his true freshman season in 2021. The Alabama native committed to Penn State in January and is the second transfer portal wide receiver pick up for the Nittany Lions this off-season.

Penn State also added former Kent State wide receiver Dante Cephas. Cephas hails from Pittsburgh, PA, and had his biggest season in 2021. During his redshirt sophomore season, he played in 14 games, had 82 receptions for 1240 yards and nine touchdowns. Last season he sat out five games with an injury, but in nine games last season he tallied 744 receiving yards on 48 receptions and tallied three touchdowns. Something that stayed consistent over 2021 and 2022? His average yards per reception. Cephas averaged 15.1 yards per reception in 2021 and 15.5 in 2022. He will look to make an immediate impact amongst the Penn State wide receivers this Summer.

 

 

Photo courtesy: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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