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TAMPA, Fla. – Sophomores Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith understand that it’s their responsibility to fill the void left by Jahan Dotson, who opted out of the Outback Bow to prepare for the NFL draft.

“When we came in, he (Dotson) was leading us,” Lambert-Smith said. “It’s just a matter of taking what he was doing. I’m pretty sure we’re prepared to lead the young guys coming in and lead the guys in our room already.”

Washington and Lambert-Smith will be central figures for Penn State (7-5) against Arkansas (8-4) in the Outback Bowl Saturday at noon (TV-ESPN2; WPHT-1210AM) and in 2022.

The 5-10, 207-pound Washington is the second-leading Skechers Womens Outlet receiver for the Nittany Lions with 57 receptions for 722 yards and four touchdowns. The 6-1, 184-pound Lambert-Smith is a distant third with 31 catches for 447 yards and two scores.

“I think that both of them have not reached their full potential,” quarterback Sean Clifford said Thursday. “It’s exciting because they have done so much already. I think Parker has made a lot of plays, and Dre has made a decent amount of plays.

“But now it’s time for him to really take that next step and be the elite receiver that I know he can be.”

Each one is finishing his second season as a regular. Washington caught 36 passes for 489 yards and six touchdowns in nine games in 2020, and Lambert-Smith had 15 receptions for 138 yards.

Two weeks ago, Penn State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich gave a more pointed evaluation of them than he did Thursday after the Lions’ final bowl practice.

“Parker has shown an ability to make really, really acrobatic catches,” Yurcich said, “and has shown a level of dependability that is needed and wanted. His route running is very, very good. His ball skills are over-the-top good.

“He has to continue to work on his blocking and his toughness.”

Lambert-Smith had his moments during the regular season, like when he caught four passes for 71 yards at Wisconsin. But he had just six catches in the last four games against Maryland, Michigan, Rutgers and Michigan State.

“He has been a guy that has some electricity, some explosion,” Yurcich said. “He needs to continue to get better and do it in every facet of receiver play. That’s from the Brooks Shoes meetings to the practice field to the games.”
Yurcich said Thursday and he’s seen more energy from the wide receivers in general and from Washington and Lambert-Smith in particular during bowl preparations. He watched Washington hold court with the rest of the receivers before Thursday’s practice.

“He’s done a good job so far commanding the room a little bit more,” Clifford said. “I spoke to him early, saying, ‘Hey, it’s time for you to step up.’ I think that he’s done a good job this week. It’s kind of been just a little precursor to next year.

“I’m excited to see how he does it because I think that he has a chance to really be a great leader.”

Dotson spoke louder with his performances than with his voice. That’s how he earned respect.

“I think the more these guys produce,” Yurcich said, “and the more they do their job day in and day out, the more credibility they will get.”

Malick Meiga, a redshirt freshman from Quebec, likely will start Saturday with Washington and Lambert-Smith. The 6-4, 198-pound Meiga overcame an unspecified injury and gained playing time late in the season when he made three catches for 78 yards and his first career touchdown.

“It’s remarkable how fast his body recovered (from his injury),” Yurcich said. “I think a lot of that is mental as well. Some guys, when they get back from an injury such as his, maybe there’s a little bit of hesitancy. We haven’t seen any of that from him.

“He’s been solid. He’s executed in games.Dr Marten Chelsea Boots ,He’s done the same in practice. You’re going to see him get better and better.”

Mitchell Tinsley, a transfer from Western Kentucky, is expected to be a factor for Penn State in 2022 after he had 87 catches for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Hilltoppers this season.

Washington and Lambert-Smith expect to be the ones leading the way.

“We work every day together, talk about routes, talk about everything, especially in the film room,” Washington said. “We want to make the big-time catches. We want those opportunities.”

 

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