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Looking forward: Tight ends

With the 2012 season in the books, Lions247 will take a look at each of Penn State's position groupings, breaking down both how the Nittany Lions fared at that position this past season and what the future holds. Today we look at an extremely productive group of tight ends that returns intact next season.

Kyle Carter led all Penn State tight ends with 36 catches and 453 yards this season.

2012 roundup: In years past, the tight ends could have easily been lumped in with the wide receivers. In their first season under Bill O'Brien, the Nittany Lion tight ends demanded their own category. O'Brien lined up two and sometimes three tight ends on any given play, running them out of the backfield or splitting them out as wide receivers. Led by redshirt freshman Kyle Carter, Penn State tight ends caught more passes this season than any group of tight ends in FBS, 10 of them for touchdowns. Former walk-on Matt Lehman, besides being part of the most controversial play of the season, was a big and reliable target, while true freshman Jesse James showed star potential and had 13 of his 15 catches over his last six games. Garry Gilliam, used mostly as a blocker, came up with some key receptions. The tight ends were terrific red-zone targets for Matt McGloin and helped create opportunities for wideout Allen Robinson.

Departures: Brian Irvin

The senior walk-on saw action in just five contests, mostly in goal-line situations or on special teams. He did not record any catches.

Returnees: Carter (36 catches, 453 yards, 2 touchdowns), Lehman (24-296-3), James (15-276-5), Gilliam (7-65-0), Brent Wilkerson*

*-redshirted

Newcomers: Adam Breneman

The top-50 national prospect will be coming off an ACL injury when he arrives on campus in January but is tailor-made for the kinds of things O'Brien did -- and plans to continue to do -- with tight ends at Penn State.

Skinny: The biggest problem O'Brien and position coach John Strollo will have in 2013 -- and for the next few seasons -- is finding enough catches to go around for all of the targets they have. Carter and James are two of the most talented players on the team and both have three seasons of eligibility remaining. Lehman's size and athleticism adds another threat, the coaches loved Wilkerson's football acumen and adaptability this season and, though it's likely he'll take a redshirt, adding Breneman to the mix will only make the Nittany Lions that much tougher to defend. The big guys add a different dimension to the offense than opposing defenses typically have to deal with and should again play a key role in Penn State's offensive success.

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