With Brenton Strange off to the NFL, the third tight end on the Penn State Football team is an open position that will need to be filled between now and the start of this season.
Last year, Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren split their time within that role. Johnson missed time early in 2022, and when he was working his way back from injury, he played some TE3. Then, once he returned to full strength Warren moved into that role.
During the 2022 season, the trio of Strange, Johnson, and Warren combined for 62 receptions for 813 yards, and 12 touchdowns. That’s really solid production for the Penn State football team.
Johnson should move to TE1 and Warren to TE2, but who will be that third option for the Nittany Lions this fall?
Here are my 3 picks for TE3 in 2023:
#1: Kahlil Dinkins
Let’s start with the obvious candidate, that would be Redshirt Sophomore Kahlil Dinkins from Wexford, PA. He was part of Penn State’s 2021 recruiting class, and he was a 3-star prospect coming out of high school (per 247sports). During the 2022 season, Dinkins had 4 receptions for 53 yards with 1 touchdown catch. When he was on the field he was a great vertical threat with good speed. His first career touchdown was thrown by Drew Allar against the Ohio Bobcats on 9/10/2022.
#2: Jerry Cross
This is another name to be on the lookout for during Spring Ball and Fall Camp this season. Cross was a 4-star prospect from the 2022 recruiting class (per 247sports) for Penn State football. He is from Milwaukee, WI and he missed some crucial development time last year due to an injury, which was reported by On3’s Greg Pickel. Because of this, and the competition ahead of Cross he did not see the field in 2022 and redshirted his freshman year. He now has a full season of practicing and adapting to college life. I think if Cross can stay healthy and put together some good practices, that should lead to playing time this season.
#3 The Newcomers:
The 2023 recruiting class for Penn State football features three new tight ends. 4-star Andrew Rappleyea, 4-star Mega Barnwell, and 4-star Joey Schlaffer (ratings per 247sports).
From the outside looking in, Rappleyea appears to be the most college ready. He stands 6’5 225lbs, it’s hard not to picture a young Pat Freiermuth. He should be in the mix for immediate playing time, and he could very well take over the TE3 role by the end of the 2023 season.
Mega Barnwell should turn some heads in camp. The 6’6 250lbs freshman will be a mismatch nightmare. I imagine he would be the best blocking TE among the three freshmen. If he emerges as the third tight end, Drew Allar would have one heck of a red zone target.
Last but not least we have Joey Schlaffer. Joey is listed at 6’6 215lbs. He is an incredible athlete with really good speed. He could be a name you hear more in the 2024 season, however all three of these athletes are so dynamic if they made an impact this year I would not be surprised.
The TE room aka the “Aces” are in need for someone to step in and contribute. This will be a very entertaining battle to keep an eye on during the Blue / White game and beyond in my opinion.