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Probing The Portal: Setting The Stage & Wide Receiver Preview (12.4.23)

The Portal is here.

Conference championship weekend is over. The College Football Playoff is set. The bowl game matchups have been announced. Which means it is time for chaos: that is, the NCAA Transfer Portal officially opens today.

If you have been following along on the interweb, you will have noticed that multiple prospects have already officially entered the portal despite. That’s because they fell into one of three buckets:

  • Graduate transfer
  • FCS player
  • Player whose head coach was fired/left to take another coaching job

While there have been players — like Maryland linebacker Jaishawn Barham — who don’t fall into one of those three buckets make announcements last week, it was just simply them announcing the *intention* of entering the portal. Technically, they couldn’t enter until today, meaning they couldn’t have direct contact with other coaches from other schools.

Below, we’ll get started with our transfer portal coverage, but think of this as just the appetizer. Over the next couple days, the number of players who will enter will grow immensely so this list is far from a finished product on who the Nittany Lions could potentially go after.

For Penn State, I think there are five position groups that will be the focus the next few weeks:

  1. Wide Receiver
  2. Offensive Tackle
  3. Defensive Tackle
  4. Cornerback
  5. Kicker

I think that’s mostly a pretty fluid list and the focus could change depending upon who exactly enters. Like linebacker isn’t much of a need at all, but with the aforementioned Jaishawn Barham entering the portal, I am sure the Nittany Lions would be happy to bring in Barham if they had their druthers.

What I don’t think is all that fluid is that wide receiver is going to be *the* focus. Penn State needs starters and depth at the position, so multiple transfers is extremely likely. I’d put the over/under at a conservative two wideouts for the Nittany Lions, and personally, would lean towards the over.

Just like the last couple years, we’ll have updates throughout the week on the happenings in the portal — potential targets, Penn State offers, visits locked up, etc. We’ll dive more into different position groups as well, but we start with the receivers today.


Ja’Mori Maclin, 5-foot-11, 183 pounds (Redshirt Junior — North Texas)
Stats: 57 receptions, 1,004 yards (17.6 YPC), 11 TDs
Hometown: Kirkwood, MO

The lone receiver who currently has a (public) offer from Penn State, Ja’Mori “Jay” Maclin had a breakout season with North Texas, earning second team All-AAC honors thanks in large part to his explosive play ability. He started his career at Missouri — yes, he’s related to former Mizzou wideout Jeremy Maclin — but left with the coaching change from Barry Odom to Eli Drinkwitz.

Deion Burks, 5-foot-11, 195 pounds (Redshirt Junior — Purdue)
Stats: 47 receptions, 629 yards (13.4 YPC), 7 TDs
Hometown: Belleville, MI

One of the more explosive receivers in the portal, Deion Burks was one of the few highlights on an otherwise shaky Purdue offense. He served as a player who could stretch the field or rack up YAC on screens and slants. He does have some issues with drops, but as someone who has some positional versatility as an inside or outside receiving option, Burks would be a nice fit in new offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki’s offense.

Kris Mitchell, 6-foot-1, 175 pounds (Redshirt Senior — FIU)
Stats: 64 receptions, 1,118 yards (17.5 YPC), 7 TDs
Hometown: Jacksonville, FL

Fresh off a first-team all-conference season, Kris Mitchell should be one of the more sought after receivers in the portal. In fact, he already took a visit to Notre Dame, taking in South Bend over the weekend.

The interesting and intriguing tie between Mitchell and the Penn State staff is that his younger brother, four-star cornerback Jon Mitchell, is committed to the Nittany Lions. So James Franklin and Co. already have a familiarity and comfortability with the family.

Donaven McCulley, 6-foot-5, 200 pounds (Senior — Indiana)
Stats: 48 receptions, 644 yards (13.4 YPC), 6 TDs
Hometown: Indianapolis, IN

Originally a four-star quarterback prospect coming out of high school, Donaven McCulley has made the successful transition to wide receiver, though there is still a lot of room to grow. He’s a big body at 6-foot-5 and a good athlete to boot, making him an ideal red zone target and possession receiver. Thus far, Kentucky is the lone school slated to get a visit.

