J.D. Mason was an all-state cornerback and a big-play wide receiver for Philipsburg-Osceola.
He came to Penn State as an invited walk-on wide receiver, and that's where he lined up in practice his first two years. As a redshirt freshman, he caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Matt McGloin in the Blue-White Game.
But, in the spring of last year, he was moved to tight end. Mason spent his redshirt sophomore season learning how to play the new position, and he didn't play in any games.
"It's my second year at tight end, and I'm just starting to get everything down," Mason said on Penn State media day. "I'm picking up the plays, picking up defenses, picking up stunts and all that kind of stuff. The blocking aspect of it is the hardest part for me. I've just to keep working on the blocking.
"[Tight ends coach] Bill Kenney has been on me, but that's how he coaches. He brings up the wide receiver days and trying to compare it to then. It's completely different, but it's all good coaching."
With a year at tight end under his belt, he says the improvement from last year has been like "night and day," and the buzz out of camp is he's having a good preseason.
"Last year, I was just worried about [learning] plays," Mason said. "Now, I'm actually able to play. I'm not thinking about what I have to do. I'm just going out and doing it. I think that's been able to help me out."
Mason said there's a big difference between playing wide receiver and tight end.
"When you're at wide receiver, you're blocking and making sure he doesn't get to the ball," he said. "Here, you have to drive him off the block. Coach Kenney says 'Block through them, not to them.' I have to displace them and open up lanes."
"He's doing great. He's working hard," tight end Andrew Szczerba said. "Moving from receiver to tight end is tough, but he's a tough kid."
Mason is also looking for playing time at the cat position, a wide receiver/slot position, which is what Brett Brackett played last year.
"[Quarterbacks coach] Jay [Paterno] and [offensive coordinator] Galen [Hall] are both really liking me," he said. "Galen and Jay have both been really pushing for me to get in there and get me reps there too."
When Mason arrived at Penn State, he was 6-foot-5 and weighed about 200 pounds. Now, he weighs around 246 pounds through hard work in the weight room.
"Most of it is muscle," Mason said. "Strengthwise, I feel like it's really helped me out. I have been able to keep my flexibility up to keep my speed around where it's been. I'm definitely not as fast as I used to be, but I'm keeping it where I need to be for tight end."
Mason has played in only one game in his Penn State career, and that was as a redshirt freshman. He's hoping to contribute more this year than just being on the scout team.
"I'm really hoping to get a good amount of playing time, whether it's the cat position or coming in as a backup at tight end," Mason said. "We have real good depth at tight end. Andrew Szczerba is really going to be big help. I'm just looking for any kind of playing time."
McGloin and Rob Bolden are vying for the starting quarterback position in a public quarterback battle that hasn't been settled. Everyone has been weighing in on the matter, and Mason was asked who he thought the starter would be.
"It's really like two different style of quarterbacks," Mason said. "The one guy can read the defenses real well, and the other guy has a great arm. I said it all spring ball that it's still going to come down to the week before the first game."
That Sept. 3 season opener against Indiana State is fast approaching, and Mason is ready to get it started.
"I'm looking forward to it a lot," Mason said. "I'll be a senior [academically] in school, and I'm just real excited to get it under way. I think it will be a lot of fun."