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Tight Ends Tyler Warren & Theo Johnson Working In Penn State Football Rotation

Tyler Warren’s performance against Delaware was arguably the best of his collegiate career.

Warren, a fourth-year tight end with Penn State football, caught all six of his targets against the Blue Hens Saturday, totaling 37 yards and a touchdown. Those six catches against Delaware were more than he recorded in the entire 2021 season when he caught just five passes in his sophomore year. The Delaware game also gave Warren more than half of his catch total from 2022 when he recorded 10 receptions for 123 yards and three touchdowns.

“It was good. It was good to catch a touchdown pass,” Warren said after the Delaware game. “Good ball by Drew [Allar] and I just had to make the catch.”

Warren and fellow tight end Theo Johnson are expected to fight for reps this year and finished the game with eight catches for 51 yards. The Nittany Lions’ second game of the season was a chance for both to make their case to earn higher reps, especially when competing with someone with a similar playing style.

The two tight ends also had the opportunity to show they deserved more playing time within the team as a whole. In Penn State’s opener against West Virginia, Warren and Johnson were targeted a combined three times. Warren made the only catch of those three targets for a nine-yard pickup in the first quarter.

Penn State focused more on its wide receivers against the Mountaineers. Running backs Kaytron Allen and Nick Singleton touched the ball a combined 23 times while Drew Allar threw 29 times. As the Nittany Lions tried to iron out their wide receiver spot, Malik McClain emerged as a potential playmaker from the West Virginia game.

But McClain and the other wide receivers, outside of KeAndre Lambert-Smith and Trey Wallace, were quiet against Delaware. Using receptions and receiving yards as determinants for determining the “best” receiver, Warren was the team’s second-best pass catcher, while Johnson was the team’s fifth-best.

Still, Warren said that how he and Johnson were used doesn’t determine their mood. The tight ends will likely see more or less playing time each week depending on how the Nittany Lions want to approach each opponent. The tight end room will have to simply be a cog in the system.

“Whether it’s catching passes every down or run blocking every down, we’re gonna do whatever they ask of us to the best of our ability,” Warren said. “And it’s more about the offense for us than it is just the tight end room.”

Both Warren and Johnson are in a unique position. Tight ends are an interesting blend of offensive linemen assigned to guard the edge and speedy route runners or forceful ball carriers.

With competition at the position for playing time this year, Warren and Johnson have put each other in interesting positions on the team. Johnson, who was voted a team captain and has reportedly learned to become a leader in the locker room, sees fewer pass targets than Warren. Despite getting the majority of the reps tight end reps on offense, Warren has worked in with special teams.

But both Warren and Johnson have been able to prove themselves as Swiss army knives, tight ends coach Ty Howle said.

“As far as a player, I think [Johnson’s] grown tremendously over his career as a blocker and being able to be a multi-tool tight end,” Howle said on a Zoom call with media Thursday. “I love watching watching both those guys, but I love watching Tyler play the game. He plays with tremendous effort. He’s throwing his body around, he’s one of those guys.”

Warren and Johnson are trying to be the latest Nittany Lion tight end to stand out in college and reach the NFL. Penn State’s last four starting tight ends have all made names for themselves in Happy Valley and professionally. The lineage of Jesse James, Mike Gesicki, Pat Freiermuth, and Brenton Strange has established Penn State as one of the nation’s best destinations for tight end talent.

Warren and Johnson benefit from that talent, Howle said. Penn State’s recent tight ends keep in touch, and the program’s top two options at the position hear from those who’ve moved on for advice.

Their success in the Delaware game doesn’t guarantee that Warren and Johnson will be used equivalently throughout the season. Penn State has enough offensive talent to spread the ball around between its tight ends, running backs, wide receivers, and even two quarterbacks. If the tight ends want to catch more passes, they’ll have to demonstrate to James Franklin and his staff that they are the best option to take down the next opponent.

But now, Warren said that he and Johnson are taking things one game at a time. If they continue to put in the work, the reps with come. Similarly, what Warren said matters most isn’t the attention he gets, but how many notches Penn State can put in the win column.

“Just taking it one day at a time, preparing this week, and having good practices throughout the week is important,” Warren said.

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a junior journalism major at Penn State and an associate editor at Onward State. He covers Penn State football, and enjoys yelling on Twitter about Philadelphia/Penn State sports. If you want to find him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. Please send all positive affirmations and/or hate mail toward him on Twitter (iamjoelister) or via email ([email protected]).

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