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The Penn State football roster no longer features redshirt freshman receiver Justin Shorter, a former five-star recruit who entered the NCAA Transfer Portal on Tuesday. His absence was noted Wednesday afternoon.
Lions247 insider Sean Fitz has more on this meaning of this development for our VIP subscribers, but on the surface it’s a clear indication that things have moved swiftly between Penn State and the program’s top-ranked offensive prospect since 2005. The earliest reports of his portal entrance, confirmed by 247Sports, occurred during a weekly press conference for Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin.
Franklin fielded a question on the subject with the final question of that Tuesday afternoon session. He seemed genuinely surprise that the situation had reached a public forum.
“I think sometimes when I say I haven’t read the report or seen the report, you guys don’t necessarily always believe me,” Franklin said. “But I was in another meeting, and I don’t know enough. Literally we were just having a conversation and walking out when I came here. I’m not sure where we’re at. Obviously it was a conversation that was had. It was a conversation that was had.”
Evaluated by 247Sports as the top receiver and No. 7 overall talent in 2018 recruit rankings, Shorter tied a career-high with three catches at Ohio State, totaling 28 yards. Supplanted in the starting lineup by former walk-on Dan Chisena during recent weeks, he has 12 receptions for 137 yards this season.
Shorter, who redshirted in 2018 before becoming a first-team option to begin this campaign, has yet to score a collegiate touchdown. He totaled three catches for 20 yards as a true freshman.
“Justin Shorter is as good a high school wide receiver as I’ve ever seen on film and in person,” Franklin said in December 2017 after the South Brunswick (N.J.) High School standout completed a 16-month verbal commitment by signing with Penn State.
During his final year of high school, Shorter soared in prospect rankings, shined at Nike’s world headquarters during The Opening Finals, competed on national television in the Under Armour All-America Game and completed his prep career with a touchdown reception in South Brunswick’s state championship victory.
His early progress in Happy Valley was slowed by injury. 247Sports’ Chris Hummer reported details regarding Shorter’s 2018 knee issue, which contributed toward him being routinely relegated to the sideline on game days. He played fewer than 10 snaps through nine contests in 2018 and remained in search of his first reception two weeks into November.
“The reason we had Shorter ranked so high is because he’s one of the most talented pass catchers in the country when he’s fully healthy,” 247Sports director of scouting Barton Simmons said this summer. “I still believe he’s got a great opportunity to meet all the expectations we had for him. He just got off track and behind schedule. Now he’s got a chance to make up that ground.”
He caught a pair of passes for 17 yards in the Citrus Bowl last January and, afterward, was identified by quarterback Trace McSorley as an emerging force.
“The month (of bowl preparation) Justin Shorter had, in my mind, was the best month I’ve seen this last month out of any of those kids,” McSorley said. “He grew leaps and bounds in that last month.”
Shorter expressed elevated confidence during an ensuing offseason interview.
“My goal is to be Big Ten Freshman of the Year,” he said. “… I look back to freshman year of high school and the way I played compared to sophomore, junior, senior year… My mindset became so different. Last year I was out there a little unsure but now I know exactly what I need to do out there to be successful.”