Penn State football spring game takeaways: Where was WR KeAndre Lambert-Smith?


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Julian Fleming and Harrison Wallace III shared a handshake and a few smiles as the two wide receivers joked on the field after the 15th and final practice of the spring.

It was Fleming’s first time in Beaver Stadium wearing a Penn State uniform while Wallace, after dealing with injuries last season, looked as explosive as he’s expected to be when healthy.

Both receivers exited spring ball healthy and figure to be a huge part of this offense the next time Penn State steps foot in Beaver Stadium this fall. In all likelihood, they will have to be among Drew Allar’s top options after returning No. 1 wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith was not with the team again on Saturday.

Lambert-Smith was also not at practice this past Tuesday. Coach James Franklin was asked about the status of the senior receiver on Saturday and declined to address reports from 247Sports that Lambert-Smith is contemplating a transfer.

“I’m really happy to talk about any of the guys that played in the game today and are in the locker room,” Franklin said. “Besides that, I don’t have much to tell you.”

Penn State’s players followed suit with the head coach, punting on questions about Lambert-Smith. Have they spoken with him? Do they expect him to be here this fall?

“That’s a Coach Franklin discussion,” Allar said. “I’m not going to expand on any of that stuff.”

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The transfer portal opens Tuesday and while the receiving corps has been and will continue to be under the microscope, it certainly sounds like Fleming and Wallace might have to be Allar’s go-to options. The creativity of offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki’s scheme, while not on display Saturday — players estimated Penn State showed only about 5 percent of the offense and purposely kept it vanilla — will have to help get whoever in this group remains open come the fall.

“I feel like the guys that we’re gonna be traveling with — whoever that is — are definitely capable of getting the job done,” said wide receiver Kaden Saunders, who figures to step into a bigger role heading into his third season. “This offense is going to put us in a position to show that as well.”

Franklin said he will spend 30 minutes meeting with every player on the roster during the next three weeks. He called it an “interesting” couple of weeks ahead as the assistant coaches will meet with all of their players between now and Wednesday before hitting the road for recruiting. They’ll also be recruiting their current roster, trying to keep as many players who want to be here as possible while keeping an eye on the future, too.

“I’ve had all the faith in the world in our wide receivers in terms of talent and ability,” Franklin said. “We’ve got to take the next step.”

Other takeaways from Penn State’s Blue-White game:

• Several veterans and key contributors did not play. Among the group that didn’t warm up: RB Kaytron Allen, OL JB Nelson, OL Drew Shelton, OL Sal Wormley, DT Hakeem Beamon, DE Zuriah Fisher and QB Jaxon Smolik. Smolik, who sustained a significant injury this spring, had a brace on his left knee. RB Nick Singleton dressed and warmed up but did not play. TE Tyler Warren also did not play. OL Anthony Donkoh didn’t play either. Franklin said Allen, who hasn’t been a full participant the last few weeks, will be fine for summer training and the upcoming season. Franklin said Singleton was limited on Saturday in part because they wanted to learn more about those competing for the No. 3 running back spot, one that figures to be between Cam Wallace and Quinton Martin Jr.

• The White team was stacked with more returning starters and won, 27-0. The transfers, including Fleming, CB A.J. Harris and CB Jalen Kimber, were on the Blue team. I’d take that more as them needing to earn their spot more than anything else. What that arrangement created were opportunities where Wallace lined up opposite Harris, and Omari Evans had some reps against Kimber. Wallace led all receivers with five catches for 72 yards. Fleming had one catch for 5 yards while Saunders had two receptions for 27 yards. The biggest play of the afternoon for the offense came from Allar who connected with redshirt freshman tight end Andrew Rappleyea for a 30-yard touchdown late in the scrimmage. Rappleyea had three catches for 33 yards. He continues to look like a big-time playmaker in the making. He’ll certainly be a factor this season.

