In continuing the series to look at Penn State’s positions during the 2013 season, it’s time to take a look at the tight ends. For anyone who has followed Bill O’Brien’s career, it’s no secret that he loves to use the tight end as a weapon in the passing game. Last season, the tight ends accounted for much of the team’s receiving offense. With the addition of top recruit Adam Breneman, the group was expected to once again play an important role for the Nittany Lions.
Using the tight end in the passing game is something that’s still a new concept at Penn State. Under former head coach Joe Paterno, the position was used mainly as a blocker. It was rare to see the tight end be a dangerous target for the quarterback. However, under O’Brien, it’s one of the most important positions in the offense.
As good as the depth cart looked for tight end this season, injuries quickly wrecked havoc for the Nittany Lions.
Promising redshirt freshman Brent Wilkerosn was injured during the offseason and never got back to the field. Veteran Matt Lehman, who was the third leading receiver a year ago, suffered a season-ending injury in the first game of the year.
Kyle Carter, the star of last year’s group, missed all of spring practice with an injury. He looked inconsistent this year and didn’t put up the same stellar numbers as last year, when he was second on the team in receiving yards. In 2012, Carter had 36 receptions for 453 yards and two touchdowns. This season his numbers were cut in half, with just 18 catches for 222 yards and a touchdown.
Garry Gilliam, a veteran tight end, was moved to offensive tackle over the offseason to help with depth issues in that group.
Jesse James, who was second on the team in 2012 with five touchdowns, started this season slow. He had just nine catches through the first five games. His breakout game came against Michigan, where he caught six passes for 67 yards and a touchdown. James finished the year with touchdowns in two straight games. Though his touchdowns were down this year, he did improve on his receiving yards.
Breneman, a talented true freshman, struggled to get started this year, not making his first reception until the third game of the season. For as inconsistent as Breneman was for most of the season, he really formed a chemistry with fellow freshman Christian Hackenberg as the year went on. The pair hooked up for touchdowns in each of the final three games.
After a fantastic 2012 season for the Penn State tight ends, this season didn’t turn out as well. Instead of taking a step forward, things were inconsistent and non-productive at times. However, the tight ends, especially Breneman and James, did become a bigger part of the offense near the end of the season. While it’s not the resounding A from last year, I give this unit a solid B.
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