Wide receiver Johnson talks about time on the sidelines
Three more Nittany Lions have reportedly joined wideout Juwan Johnson in the transfer portal.
Safety Lamont Wade, cornerback Zech McPhearson and wideout Brandon Polk have all entered the portal, according to a report Sunday from Cole Cubelic of the SEC Network. McPhearson also confirmed on Twitter that he intends to transfer after graduating in the spring.
Wade, McPhearson and Polk can technically still decide to return to Penn State in 2019; the portal is there so they can explore their options and other coaches can contact them without Penn State’s interference. But returning, while possible, is certainly not likely at this point.
For Polk, the potential transfer is understandable. The redshirt junior, who contributed under three different offensive coordinators, fell out of the wide receiver rotation despite seven starts in 2018. He was plagued by drop issues, but will be remembered for a crucial fourth-down catch in Penn State’s close win against Appalachian State in Week 1.
McPhearson, a rising redshirt junior, was used sparingly this season. But with Amani Oruwariye moving on, the cornerback would have been in-line for an increased role next year.
Still, if McPhearson and Polk leave, they’re minor losses in the grand scheme of things. James Franklin has brought in enough corners (Donovan Johnson, Trent Gordon, Keaton Ellis, Marquis Wilson) and wide receivers (Justin Shorter, Jahan Dotson, Daniel George, Cam Sullivan-Brown, John Dunmore) to fill the void.
But if Wade departs, that would be a bigger blow.
Wade — a former five-star prospect out of Clairton — was expected to compete for the Nittany Lions’ starting safety role with Nick Scott moving on. Penn State’s highest-ranked defensive signee since Maurice Evans in 2006, per 247 Sports, Wade moved from corner to safety last offseason and grew in the position as 2018 progressed. He never started, but contributed in subpackages and served as the gunner on punt coverage.
Prior to the Citrus Bowl, Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry said Wade had a “tremendous opportunity” ahead of him.
“Lamont’s an explosive player. He’s a physical player. His improvement and his experience he’s gained on special teams has really helped him,” Pry said. “I’m excited to see what happens this spring.”
Cornerbacks coach Terry Smith said with Scott leaving, the staff was looking for Wade to step up in 2019. Rising redshirt senior John Reid added at a Citrus Bowl practice that Wade was a “sponge” learning the safety position and that he “has the trust of all the players.”
Again, Wade might still have that opportunity to start for Penn State in 2019. He doesn’t have to leave Happy Valley. But by entering the transfer portal, it seems he’s considering starting elsewhere.