TribLIVE

| Sports

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Tight ends crucial to PSU's offensive success

AP
Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson (8) and tight end Jesse James (18) celebrate James' first-quarter touchdown against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, earlier this season. AP

College Football Videos

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Glorified blockers no more

Here is a statistical look at Penn State's tight ends a season after the group combined for all of 15 catches.

Rec. Yards Avg. TD Long

*Kyle Carter, Fr. 36 453 12.6 2 34

Matt Lehman, Jr. 19 228 12.0 3 24

Jesse James, Fr. 11 144 13.1 4 35

Garry Gilliam, Sr. 6 60 10.0 0 16

*Will miss final two games because of a wrist injury

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Scott Brown
Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 7:24 p.m.
 

The loss of Kyle Carter to a season-ending wrist injury won't diminish the importance of tight ends in Penn State's offense.

The Nittany Lions are still deep at the position, particularly with the emergence of freshman Jesse James, who is second on the team with four touchdown receptions.

James, Matt Lehman, who walked onto the team after transferring from Shippensburg, and Garry Gilliam will help make up for the loss of Carter, Penn State's second leading receiver and the only freshman to make the Midseason Watch List for the Mackey Award.

All three should play prominent roles Saturday, when Penn State hosts Indiana in a noon game. The Nittany Lions lead the country in receptions by tight ends with 62, and the group could be even more prolific next season.

Gilliam, who is used primarily as a blocker, will be the only loss to graduation, and reinforcements are on their way in Brent Wilkerson and Adam Breneman.

Wilkerson is a highly regarded freshman who is redshirting this season, while Breneman is a senior at Cedar Cliff High School and may be the top tight end recruit in the country. Breneman, who gave a verbal commitment to Penn State last spring, didn't play this season because of a knee injury, but he is expected to be 100 percent by the start next season.

“Anybody who plays tight end would be interested in what we're doing here,” tight ends coach John Strollo said.

Tight ends were an afterthought in Penn State's offense last year, but it was inevitable they would become a big part of the passing game after Bill O'Brien was hired as the Nittany Lions' coach.

New England picked tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in the second and fourth rounds of the 2010 draft. O'Brien, as the Patriots' offensive coordinator in 2011, consistently created favorable matchups for New England with the two tight ends. The two combined for 169 catches for 2,237 yards and 24 touchdowns while helping the Patriots advance to the Super Bowl.

O'Brien said he knew from the first time he saw Gronkowski, a Woodland Hills graduate, and Hernandez at minicamp practices in the spring of 2010 that the rangy and athletic tight ends would create problems for opposing defenses.

That helped shape the philosophy he also has applied to Penn State's tight ends.

“I think we have a great group of tight ends here,” O'Brien said. “They are smart, tough, they can do both, they can block, run routes, catch. Some guys are better blockers than route runners, some are better route runners than blockers. But they all work hard.”

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Zimbabwe alleges Murrysville doctor illegally killed lion
  2. Rossi: Looking at the next great Steeler
  3. Steelers swap draft pick for Eagles cornerback
  4. Ability to clog the trenches crucial to Steelers defense
  5. After early criticism, Haley has Steelers offense poised to be even better
  6. Penguins not alone in top-heavy approach to salary cap
  7. EPA diktats: Pushing back
  8. Shell shovels millions into proposed Beaver County plant site
  9. Pirates notebook: New acquisition Happ more than happy to fill spot in rotation
  10. Starting 9: Examining Pirates’ deadline decisions
  11. Steelers notebook: Injuries finally become issue at training camp