UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State tight end Kyle Carter’s breakout season has a painful ending.
Bill O’Brien said Tuesday that Carter will miss the final two games because of a right wrist injury. The Nittany Lions play Indiana on Saturday and Wisconsin next weekend.
The redshirt freshman injured the wrist on a third-quarter collision last weekend at Nebraska. O’Brien declined to reveal the nature or extent of the injury.
“I’m not going to get into details of that yet out of respect for him and his mom,” O’Brien said.
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Carter was one of the nation’s most productive tight ends, catching 36 passes for 453 yards and two touchdowns in nine games. He missed this month’s Purdue game because of an ankle injury. He caught one pass for 12 yards before colliding into Nebraska linebacker Will Compton and safety P.J. Smith last week.
“He had an excellent season for us,” O’Brien said. “Here is a young player that came in here trying to learn a position that is very difficult to learn. There are so many different things that you have to know, and I thought as a young player he came in here and did a really nice job. He’s got excellent hands. He’s a tough kid. He’s a great kid.”
True freshman Jesse James assumed some of Carter’s pass-catching duties at Purdue. Garry Gilliam and Matt Lehman are also in Penn State’s tight end rotation. The Nittany Lions use a variety of two tight-end formations.
In other injury-related news, starting free safety Malcolm Willis is listed as day-to-day with a knee injury. Willis suffered the injury in last week’s second half.
Running back Curtis Dukes, who suffered a concussion on the opening kickoff at Purdue, has been upgraded to day-to-day on the injury report. Dukes didn’t travel to Nebraska.
Redshirt freshman defensive end Deion Barnes produced another big game at Nebraska, collecting six tackles, including three for losses. Entering the final two games, Barnes leads the Nittany Lions with five sacks and nine tackles for losses.
The gaudy numbers, though, only partially satisfy Barnes.
“I wanted to be able to get into the game and make a significant impact,” he said Tuesday. “I think I have done that, but not to the level I wanted to yet. I think I have done that OK this season.”
Where does Barnes want to take his game?
“I want to be where I’m not able to be blocked,” he said. “I want to be unstoppable. I’m not just being here to be good. I’m being here to be great. I want to be where I can’t be block. I want to get to that point.”
O’Brien called Barnes a “uniquely talented guy.”
“His future is limitless,” O’Brien said.
Selling his team
With only two games remaining, questions about the future of Penn State’s players are beginning to surface.
As part of its sanctions against Penn State, the NCAA implemented a transfer waiver giving players until next August to switch schools without being forced to miss a season. Coaches from other programs will likely start contacting key players after the season ends.
O’Brien said the staff is hoping to retain players by cultivating solid relationships.
“We work very hard to put our players in the best position to play on Saturdays,” he said. “We work very hard to come up with as good of a practice plan as we can. We care about our players, their families, their class schedules, so that’s what we do every single day.
“I wouldn’t say we have a strategy. We just try to go out there with this 2012 team and just have open lines of communication and coach them to the best of our ability and coach them to be well-rounded guys.