Penn State will be without its second-most productive pass catcher for the last two games of the season.
Tight end Kyle Carter injured his right hand against Nebraska and will not return to the playing field in 2012, coach Bill O’Brien announced at his weekly press conference Tuesday.
Carter was injured on a third-quarter play in Penn State’s loss against Nebraska. O’Brien didn’t go into detail about the redshirt freshman’s injury, but did note how much Carter — who ends the 2012 campaign with 36 catches, 453 receiving yards and two touchdowns — meant to the team.
“There are so many different things that you need to know [about playing tight end], and I thought as a young player, he came in here and did a really nice job,” O’Brien said. “He’s got excellent hands, he’s a tough kid, he’s a great kid, just a really good guy to have on the team.”
This injury is the second Carter endured during his first season suiting up for the Nittany Lions.
The 6-foot-3, 247-pound Bear, Del. native injured his left foot/ankle on a touchdown he scored late in Penn State’s loss to Ohio State on Oct. 27. That injury forced Carter to miss a game against Purdue on Nov. 3, but he came back against Nebraska, and made one 12-yard grab before he left in the second half.
Carter was basically unheard of before the start of the season, and raised some eyebrows when he was listed as a starter on Penn State’s initial depth chart in June. As the season went on, Carter made a name for himself. He accumulated 70 yards or more in four of his nine games, and was named to the Mackey Award (country’s top tight end) watch list in mid-October.
While Carter being out is certainly bad news for the Lions, they still have three other tight ends that have been productive this season.
Jesse James, Matt Lehman and Garry Gilliam all made at least one reception in the game Carter missed against Purdue, and their workload is expected to be increased in the Lions’ final two contests.
The trio has combined for the same number of receptions (36) as Carter this season, but James and Lehman have been red zone targets for quarterback Matt McGloin. James has caught 11 passes for 144 yards this season, and four of those grabs have resulted in scores. Meanwhile, Lehman — who was at the center of a controversial fumble call against Nebraska — has 19 receptions for 228 yards and three touchdowns.
Though Gilliam hasn’t been as productive in terms of pass catching (six grabs, 60 yards), the redshirt junior has started seven games, and O’Brien said he plays a key role in the offense.
“Garry Gilliam is another guy, and I say this so many times, you guys are sick of it, but he’s another guy that’s what Penn State is all about,” O’Brien said. “He’s a Pennsylvania guy, he’s a really good student, he’s been through a lot here, both personally and as a team here. He’s a tough kid, he’s an improved player, he plays a significant role for us as a blocker and he plays a role for us in certain passing schemes.”
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