Penn State back in familiar territory as transfer portal opens again

In what has seemingly become a bit of a springtime tradition for Penn State’s football program, the transfer portal has opened and the Nittany Lions are looking for some help at wide receiver. For the third offseason in a row, one of Penn State’s biggest needs just so happens to be at wide receiver and the transfer portal is the most likely place to find some help.

Two years ago, Penn State was looking to find some help at the receiver position following Jahan Dotson’s decision to enter the NFL draft. That resulted in the addition of Mitchell Tinsley from Western Kentucky. A year later, with Tinsley making his way to the NFL alongside Parker Washignton, James Franklin and his staff searched high and wide for help at the receiver position in the transfer portal and landed Dante Cephas from Kent State and Malik McClain from Florida State. Unfortunately, neither addition managed to impact the offense much, and the passing attack was a weak spot for the Nittany Lions throughout the 2023 college football season.

And here we are once again. The spring transfer window opened up on Monday, two days following Penn State’s spring game, and Penn State’s leading receiver from last season decided to make his way to the transfer portal to explore his potential options. KeAndre Lambert-Smith opted to enter his name in the portal after seemingly suggesting he would return to the program earlier in the offseason. But despite Penn State making moves to bring in a new offensive coordinator, Lambert-Smith felt it was best for him to see what else could be out there for him.

He is not alone, of course. Cephas, after just one season in Happy Valley, made a move to Kansas State in the previous transfer window. Cristian Driver also jumped into the transfer portal and landed with another Big Ten program, Minnesota. Penn State is in jeopardy of losing its third wide receiver to a transfer since the end of the 2023 season.

Of course, Penn State has already found some help in the transfer portal with Julian Fleming committing to Penn State following a few seasons with Ohio State. But Penn State has swung and missed on a number of wide receiver transfers in the past couple of years, putting more pressure on Franklin and wide receiver coach Marques Hagans to find some quality help.

Wide receiver has consistently been one of the most frustrating positions under James Franklin. With a few notable exceptions, like Jahan Dotson and Chirs Godwin, Penn State has struggled to keep some of its best receivers in place (Justin Shorter and Juwan Johnson, for example) or get receivers to develop quickly into formidable assets for the passing game. There seemed to be a lack of development with some of the younger receivers in 2023, although it is worth mentioning Harrison Wallace III was sidetracked by injury issues. And the spring game this year didn’t exactly suggest anyone is jumping all over the chance to be the next breakout star. Then again, it is sometimes unwise to overreact to anything we do or do not see in a spring game, especially with a new offensive coordinator.

Expect Penn State to be in hot pursuit of some of the top receivers in the transfer portal. In a year of big changes in college football and the College Football Playoff expanding to 12 teams, the race is on to field a team fully capable of crashing into one of those top 12 spots. If the biggest missing piece for Penn State is explosiveness in the passing game, then finding answers in the transfer portal is essential for success.

Check out our transfer portal tracker for an updated look at every Penn State player in the transfer portal, who is leaving, and who is coming in.

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Story originally appeared on Nittany Lions Wire