Blue White Illustrated

September 2023

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 7 of 67

8 S E P T E M B E R 2 0 2 3 OPENING SHOT DANTE'S INFERNO Wide receiver Dante Cephas may be a redshirt senior, but he's a newcomer to Penn State, and he was going through his first practice at the Power Five level when the Nittany Lions opened pre- season drills on Aug. 2. Cephas spent the past four seasons at Kent State, where he caught 145 passes for 2,139 yards and 12 touchdowns. Following the 2022 season, the Pittsburgh native decided he wanted to test himself against the best competition he could find, so he left the Mid-American Conference for the Big Ten. At Penn State, the challenges will be both ex- ternal and internal. In addition to facing the likes of Ohio State and Michigan this fall, he'll have to earn snaps in a Penn State receivers room that is looking to find playmakers. The team's top two pass catchers last fall — Mitchell Tinsley and Parker Washington — have both departed, leaving PSU with some significant holes to fill. Aside from projected starters KeAndre Lambert-Smith, a fourth-year junior, and Harrison Wallace III, a redshirt sophomore, no returning wideout caught more than 8 passes last year. That means there's plenty of opportunity for Cephas and younger receivers such as sophomore Omari Evans and redshirt freshman Kaden Saunders. Coach James Franklin is hopeful that the Lions will get a lift at several position groups from their newcomers. It may not be as big a lift as they got last year, when two transfers — defensive end Chop Robinson and guard Hunter Nourzad — and three true freshmen — running backs Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen and linebacker Abdul Carter — each won All-Big Ten honors. But the early impressions have been good. "We were fortunate last year to get a number of true freshmen who were able to come in and impact our team in a really positive way," Franklin said at Big Ten Media Days in July. "Hopefully, we'll have a similar number of guys who are able to do that this year, as well. Hope- fully, there will be some names that we're talking about in a couple weeks, or at least at the halfway point of the season, that we're not talking about today. "Abdul Carter is a really good example of that. He was a guy who was highly recruited but prob- ably wasn't being talked about a whole lot at this media day last year. By the middle of the season, everybody in the country was talking about him. It should be exciting. We're going to need some of those guys to factor into this, either in prominent roles or as backups." — Matt Herb PHOTO BY STEVE MANUEL

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