Kyle Carter isn't sure where he'd be without Bill O'Brien. But he has a few guesses -- struggling to gain an extra 20 pounds, likely standing on the sideline and certainly not grabbing six catches in the opener.
That's why, the redshirt freshman said, he was so grateful when Penn State announced O'Brien's hiring.
"I was probably one of the most happy people in the world at the time," Carter said.
The former coaching staff asked tight ends to hit 265 pounds -- Carter weighs 247 -- and utilized only one player. As a redshirt freshman, Carter didn't have to study math to understand the odds of starting leaned in favor of redshirt junior Garry Gilliam.
But a new coaching staff offered a new start and offensive system -- and, most importantly, a new chance to impress. After all, he was battling to move up from the fourth-string.
A few days into spring ball, Carter approached the first-year head coach inside the Lasch Building. O'Brien told told him he saw something, a glint of talent, that Carter could have a big role if he worked. He took that broad conversation to heart.
"I still had a lot to do," Carter said. "I wasn't the No. 1 tight end. I knew I had a lot of work to do to get in a position where they'd even be using me in the games."
Carter was named the the starter at f-tight end in time for April's Blue-White Game. He didn't relent. During his off-time, Carter practiced routes with Matt McGloin. He caught passes from Paul Jones. And he worked with Steven Bench.
That effort spilled into the preseason. Linebacker Glenn Carson said the 6-foot-3 tight end boasted the most impressive camp, and his teammates raved about his penchant for one-handed grabs.
"Yeah, I still remember one from preseason," offensive tackle Mike Farrell said. "It was either a two-minute drive or a hurry-up drive, and on the final play, he made a great one-handed catch in the end zone for a touchdown as time expired."
Added safety Malcolm Willis: "When you're in practice, you'll see him catch at least two or three balls one-handed."
Carter, who made his first career start Saturday, became McGloin's No. 2 target behind Allen Robinson. He finished with a half-dozen catches for 74 yards, while Robinson pulled down nine receptions for 97 yards.
Of course, he lined up at tight end -- but he also split out wide and even played out of the backfield. He's never before traveled to a road game, but McGloin said he'll be looking out for the versatile No. 2 target against Virginia.
"He'll be a big part of our offense," McGloin said. "I'll try to get him the ball a lot. I'm definitely going to try to get him the ball this week and have him make plays for us."
Carter couldn't be happier to hear that.