Blackshirts Need to Focus on Tight Ends to Stop Penn State

J.P. ScottSenior Analyst INovember 8, 2012

Sep 1, 2012; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions tight end Matt Lehman (84) dives into the end zone for a touchdown in the second quarter against the Ohio Bobcats at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US Presswire

It seems like every week, Nebraska plays a different team with a different group of skill players they need to focus on in order to win.

This week against Penn State, the focus will need to be on the tight ends.

Nobody utilizes tight ends like Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien. It was his scheme in New England that turned Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez into arguably the most prolific tight end duo in the history of the NFL.

O'Brien has implemented the same scheme at Penn State with positive results. The top two tight ends for the Nittany Lions, Kyle Carter and Matt Lehman, have combined to catch 51 passes for 637 yards on the season. By comparison, Nebraska's top two tight-ends, Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton, have combined for 28 catches and 345 yards.

Though not as deadly inside the red zone (five total touchdowns), they have been integral to Penn State moving the ball between the 20's.

Carter missed last week's matchup with Purdue due to an ankle injury, but sources close to the program are leaning towards him playing on Saturday (via the Philadelphia Inquirer). 

What this means for the Nebraska defense is less focus by the linebackers on what is happening between the tackles and more of a concern for where the tight ends are located. As he did while designing plays for the Patriots, O'Brien will split his tight ends wide, line them up in the slot and motion them out of the backfield from the traditional fullback position.

All of that makes it difficult to call certain linebacker blitzes, placing more responsibility on the defensive line to get pressure on Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin.

McGloin has been ultra-efficient in 2012, tossing 18 touchdowns to only three interceptions while trailing only Taylor Martinez and Ohio State's Braxton Miller in the Big Ten in terms of passer rating. If given time and open tight ends, he is capable of doing damage against what has been an inconsistent Nebraska defense this season.