James Franklin and the Penn State offense need someone to step up in the receiving room this fall. Fortunately, the head coach believes Harrison Wallace III (aka “Trey”) is ready to play a big role for the offense.

A member of the 2021 recruiting class, Wallace began to carve out a role as a redshirt freshman with 19 catches for 273 yards and a touchdown while playing 13 games. An elite athlete, Wallace displayed his growth in the weight room during the 2023 offseason with expectations climbing for a breakout campaign.

Wallace’s 2023 season did begin with a bang, going for 72 yards on 7 catches in the season opener against West Virginia. Unfortunately, he would appear in just 6 more regular season games and missed time with an injury.

In the other 6 games Wallace did he play, the receiver produced just 8 catches without a touchdown. However, the head coach and the rest of the Nittany Lions remain high on what Wallace brings to the table.

“We thought he was going to have a big year last year, and that got limited, no fault of his own. And we feel that way and probably more so this year,” said Franklin during a summer update on Penn State. “He’s a year older, he’s a year more mature, he’s been developed, and I think he’s very hungry because there’s frustration from last year (getting) cut short because I think he felt the same way.

“He’s at a good place, he’s had a great summer so far. He had a really good spring and we’re expecting him to have a big year for us. We need him to have a big year for us.”

Franklin also described some of Wallace’s lack of production in games played last year was the result of a lack of chemistry from missed time. He would end the 2023 season on a high note, going for 67 yards and a touchdown in the Peach Bowl loss to Ole Miss.

Now, the Nittany Lions will look for Wallace to find his stride and begin reaching his full potential with a healthy year in 2024.
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Why Penn State needs Trey Wallace

At times, it looked like the absence of a big season from Wallace was Penn State’s missing piece to the 2023 campaign. KeAndre Lambert-Smith led the team with 673 receiving yards to go with 4 touchdowns, but that is where the strong numbers in the receiving room ended.

One-year transfer Dante Cephas underwhelmed while with the Nittany Lions, recording 246 yards and 2 touchdowns during his time with the program. And even with those numbers, Cephas was the top contributor at WR behind Lambert-Smith.

To make matters worse, Penn State enters 2024 without 3 of the team’s top 6 receivers a season ago. Cephas is at Kansas State, Lambert-Smith is at Auburn, and tight end Theo Johnson is off to the NFL as a 4th-round pick.

Where does that leave Penn State? Tyler Warren, a TE with 34 catches for 422 yards and 7 touchdowns a season ago, is Penn State’s top returning receiver, putting some pressure on Wallace and transfer newcomer Julian Fleming.

With a core offensive group of Drew Allar, Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen entering Year 3, many fans and analysts had circled 2024 for a strong offensive season from the Nittany Lions. That’s still possible, but Wallace and Fleming will be crucial to the unit reaching its ceiling.

If Fleming shows he can be a true No. 1 option in building his NFL stock and Wallace stays healthy, Penn State could produce a strong, bounce-back performance in the passing game. But if those two struggle, it could be another year without explosive plays in what shapes up to be a tough-to-win B1G.