Penn State Football Banking On Receiving Depth With Trey Wallace Likely Unavailable
This isn’t the first time Penn State football has missed wide receiver Trey Wallace.
After the Nittany Lions’ No. 2 option at wide receiver started the season with seven catches for 72 yards against West Virginia, he exited the team’s next game against Delaware after posting just three catches for 26 yards. He was listed as questionable for several weeks, and only made a clear reappearance in Penn State’s 63-0 win over UMass.
However, two mediocre performances followed as Wallace tallied just five catches for 63 yards between UMass and Ohio State. In Penn State’s latest matchup against Indiana, Wallace again left the game early after going down with another injury. He reappeared on the sideline with his arm in a sling but without his jersey and helmet. He wasn’t seen at Penn State’s practice on Wednesday, meaning any contribution from him against Maryland on Saturday would be shocking.
Penn State does have other receiving options, even if they aren’t the usual suspects. Tyler Warren and Theo Johnson are both starting tight ends, as the team often runs plays in 12 personnel.
“The members of our tight end room are proven commodities and have the ability to help us in the run and pass,” James Franklin said on Tuesday. “And, I think they’ve been pretty darn consistent.”
“Proven commodities” they are indeed. Warren and Johnson have combined for 392 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. In a program with a reputation for churning out productive tight ends to the NFL, Warren and Johnson may continue that pipeline, assuming teams are willing to draft or sign guys who weren’t lone starters on their college rosters.
Warren and Johnson aren’t alone in the room, either. Few expected to hear redshirt sophomore Khalil Dinkins’ name called during the White Out, but Dinkins ended up scoring a nine-yard touchdown. He heard his name called a second time against Indiana, again for a nine-yard touchdown. Dinkins has only recorded catches on those two occasions, but he has shown that he can make a difference.
Dinkins is also proof that Penn State doesn’t always need wide receivers on the field to produce. When he scored against Indiana, there were three tight ends, two running backs, and no wide receivers on the field. All Allar needed was the big boys.
Keeping it even. pic.twitter.com/o92pN8xCQN— Onward State (@OnwardState) October 28, 2023
Even if Penn State does need another wide receiver to step up in Wallace’s absence, which it certainly will, there might just be somebody waiting in the wings. The pickings may seem slim at moments, but there are options.
Dante Cephas was expected to be the breakout star that Penn State needed. At worst, he could have been the No. 3 receiver that the team never really found through an eight-month offseason and two months of the regular season.
But now, it seems as if Cephas may finally be ready to fulfill his role. The Pittsburgh native certainly seems to think he’s on the brink of making a jump.
“It was a challenge at first,” Cephas said about coming to Penn State. “But when you come in and put in the extra work, it all pays off.”
Franklin appears to think so, too. At Wednesday’s post-practice media scrum, he seemed to hint that Cephas was ready to take the next step and that the wideout simply needed some time to adjust.
“I think sometimes [with] these transfers, it’s a little bit like junior college players, where typically the second half of the year, they really start to get more comfortable,” Franklin said.
Penn State does have a few other options at wide receiver. Liam Clifford, Malik Meiga, Malick McClain, Omari Evans, and a few others all stand out as players who should be seeing more time. Rationally, at least one of those players should have had a breakout season this year.
But still, Franklin is playing the waiting game. He seems to think his next star is around the corner, and that it will only take one game to show it.
“As the receivers continue to become more consistent or make plays, you never know,” Franklin said Tuesday. “Saturday, the light could go on, boom, they have their coming out party.”
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