What James Franklin wants to see from Penn State’s WRs in training camp: ‘We need to take a big step’

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Entering spring camp, wide receiver was a position of interest for Penn State. James Franklin was asked about it frequently in post-practice media sessions, and he made his stance abundantly clear after the Blue-White spring game.
“As you guys know, we’ve talked about it a lot,” Franklin said April 15. “We need somebody to step up in that third wide receiver role.”
Three months later, chatting last week at Big Ten media days in Indianapolis, Franklin took it one step further when asked about the offense’s biggest question mark.
“We’re in a position where the discussion has changed from spring where it was, who’s the third wideout?” Franklin said at Lucas Oil Stadium. “It’s really, who’s the third wideout and also who are the guys who are going to be in the two-deep who will give us a legitimate two-deep of guys we can win with in the Big Ten?”
Franklin established during spring camp that KeAndre Lambert-Smith and Harrison Wallace III separated themselves from the pack. They’re locked-in starters at this point. But beyond those two, it’s up in the air how everything will shake out.
Franklin said there’s a group of four or five receivers who are set to be “legitimately competing” during training camp for starting or rotational roles. He didn’t rattle off any names, but it’s easy to deduce who’s under consideration at this point.
Kent State transfer Dante Cephas (Penn Hills), a priority target in the portal who joined the team after spring camp, is a breakout candidate. After hauling in 130 catches for 1,984 yards the last two years at Kent State, the Nittany Lions are banking on him to become a weapon for expected starting quarterback Drew Allar.
Sophomore receiver Omari Evans started along with Lambert-Smith and Wallace in the Blue-White game after coming on strong at the tail-end of spring. Appearing in 13 games, he played the most of Penn State’s five freshman receivers last fall.
Liam Clifford seems to be flying under the radar after appearing in 12 games last year. Franklin mentioned his “intelligence and understanding of the offense” in June. Clifford also appeared to build a rapport with Allar during last year’s Indiana game.
Malick Meiga, Malik McClain and Kaden Saunders could also find themselves in the mix. Meiga was named Penn State’s top special teams player in 2022, McClain transferred from Florida State ahead of spring but didn’t necessarily generate buzz and Saunders is looking to put a difficult freshman season behind him.
“I saw development this spring. But obviously we need to take a big step this training camp,” Franklin said of the position. “… Whether they’re second-year, third-year guys in the program who are ready to take that next step and be real guys and showed flashes in the spring. Or it’s guys who transferred in. So it’s not just who’s going to be the starter in that third position? It’s about the backups in all three spots, too.”
With training camp starting Wednesday, we’ll find out soon enough who’s taking their opportunity and running with it — and who’s not.

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