Penn State spring football preview: Wide receivers and tight ends

As Penn State gets ready to embark on the 2023 season, the offense will be expected to be the big storyline this fall. With a new starting quarterback taking the spotlight, it should not go without mentioning that the wide receiver position will be instrumental to Penn State’s success this season. And with its top two wide receivers and leading tight end from last season departing the program for the NFL, there is more to figure out on offense than whether or not its new quarterback is ready to take flight.

Penn State loses Parker Washington and Mitchell Tinsley at wide receiver and Brenton Strange at tight end. Together, that accounts for 1,550 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns to replace in the passing offense from a year ago. Fortunately, Penn State has some players ready to step up and make up for the lost production, including some young players that will continue to develop this spring.

Here is a look at what Penn State has to offer at wide receiver and tight end this spring when spring football practices open on March 14.

Keandre Lambert-Smith

Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Measurables: 6’1″, 184 lb

Year: Junior

Expected role: Starting wide receiver

KeAndre Lambert-Smith is Penn State’s top returning wide receiver from a season ago. Following the departures of Parker Washington and Mitchell Tinsley, Lambert-Smith has the most Penn State experience at the position, and he should remain a fixture in the offense for new starting quarterback Drew Allar to rely on stretching the field.

KeAndre Lambert-Smith

Harrison Wallace III

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Measurables: 6’1″, 196 lb

Year: Redshirt sophomore

Expected role: Possible starting wide receiver, solid contributor

Competing for a possible starting job could be Harrison Wallace III, who had 19 catches for 273 yards and a touchdown last season as a reserve option. Wallace finished sixth on the team in receiving yards in 2022 and is the third-leading receiver coming back from last year’s roster, although a pair of transfer additions to the roster means Wallace will look to make a statement this spring for consideration for an increased role in the fall.

NEXT: Key transfer additions

Malik McClain

Tallahassee Democrat

Measurables: 6’4″, 202 lb

Year: Junior

Expected role: Possible starting wide receiver, solid contributor

One of Penn State’s transfer additions at receiver is with the team this spring. Malik McClain, previously of Florida State, brings plenty of talent to win a starting job in the offense and he will certainly be a player to watch. McClain had 17 receptions for 206 yards and three touchdowns for the Seminoles in 2022, and he could work his way into a solid role with the Nittany Lions either as a starter or a significant contributor in a variety of offensive packages.

McClain is one of two key receivers added to the program from the transfer portal this offseason, but he is the only one currently enrolled. Dante Cephas, from Kent State, is expected to be a starter but will join the program after the spring semester.

NEXT: More wide receiver depth to watch

Omari Evans

Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Measurables: 6’0″, 189 lb

Year: Sophomore

Expected role: Backup wide receiver

Penn State’s youth at wide receiver will be on display this spring. Omari Evans could be the top name to watch after appearing in all 13 games played last season as a backup receiver. Evans caught five passes for 55 yards and a touchdown for the Nittany Lions last season, and he could compete for more playing time beginning this spring.

Liam Clifford

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Measurables: 6’1″. 196 lb

Year: Redshirt sophomore

Expected role: Backup wide receiver

The younger brother of former quarterback Sean Clifford, Liam Clifford is ready to create his own legacy in the Penn State offense. While it is unlikely he will be a starting player for the Nittany Lions, he could be a player that gets involved in the offense. Clifford appeared in 11 games last season as a reserve option and caught eight passes for 89 yards.

Kaden Saunders

Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Measurables: 5’10”, 172 lb.

Year: Redshirt freshman

Expected role: Backup wide receiver

As a true freshman last season, Kaden Saunders appeared in three games and had two catches for 21 yards, but expect those numbers to tick upward significantly in 2023. Saunders is a potential star in the making at the position and could really take flight this spring.

Malick Meiga

Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Measurables: 6’4″. 205 lb

Year: Junior

Expected role: Backup wide receiver

Malik Meiga may be the player most want to see take some big strides this spring. Meiga has shown some flashes of what he can do in stretching the field, and he has the size to be a good target in the offense. But Penn State will hope to see some improved performance from Meiga this spring as he could be a potential reliable option in the fall.

NEXT: A look at the top tight ends

Theo Johnson

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Measurables: 6’6″, 256 lb

Year: Junior

Expected role: Starting tight end

With Brenton Strange moving on to the NFL, it would appear likely that Theo Johnson will take over as Penn State’s top tight end on the roster. Johnson was Penn State’s fourth-leading receiver in 2022 with 20 receptions for 328 yards and four touchdowns, and he is the second-leading receiver returning from last year’s roster behind wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith.

Johnson won’t have much that needs to be proven this spring, but working to get in sync with quarterback Drew Allar will be key this spring.

Tyler Warren

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Measurables: 6’6″, 254 lb

Year: Junior

Expected role: Possible starting tight end, significant contributor

Penn State has found ways to get Tyler Warren involved in the offense in big play packages both as a receiving option and as a short-yardage situation and expect that to continue in 2023. Warren will be a significant player in Penn State’s offense, although he may not lead the team in receiving yards at the position.

NEXT: The young depth at tight end

Khalil Dinkins

Measurables: 6’4″, 243 lb

Year: Redshirt sophomore

Expected role: Backup tight end

Penn State’s depth at the tight end position is what will be in the spotlight this spring. Khalil Dinkins played in eight games for the Nittany Lions as a reserve option last fall, and he caught four passes for 53 yards. With the position pretty much set at the top of the depth chart, expect Dinkins to get some good looks in the spring to continue his development.

Joey Schlaffer

Measurables: 6’5″, 243 lb

Year: Freshman

Expected role: Backup tight end

One of the fresh faces at the position this spring will be Joey Schlaffer, an early enrollee from Penn State’s Class of 2023. The four-star tight end will get an early jump on his development to allow him to have a chance to play a reserve role with the team in the fall.

Schlaffer is one of two four-star tight ends from Penn State’s Class of 2023, but Andrew Rappleyea will not join the program until after the spring semester.

More 2023 Penn State Nittany Lions Football Schedule!

Here is Penn State's updated 2023 football schedule

Story originally appeared on Nittany Lions Wire