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Success of Freiermuth, Gesicki impresses new Lions TE target

Penn State tight ends have caught 20 touchdown passes during the last two seasons. With three blue-chip prospects added at the position since January 2018, it figures to be a sustained spot of strength for the Nittany Lions.

Tight end recruits such as Cane Berrong have taken notice of the success, as Penn State is able to point toward tangible evidence of positional importance within the offensive system.

“Just look at the way Mike Gesicki and, most recently, Pat Freiermuth have been used,” said Berrong, who received a scholarship offer from the Nittany Lions last Thursday.

Gesicki was a first-team All-Big Ten media selection as a senior in 2017. He caught at least one pass in his last 27 college contests, setting program tight end records for receptions (129), receiving yards (1,481) and touchdowns (15).

Berrong, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound sophomore at Hart County (Hartwell, Ga.) High School, sees specific similarities between himself and Penn State’s most accomplished tight end.

“Our speed, hands, and most importantly our work ethic,” he said. “I’ve been told he was a beast in the weight room and so am I.  He’s a little taller than me but we have similar body types. We are both too fast for linebackers and too big for corners. He was called ‘The Mismatch’ and I consider myself one too.  My high school would use me in the same way. I’m put out wide, as an H back, and on the line.”

Gesicki was selected 42nd overall by the Miami Dolphins in the 2018 NFL Draft; picked second among players at the position. His replacement at Penn State maintained a high standard of production.

Freiermuth led all Big Ten tight ends with eight touchdown catches and should be the frontrunner for 2019 preseason first-team all-conference status. He emerged as a starter in September, remained in that role the rest of the way, and earned Freshman All-American honors.

“It means they don’t mind playing freshmen and the best player will play regardless of class,” Berrong observed.

And, lately, the best player at this position for Penn State has also been among college football’s finest.

“(Tight end is) a weapon for that offense,” Berrong said. “They are looking to get those guys involved early and often. They will move them all over the place, put them on the line, as an H back, and out wide to create mismatches. We run a very similar offense at my high school and my head coach Rance Gillespie would pull up plays from 2017 and install for me in our offense.”

Last week was a big one for Berrong, who picked up his first two FBS offers from LSU and Penn State. A member of the 2021 recruiting class, he also reports interest from Miami, Michigan State, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

As a sophomore, Berrong collected 31 catches for 497 yards and three scores. He considers himself a balanced contributor at tight end.

“I’m not interested in just catching passes,” Berrong said. “I take pride in my blocking. I want to be a complete tight end.  I’m lucky that I get to go against the Player of the Year from my region  (2020 defensive lineman) Kaimon Rucker — every day in practice. Out of all the highly rated defensive lineman I’ve faced, he’s the hardest to block. Just competing against him in practice every day makes me a better player.”

Penn State is on Berrong’s evolving travel itinerary, as he’ll head to Happy Valley for a team camp in June, when he also intends to attend Notre Dame’s “Irish Invasion” event. He spent time at South Carolina last weekend and plans to visit Wisconsin this upcoming weekend. LSU is another school Berrong would like to explore soon.

The Nittany Lions’ 2019 recruiting class features four-star tight end recruit Brenton Strange, and he enrolled on campus earlier this month. Freiermuth and rising redshirt freshman Zack Kuntz were considered top-10 talents at the position in 247Sports 2018 composite rankings, so young talent impresses in Penn Sate’s tight end room.

Veterans Nick Bowers and Jonathan Holland will complete their college careers next fall. Redshirt sophomore Danny Dalton is transferring to Boston College.

Berrong, like nearly all 2021 recruits, is currently unranked but early collegiate interest indicates he could be among the class’ most coveted tight ends. Penn State doesn’t yet carry a verbal commitment in the 2021 cycle and has offered approximately 50 athletes who are midway through sophomore year.

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