Penn State football: Franklin, Stubblefield evaluate Penn State's WR depth
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Franklin, Stubblefield evaluate Penn State's WR depth

As Penn State ramped up for the 2020 season, one of the biggest question marks it faced was its group of wide receivers.

Nobody knew that Jahan Dotson would turn out to be one of the most productive wideouts in the country, leading the Big Ten in receiving yards. Likewise, nobody predicted that Parker Washington would have as profound an impact on the offense as he did in his true freshman season.

With Penn State preparing for a new season and all of the key contributors at wide receiver still in the fold, the discourse about James Franklin's options at that position has totally changed.

"We're in a better situation than we were this time last year at wideout," Franklin said Wednesday. "But we're still going to need a couple guys to step up for us. It's been good this spring, but we still have a lot of work to do."

Penn State WR Cam Sullivan-Brown

Leaving Dotson — Penn State's clear top wideout as of this spring — out of the equation, Franklin broke his wide receivers down into two "thresholds."

At the first threshold, he listed Cam Sullivan-Brown, who Franklin said was the starter for the Nittany Lions going into last season before he was hampered by injury.

Sullivan-Brown holds redshirt junior eligibility, and has played in 25 games over the course of his Penn State career, coming away with 13 catches for 119 yards.

"He was on track to have a great season, and then some injuries kind of bit him a little bit," wide receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield said.

Joining Sullivan-Brown at the same threshold are Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith, Franklin said.

Washington caught 36 passes for 489 yards during his freshman campaign, while Lambert-Smith contributed 15 catches for 138 yards during his debut season.

"[They] ended up playing a lot of football for us last year, and based on targets, they both had a pretty decent amount of success, based on targets and opportunities that they had," Franklin said. "It's going to be interesting for them — can they take that next step in their careers kind of understanding what it takes?"

At the second threshold are the relative unknowns — those who didn't play much, if at all, last season like Jaden Dottin and Malick Meiga.

Building depth is an emphasis for Franklin and Stubblefield this offseason, and whether or not those players can take the next step will determine how much depth Penn State's coaching staff can call upon on Saturdays.

"It's a little bit different than what happened last year when everybody was unknown," Stubblefield said. "Right now we have a couple known guys and now we're trying to make sure that we get Malick Meiga, Jaden Dotten, Cam Sullivan-Brown....We do want to have some more depth.

"It's going to be exciting to continue to see these guys grow and get better, so that when somebody else comes in during the game, there's not a big drop-off, or there's no drop-off. That's the goal."

Stubblefield also offered his assessment of the freshman wideouts who will arrive in the summer — Harrison Wallace, Lonnie White Jr. and Liam Clifford.

He's excited about Wallace's athleticism, which Stubblefield said is highlighted by his jumping ability on the basketball court.

"My expectation is for guys to come in and compete for a job," Stubblefield. "...They're excited for that opportunity, and that's what we expect."


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