Ed. note- the following article was written prior to the news of Adam Breneman's injury. Despite this news, the sentiment remains- that Breneman has a bright future with limitless potential. We wish Adam all the best as he recovers from his injury.
While the NCAA sanctions levied against Penn State had a major impact on the depth at certain positions, the Nittany Lions will possess what is likely the most talented tight end unit in all of college football in 2014. With so many options, it may seem that James Franklin will have difficulty working so many talented tight ends in the lineup- but we're sure it's a problem he doesn't mind having whatsoever. Today we take a look at Penn State's best position group and offer our opinions on who will be Penn State's best tight end this fall.
bscaff: Jesse James
Quick - name the leading returning pass catcher? That's right, it's Jesse James. How about the guy who returns the most receiving yardage? Correct, it's also James. The most receiving TD's? You guessed it, Jesse James. But who do you suppose is the best blocking tight end on the roster? Ummm...yup, that's also Jesse James. He's big enough to be confused for a (slim, fit) left tackle, yet fleet enough to split out wide. He has great hands, can take a hit over the middle, and can sky for the ball over DBs in the end zone, as best evidenced in the season-ending game against the Badgers, when he turned an INT into six points. Here's the best part, though: we know all of this because he plays. Every week. "Football players play football during football season," said Bill Parcells. The implication being, you need to play through pain. And James, luckily and toughness-ly, doesn't miss practice or games or snaps. He's the only tight end on the roster who hasn't. The ONLY thing any of the other outstanding TEs on the roster have over James is STARZ. While Carter, Breneman, and Gesicki all brought 3, 4, and 5 STARZ, respectively, to State College, James had just 2 - and both of those paired with an "OT" position designation. If James only had produced some HUDL video showing him jumping out of a swimming pool, there'd be no question about whom is our best tight end.
Nick Polak: Mike Gesicki
Let me preface this by saying that every one of our choices to be Penn State's top tight end this season could be right. All of these guys have the ability and potential to be superstars. Kyle Carter has proven that he has potential to essentially be an extra wide receiver. Adam Breneman spent a season learning on the job, showing off some of his potential in the season finale against Wisconsin. Jesse James has the look of a future top two round NFL draft pick if he can put together a good season. All of these guys could be stars. And it could even be more than one of them. But I'm here to say that Mike Gesicki will be better than them all.
We all knew what kind of talent Gesicki had coming in. The elite athlete with insane jumping abilities and the frame to morph into the most impressive tight end specimen the NCAA has seen since Vernon Davis. The big name recruit that chose Franklin over Meyer. The New Jersey boy who despite starting high school as a wide receiver, had enough size and power to convert to the tight end spot. Mike Gesicki has already received fantastic reviews from coaches and analysts alike. Word has spread about how he is someone the coaching staff just can't keep off the field, and was named as one of the most impressive performers in 7-on-7 drills. Gesicki seems to be acclimating quite well to Penn State, leading this writer to believe the hype.
Gesicki still has room to grow as a blocker, yes. In that regard he will surely not be the top tight end on the roster. However, he will more than make up for it with his offensive production. It may take a few games for Hackenberg to find chemistry with his newest target, but once he does, opposing defenses should just run and hide. Every time Gesicki lines up, he is either going to create a mismatch for himself, or cause one for a teammate. He is simply impossible for a linebacker to cover, to ask one to do so would be a death wish for the defense. The numbers may not end up the most impressive of the tight end stable, but the results will be clear. By the end of this season, Mike Gesicki will be the most feared tight end on the Nittany Lion roster.
Cari: Kyle Carter
I’ll be the first to say that Kyle Carter took a step back in 2013 from his breakout 2012 year; but a freshman quarterback, as well as defenses who now know how generally awesome you are, will do that to a young player. It’s not as though Carter has somehow forgotten how to ball out. You don’t get named a freshman All-American or first team All-Big Ten as a redshirt freshman if you aren’t good.
Who can forget this amazing catch against Iowa all-world CB Micah Hyde in that blowout?
Carter’s stats suffered in 2013, of course, due to an arm injury he suffered in the season opener against Syracuse. Even with that injury, which hampered him all season, he finished the season averaging 12.3 ypr—just shy of his 12.6 in 2012. And though he’s not as big as Jesse James or Mike Gesicki (in fact, he’s the smallest TE on the roster at 6’3", 241), he’s got the hands and will undoubtedly be the possession tight end that Hackenberg needs to go to in tight game situations.
Jared: Adam Breneman
Like Nick mentioned above, any of Penn State's tight ends are loaded with talent and each will likely ultimately play on Sundays once they move on from State College. However, the one player I believe that could rocket to All-American status in the near future is Adam Breneman.
Breneman put up modest stats as a true freshman, but a closer look will tell you his numbers may be a bit deceiving. First off, no one much expected Breneman to even play in 2013. Most believed he would wait in the wings behind the likes of Carter and James while recovering from a torn ACL during his senior season of high school. But the coaching staff soon discovered he was just too talented to have him sit out for the season. Despite all of the other talent at the position, he was able to contribute immediately. It took three games for Breneman to get his first reception, but as the season progressed, so did he. Not only did he see more time on the field, he also became a major red zone factor, the mark of any truly great tight end. And like fellow true freshman Christian Hackenberg, he saved his very best for last by hauling in three receptions for 78 yards in a stunning upset against the Wisconsin Badgers, who also happened to have one of the top pass defenses in the nation. On top of all the on-the-field accolades, Breneman is also a very easy guy to root for.
Penn State is in very good shape with several talented options at tight end, but my money is on Adam Breneman to have the brightest future of them all.