Garry Gilliam is looking forward to his first game since early in the 2010 season.
Today we continue our 12 for 2012 series. The list won't necessarily cover the 12 best players on the squad, but those whose production and presence on and off the field will be needed the most if the Nittany Lions are to have the kind of success they're looking for this season.
No. 11 -- Garry Gilliam
Rewind: A relatively unheralded player from central Pennsylvania who played at the Milton Hershey School, Gilliam got off to an inauspicious start with the Nittany Lions, taking a redshirt in 2009 while playing defensive end. He moved to tight end the following season but tore an ACL just five games into the year, an injury that, when coupled with an infection, kept him sidelined for nearly two full seasons. Gilliam, the oldest of a deep group of Penn State tight ends, emerged from the spring as the No. 1 "Y" tight end on the depth chart.
The Take: At 6-foot-6, 262 pounds, Gilliam is a massive target. He's one that can also move with or without the ball. Penn State might not use the tight end to the extent that the New England Patriots did with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but it's clear the position will be a much bigger factor in Bill O'Brien's offense than it was in Joe Paterno's. A redshirt junior, Gilliam doesn't have much more game experience than fellow tight ends Jesse James, Kyle Carter, Matt Lehman and Brian Irvin but has been around long enough to understand how to pick up a blitz, run a precise route and extend a play when the quarterback gets in trouble.
The Forecast: Exactly how many two-tight end sets the Nittany Lions run and how often Matt McGloin throws to the big fellas will be determined, but Gilliam figures to get plenty of reps -- and at least a few balls thrown his way each game -- no matter the formation. At worst, he'll be a helpful leader by example for young players like Carter and James. At best, he'll be a matchup problem for opposing secondaries and a reliable target for McGloin. O'Brien wasted little time snagging the nation's top tight end prospect in the Class of 2013, Adam Breneman. A big season from Gilliam would help convince future recruits -- and Breneman -- that Penn State is a place where tight ends can thrive.