Column: “Tight End U” Hindered by Poor Play-Calling

Story posted November 7, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio by Jeff Jezewski

Heading into this season expectations were high for the talented group of tight ends on Penn State’s roster. Many media outlets started to use the term, “Tight End U,” due to the amount of young and talented tight ends.

The group included Kyle Carter, Matt Lehman, Jesse James and true freshman, Adam Breneman. After Carter was named first team All-Big Ten last year, and Lehman and James enjoyed standout years, they were expected to break out this year. Add Breneman to that talented mix and the expectations were sky high.

However, to this point, Tight End U has been a dud. The tight ends have been misused from the start of the season and it has continued. Last year’s breakout star, Carter, has only produced 14 catches for 186 yards and a single touchdown. Lehman, who was also a big part of the offense last year went down early in the season, with a knee injury. James, who finished last season with five touchdowns, has only one so far this year. Finally, Breneman has failed to make an immediate impact in his freshman season, catching only seven passes for 57 yards.

The lack of production doesn’t stem from a lack of talent however. Carter, James and Breneman are all big and athletic targets for young quarterback Christian Hackenberg. I believe the fault lies in the play-calling. After leading an overachieving team in 2012, led by veteran quarterback Matt McGloin, Bill O’Brien’s play-calling has seemed to have taken a step back. The focus has become getting the ball to Allen Robinson and not utilizing his talented crop of tight ends.

While Robinson is an extremely talented player and one of the best receivers in the nation, O’Brien needs to take some pressure off him, by utilizing his tight ends. The trio can be used as a safety blanket for Hackenberg and also as playmakers. Jesse James is a gigantic target and needs to be utilized more in the red zone. Carter is adept at working the middle of the field, but hasn’t been targeted as often as last year. While Breneman may still be young, he is a talented pass catcher and could use some extra targets.

O’Brien’s play-calling has been spotty at many points this year, and it seems he is trying to protect Hackenberg. He needs to take training wheels off his freshman quarterback and let him develop into the talented quarterback he can become. Penn State needs to get these talented tight ends more involved and help take the pressure off Allen Robinson and the running game.

Jeff Jezewski is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jvj5228@psu.edu.