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Transfer Portal Additions Turning Heads in Winter Workouts

Transfers Storm Duck and Malik McClain have made an impression in just a few short weeks on campus.



Transfer Portal
Head Coach James Franklin, right, hugs a player during Penn State Pro Day in Holuba Hall in State College. 032422 Pmk Penn State Pro Day. © Paul Kuehnel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Penn State made headlines with several transfer portal moves this winter, including the additions of Dante CephasMalik McClain, and Storm Duck. Cephas is set to arrive at Penn State following the spring semester. McClain and Duck have already enrolled, however, and are active participants in winter workouts.

With spring ball right around the corner, McClain and Duck have turned heads in the weight room and on the practice field. As a result, these transfer portal additions have been highly discussed among teammates and coaches this off-season.

What Have the Coaches said about the Transfer Portal Additions?

Although interactions with players and coaches are limited during the winter, McClain and Duck have been topics of conversation when the doors to Lasch have been opened.

James Franklin spent considerable time discussing the transfer portal during his annual winter workouts press conference earlier this month. He noted that the team received all four incoming transfers – including specialists Michael Wright and Riley Thompson – exceptionally well.

When the conversation turned to McClain and DuckFranklin spoke highly of both players in the classroom, saying both are “killing it” academically. He later added that both have been good culture fits for the program.

But the praise didn’t stop there. Regarding wide receivers, Franklin stated, “[McClain] tested extremely well in our baseline testing when these guys arrive. He’s also just always got a huge smile on his face.” Franklin went on to applaud McClain’s maturity later in the press conference.

Franklin also added that if Penn State added another wide receiver in the transfer portal, it would be “a really good one.” Many considered this a reference to Cephas, who committed to the Nittany Lions in January.

Whereas McClain brings a smile to the practice field, Duck approaches his craft in a more serious manner, according to Franklin.

“Storm is very business-like,” he stated. “Doesn’t say a whole lot. Is just kind of about his business. It’s like that during the recruiting process, with him, and he’s been that way since he’s shown up on campus. Everybody has been really impressed.”

The latter part of that statement has held true for both transfer portal additions. Both have received “competitors of the day” recognition. These distinctions are handed out by position coaches following winter workouts to individuals who stand out for their focus and intensity.

Duck and McClain received shoutouts from Terry Smith and Marques Hagans, respectively, following the first winter workout of the offseason. This is a notable impression to make during their first interactions with the entire coaching staff.

What Have Other Players Said?

When transfer portal players are brought into a program, there are always concerns about disrupting a locker room. However, this doesn’t appear to be an issue for the wide receiver and cornerback rooms this offseason.

In media availability following Penn State’s THON Explorers Program last week, several veterans opened up on the impact of Duck and McClain on the program so far.

Cornerback Kalen King noted that Duck has been a fit from day one in Happy Valley.

“Ever since Storm came to campus and then interacted with us, he just became one of us,” he said. “I feel like Storm’s a great addition to our team. I’m excited to see where this goes this year.”

When asked about McClain, wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith spoke of his demeanor in the weight room. “[McClain] has that ‘dawg’ mentality to him,” Lambert-Smith stated, adding that he couldn’t wait to see how that attitude translates to the spring.

Lambert-Smith also commented on how the wide receivers have generally approached transfer portal additions. 

“We’re all going to push each other,” he expressed. “No matter if you’re a freshman, senior, or transfer – once you’re in the room, we’re all one. We’re all a family. That self-competition in the room is only going create more opportunity for everybody and make everybody better.”

Embracing that competition is a major reason why expectations for Penn State football are so high in 2023. It’s a crucial component for building a championship-worthy culture, and it raises the entire team’s play.

It may still be February, but it’s safe to say that the transfer portal has positively impacted the Nittany Lions in 2023. Seeing how that translates to the field this fall will be exciting.

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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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