Coming into last season the tight end position was a bit of a question mark. Rising prospect Nick Bowers was injured shortly before the season started, leaving the team with just one player, Mike Gesicki, that it could count on. To say that the team knew for sure it could count on Gesicki prior to the start of the season is a bit of a reach. Coming into last season he had only 24 catches for 239 yards in 18 games. Last season Gesicki was the clear breakout player for the Penn State team, grabbing 48 balls for 679 yards and five touchdowns. He was the only tight end to catch a pass for the Lions last season.
That should change this year, as Bowers is set to return from injury and redshirt sophomore Jonathan Holland is poised to make a huge impact. During the Blue-White game Holland was the main tight end target for Trace McSorley. Holland caught 8 passes for a total of 60 yards. While his statistics in the game were affected by the absence of Gesicki, they should not be dismissed. Holland will likely be used alongside Gesicki at times this season, and also possibly as the lone tight end in blocking situations. With Chris Godwin moving on to the NFL, there will be a need for a couple of players that are able to catch the ball over the middle in tight windows. Holland looked good doing that this spring.
Midway into this highlight reel of Holland’s Blue-White performance is his catch and run that went for nice yardage over the middle. Watching the 6’4, 245 pound Holland catch the ball in stride and then go looking for someone, if not two people, to stiff arm while turning the ball up the field is a good indication of his capabilities.
The team knows what it has in Gesicki, and Bowers is a great athlete that may force his way onto the field this season, which could cut into Holland’s chances to put up numbers. With Bowers red-shirting two seasons ago, then missing last season with an injury, it is Holland that has the game experience, if only on special teams and during the spring game. That should afford him the first chance to be the second tight end on the roster. It is unsure how offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead will use the tight end this season, as he was limited in his approach by the fact that only Gesicki was ready and available to play at a high level. This season there will be two, maybe three, tight ends at Moorhead’s disposal.
Rated as a four star prospect by ESPN coming out of high school in Maryland, there was a strong chance for Holland to make a solid impact for the Lions. Here is what Holland had to say about his Blue-White game performance and also what he needs to do to continue to improve.
It seems that Holland has his priorities in order, realizing that he needed to focus on gaining maturity off the field. That bodes well for the big-bodied tight end with soft hands and nimble feet. Holland will likely get a chance to make an impact in the run game first, but his presence on the field will add another dimension to the Penn State pass game over the middle of the field. His contribution may also be seen in the improving productivity of Mike Gesicki as well. Now that Gesicki has a solid backup or two, he will be able to take a few plays off to rest, which could make him that much more effective when he is on the field.
If Bowers can add 25 catches as a solid No. 2 tight end next season it may not be the most gaudy of statistical additions, but it could be one of the more important supporting roles on the offensive side of the ball. It would also give the Lions much needed game experience at the position for 2018, with the departure of Gesicki following this season.