Josh Kelly, 6-foot-1, 192 pounds (Redshirt Senior — Washington State)
Stats: 61 receptions, 923 yards (15.1 YPC), 8 TDs
Hometown: Fresno, CA

Josh Kelly spent his first four seasons at Fresno State before transferring to Washington State last offseason. His first and only season in Pullman was a good one though, with Kelly likely earning some sort of all-conference honors when the Pac-12 makes its announcement this week.

Antwane Wells Jr., 6-foot-1, 208 pounds (Senior — South Carolina)
Stats (2022): 68 receptions, 928 yards (13.6 YPC), 6 TDs
Hometown: Richmond, VA

Originally a standout at James Madison, Antwane Wells transferred to South Carolina before the 2022 season and turned out to be one of the best receivers in the SEC, earning a first-team All-SEC selection last year. 2023 didn’t go quite as planned for Wells though, as his year was derailed by a foot injury that caused him to miss most of the season.

Will Sheppard, 6-foot-3, 198 pounds (Senior — Vanderbilt)
Stats: 47 receptions, 684 yards (14.6 YPC), 8 TDs
Hometown: Mandeville, LA

Staying in the SEC, Will Sheppard leaves Vanderbilt after being the Commodores No. 1 wideout for the last two seasons. His long, lanky frame and jumping ability made him a prime red zone target, with Sheppard hauling in 17 touchdowns over the last two seasons for a Vanderbilt program that doesn’t make its way into the end zone all that often.

He’s originally from Mandeville, LA, so him staying in the SEC seems likely. But hey, Penn State does have a pretty solid track record for Mandeville products.

Caullin Lacy, 5-foot-10, 190 pounds (Senior — South Alabama)
Stats: 91 receptions, 1,316 yards (14.5 YPC), 7 TDs
Hometown: Mobile, AL

One of the most productive wide receivers in the country, Caullin Lacy will almost assuredly find himself playing at the Power 5 (or, I guess, Power 4? 3.5? Not sure what we are calling it now) level next season. While he lacks elite size, he’s a kid whose explosiveness jumps off the screen, even given the Sun Belt competition he was playing the last few years.

Chris Tyree, 5-foot-9, 192 pounds (Senior — Notre Dame)
Stats: 26 receptions, 484 yards (18.6 YPC), 3 TDs
Hometown: Chester, VA

For those of us that follow recruiting, Chris Tyree should be a familiar name. He was a Top 100 running back recruit who flashed for Notre Dame as a freshman, running for 496 yards on 73 carries. That turned out to be the high point for Tyree as a running back though, as he averaged under 4.5 yards per carry the next two seasons. He made the move to wide receiver in 2023, and while he’s clearly still raw and learning the intricacies of the position, his big play ability stood out.

Other Names To Keep An Eye On...

Eric McAlister, 6-foot-4, 200 pounds (Junior — Boise State)
Stats (9 GP): 47 receptions, 873 yards (18.6 YPC), 5 TDs
Hometown: Azle, TX

Cyrus Allen, 6-foot-0, 177 pounds (Junior — Louisiana Tech)
Stats (11 GP): 46 receptions, 778 yards (16.9 YPC), 4 TDs
Hometown: New Orleans, LA

Myles Price, 5-foot-10, 190 pounds (Senior — Texas Tech
Stats (10 GP): 43 receptions, 410 yards (9.5 YPC), 5 TDs
Hometown: The Colony, TX

Jerand Bradley, 6-foot-5, 220 pounds (Redshirt Junior — Texas Tech)
Stats: 36 receptions, 431 yards (12 YPC), 4 TDs
Hometown: Frisco, TX

Beaux Collins, 6-foot-3, 210 pounds (Senior — Clemson)
Stats (11 GP): 38 receptions, 510 yards (13.4 YPC), 3 TDs
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

TJ Sheffield, 5-foot-11, 190 pounds (Senior — Purdue)
Stats (11 GP): 32 receptions, 381 yards (11.9 YPC), 2 TDs
Hometown: Thompsons Station, TN

Ke’Shawn Williams, 5-foot-10, 190 pounds (Senior — Wake Forest)
Stats (11 GP): 38 receptions, 384 yards (10.1 YPC), 1 TD
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA