Some skepticism was only natural. When Bill O'Brien was hired by Penn State in January, few knew exactly what to expect.
Kyle Carter had a pretty good idea.
Uncertain as to what his future would be just a few months earlier, the freshman tight end beamed when he learned he would be getting a head coach who emphasizes the position in his offense.
"I was probably one of most happy people in the world at that time," Carter said. "I was excited. I had people texting me and all that.
"But I still knew I had a lot to do. I wasn't the No. 1 tight end. I had a lot of work to do to even get in position for them to use me. My mindset after that was doing whatever I had to do to get up the depth chart and be able to play."
So far, so good.
After starting out as a fourth-stringer in the spring, Carter is the first example of Penn State's new breed of tight end after getting off to a strong start in his collegiate debut.
Playing the versatile "F" tight end position, Carter is a major component of the Nittany Lions' new offense, lining up all over the field in an effort to create confusion and mismatches for the defense.
"You really have to practice it," Carter said. "I could be in the backfield, on the wing, on the line, out wide at receiver. It's something where I have to stay on the playbook and know where I have to be."
Ported over from the New England Patriots offense, it's not the simplest thing for anyone to pick up. Especially for a teenager.
"Yeah, it's not easy," O'Brien said. "He's a very instinctive player. … He's a guy that really cares about being good both on and off the field. He does a great job in the classroom, comes from a great family. He'll get better and better.
"He's 19 years old, so he's really only experienced six months of (the strength program). Then he goes out there on Saturday and has a productive game for us, and really can't wait to practice on Monday because he knows how much better he can get."
Against Ohio on Saturday, the redshirt freshman caught six passes for 74 yards. He also drew a pass interference flag on a deep route.
During his first year on campus, Carter's playing future was decidedly up in the air. Under the former coaching staff, where tight ends were primarily blockers more often than not, Carter said he probably would have had to add about 20 pounds just to see the field.
At his 6-foot-3, 247-pound frame, however, Carter is a valuable weapon in O'Brien's offense.
"Kyle's been great since camp," said senior linebacker Michael Mauti, who had to work against Carter in the preseason. "He's very athletic. He's made catches in practice that are really unbelievable. I think you're gonna see a lot more from him, especially in this offense. He's gonna be a big piece of that and he's gonna be exciting to watch."
With the first portion of Penn State's practice open to media on Wednesday, multiple outlets in State College reported that the senior cornerback was working out with no apparent issues.
Starting tailback Bill Belton, however, did not practice in the 30 minutes observed by reporters. Both players suffered minor ankle injuries in the opener and were listed as day-to-day by O'Brien headed into Saturday's game at Virginia.
"Felt great to be out there with the team preparing for UVA," Morris wrote on his Twitter account. "The ankle is fine."
Senior Derek Day reportedly worked with the first-team offense in Belton's place.
The Big Ten clarified on Wednesday that although Penn State is not eligible for the conference title game in the next four years because of NCAA sanctions, the Lions can still be recognized as the Leaders Division champion and receive the corresponding trophy if they finish first during that span.
Ohio State is in the same situation, facing a one-year postseason ban. If either the Lions or Buckeyes win the division, the eligible team with the best record would take their place in the league championship.
Penn State at Virginia
TV: Noon, Saturday. ABC, WNEP-16
Where: Charlottesville, Va.
Last Meeting: Penn State defeated Virginia, 35-14, on Nov. 9, 2002.