Penn State wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith might be healthy enough to play Saturday at Michigan in a battle of Big Ten unbeaten teams, coach James Franklin said Tuesday.
Lambert-Smith was injured during the first series of the Nittany Lions’ 17-7 victory over Northwestern Oct. 1 at Beaver Stadium. He did not return and was later seen wearing a boot on his injured foot or leg.
Franklin said Lambert-Smith is “coming back” while answering whether Penn State has a No. 1 wide receiver. He was asked specifically about Lambert-Smith several minutes later during his weekly press conference.
“We’re hopeful to have KeAndre for Saturday,” Franklin said. “We’ll see how that works out. It’s sometimes challenging. Even if I wanted to answer the question on a Tuesday, it’s still very early in the week.”
Lambert-Smith has nine receptions for 104 yards and one touchdown for the Lions, well behind Parker Washington (20 for 285), Mitchell Tinsley (15-231, three TDs) and tight end Brenton Strange (15-231, four TDs).
With an improving ground game, Penn State hasn’t thrown the football nearly as much as it did last year when Jahan Dotson, now with the Washington Commanders, had 91 catches for 1,182 yards and 12 TDs.
“I don’t know what you mean by a No. 1 receiver,” quarterback Sean Clifford said. “I’m very confident in all of our receivers, starting with the oldest guys in the room like Parker, KeAndre and Mitch. Trey Wallace is doing some really good things as well. The list goes on and on, including the tight ends.
“I have a lot of confidence across the board with all the wideouts.”
Bye week changes: Penn State has lost its last three games after a bye week and five of its last seven, all under Franklin.
So he decided to tweak the Lions’ schedule last week, adding a Thursday practice. The non-travel players practiced on Thursday in previous seasons, but the entire squad worked out last week.
“We added an extra day of meetings and an extra day of practice, although it was a jog-through (for the travel roster),” Franklin said. “On top of that, our depth is in a better position not only than it’s been in the past, but also how it’s been from the beginning of the season.”
The Lions lost to Illinois in a record nine overtimes last year after their bye week, at Minnesota in 2019 and against Michigan State in 2018. Big Ten teams did not have a bye week in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Penn State sought information on how to better handle its bye week.
“We talked with different programs,” Franklin said, “different coaches, sports scientists, strength coaches and all those types of people to put ourselves in the best position to go win this Saturday.”
Best wishes: Franklin opened his press conference by offering best wishes to Michigan assistant coach Mike Hart, who suffered what was reported as a seizure on the sideline Saturday during a win at Indiana.
Hart said on social media Monday that he’s back in Ann Arbor and that his health is trending in a positive direction.
“He’s Big Ten through and through as a player and as a coach at Indiana and Michigan,” Franklin said. “Obviously you don’t ever like to see anything like that. We truly wish his family, Mike, the running backs and the players at the University of Michigan our (best).
“Hopefully he’ll be healthy enough to be involved in the game on Saturday. I hope I get the chance to see him before the game. If not, I wish him nothing but the best.”
Source: Berkshire mont