Penn State Football: No Concern for Nittany Lion Tight Ends Following New Hire
December 26, 2019 3:30 PM
by Ben Jones
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ARLINGTON, Texas —Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth sat inside the Dallas Cowboys' locker room looking at his phone as the world around him buzzed. The cameras flashed and reporters fired off questions to some of Freiermuth's teammates, all while Memphis took the field for practice not far down the hall.

And Freiermuth just scrolled through his texts.

It was a busy morning for Penn State football just a few days prior to the Cotton Bowl. The Nittany Lions officially have a new offensive coordinator in Kirk Ciarrocca, a hire James Franklin is hopeful will produce the kind of offensive spark the Nittany Lions have been searching for in their highest profile contests.

The news was just a few hours old to the public, but Freiermuth and company have been digesting it for the past 12 hours or so.

"We found out last night," Freiermuth said, looking up from his phone. "I met him this morning. He seems like a good guy. Obviously he has a lot getting thrown at him so didn't get a chance to sit down and talk to him but looking forward to getting to know him more and talk about his offensive philosophies."

There are a lot of things about Ciarrocca's offense that ought to appeal to fans. The Gophers have been efficient through the air, producing three 1000-yard receivers over the past two seasons (Penn State has had one under James Franklin, Chris Godwin in 2015). And while head coach PJ Fleck enjoys much of the praise that has come with Minnesota's rise, Ciarrocca has been as much a backbone to that success as anyone.

A quick run through Minnesota's offensive numbers does bring up one eye-catching stat: Gopher tight ends have recorded 13 total catches the past two season combined. In 2017, the first season under Ciarrocca, that total was 18.

On the surface it's a surprising offensive statistic for a coordinator looking to take over play-calling duties on a team where a tight end has been its most consistent target.

But like all things, context is important, and the emergence of Freiermuth as one of the nation's premier tight ends won't be an asset suddenly thrown by the wayside. Everyone, Ciarrocca likely included, knows that as well.

"I'm aware of it," Freiermuth said of Minnesota tight end's low reception numbers. "Obviously, and not any disrespect to Minnesota or anything, but I don't think they have the caliber of tight end room, not just me specifically but the whole tight end room. So I think that's a big emphasis. They told me they wanted to get an offensive coordinator that was going to throw the ball to the tight end, so I'm excited to get in there."

Tight ends coach and Penn State interim offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen isn't concerned either. Freiermuth's film does all the advocating for him.

"I think any good coordinator is going to warp to their personnel," Bowen said in his distinct drawl.

So don't worry about it.

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