Pat Freiermuth enrolled at Penn State at the start of summer school last year with a goal to play as a freshman, whether it be on special teams or as a second tight end to block in short-yardage situations.
But even Freiermuth would acknowledge he surpassed his expectations after he was told he’d be the starting tight end in Week 5 – the 2018 Whiteout game against Ohio State.
“I remember when they first told me, the first thing that came to mind was the Whiteout,” Freiermuth said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters. “It was crazy, that week of preparation, it was unreal … the whole season itself. I knew I prepared myself, and I did the work to live up to if I were to be a starter, and I think that it worked out pretty well for me.”
Freiermuth, who started nine games, went on to have the best season of any first-year player on the Nittany Lions. He finished second in catches with 26 and receiving yards with 368. His eight touchdown receptions not only led the Lions, but it was the second-most caught by an FBS tight end.
It was an auspicious start to the collegiate career of the 6-foot-5, 262-pound Freiermuth, but he said he probably wouldn’t have achieved that success had it not been for his transfer to the Brooks School, a prep school in North Andover, Mass., that he attended for three years after transferring from Pentucket Regional High School after his sophomore year.
“It meant a lot, having an extra year of eligibility in high school and being able to get bigger and stronger and faster,” he said. “If I didn’t do that, could I see myself playing right away? I don’t really know. Going into my senior year, my fifth year of high school, I was probably 240, 245 [pounds]. That’s obviously not the ideal weight of a Big Ten tight end.”
Plus, had he come out a year earlier and attended Penn State, he would have played behind future NFL tight end Mike Gesicki and either sat or redshirted.
“I’m happy with my decision,” he said. “It worked out. It definitely would have been different if I didn’t do that and, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t be at Penn State right now if I didn’t do that, because I would have lost a year and wouldn’t have developed more as a tight end.”
Freiermuth had advantages when he entered Penn State. He was older – he turned 20 in late October – and stronger physically than many of his classmates. He had a good base in learning the fundamentals of blocking from his high school coach.
Nittany Lions tight ends coach Tyler Bowen helped him improve his blocking technique.
“I like the one-on-one battle,” Freiermuth said. “If that’s in the route game, great. If that’s in the blocking game, fantastic. I’m not going to let the guy that I’m supposed to be blocking make the play, and it’s easier said than done like that.
“Coach Bowen is a great coach, and he always hammers down the little details and the techniques of blocking. I take pride in that, and I really incorporate it into my game. I saw my blocking grow phenomenally throughout the whole season.”
Freiermuth, who attracted attention from small-college basketball coaches after leading Pentucket to the Massachusetts state semifinals as a sophomore, is ready to take the next step with his blocking and his route running as part of a deep tight-end group that Bowen dubbed “The Aces.”
“We’ve had Mike [Gesicki], Jesse [James], Kyle Carter,” he said. “I’m just trying to carry on the tradition and keep the Ace name going and see where it goes this year.”
Maryland guard commits
The Nittany Lions received their sixth oral commitment to the Class of 2020, receiving a pledge from 6-4, 320-pound guard Golden Achumba of DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Md.
Achumba, who is rated three stars by 247Sports and Rivals, announced his commitment Tuesday on Twitter, saying he was “100 percent” committed to Penn State. “With this off my chest, I’m ready to finish by senior year on a great note.”