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Penn State Football: Freiermuth Continues To Improve After Solid Debut Season

by on June 13, 2019 2:00 PM

You could argue all afternoon about which Penn State tight end carries the title as the best the program has ever produced. You could say it's Mike Gesicki, you could argue for Kyle Brady or Ted Kwalick or another that might get overlooked like Andrew Quarless or Jesse James.

Whoever you pick, there are other options just as good.

And while sophomore Pat Freiermuth is a long way from having his name pop up in those conversations, his opening act was nothing short of an eyebrow raiser. In 2018 the then-freshman put together a 26 catch, 368 yard, eight touchdown season while playing in all 12 games, not to mention more than his fair share of moments on the season's biggest stages.

“I think Pat has a chance to be one of the better tight ends in the country,” Penn State coach James Franklin said earlier this year. “There’s not one area [to improve], because I wouldn’t say Pat has a weakness right now. Getting stronger, faster, and leaner will help him, but he can hurt you in a lot of different ways.”

For a brief comparison, Brady's heralded career topped out in 1994 with a 27 catch, 365 yard and two touchdown effort. Freiermuth will have work to do to be compared to Brady's blocking ability, but the offensive production is already there.

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But in fairness to the long ago Nittany Lion, the usage of the tight end in Penn State's offensive system [and college football has a whole] has greatly changed. Since 2009 tight end receiving records at Penn State have been set twice by two different players. Given how well Freiermuth's career has begun, there's not reason he can't give those numbers a run for their money, now *only* 103 receptions from matching Gesicki's career catch total.

One thing at a time though.

"He just gets better every day," Penn State tight ends coach Tyler Bowen said earlier this week. "I think he really approaches it play-by-play, day-by-day, month-by-month and just tries to get a little bit better every day. He has continued on that upward trajectory and hasn't taken a step back. It's just those small percentage changes a day and it has allowed him to be successful."

"I think the one things that Mike [Gesicki] showed you, is that the tight end is going to produce in our system. I think you look at a lot of other systems you can look at schematically and they're not using the tight end in the drop-back passing game. I think that's much different here."

Of course for as good as Gesicki was, and as much as he has become a modern high-water mark for Penn State tight ends, he wasn't perfect. Gesicki by his own admission struggled at times in pass protection and wasn't always much better in the run game. So while the stats and the numbers might be the things you remember, it's the things you don't see on the box score that sometimes matter even more.

"We really try and pride ourselves in being a three phase player on offense," Bowen added. "And what we mean by that is that we wanted to affect the run game positively, we want to be great pass protectors for the quarterback and we want to effect the pass game. I think the entire room has come a long way on that. They've really bought into that and really want to be three-phase players."

And if Freiermuth keeps getting better at all three of those phases, there's nothing to say he can't unseat Gesicki, or whoever you have atop your list.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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