Okay, I get it, you’re tired of hearing about how bad Penn State’s wide receivers were in 2023. Well, I was tired of watching them, I’m tired of writing about them, and I’m sure Drew Allar was tired of throwing to them too. But until Franklin gives all of us an alternative, here we are.
KeAndre Lambert-Smith was supposed to be next in the lineage of Penn State receivers. One that has gone strong from Chris Godwin to KJ Hamler to Jahan Dotson, and even to Parker Washington. Well, by the end of the season, anyone with a No. 1 jersey in blue and white would feel compelled to let everyone within earshot hear how big of a KJ Hamler fan you were.
As a junior, he caught 53 passes for 673 yards and four touchdowns, but those numbers were inflated by the fact that Penn State had no other receivers. Dante Cephas was a disappointment out of the transfer portal and Harrison Wallace III went down with an injury against Indiana.
Well, once Wallace came back for the Peach Bowl, he was instantly the No. 1 receiver, Cephas was benched, and Lambert-Smith played a season-low 21 snaps.
When asked about the snap distribution in that game, specifically about Cephas who has since transferred away, James Franklin said, “Everything's an open competition every week, and the depth chart reflects that. Then obviously when you're in a bowl situation and you've got three weeks, there's a lot of movement that can occur in three weeks.”
While that was specific to Cephas, it can be applied to Lambert-Smith’s situation. Wallace has already passed him and Julian Fleming is coming in from Ohio State to be Allar’s primary target, and Lambert-Smith already has been replaced for good reason.
As the No. 1 target, he only averaged 12.7 yards per reception and only 1.91 yards per route run, which ranked 160th in the country among wide receivers and 10th in the offensively challenged Big Ten. That just isn’t good enough for Penn State’s No. 1 target.
Lambert-Smith only forced six missed tackles after the catch and came down with just five contested catches. He doesn’t have the skill-set of a No. 1 receiver, and it’s time for him to lose his top spot on the depth chart.