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Parker Washington & Penn State’s Wideouts Primed To Lead, Push Through Adversity

When talking to the media Thursday morning, Penn State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said that adversity is an opportunity.

With several players opting out of the Nittany Lions’ Outback Bowl matchup against Arkansas, Penn State is expected to face quite a bit of adversity as younger players embark on filling the roles of their predecessors.

The biggest opt-out comes from Penn State’s star wide receiver Jahan Dotson. Dotson, who established himself as one of the best wideouts in program history during his time in Happy Valley, is forgoing the bowl game and declaring for the 2022 NFL Draft.

Dotson’s absence from the lineup creates a huge gap that is usually filled with elite production. With Dotson’s production on the field and leadership in the locker room now gone, second-year wideouts Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith are expected to take on more significant roles, both on and off the field, moving forward.

Despite the added pressure the two now have on their shoulders, Yurcich is impressed with the way they’ve handled themselves recently, and he appreciates their presence on the team.

“Those guys are doing a great job of really staying true to who they are,” Yurcich said. “I think some of the worst things you can do as a player is try to be something that you’re not. You feel a little bit of extra pressure and then you may say something where it’s just not natural.”

“Those guys are natural,” he continued. “They’re who they are. They feel comfortable in their own skin. They’re doing a great job of getting great effort on the practice field, and that’s the most important thing about leadership. I think the vocal thing will continue to come.”

Their quarterback, Sean Clifford, has already seen Washington and Lambert-Smith set an example for some of the younger players in the room, even despite their own youth as second-year players. He mentioned that even though they’re young, they had to grow up a little bit more than expected due to the circumstances surrounding the team.

Clifford’s seen Washington continue to make more and more plays as the season goes on and during the bowl preparation. He even explained how in reality, Washington is a lot like Dotson in the way they can both go out and make big-time plays.

“He kind of filled that role of Jahan where Jahan was making, you know, contested catches, one-hand grabs,” Clifford said. “Parker does the same thing. People just haven’t seen as much because Jahan’s been here and he’s been balling. At the same time, if you really break it down, Parker’s got a lot of talent. So, I think that we’re going to see a lot more of that for this bowl game and then going on next season.”

For Washington, Yurcich already sees the vocal aspect of his game developing. Just recently, he’s observed Washington be more talkative than he has in the past with his teammates in practice.

“But heck, I was out there pre-practice and Parker was joking around, had the whole receiver group out there,” Yurcich said. “I heard him speak more in pre-practice than I think I did my whole my whole year with him. He’s coming out of his shell, and he’s a wonderful young man.”

Similarly, Clifford has witnessed Washington’s emergence as a vocal figure amongst the wideouts. In fact, Clifford had a conversation with Washington to let him know that it’s his time to be that guy.

“I think that he’s done a good job so far of commanding the room a little bit more,” Clifford said. “I spoke to him early, you know, saying ‘Hey, it’s time for you to step up.’ I think that he’s done a good job this week. It’s kind of been just like a little precursor to next year. So, I’m excited for seeing how he does with it, because I think that he has a chance to really be a great leader for our team.”

Another wideout on the rise is redshirt freshman Malick Meiga. After battling through injury during the season, Meiga hauled in a 67-yard touchdown against Rutgers late in the season for his first career score. Clifford called Meiga “exciting” and said he has a lot of potential that hasn’t been touched yet.

While his injury was undisclosed, Yurcich called Meiga’s recovery “remarkable,” and he continues to see improvement from the Canadian wideout.

“He’s been solid, he’s executed in games, and he’s done the same in practice,” Yurcich said. “You’re going to continue to see him get better and better with each rep. Malick is one of those guys that just has a really good attitude about life and about football, and he’s a pleasure to be around and a pleasure to coach. Really looking forward to seeing how he performs as well.”

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a senior majoring in journalism and is suddenly Onward State's managing editor. He grew up in Lindenhurst, New York, and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his bad sports takes, follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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