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Is Penn State good enough at wide receiver? At least James Franklin thinks so [opinion]

STATE COLLEGE – Several veteran Penn State players sat out Saturday’s Blue-White Game at Beaver Stadium because they had injuries or because their coaches didn’t need to see them play.

The defense missed end Zuriah Fisher and safety K.J. Winston.

The offense missed running backs Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen, tight end Tyler Warren and offensive linemen Sal Wormley, Drew Shelton and J.B. Nelson.

Wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith also did not play. His whereabouts were unknown.

News broke Friday that the Nittany Lions’ top receiver from last season was not with the team for the last week and that he planned to transfer.

“I’m really happy to talk about any of the guys who played today and are in the locker room,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “Besides that, I don’t have a whole lot to tell you.”

Losing Lambert-Smith’s production is a blow to a receiving corps that, putting it politely, struggled last season. They made a total of 20 catches in the last four games, just two by Lambert-Smith.

Even with adding former Southern Columbia High School star Julian Fleming from Ohio State, it’s uncertain if the Lions are good enough at that position to win a championship in the fall.

Franklin and quarterback Drew Allar tried to argue on their behalf.

“We have the talent in the room,” Franklin said. “The reality is that we gotta take the next step and do it on a consistent basis. We gotta make plays against all the people on our schedule.

“All those guys are in the locker room for a reason. We have belief in those guys. We believe they’re ready to take the next step.”

Tre Wallace made five catches for 72 yards Saturday against what was mostly a reserve defense. Kaden Saunders had two for 27, Liam Clifford two for 23 and Omari Evans one for 20.

None of those guys made more than 19 catches last season.

Allar, though, defended the entire group Saturday.

“They’ve definitely made a lot of improvement this spring,” he said. “They caught a lot of flak and a lot of criticism last year. All they did last year was put their heads down and work.

“I’ve seen a totally different level of commitment in that group. I’m very excited by the room that we have right now.”

Maybe new offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki’s scheme with lots of motion and shifts, which we understandably didn’t see Saturday, will help the receivers get open in the fall against USC, Washington, Ohio State and others.

But none of Penn State’s remaining receivers has been very productive yet. Franklin consistently has praised Wallace, but he’s been prone to injury. He missed a significant number of games the last two seasons.

“Him getting hurt last year was significant,” Franklin said. “Having a healthy Tre back is helpful, too.”

The transfer portal re-opens Tuesday, when Penn State could add and lose players in addition to Lambert-Smith. Including walk-ons, the Lions have 18 wide receivers on their roster. If they add one or two through the portal that can help them – which is not easy at this time of the year – somebody has to go to get to 85 scholarship players.

“This could be an interesting couple of weeks for everybody in college football,” Franklin said. “We just had a discussion in the locker room about that, but I’m pleased with where we’re at.

“We do have some work to do between now and summer camp.”

Especially at wide receiver.

Source: Berkshire mont

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