Penn State 2024 Wide Receivers Preview (2024)

Penn State’s wide receivers are a question mark for the team heading into the 2024 season. Andy Kotelnicki joins as the new Offensive Coordinator. Quarterback Drew Allar is entering his second season as Penn State’s starting quarterback. The running back position is held down by Nicholas Singleton, and Kaytron Allen. However, the wide receiver position will be a pivotal one for the team. The Penn State 2024 wide receivers preview is all about playing catch-up.

Gone are the 2023 players who ranked first and third in yards receiving, one of which was a tight end. In is a transfer from Ohio State who will likely be the top target. Kotelnicki, Allar, and head coach James Franklin will have their work cut out for them to scheme a strong weekly game plan to enable the success of the wide receiver unit.

Penn State’s Past Pass Catchers

While Penn State has historically been known as Linebacker U, there have been successful Nittany Lions on the offensive side of the ball as well. The most notable have been at the quarterback and running back positions, but some wide receivers have done well and gone on to successful professional careers.

Most recently, Jahan Dotson was a 2022 first-round draft pick out of Penn State. Parker Washington was a sixth-round pick in the 2023 draft. Some of the more notable alumni before that include Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin, Joe Jurevicius, and O.J. McDuffie.

While the Mt. Rushmore of Penn State wide receivers is not as well-known as other positions, there have been solid pass catchers that have passed through Happy Valley.

Performance of the Wide Receivers in 2023

Penn State’s offense should look much different in 2024, compared to 2023. Under the tutelage of former offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, the team was 77th in the country in passing yards per game, at 215. The passing numbers seem even more anemic when looking at the tougher games of the 2023 schedule, namely Iowa, Ohio State, and Michigan. In the Iowa game, Penn State threw for 182 yards; against Ohio State, it was 191 yards; and against Michigan, the number was 74 yards with the leading receiver (Tyler Warren, a tight end) catching two passes for 25 yards.

The passing yards statistic can be a bit overstated when looking at the wide receiver position as it includes running backs and tight ends. Consequently, the performance of the wide receiver group was worse than the numbers above.

The leading receiver in 2023 was KeAndre Lambert-Smith with 673 yards. Lambert-Smith is now an Auburn Tiger. He was never able to stand out as a bonafide primary receiver in Happy Valley. None of the players ranked second (tight end Warren), third (tight end Theo Johnson), and fourth (running back Singleton) was a wide receiver. Next on the list was wide receiver Dante Cephas, who entered the transfer portal, and is now with Kansas State.

Statistically, the top returning wide receiver in 2024 is Harrison (Trey) Wallace III. In 2023, his redshirt sophom*ore season, he caught 19 passes for 228 yards and one touchdown. Wallace III appeared in eight games with six of those being starts. He only made a catch in four of those contests. Wallace III missed five games due to injury. A deep threat with primary receiver potential, Wallace III impressed early in 2023. The injury bug cost him the ability to consistently impact the team.

Penn State 2024 Wide Receivers Preview: New Coordinator, Receivers, and Results?

Offensive coordinator Kotelnicki and wide receivers coach Marques Hagans will look to increase the wide receiver position’s production in 2024. While much fanfare has come with Kotelnicki’s arrival, Hagans enters his second year with Penn State. He is also the offensive recruiting coordinator. Hagans joined Penn State in 2023 after coaching receivers at the University of Virginia (his alma mater) for 11 years. With 2023 being less than stellar for the wide receivers, Hagans will push to integrate new starters into the fold.

One of the key pieces at the Penn State wide receiver position expected to make the most contributions in 2024, in addition to Wallace III, is Julian Fleming. Fleming joins Penn State as a transfer from Big Ten rival Ohio State. Not surprisingly, he was overshadowed at Ohio State by Marvin Harrison, Jr. In 2023, Fleming recorded 26 receptions for 270 yards and no touchdowns. His transfer is a homecoming, as he is a native of Catawissa, PA (less than two hours from State College), and was heavily recruited by Penn State in 2020 before choosing the Buckeyes. Fleming brings experience as he is entering his final year of eligibility. Injuries slowed his development, and he is looking for one more shot to prove himself before entering the NFL Draft.

At Kansas, Kotelnicki was able to get a lot of players involved. So, it will be paramount for the wide receivers to be ready and to be healthy. Beyond the relatively bigger names of Wallace III and Fleming, redshirt junior Liam Clifford (13 catches for 130 yards in 2023), junior Omari Evans (four catches for 94 yards and a touchdown in 2023), and freshman Josiah Brown out of Malverne, NY, are some players that bear watching.

The Bottom Line: Playing Catch-Up

Obviously, the performance of the wide receivers group at Penn State in 2024 needs to be better than in 2023. There are a few key variables that should help increase that production.

First, Allar enters his second season as Penn State’s signal caller. His ability to read defenses and make quick decisions should be better in 2024 as part of his maturation as a quarterback. Consequently, the wide receivers should be getting the ball faster, while being put in a better position to produce after the catch.

Similarly, Kotelnicki’s offenses at Kansas were strong in the running game. Weapons like Singleton and Allen should provide Kotelnicki with enough options in the backfield to keep defenses occupied. Again, this should help the wide receivers in relation to opposing defenses game planning against Penn State.

On the other side of the argument, there will be some changes relative to 2023 that will pressure the wide receiver group even more. First, the buffer provided by the tight ends will be less. The passing game was tight end-heavy in 2023. Johnson is gone (drafted by the New York Giants), and it will be up to rising senior Warren to step up at the tight end spot.

Sometimes the best ability is availability. Staying healthy is of paramount importance for the wide receivers. Both Wallace III and Fleming come with injury histories. As a preview to 2024, the Penn State wide receivers’ ability to stay on the field while contributing, will make or break this position group’s ability to play catch up in 2024.

Penn State 2024 Wide Receivers Preview (1)
Penn State 2024 Wide Receivers Preview (2024)
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