The hype for the Penn State Football team rests solely around the fact QB Drew Allar looks to take the reigns, but questions remain at other positions around the first year starter. One big one being the wide receiver room.
Parker Washington and Mitchell Tinsley have both declared for the NFL draft and look to play on Sundays, but that leaves Penn State with only KeAndre Lambert-Smith, and Harrison Wallace III in the room with meaningful 1st team reps moving forward.
However, the question remains what will production look like and whose ready to take over that WR1 role.
How Will Penn State Football WR Group Shape Up?
So who will be WR1?
Putting money on Lambert-Smith to take this role would probably be a good bet. Coming off his most impactful game as a Nittany Lion at the 2023 Rose Bowl, the 6-foot-1 junior from Virginia seems to be in line for what could be a breakout season.
Smith had 22 receptions, for 389 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2022. He has waited his turn behind the likes of Washington, Tinsley, and Dotson. 2023 is his opportunity to fill those shoes and become a reliable target for what will be a very young quarterback. He has all the tools, big target, excellent route runner, and speed to run by defenders.
Yes, Smith has had his struggles with drops in the past, but those drops are becoming fewer and farther between. Keep your eye on No. 1 to be Penn States WR1 in 2023.
Whose WR2 is probably the toughest question.
Cephas comes to Penn State Football after having 48 receptions, 744 yards and 3 TDs. McClain, in what is a loaded Florida State WR room, had 17 receptions for 206 yards and 3 TDs a year ago.
Meanwhile, Wallace put up 19 receptions for 273 yards and a touchdown in 2022. McClain, however, jumps off the paper. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 202lbs, he could become a real weapon inside the redzone for Penn State offensively this year.
Fans, including myself, have wanted a bigger bodied wideout for some time now, and we have that now in McClain. Is it crazy to say that fade routes may work now? Time will tell.
Don’t count out Cephas, as a guy that sees a ton of targets.
Cephas comes to Penn State Football with WR1 potential, and runs a 4.4 40, according to NFL draft scout. In 2021 he went for over 1,000 receiving yards and had 84 receptions. How will Cephas fair against big ten cornerbacks? It will be a tougher challenge than the CB’s he faced in the MAC, but based on passed history with Tinsley coming from conference USA. A lesser division transfer does not mean they won’t have success in the Big Ten.
Harrison Wallace, albeit still young, should continue to grow and develop as a wide receiver. The redshirt sophomore showed potential last season. Fans should expect more from him moving forward.
Knowing offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, there will be rotation and players like Omari Evans, Kaden Saunders, Liam Clifford, Tyler Joshson, to name a few, should all see valuable playing time in 2023 and could have major impacts, especially Saunders.
A name we didn’t hear a lot from in 2022, his true freshman season, but with Parker Washington going to the NFL, the slot WR position is wide open. The highly recruited WR from Columbus Ohio, could have a major role in this offense moving forward.
Finally, it would be naive to not mention the tight end group when talking about potential targets and impacts.
Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren return for another season and young talents like Jerry Cross, Andrew Rappleyea, and Joey Schlaffer will make those position battles intriguing throughout the spring. Yurcich showed last year that incorporating TE’s was a big part of his game plan offensively, and that should continue moving into this season. How many targets will that eliminate from the Wideouts? Well, only time will tell, but it’s safe to say the tight end group will get there chances.
And just one final thought, the likes of Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton could have a lot to say about how much production is needed from the wideouts or the tight ends.