The following is part of an ongoing series that is taking an early look at each position for the Penn State Nittany Lions in 2014.
Today’s preview takes a look at tight end, a position that transformed in just two years from a primarily blocking role at Penn State to an important part of the passing game. Former head coach Bill O’Brien came in two years ago and totally revamped the position, using the tight ends to open up the middle of the field and take pressure off the wide receivers.
The Nittany Lions enter 2014 absolutely loaded at the tight end position.
Jesse James and Kyle Carter have each had two successful seasons and both return in 2014. Adam Breneman will be back for his second season and Brent Wilkerson, a freshman who showed promise is spring practice last season, will get a shot this year after suffering a season-ending injury before the start of 2013.
As if that’s not enough talent, freshman Mike Gesicki joins the mix. He’s a highly sought after recruit who’s the best tight end in the 2014 class.
James finished second on the team in 2013 with 333 receiving yards. His three touchdowns tied for second on the team. He’s a big target who’s especially dangerous down in the redzone. In 2012 he put up five touchdowns, again leading all tight ends on the team int that category.
Carter had a great 2012 season, hauling in 36 passes for 453 yards and two scores. He was injured early in 2013 and never fully returned to his dominant form, catching just 18 passes for 222 yards and one touchdown. If he can remain fully healthy heading into 2014, Carter will once again be a dangerous weapon for the Nittany Lions.
Carter’s struggles last season as well as the injury to Wilkerson opened the door for Breneman to see playing time in his freshman year. The Pennsylvania native really came on late in the year and formed a connection with quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Breneman finished with a touchdown in each of the final three games and capped off the season with a career-high 78 receiving yards in the season finale at Wisconsin. Big things can be expected from Breneman in 2014.
Wilkerson was the one who entered last year with a lot of promise. After being given a redshirt in 2012, he had really impressed the coaching staff in practice. He was expected to have a major impact before an injury ended his season before it even got started.
Gesicki, the freshman, is an incredibly gifted athlete who has a chance to make a major impact with the Nittany Lions. Unfortunatley for him, the depth chart is going to be crowded in 2014. Someone is likely going to have to be left out. It seems that Gesicki, although super talented, could be given a redshirt in order to both save a year of eligibility and learn and develop in the offense.
Penn State’s use of the tight end in the passing game should continue under head coach James Franklin. He enters the 2014 season with a stable full of talented tight ends that will allow for great flexibility in how he utilizes them.
Continue to check with VBR over the next two weeks for other early position previews.
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