Series note: This is the fifth in a 10-part series examining 10 Penn State football players to watch through the 2013 season.
Kyle Carter doesn’t have to verbalize to quarterbacks that he’s their safety net when situations get dicey. They already know.
The Nittany Lions’ tight end corps, arguably the team’s deepest unit, is expected to provide two, three and four viable options for whomever will appear under center this season and will be vital targets in blitz situations.
“It’s not something we have to tell them before the play,” Carter said. “It’s really a thing coach [Bill] O’Brien lets them know. If it’s a blitz or something, they can throw the ball right to us.”
The 2012 first-team All-Big Ten selection hailing from Bear, Del. had a surprising breakout season last year, catching 36 passes for 453 yards and two touchdowns, making him one of the most productive pass-catching tight ends in the conference. On the team, his numbers were second to only wide receiver Allen Robinson.
A wrist injury suffered against Nebraska cut Carter’s season short by two games, but the redshirt sophomore was healthy by the start of training camp, and said during camp he’s felt good.
The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder is expected to best the numbers he posted last season. He’s put on size and appeared in ESPN’s “Training Days” special catching every pass tossed his way by quarterback options Christian Hackenberg and Tyler Ferguson.
NFL-style sets featuring three and four tight ends are expected to be commonplace through the 2013 campaign, with talents like Jesse James, Matt Lehman and true freshman Adam Breneman working under tight ends coach John Strollo.
“I feel like we have big things ahead for us,” Carter said. “It’s definitely a big year for us and just having a new quarterback, I feel like we definitely have to be that safety valve for them.”
Carter was selected to the Sporting News Pre-season All-Big Ten squad and was also named to the watch list for the 2013 John Mackey Award, which is presented to the nation’s top collegiate tight end. Carter is one of only three sophomores on the 37-player Mackey Award watch list.
Anna Orso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (814) 865-1828. Follow her on Twitter at @anna_orso.