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Penn State Football Working Toward ‘Tight End University’ Status

Penn State football has claimed the moniker “Linebacker University” for many seasons now, and for good reason.

With a current NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Micah Parsons, a current Pro Football Hall of Fame nominee in NaVorro Bowman, and many former Pro Bowlers such as Lavar Arrington, Sean Lee, and Paul Posluszny, the Nittany Lions have largely earned that nickname.

In recent seasons, there has been a different position vying for the “U” title — the tight ends.

Following in the footsteps of standouts Mike Gesicki and Pat Freiermuth seemed like a tall task, but the position group’s performance this past season proved to be an essential part of Penn State’s offensive success.

Dubbed the “Aces,” Penn State’s tight ends combined for 13 receiving touchdowns this past season, which was good for first in the Big Ten and second nationally.

Junior Brenton Strange led the way this past season with 362 yards and five touchdowns. Sophomore Theo Johnson followed closely behind with 328 yards and four touchdowns of his own. Mostly known for his blocking ability and big play conversions, Tyler Warren also had a productive season. On 10 catches, Warren was able to rack up 123 yards with three touchdowns.

With Strange, the de facto group leader, declaring for the upcoming NFL Draft, the already competitive room will be battling for the preeminent role next season. Returning to the team next season will be the aforementioned Johnson and Warren, as well as freshmen Khalil Dinkins and Jerry Cross.

“Everyone wants to be the premier tight end,” offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said during the offense’s Rose Bowl availability. “But at the same time, they’re good teammates. They compete against each other, but they’re good teammates.”

While the returning tight end room possesses potential, that hasn’t stopped James Franklin from landing two of the biggest tight end recruits in the country.

Four-star recruits Andrew Rappleyea and Joey Schlaffer, who rank at No. 2 and No. 9, respectively, according to On3, are the latest to join the Aces.

With the continuous bolstering of the ranks, Penn State has solidified itself as home to one of the country’s deepest tight end rooms, and that doesn’t appear subject to change anytime soon.

“You can’t leave them off the field… They can do everything. They can block, they can run routes, they can catch,” former Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford said in December. “With the guys returning, it’s gonna be a great room to follow up with.”

No matter the play call or game situation, Penn State’s tight ends remained impactful. Whether they were relied upon to pave the way for phenomenal freshmen running backs Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen or hauling in clutch touchdown catches, they were a big reason the Nittany Lions came out victorious on a consistent level.

This is the type of play that is required to win games, and it’s now expected from a unit striving to be “Tight End University.”

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About the Author

Brady Miller

Brady is a junior public relations major who originates from the cornfields of Schuylkill County, PA. He spends most of his time watching the Philadelphia Phillies blow leads and the New England Patriots struggle to score points. When not watching sports, Brady is most likely "studying" or with his friends. Follow him on Twitter @_bMiLL_32 to see mostly retweets of whatever is going through Marlon Humphrey's head, or you can email him at [email protected]

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