Tight ends crucial to PSU's offensive success
College Football Videos
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 email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pitt: Football coach hire comes 1st, athletic director 2nd
- Steelers notebook: Polamalu, Taylor unlikely to play, Harrison ‘ready’
- Michigan State defensive coordinator a Pitt coaching candidate
- Man involved with crash with officer dies in Pittsburgh hospital
- Pirates sign Corey Hart to 1-year deal
- Undersized Beachum quietly excels at 1 of game’s pivotal positions
- MLB notebook: Braves trade OF Justin Upton to Padres
- Pittsburgh adjusting to new bicycle lane, ‘stop boxes’
- Port Authority fires two bus drivers involved in rollover crash
- Penguins’ defensive depth proves valuable
- Penguins notebook: Kunitz ‘really close’ to return