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Penn State Football 2024 Prediction: Scouting the Tight Ends

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Penn State is coming off one hell of a streak, with each of its last four top players making NFL rosters (Theo Johnson, Brenton Strange, Pat Freiermuth and Mike Geiscki).

With Johnson eliminated in the fourth round by the New York Giants last month, it's time to turn attention to Penn State's next set of tight ends, with another at the top of the list likely set to turn pro next season . Let’s break it down in the next part of our 2024 Penn State football prediction.

The plot

For a while, not even Tyler Warren was sure whether he would return to Penn State or enter the 2024 NFL Draft. After leading Penn State with seven touchdown catches and finishing second with 422 receiving yards, Warren attracted legitimate interest from NFL teams but decided to take one more shot at Happy Valley, giving quarterback Drew Allar a game-changing option offered.

It's an intriguing position group beyond Warren that one offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki described as “adjusters.” Redshirt junior Khalil Dinkins played quite a bit last season, especially in short-yardage situations, while redshirt freshmen Andrew Rappleyea and Joey Schlaffer are starting to make some noise. Tight ends coach Ty Howle has early starter and 5-star prospect Luke Reynolds as well as former 4-star Jerry Cross. In other words, there's plenty of talent in the room.

The Alpha

Warren is a prototypical tight end. At 6-6 and 259 pounds, he was a premier red zone target for Allar and has developed into a complete tight end over the last year. He capped the 2023 season with a highlight reel in the Peach Bowl, setting a Penn State bowl record with 127 receiving yards, including a wild 75-yard scraper. He will be a security blanket and more for Allar in what is expected to be his final season in Happy Valley.

The players you don't know yet

Rappleyea and Schlaffer appear ready to fight Dinkins for second place. Schlaffer received plenty of praise during winter training and won Howle's nomination for Competitor of the Day three times. Schlaffer, the brother of former Penn State offensive lineman Michal Menet, knows Happy Valley and has a positive outlook on this year's position battle. He made three catches in the Blue-White game.

Rappleyea rarely saw the field last fall before making three grabs for 33 yards and a touchdown in the Blue-White game. He is often compared to Rob Gronkowski because of his huge frame and the number 87 he wears. But Rappleyea has a high competitive drive and will factor into the position this year. Both he and Schlaffer have all measurable values.

The problems at the location

Will two-tight sets be as effective (or common) for Penn State in 2024?

With Johnson and Warren, Penn State played both tight ends at an absurdly high rate, in part due to a struggling receiving corps. Even if Kotelnicki decides to go with a smaller 12-player roster, it will be incredibly difficult to fill the void left by Johnson. Penn State needs someone to perform alongside Warren, be it Dinkins, Rappleyea, Schlaffer or the dark horse Reynolds.

Can Penn State win the Big Ten with this position group??

Yes. The ideal outcome in State College this season would be an improved receiving corps and offensive system under Kotelnicki, which would mean Warren's excellence as a top tight end masks any depth questions at the position. However, the rest of the group is unproven despite there being a lot of hype around them, especially Rappleyea and Reynolds. If you can thrive alongside Warren, Penn State's “adjusters” will be dangerous.

More Penn State football 2024 predictions

An important season for Penn State's running backs

Redesigning the Nittany Lions' offensive line

Penn State quarterbacks prediction

Max Ralph is a graduate of Penn State University and is studying broadcast journalism with minors in exercise science and Japanese. He previously covered Penn State football for two years at The Daily Collegian and reported for the Associated Press and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Follow him on Twitter (X) @maxralph_ and Instagram @mralph_59.