Penn State Tight Ends: Spring Practice Edition

Penn State Tight Ends

The Penn State Nittany Lions are in full Spring practice mode with sights set on the Blue-White Game in a couple of weeks. We addressed the future of the running back position, now we are looking at the tight ends. Brenton Strange, Theo Johnson, and Tyler Warren are the top three tight ends for the Nittany Lions. All three had substantial playing time in 2021 and look to have a bigger impact in 2022. Especially in the run game.

Who Are the Penn State Tight Ends?

Strange, Johnson, and Warren are names that Penn State fans have grown to recognize over the years. All three have at least two seasons under their belts entering Spring practice. Strange is the veteran of the group, entering Penn State in 2019. He also played in the most games and had the most receptions out of the three in 2021. Strange and Warren both tallied three touchdowns last season with Johnson adding one of his own. Arguably, the tight ends were not utilized as much in 2021 as they had previously with Pat Freiermuth and Mike Gesicki, but that all stems from the struggle that the entire Penn State offense endured a season ago.

How Does Improved Tight End Play Help?

Improved tight end play will help in all facets of the offense. This is especially true in the struggling rushing attack. Tight ends have evolved over the years in both college and professional football. Pass-catching has become as important in the position as blocking. This was not the case even ten years ago.

However, blocking is still a very important part of the tight end position. Blocking in both the run and pass game. This is an area that the Penn State tight ends have been working on throughout the short amount of Spring practices that the Nittany Lions have already had. Head Coach James Franklin praised the play of both his young freshmen running backs and the offensive front this week, stating, “We’ve been impressed so far. To be honest with you, I think our o-line and tight ends are doing a really nice job so you’re able to see them a little more right now.”

This is very positive for Penn State fans to hear after a very frustrating 2021 that saw quarterback Sean Clifford pressured more than necessary and the worst rushing attack Penn State has seen in many many years. Nittany Lion fans will hopefully be able to see this improvement at the end of the month during the Blue-White Game.

Tight End Newcomer

Penn State signed one tight end in the 2022 class and he is already enrolled. Jerry Cross enrolled early in January. Cross is a four-star tight end out of Wisconsin. He measures six-foot-six-inches and 257 pounds. He is comfortable as a receiving tight end, playing receiver often in high school. Cross will likely grow a lot in the tight end position throughout Spring. However, it is unlikely he sees too much playing time in 2022. The four-star prospect has the size to be a good fit as a Penn State tight end but will need to refine his blocking side of the position. Something that the coaches and veteran tight ends will likely help him improve on over the course of the next year. Enrolling early will help him get a jump on that education.

What to Expect in 2022

Expect much more use of the tight ends in 2022 now that Offensive Coordinator Mike Yurcich has one year under his belt. The three veterans will likely show much improvement in both facets of the offense during the Blue-White Game at the end of the month. This will allow the young running backs to shine and the quarterbacks to have more time and options to utilize. Hopefully, the tight end position gets back to the dominance it saw during the eras of Jesse James, Gesicki, and Freiermuth.

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