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August 7, 2014

No doubting expectations of Lions' TEs

James franklin has high expectations for his tight ends this season, he's said repeatedly throughout the summer and preseason.

Monday afternoon at the Nittany Lions' annual preseason media day, he said it again, and in a variety of different ways. In other words, he isn't mincing them.

For Penn State's offense to enjoy the type of success it envisions this season, the tight ends absolutely must come through in a big way.

Answering a question about the young wide receivers that have been added through the recruiting Class of 2014, answering a question about improvements he'd like to see from quarterback Christian Hackenberg and, yes, answering a question directly about the tight ends, Franklin brought up the unit whether prompted or not.

Between the talent of the group, its combined experience and what it can provide the offense both blocking and receiving, Franklin is expecting production.

"I actually think where a lot of the makeup for the production that we lost will come from the tight end position," Franklin said."I believe that that's where we have the most veteran players. That's where we have the most experience and depth."

For as much as Franklin and offensive coordinator John Donovan might be placing trust in the group, the group itself says it understands that success is more of challenge than simply saying something and expecting it to happen.

Take junior Kyle Carter, for instance.

Having tracked down Carter on Monday, asked about Franklin's comments and the clear expectations Franklin has for the tight ends, the Delaware native with 54 receptions, three touchdowns and 675 yards to his career offered his own dose of reality.

"It's definitely something that we gotta prove that we can handle in the first place," Carter said. "He might want to let us do all that stuff, but we gotta come out this training camp and prove that we deserve to have that role on the team. That's really the main thing that we're worried about right now."

Fully expecting to come through in that regard, Carter also said that the impetus for becoming better blockers in the run game has really taken hold under Franklin's direction.

And, with the experience and talent of Jesse James and Adam Breneman now joined by redshirt sophomore Brent Wilkerson ("he'll surprise people," we're told) and true freshman Mike Gesicki ("a freak athlete," we're told), the Nittany Lions feature five tight ends that likely could start for a majority of their Big Ten competition.

Said Donovan, "If they are able to be versatile and not only catch the ball but block and stick their face in there and create movement and be tough and enable us to present people different things with them in the game, then they will prove their worth. If not and they can't do those things, we'll find the guys that are the best for us to win, and you know, that will dictate ultimately who are the top receivers."

* This story has been corrected to note that Brent Wilkerson is a redshirt sophomore. An earlier version incorrectly indicated Wilkerson as a redshirt freshman.

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