Gone is Parker Washington from Penn State.
Gone is Mitchell Tinsley.
Now, it’s KeAndre Lambert-Smith’s time to shine for Penn State.
The 6-foot-1 wide receiver has been preparing for this moment since he stepped on campus and is primed to take over the No. 1 spot atop the wide receiver depth chart, following in a long lineage of top-tier receivers.
It’s only March but so far, Lambert-Smith is impressing his head coach.
“He’s been really good so far this spring,” James Franklin said after Tuesday’s practice. “We need him to be the guy, a true number one.”
Can he do that?
If the end to his season last year is any indication, that answer is a resounding yes.
Lambert-Smith hauled in three passes for 124 yards and a touchdown, highlighted by the longest touchdown in Rose Bowl history, an 88-yard touchdown.
Now, Lambert-Smith sees himself as the guy in the receiver room and also an elder statesman on the team.
He’s looked at as a leader by the whole squad, something that’s not always easy to handle.
“It’s been a challenge,” Lambert-Smith said, “not necessarily as in hard to do, but a lot of guys looking at me to be that leader and lead the (receivers) room, even be a leader on the team.”
Although there might be some difficulty at first, Lambert-Smith said leading is something that has typically come naturally to him.
“I’ve always felt I was born to lead, lead by example and I’ve always been a talkative guy,” Lambert-Smith said. “I’m gonna talk but I’ll also back it up and work every day. And I feel like the guys respect that and the guys in my room respect it.”
As much as Lambert-Smith likes to talk, it’s also important he leads by example on and off the field for Penn State.
“I’ve become more consistent, being that leader that the guys can depend on,” he said. “They need to see you in that in that mode every day. You’ve got to be consistent to them so you can gain that trust from them. So just doing that, and I feel like I’m doing a good job.”
For Lambert-Smith, there’s still much more to prove both as a player and leader and this spring is the perfect opportunity to do it.
“I’ve been waiting for opportunities like this, so for opportunity to present itself like this … I’m supposed to be a top guy in the country,” Lambert-Smith said. “I’m going to be a top guy in the country and I’m going to take full advantage of it.”
More from Tuesday’s practice:
- Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich on the wide receivers: “We’d like to thing that there’s a competition everywhere … but it’s a spot where we’re definitely looking for guys to step up and contribute in a major way.
- Franklin on who’s stepped up at wide out: “Trey Wallace has also had a really night spring camp so far. We’ve got to figure out who that third guy is going to be.”
- Franklin on the young quarterbacks: “Drew [Allar] and Beau [Pribula] have really impressed so far, and Jaxon [Smolik] is doing some really good things.”
- Franklin on the young guys: “I think the young guys aren’t as physical right now as I think they need to be, because you’re thinking.”