Class of 2012 players to watch: No. 3

During the next week, NittanyNation will look at different players from the 2012 class that could make a big impact next season.

No. 3 player to watch: TE Jesse James

It would be difficult to choose a Penn State player who had a better freshman campaign. The only reason James isn't ranked higher is because his targets will be limited playing behind Kyle Carter.

Still, that doesn't take anything away from his ability. James stands 6-foot-7, 264 pounds -- a combination that made many people believe he would be a great red zone target and little else. After all, 6-7 tight ends usually can't move all that well.

James is the exception. He showed spurts of speed, outran linebackers and played in 11 games while garnering six starts. Until Adam Breneman is 100 percent, James will likely start alongside Carter -- and that will be a dangerous tandem.

James made great strides during the season. In the first six games, he caught just two balls for two yards. In the last six games? He had 13 catches for 274 yards and four touchdowns. He boasted the highest yards-per-catch average on the team.

James creates plenty of matchup problems for opposing defenses, and he'll see even more playing time in 2013. The second-half of 2012 wasn't an illusion; James' big-play ability will be called upon even more next season.

At 6-7, he's difficult to miss. And he's definitely a player to watch.

Quotables: "I talked to the seniors throughout the season, and they put it on me how hard you have to practice to be successful. I carried that throughout the rest of the season and I played a lot better. My role was starting to increase, and the seniors saw that. I wasn't having the best practices and after I talked to Michael Mauti and a couple others, they really helped me get through it. They really put emphasis on telling me that you practice how you play." - James