Penn State tight end Carter thriving in O'Brien's offense

Nittany Lions (from left) Allen Robinson , Bill Belton, and Kyle Carter celebrate a first-quarter TD against Ohio. Carter, a tight end, caught six passes for 74 yards Saturday. GENE J. PUSKAR / AP
Nittany Lions (from left) Allen Robinson , Bill Belton, and Kyle Carter celebrate a first-quarter TD against Ohio. Carter, a tight end, caught six passes for 74 yards Saturday. GENE J. PUSKAR / AP
Posted: September 07, 2012

After becoming Penn State's new head coach, Bill O'Brien wasted little time installing a new offense based on the system he coached as offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, with emphasis on the tight end as a frequent pass target.

After learning the demands and nuances of the new scheme, Kyle Carter made sure he was the tight end whom the offense emphasized.

Carter, a 6-foot-3, 247-pound redshirt freshman from Bear, Del., excelled in his college football debut on Saturday, catching six passes for 74 yards against Ohio.

"I couldn't wait to get my chance on the field and do something," Carter said. "I really looked forward to it throughout the whole time. I stayed modest about everything. I just couldn't wait to show the world what I can do."

He showed the world just as he had shown O'Brien and his teammates starting with spring practice, which he began pretty much as an afterthought as the fourth-string tight end but worked his way up to first team at the "F" position, which emphasizes a receiving tight end more than a blocker.

Carter, whom O'Brien calls "a very instinctive player," exhibited a knack for getting open on Saturday. He accounted for Penn State's longest gain of the 24-14 loss, a 22-yard reception from Matt McGloin in the second quarter, and drew a pass interference penalty on an Ohio defender.

"Kyle is a tremendous athlete," McGloin said Wednesday. "He's got great hands, great speed for a big guy. He's a tough matchup when he gets out there on a defender. He'll definitely be a big part of our offense this year, and we're going to try to get him the ball a lot."

Added linebacker Michael Mauti: "He's made some really unbelievable catches in practice, and I think you're going to see a lot more from him."

As a redshirt last season, Carter saw up close the role of the tight end in Joe Paterno's offense, where blocking was first and pass-catching a distant second. Tight ends caught a total of 15 balls in 13 games.

But he knew the role would be different with O'Brien, whose work with New England tight ends turned Rob Gronkowski into an all-pro.

When O'Brien was hired, "I was probably one of the most happy people in the world," Carter said.

"I was excited," he said. "A lot of people were texting me saying, 'You've got a tight end coach now.' But I still knew I had a lot to do. I still wasn't the No. 1 tight end.

"I felt like I had a lot of work to do to even get into a position where he would be using me in the games. My mind after that was just on doing what I had to do to get up the depth chart and just being able to play."

Carter spoke with O'Brien early in spring practice to get a gauge on his performance.

"He wanted me to keep doing what I was doing," he said, "and said if I keep doing what I'm doing, I can have a big role."

Carter kept going right through the summer, joining other receivers in workouts with McGloin and backup quarterbacks Paul Jones and Steven Bench and studying his playbook to make sure he knew where he had to be in the various formations.

After one game, Carter is not a secret to the opposition any longer. O'Brien likes his work away from the field (a 3.50 grade-point average in high school) as well.

"He really cares about being good both on and off the field," Carter said. "He'll get better and better. He had a productive game for us on Saturday and really couldn't wait to practice on Monday because he knows how much better he can get."

Title contenders. Contrary to popular belief, the Nittany Lions are eligible to win the Leaders Division of the Big Ten despite sanctions levied against them by the conference and the NCAA in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Big Ten spokesman Scott Chipman said all games played by Penn State and Ohio State count in the division standings and if one finishes in first place, it will receive a trophy marking its achievement.

"I think that's good news," O'Brien said.

However, that winner will not be eligible for the Big Ten championship game, which will be the case for the Nittany Lions through the 2015 season.

Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or or follow him on Twitter @joejulesinq. Read his blog, Lion Eyes, at


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