“The learning curve is going to be pretty fast,” he says.
It's going to have to be for the fifth-year senior.
Injured on the second day of spring practice, fall training camp marks his first reps at his new position on the offensive line.
“Literally we're starting back at almost day one with him as far as football - on the field playing tackle,” line coach Mac McWhorter says.
“It’s a little bit different,” Gilliam adds, “being tighter to the quarterback and dealing with bigger people.
To handle with those bigger defenders, Gilliam is much larger himself this year.
He's added 40 pounds to his frame, tipping the scales at 305 lbs. entering camp.
But when it comes to playing line, there's more to it than simply being big and pushing opponents around.
“We have to read defenses and see where (players) are and linebackers and kind of know where the front four is slanting,” Giliams says. “There's a lot of mental things to it pre snap.”
Gilliam got plenty of mental reps during the spring, learning the new reads while recovering from a calf injury.
Now it's a matter of getting used to the physicality at his new spot - instead of avoiding defenders like he did on pass plays as a tight end, he'll be targeting them on blocks.
“So he's going to have to bang every play, each and every play,” McWhorter says. “So that takes some acclimation time.”
As far as making the move, Gilliam suggested the position change to head coach Bill O’Brien immediately following the 2012 season.
Gilliam believes it not only helps this year’s Penn State team, but also his NFL prospects.
He goes from about average athletic ability at the tight end position to superior quickness for an offensive tackle.
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