• Penn State’s first-team offensive line was: LT J’ven Williams, LG Vega Ioane, C Nick Dawkins, RG Cooper Cousins and RT Nolan Rucci. Shelton was out all spring which made this an important opportunity for Williams, a redshirt freshman.

“They got a thousand reps this spring, which was great,” Franklin said of Williams and Rucci.

• Quarterback Beau Pribula threw an interception on a play where no receiver was anywhere near the ball. Pribula was picked by safety Zakee Wheatley. Pribula competed with both the Blue and the White teams while Allar quarterbacked the White and finished with completions on 15-of-32 passes for 202 yards and one touchdown.

• I wouldn’t overthink this too much because Fleming was on the Blue team, but the first-team offense for the White squad was Wallace, Evans and Liam Clifford. Clifford had two catches for 23 yards. He said the competition between himself and Saunders has made both of them better. Remember, Kotelnicki wants these receivers to be able to play all three positions. Saunders said he’s comfortable with two spots now and will continue spending time to learn the third.

“This summer I’ll definitely work on learning the whole concept instead of just sides because that’s what I was focused on my first couple years, just the slot,” Saunders said. “Coach Hagans and Coach K made an emphasis that we’re all receivers. We don’t have a set position so the best guys can play no matter what position you’re in.”

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• Defensive end Abdul Carter was the one who wanted to switch positions from linebacker to defensive end. Franklin said as much when asked about the change ahead of the first practice of the spring. Carter, meeting with reporters Saturday for the first time since the switch, certainly looked the part coming off the edge. Carter said he’s playing at 250 and 255 pounds now and feels good at that weight.

“This is a chance for me to do what I do best which is get after the quarterback, play fast, not have to think,” Carter said. “Just do what I do best and get paid.”

Carter was teeing off against true freshman left tackle Eagan Boyer. Boyer is 6-8 and 251 pounds, essentially the same weight as Carter.

• Among the contingent of former players at the scrimmage were Olu Fashanu, Chop Robinson, Caedan Wallace, Keaton Ellis, Trey Potts, Miles Sanders and Sean Clifford.

Robinson, who has a close relationship with Carter, was on the sideline giving him pointers. Carter said he and Robinson last season went back and forth about who was the better pass rusher. Carter said he told Robinson that had he been a defensive end last season he would’ve had 15 sacks. Expect both to keep a tally of Carter’s sack total this season.

“We got a little challenge going on,” Carter said.

• The first glance of Tom Allen’s defense came out of a 4-2-5 look. The White team (primarily the starters, but not the unit with the transfer corners) was as follows:

D-line: DE Amin Vanover, DT Dvon Ellies, DT Zane Durant, DE Dani Dennis-Sutton

LBs: Kobe King, Tony Rojas

CBs: Cam Miller, Audavion Collins

Saf: Wheatley, King Mack

5th DB, The Lion: Saf. Jaylen Reed

Reed spoke earlier this spring about his willingness to be that fifth defensive back. It’s looking like he’ll exit spring with the lead at that spot. King Mack and Harris are also among the many options there. Again, I’d expect Penn State to play a lot of nickel next season.

• Collins, the cornerback who started his collegiate career at Mississippi State before transferring to Penn State, has helped himself in a loaded position group this offseason. His name has constantly come up when players and coaches have been asked about who stood out. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that he was one of Penn State’s annual spring ball award winners. Collins, Clifford, Riley Thompson, Miller and Dawkins were all honored by the staff for their work this spring.

• Franklin went out of his way to praise Vanover, the senior defensive end who figures to factor heavily into the rotation in the fall. Vanover picked off freshman QB Ethan Grunkemeyer.

“I think he’s gonna have a huge year for us,” Franklin said. “He’s a guy in my opinion that’s done it the right way. It hasn’t always been easy for him or us. His journey has been challenging at times and he’s really stuck it out and just gotten better and better and better. … Really proud of Amin.”

(Photo: Matthew O’Haren / USA Today)





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