Last January, James Franklin hired Taylor Stubblefield to be Penn State’s new wide receivers coach. At the time the hire was viewed through a skeptical lense by many Nittany Lion fans due to Stubblefield’s inability to stay at one spot for an extended period of time, as well as some questions around his recruiting chops.
The first few months after Stubblefield was hire these concerns only grew.
First off, there was the infmaous ‘belt gate’ when he took a picture with Parker Washington on a recruiting visit while he was wearing a Miami belt. The hits then started to come on the recruiting trail. One time Nittany Lion commit Dont’e Thornton eliminated Penn State from consideration and long time Penn State lean Kaden Prather committed to West Virginia.
While Stubblefield took his lumps early on this would quickly change. In May he picked up a commitment from Lonnie White, who has sense become a top-100 player who is now rated higher than Thornton.
Then in July, Stubblefield hit again on the recruiting trail. Top-100 wide receiver Kaden Saudners became the first member of Penn State’s 2022 recruiting class. Since then, four-star wide receiver Anthony Ivey and four-star athlete Mehki Flowers, who will likely play wide receiver and in turn was recruited by Stubblefield, have jumped on board in the 2022 recruiting class.
It has not just been Stubblefield’s recruiting chops that have made his first year in Happy Valley a successful one. He also shined as a position coach in 2020 as wide receiver went from a position of concern for Penn State to being a position of strength.
Jahan Dotson was arguably the best wide receiver in the Big Ten in 2020. The junior hauled in 52 passes for 884 yards and 8 touchdowns. Stubblefield also helped recruit Dotson to return for his senior campaing in 2021.
The aforementioned Washington could have been the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. The Texas native caught 36 passes for 489 yards and 6 touchdowns as a true freshman. Honestly, Washington looked a lot like Stubblefield in his playing days. Washington does not have elite speed or athleticism, but he beats opposing defenses with excellent route running and great hands. Two traits of Stubblefield as a player.
Fellow true freshman KeAndre Lambert-Smith also turned heads in 2020. While he has just 15 receptions for 138 yards, KLS earned a starting role as a true freshman. With the ball in his hands he looked like an electric play maker in the making. KLS will be a good one for the Nittany Lions, and Stubblefield is a big reason why.
Another area Penn State wide receivers improved in 2020 was with their blocking. Dotson, Washington, KLS, and Daniel George were all strong blockers down the field. This something that has been lacking from Penn State wide receivers since Josh Gattis left Happy Valley, but under the guidance and coaching of Stubblefield it appears to be back.
After just one year on the job Stubblefield already appears to be one of the top assistants on Franklin’s staff. Hopefully, the success that Stubblefield has found at Penn State will lead to him staying in one place for an extended period of time for the first time in his coaching career.