For the past few years, Penn State coach James Franklin has repeatedly said he loves his tight end room.
Khalil Dinkins has been part of that room since 2021 but has yet to get many chances to show off.
With Brenton Strange, Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren all ahead of him on the depth chart, it’s been tough for Dinkins, who grew up in the Pittsburgh area, to make a name for himself in Happy Valley.
This season, Penn State will be without Strange, now a Jacksonville Jaguar, and although Johnson– the projected leader of the TE room– and Warren will be back, there will likely be more chances for Dinkins to come alive.
I asked Franklin about Dinkins on Day 1 of this year’s Big Ten Media Days in Indianapolis, and he said he expects the third-year tight end to step up.
“I think Khalil could be one of these guys that we’re talking about a lot more in Game 5 that we’re not talking about now,” Franklin said. “One of those breakout players that people are excited about where he’s made a couple big plays in games and people are now talking about him and his future.”
Dinkins showed some flashes last season.
He played in 10 of 13 games, catching four passes for 53 yards. He caught his first college touchdown pass— a 28-yarder— Sept. 10 in the team’s home opener against Ohio.
Now, Dinkins is 246 points, more than 30 pounds bigger than he was as a freshman two years ago.
Franklin said that Dinkins’ weight gain hasn’t away from his strengths, such as his speed.
“He is big. He is strong. He is fast, and he’s matured a ton since he’s been on campus and really over the last year, and that’s all of it,” Franklin said. “That’s football-wise. He’s gotten bigger. He was a little bit undersized up to this point. He now has added size on, and it’s the right size. So he’s still as fast and as explosive as he’s been.”
At some schools, tight ends are glorified wide receivers.
Franklin wants to avoid that being the case at Penn State and sees Dinkins as a solid all-around player.
Brenton Strange was known for his blocking as well as his pass-catching ability, and that’s part of the reason he’s a millionaire.
“We take a lot of pride at Penn State in our tight ends being complete tight ends, not big wideouts which they are at a lot of places,” Fraklin said. “But I think you guys are going to be impressed the more you see Khalil, not only in practice but in games in competitive environments. I think you guys will see him very similar to how we have felt about Tyler Warren for the last year.”