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Penn State football: Top WR’s future set after NFL Draft decision window

With no transfer portal or NFL Draft declarations, the future for KeAndre Lambert-Smith with Penn State football seems set, for now.



Penn State football, KeAndre Lambert-Smith, Auburn, Transfer Portal
Sep 2, 2023; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith (1) runs with the ball during the second quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated West Virginia 38-15. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Following the end of the 2023 Penn State football season, the future for top Nittany Lions WR KeAndre Lambert-Smith was largely unknown. A disappointing close to the year and reading of tea leaves made it seem like, whether it be the transfer portal or the NFL Draft, Lambert-Smith’s time in Happy Valley was coming to an end. But then the transfer portal window came and went. So, too, has the NFL Draft declaration window. And KeAndre Lambert-Smith is still here. Now as we prepare for winter workouts and with spring ball on the horizon, it appears that Penn State’s WR1 is sticking with the Nittany Lions.

KeAndre Lambert-Smith started 2023 with a bang, but ended with a whimper

Expectations were high for KeAndre Lambert-Smith coming into the 2023 season. Throughout the spring and into the summer, it was clear that Penn State football was looking to the junior WR to be the guy.

And, early on, it seemed like those expectations would be met. Lambert-Smith exploded into the year in the Nittany Lions’ season opener against West Virginia. The Penn State WR flashed his big-play ability, hauling in a 72-yard touchdown on the Nittany Lions’ fourth play from scrimmage en route to a 123-yard, two-score night. As he noted after the game, “I’m the number one guy now. The opportunity is here; I’ve got to make the most of it every game.”

Ultimately, that would be the only time he would eclipse the 100-yard mark in 2023. KeAndre Lambert-Smith was still Penn State’s leading pass catcher this season but saw his productivity dial down to a whimper over the final month of the season. He finished the year with 673 yards and four scores, but only recorded two catches over the Nittany Lions’ final three games.

WR1 appears poised to stay with Nittany Lions following transfer portal, NFL Draft no-decisions

After fading into the background to close out the year, KeAndre Lambert-Smith’s future in Happy Valley seemed to be in question. Following the Peach Bowl loss to Ole Miss, a game where Lambert-Smith was only targeted once, Penn State WR coach Marques Hagans was uncertain if his WR1 would stay or go.

“I think everybody has to make their own decisions on what the future holds, Hagans said. “And no one can control that.”

But KeAndre Lambert-Smith did not enter his name into the transfer portal in the final days of the winter window. Nor did he declare for the NFL Draft, with the deadline to do so passing on Monday. He does appear on the updated Penn State football roster, which was released last week.

Penn State WR room comes into focus

There hasn’t been complete stability from the Penn State WR room. Following the Peach Bowl, the Nittany Lions’ second leading WR, Dante Cephas, re-entered the transfer portal after one season in State College. He is expected to commit to Kansas State.

Penn State football has not been silent at WR in the transfer portal, either. This month, James Franklin has brought in former Ohio State and five-star WR Julian Fleming. Fleming will compete to be the Nittany Lions’ top pass catcher in 2024.

But with the radio silence coming out of Lambert-Smith’s camp over the last month, it’s impossible to say how he feels about the situation and his role moving forward. Graduate transfers can still enter the portal at any time, and another transfer portal window will open following spring practice.

Much like last year, there is still a significant opportunity for KeAndre Lambert-Smith on the Penn State football roster, if he can capitalize on it. But for now, only time will tell if 2024 will be any different than 2023.

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Matt is a co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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