Penn State needs to land five-star 2025 wide receiver prospect scheduled for summer visit

The biggest weakness on James Franklin's roster heading into 2024 is wide receiver. Penn State didn't have the NIL resources to attract top transfer talent to replenish the room, so it needs to land high-level high school prospects like Phillip Bell.
Mission Viejo v De La Salle
Mission Viejo v De La Salle / Aubrey Lao/GettyImages

There is no mystery about what position on Penn State’s roster is in most dire need of a talent infusion. This offseason, James Franklin turned over the wide receiver room, letting Dante Cephas, KeAndre Lambert-Smith, Cristian Driver, Malick Meiga, and Malik McClain head out the door and replacing that group with just one addition, Ohio State transfer Julian Fleming. 

The Nittany Lions were desperate for playmakers last season, so none of those losses will be significantly detrimental to the 2024 team. Fleming with a healthy Harrison Wallace III will be a big upgrade on the outside, but going forward the position group and wide receiver coach Marques Hagans need to add depth and high-level impact players. That makes wide receiver Phillip Bell’s upcoming visit crucial. 

In the modern landscape of college football and the Big Ten, Penn State is severely hamstrung by its NIL fundraising limitations. James Franklin’s “Retain the Roar” campaign has the goal of raising $500 thousand for the NIL collective, while schools like Ohio State and Oregon have easily cleared a million with similar campaigns. 

Franklin’s philosophy of retaining talent over depleting his funds in the transfer portal auction house is the right one for the program, but the consequence is an increased importance on high school recruiting. If the Nittany Lions don’t lock up elite talent out of high school, the team won’t have access to that caliber of athlete later in their career, and at wide receiver, Penn State must attract elite athletes for Drew Allar and eventually Ethan Grunkemeyer. 

Bell has vacillated between a four and five-star rating throughout his high school career, but regardless, is a top-30 receiver in the 2025 class. At 6-foot-2 195, the Mission Viejo, California product has attracted big-time attention and has a busy slate of official visits scheduled for this summer. 

Bell’s impressive footwork jumps off the tape and he’s an excellent separator, especially in short-yardage situations. Many of his big plays came out of the slot or bunch formations, but Bell is more than capable of beating press coverage. Corners couldn’t get a hand on him around the goalline and with his size, he can dominate at the catch point.

Plenty of times, his questionable quarterback play brought defenders back into the play after being beaten at the top of the route, only to be beaten again on a 50/50 ball. Those qualities would allow Bell to play early in his career and be a quarterback-friendly receiver. 

In the Peach Bowl to end last season, with Wallace and Omari Evans as Allar’s primary outside receivers, the Nittany Lions could get no separation from SEC cornerbacks and were routinely outmatched physically. Bell, who could be tough to pry away from fellow College Football Playoff contenders, is the type of player who could give the Nittany Lions a chance offensively in the 12-team playoff. 

Penn State’s 2025 class currently only has one wide receiver commit, three-star Lyrick Samuel. However, the Nittany Lions have also drawn interest from Tom River New Jersey four-star Michael Thomas III.

Next. Key position battles for Penn State football in 2024. Key position battles for Penn State football in 2024. dark