Ex-Penn State TE Breneman shows sometimes transfers best for all

FILE - In this Oct. 22, 2016, file photo, Massachusetts tight end Adam Breneman (81) catches a pass against South Carolina linebacker T.J. Holloman (11) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, in Columbia, S.C. After what turned out to be a brief but much-needed sabbatical from football, Adam Breneman has his life in order. He is on track to complete an MBA at the University of Massachusetts, playing on the same team as his best friend and heading into his last college season as one of the best tight ends in the country. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford, File)
Sean Rayford/AP photo

When a player transfers out of a program, it’s natural to wonder “what if?” And it’s bound to happen when that player goes on to great success with a new team.

So it was certainly of interest among Penn State folks when former Nittany Lions tight end Adam Breneman was rated the No. 1 player at the position in the country by a website that covers NFL prospects. Pro Football Focus rated Breneman, now at UMass, the top tight end, at least in terms of draft potential, ahead Wisconsin’s Troy Fumagalli and Kentucky’s CJ Conrad.

Seeing such high praise for Breneman could understandably bring about a bittersweet reaction from folks in and around Happy Valley. Breneman is a Camp Hill, Pa., product who became one of the state’s all-time great high school players. He was a key signee for PSU as it looked to rebuild from the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

And it all started out great, with Breneman producing a nice true freshman season, catching three touchdown passes and making several freshman All-America lists.

But an injury kept him off the field in 2014, and his production took a nosedive in 2015 before he left for Massachusetts, where last season he caught 70 passes for 808 yards and eight touchdowns.

Yet, despite losing a 6-foot-4, 250-pound athlete who is a prolific pass catcher, its hard to say Penn State is necessarily worse off without Breneman. After all, his injury and decline at PSU coincided with the rise of Mike Gesecki, a potential All-American in his own right.

Daydreaming about what it might be like to have both incredible weapons at tight end this season is only natural, but who knows how well the two could have meshed into the offensive scheme James Franklin and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead cooked up. There’s only one football on the field at a time, and Penn State has no shortage of weapons on offense.

Last season, Gesicki caught 48 passes for 679 yards and five touchdowns while the Nittany Lions worked to spread the ball around to the likes of Saquon Barkley and Chris Godwin. How would Gesicki and Breneman reacted to splitting time and seeing roughly half as many passes thrown their way? It’s hard to say.

Right now, it looks like it worked out well for everyone. Breneman saw a resurgence in a program where he’s an unquestioned star, and he built a profile that should lead to NFL riches.

Gesicki is also likely a future NFL player, and played a key role in Penn State’s turnaround and rise to the Big Ten title. With Godwin off the pros after his junior season, Gesicki could see even more passes coming his way in 2017, and his star should continue to rise.

Breneman’s tale is really just another reminder of how often college football careers don’t follow their projected path. For as much time and energy as the biggest fans spend following recruiting and whatnot, Breneman is further proof you never know how it’s going to work out, and that’s OK.




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