The competition for the No. 3 wide receiver job remains one of the more hotly contested as Penn State Football spring practice concludes with Saturday’s Blue and White Game.
Parker Washington and Mitchell Tinsley will both be hearing their names called in a few weeks during the NFL Draft which leaves the Nittany Lions with bodies to replace in that room.
Keandre Lambert-Smith had his breakout game in the Rose Bowl victory over Utah and after James Franklin met with the media earlier this spring, it seems Harrison Wallace has also solidified himself as number two right now.
Franklin reiterated that the program is looking to solidify that No. 3 wide receiver spot heading into the season, and the Blue-White game should provide a huge opportunity for one of the younger guys to step up and prove themselves to Franklin and the staff.
Let’s take a look at the top options to emerge as Penn State Football’s No. 3 Wide Receiver
The most talented and most likely option isn’t even on campus or on the roster yet in the form of transfer portal addition Dante Cephas out of Kent State.
Cephas announced his intentions to transfer to Happy Valley in January but will not officially be a Penn Stater until April 15th when the spring portal window opens.
It is less than ideal that he has not been here during winter workouts and spring practice learning the offense and building a rapport with quarterback Drew Allar, but his talent will likely win out in fall camp.
The six-foot-one, 186 pound redshirt junior comes to campus after putting up massive numbers in the MAC conference the last two seasons. Between 2021 and ’22 Cephas caught 130 passes, racking up 1,984 receiving yards to go with 12 touchdowns.
The Kent State standout was one of the most highly touted players and wide receivers in the portal according to 247 sports. He ran a limited route tree in the Flashes offense with mostly go routed and come backs but his top end speed and run after catch ability should make the transition to the power five rather effortless for Cephas.
The next option on our list is another transfer portal addition, Malik McClain, who comes to State College from Florida State.
McClain saw a lot of playing time with the Seminoles last season, but with their loaded wide receiver room all coming back this fall, he sought out greener pastures and chance to have a starting role with the Nittany Lions.
The junior caught 17 balls for 206 yards and 3 touchdowns last year with the ‘Noles and is a big body wide receiver that Penn State’s offense just doesn’t have right now outside of him.
Listed at six-foot-four and 202 pounds he excels in the red zone and going to get the ball and win jump balls. The underrated part of his game is he is an excellent stalk blocker on the perimeter in the run game, which can help spring those long Nick Singleton runs.
He enrolled in January and should get plenty of reps this Saturday so it will be exciting to see if he shows off those skills against Penn State’s talented secondary in front of the Lions faithful for the first time in Beaver Stadium.
Evans was a player that Franklin and the staff were really high on to start the season in 2022 and he even made the start in week 2 against Ohio.
His top end speed and ability to take the top off the defense are what separates him from some of the other wide receivers on the roster.
We got a good look at that in that week 2 game when he caught a 32 yard touchdown pass from Drew Allar on a deep post to the middle of the end zone.
For the season, Evans only tallied five receptions for 55 yards and was mostly used as a burner to loosen up the defense but with Allar under center that could be a bit more useful in the 2023 version of the Nittany Lions offense.
His speed and unique skillset may not win Evans the number three wide receiver role, but will keep him in the rotation and see him seeing the field. If he can get behind the defense during the Blue-White game it could provide for a memorable moment for the Beaver Stadium crowd.
The former highly rated 4-star recruit is one of the more interesting names on the roster at this point of the offseason and one of the more interesting players to watch this Saturday.
Saunders is a Columbus, Ohio native who used to meet up with signal caller Drew Aller during their high school days to run routes and catch passes from the 5-star quarterback. He came to Happy Valley with all the hype, but we have not seen or heard much from him since.
He caught only two passes all last season, both coming from Allar in a lopsided victory over Ohio University. Saunders is a smaller, speedy wide receiver at five-foot-ten and 172 pounds who could thrive in the slot in Mike Yurcich’s offense.
During last seasons Blue-White game, Harrison Wallace climbed the ladder and made a wild one handed touchdown grab which really made him a household name amongst Penn State Football fans.
It will be interesting to see if Saunders can do much of the same for himself this year, and more importantly make a name or himself in front of the offensive staff and carve out a role for himself for this fall.
Liam will now be the only Clifford on Penn State’s roster this season with big brother Sean off to the NFL
Clifford had a very solid freshman season appearing in 12 games and hauling in eight passes for 89 yards. Towards the end of the season, we saw Clifford solidifying himself as one of the first wide receivers off the bench being tapped into games.
He saw action in the Rose Bowl game even, and proved he was more than just Sean Clifford’s younger brother. He may lack some of the athletic prowess of the other players on this list but at six-foot-one and almost 200 pounds Clifford looks the part and like Saunders, should get plenty of chances this Saturday to help himself.