Five Players to Watch in 2019: #4 Pat Freiermuth
Filling Some Big Shoes
With the graduation of Mike Gesicki following the 2017 season, it appeared that the tight end position would be a weakness for the Nittany Lions in 2018. Gesicki was on the field for almost every play from 2016-2017 and Penn State did not run many offensive sets featuring multiple tight ends, so there was certainly a lack of experience at tight end entering 2018. All of those concerns went away when my number four player to watch in 2019, Pat Freiermuth, emerged as a star in his true freshman season at Penn State.
2018 started slow for Freiermuth, as he played in the first three games of the season, but only reeled in three catches. However, once conference play began, the 6’5” target hit the scene and was there to stay. He caught a touchdown against Illinois and then another one the next week against Ohio State. From there, Freiermuth became a big play threat for a Penn State offense that quite frankly needed it in a big way.
Big Play Threat
Starting with the Ohio State game, Freiermuth started a streak where he hauled in at least one pass of over 15 yards. Here is the break down:
- Ohio State: one 27-yard catch
- Michigan State: one 25-yard catch
- Indiana: one 23-yard TD catch
- Iowa: one 18-yard TD catch
- Michigan: one 25-yard catch
- Wisconsin: one 16-yard catch
- Rutgers: one 18-yard TD catch and one 23-yard catch
- Maryland: one 22-yard catch
- Kentucky: one 18-yard TD catch and one 20-yard catch
The true sophomore’s big-play ability allowed him to reel in 14 catches of 15 yards or more. He also finished second in the country among tight ends in touchdown catches with eight. Those eight touchdowns were good enough for fifth most in the Big Ten, as well.
Bringing Home the Hardware
The Massachusetts native’s big season brought him some postseason hardware. He earned Freshman All-American honors by several media outlets including The Athletic, ESPN, and 247Sports. He also received an honorable mention for the All-Big Ten team. In 2019, Freiermuth will look to prove to the country that he is the best tight end in the land.
What to Expect in 2019
With the Penn State offense breaking in essentially a brand new wide receivers group, new running backs, and a new QB, having someone like Pat Freiermuth is going to be so crucial to the Nittany Lion offense. He will act as a security blanket for the likely new starter at QB, Sean Clifford. He will be able to move the chains on a play like a 3rd and 7 instead of having the drive fizzle out. He will be able to draw attention to the middle of the field to free up Penn State’s new crop of wide receivers on the outside.
I also think Coach Franklin and Offensive Coordinator Ricky Rahne will try to split Freiermuth out wide, much like Mike Gesicki did when he became a star in the Penn State offense. And, Freiermuth is already a much better blocker than Gesicki ever was. This will also be important to the Nittany Lion running attack as Penn State lost two offensive linemen to the NFL Draft and star running back Miles Sanders to the Draft, as well.
There is so much Pat Freiermuth could do in this offense because he is very versatile and very talented. He can catch, block, create big plays, and open the field for his other teammates. Right now, he is perhaps the most established part of the Penn State offense and for good reason. With all of those skills above, Pat Freiermuth could be the top tight end in the country in 2019 and that has me very excited to watch him play this year.
For yesterday’s article on Justin Shorter, click here.
For today’s article previewing the Minnesota match-up, click here.
Stay tuned tomorrow for the number three player on my list of top five players to watch in 2019.