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An Argument: PSU Possesses Country's Best TEs

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Kyle Carter can line up anywhere within Penn State's offense. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.
Kyle Carter can line up anywhere within Penn State's offense. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

Most collegiate football teams are lucky to have one talented receiving tight end, but Penn State has as many as five that create mismatches against opposing defenses.

First, though, teenage quarterbacks Tyler Ferguson and Christian Hackenberg need to understand the value that their tight ends represent. It is a lesson Matt McGloin learned in his last season at Penn State, and it’s reflective of the style of quarterbacking that Bill O’Brien helped Tom Brady utilize.

Now, I know … I just compared McGloin to Brady, but only in style, not execution.

Back to the point. Young quarterbacks are more likely to try to take deep, ill-advised shots downfield to double and triple-covered receivers, so the discipline it takes for Penn State’s quarterbacks to trust their tight ends will be key to the offense’s success this season.

Kyle Carter, Matt Lehman, Jesse James, Adam Breneman and Brent Wilkerson are the deepest group of tight ends in the country. To underutilize them would be an injustice.

Carter was second on the team last season with 36 receptions and 453 despite missing three games. Carter, who caught a surprisingly low two touchdowns last season, is capable of lining up in his natural tight end position or out wide as a receiver. He possesses a rare blend of size, speed and route-running for collegiate tight ends, often running difficult routes and picking up yards after the catch. His consistency could make him the top tight end in the country.

Lehman was fourth on the team with 24 receptions and 296 yards. He also caught three touchdown passes. While not overly impressive, these are extraordinary numbers for a team’s second tight end. He was also one of McGloin’s favorite red zone targets. He lacks crisp route running, but is one of the largest receiving targets in the NCAA at 6-foot-6.

The 6-foot-7 James is even bigger than Lehman and gradually emerged as a big-play threat last season despite only catching 15 passes for five touchdowns. He also had 276 receiving for an unprecedented 18.4 yards per catch. While it is not clear why James wasn’t targeted more often, he figures to be even more potent this season.

Breneman and Wilkerson are an unknown commodities for Penn State’s offense, but they are two of the biggest recruits during the O’Brien era. Breneman, a blue-chip recruit, is unlikely to be redshirted, and Wilkerson is coming off of his redshirt season.

Still, no matter how talented the Nittany Lions are at tight end, they’re production hinges on how much their quarterbacks trust them to make plays.