The Penn State Nittany Lions are facing a ton of turnover in their receiving corps under first year head coach James Franklin. The team’s top two receivers from 2013 are gone, including their superstar Allen Robinson who declared early for the NFL Draft. While finding targets for quarterback Christian Hackenberg has been a high priority all offseason no doubt, Penn State has reason to feel good about their chances this fall thanks to pending breakout season of junior tight end Jesse James.
James is an athletic freak who returns to Penn State as the team’s leading returning receiver after catching 25 passes for 333 yards and three touchdowns. He’s the only player on the roster who recorded more than 20 receptions last season after the team lost Robinson and Brandon Felder (28 receptions, 312 yards, 3 touchdowns). At 6-foot-7, James is a very big target in the middle for Hackenberg and his 4.6 speed makes him a matchup nightmare for defenses.
He will be helped out in a big way by the increase in opportunities that will be available in 2014. Last season, Robinson dominated the Penn State passing game, averaging over eight receptions and 119 yards per game while amassing 1,432 yards and six touchdowns on 97 catches. The young Hackenberg leaned heavily on the talented pass-catcher, and with good reason, but will need to distribute the ball to someone new this fall to keep the Penn State offense moving.
Luckily for Hackenberg and the Penn State offense, they have another playmaker ready to step up and lead the way in Jesse James. With his unique blend of size, speed, and pass-catching ability, he is the perfect candidate to build the passing attack around in 2014. Will he take advantage of the opportunity and emerge as one of the Big Ten‘s best tight ends this season?