Yesterday, Bill did an excellent job of pointing out why Adam Breneman should redshirt in 2013. The obvious answer is that he should sit out and save a year of eligibility for down the road. This has been my belief for the last several months. However, the obvious answer isn't quite as cut-and-dry as it appears. After some deep consideration, it seems that the smart move is to let Breneman play immediately.
Five-Year Plan? The whole idea of redshirting a player is to give him an extra year of eligibility while he takes a year to prepare for the collegiate game. But really, would you expect the top-rated tight end in the nation to stay for a full five years in college? I have no doubt Breneman will be just as serious about his studies, probably even more, than being an athlete. However, his goal is to play in the NFL. If he has two outstanding seasons after a redshirt year, why would he stick around if he can be a top 10 draft pick? If Breneman redshirts, there is an extremely high probability that they throw away the opportunity to have an extremely talented player on the field this fall.
Stars Matter Last year at this time there was a lot of hype about Penn State becoming "Tight End U." thanks to Bill O'Brien's offensive philosophy. I thought it was a bit premature as O'Brien certainly wasn't bringing Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez with him from New England. I was certainly happy to be wrong in this situation as we all watched Penn State's young tight end corps blossom into one of the best (the best?) units in the nation.
Who would have guessed Kyle Carter would break out to become the Big Ten's top tight end before injury? Many were intrigued by Jesse James' potential, and now he seems to be on the verge of becoming a truly special player. Only the most diehard Penn State fans know who Matt Lehman was in 2011, and he developed into a very reliable target under O'Brien's tutelage.
It seemed like O'Brien worked several miracles in a matter of months. Now, imagine what he can do with the top tight end in the entire class. It's really the perfect storm- and would be completely foolish not to take full advantage of that kind of opportunity.
The Trickle-Down Effect and the Overall Depth A major argument to redshirt Breneman is that there is so much depth at tight end right now. This is a great point, but it may be missing the big picture. We all witnessed Penn State's special teams units struggle mightily at times last year. The likely cause was a lack of depth, and being forced to use players that were already taking plenty of snaps throughout the game. For instance, does Penn State give up the late punt return touchdown to Northwestern if the punt team was filled with young and athletic players whose only duty is to sprint down the field and hit someone a handful of times each game? Probably not. If Breneman takes away snaps from someone in 2013, that's just one more fresh set of legs who will be ready to make a key special teams play late in a game. Heck, we can even take this argument one step further. If Penn State has an embarrassment of riches at tight end, why not find a good fit for someone to move to linebacker? It's a way to get all of your best players on the field, and you would be hard-pressed to find a Big Ten tight end who didn't also a linebacker in high school.
Follow the Leader Adam Breneman can be a team leader in 2013. It sounds crazy to say that about an incoming freshman, but Breneman is a special person. Let's examine his record- he committed to Penn State when it wasn't a popular move. He stayed committed when sanctions were handed down that could prevent him from playing in a bowl game for most of his Penn State career. Want an even better indicator of his character? After he was forced to miss his senior year of high school with a torn ACL, he didn't sit and mope or lose sight of himself by getting sidetracked with his rehab. Instead, he used his unexpected free time to raise more that $100,000 for ALS. He's a natural leader that has the ability to make everyone around him better as soon as he steps into the locker room.
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