Pat Freiermuth En Route To Cementing Himself Among College Football’s Best Tight Ends
Penn State football is spending this spring trying to sort out several position battles, but one area of little concern is tight end.
Rising sophomore Pat Freiermuth took over most of the snaps at the position as the 2018 season progressed and is on his way to solidifying himself as one of the best tight ends in college football.
Freiermuth finished his freshman year with 26 receptions for 368 yards and a team-leading eight touchdowns. Though the Nittany Lions’ games against Ohio State and Kentucky ended in defeat, the tight end came up big with scores in both contests. His two-touchdown effort at Rutgers was the difference in a 20-7 victory late in the season.
Freiermuth actually made his first start as a Nittany Lion in the White Out game against the Buckeyes. Finding out you’re in the starting lineup is one thing, but starting a game on one of the biggest stages in college football is an entirely different beast.
“I remember when they first told me, the first thing that came to mind was the White Out,” Freiermuth said. “It was crazy. That week of preparation was unreal. I knew I prepared myself, and I did the work to live up to if I were to be a starter, and I think that it worked out pretty well for me.”
Although he had a great season in 2018, Freiermuth feels he can improve in both the blocking game and when catching passes against man-to-man coverage. However, head coach James Franklin feels like he has a “complete” tight end to work with — as opposed to former Nittany Lion Mike Gesicki, who was more of a big wide receiver than blocking tight end.
“I think Pat has a chance to be one of the better tight ends in the country,” Franklin said. “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.”
Franklin doesn’t think Freiermuth is the only tight end on the team with potential to be a game-breaker this season. He also noted Nick Bowers as someone who could fill a big role and create a “two-headed monster” at the position.
As far as taking the next step towards becoming a game-breaker is concerned, incumbent starting quarterback Tommy Stevens doesn’t feel like Freiermuth is far off from stardom.
“I would already say he’s elite,” Stevens said. “He brings a lot to the table — being a freshman all-American is hard to do. He didn’t start right away during the season, but he’s made strides. He’s continuing to work, but it hasn’t gone to his head. He’s been doing all the right things.”
Because of his freakish size, position, jersey No. 87, and Massachusetts roots, Freiermuth has received some comparisons to Rob Gronkowski, who recently retired from the NFL after winning three Super Bowls in nine seasons with the New England Patriots.
It might seem natural for someone from Merrimac, Massachusetts to want to wear Gronkowski’s number, but No. 87 wasn’t on Freirermuth’s radar when he became a Nittany Lion.
“I wanted to wear 89,” he said. “I didn’t want to wear 88 because I didn’t want to be compared to [Mike Gesicki]. 87 felt right — I told my friends [I chose 87], and the whole Gronk comparison blew up. It’s cool — I like being compared to Gronk, but obviously I want to be my own individual and play my own game.
“If I had to be compared to someone, I wouldn’t be mad if it was Gronk.”
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Is losing three recruits in less than a week weird? Absolutely. Should you be freaking out about the long-term health of Penn State’s ability to recruit?…Probably not.
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