A few weeks back, I wrote about how I thought that based on their play to that point, tight end Pat Freiermuth (and linebacker Micah Parsons) deserved to start. I will now pause for you to recognize my genius.
Despite the fact that he's just five games into his collegiate career, Freiermuth already appears to have become a vitally important part of the Penn State offense. The stat line doesn't read that way just yet (seven catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns) but he's already proven himself to the coaching staff, and is quickly becoming a trusted target through the air for Trace McSorley
On a night in which multiple receivers were having difficulties with drops (again), Freiermuth was a steady presence in the open field. He made two nice grabs on the first scoring drive of the game, as well as the opening play of Penn State's final drive of the night.
He's also quickly becoming a notable red zone threat for McSorley. Not to the level that Mike Gesicki was just yet, but being able to pull in grabs like this will get him to that level sooner rather than later.
It's also important to note that Freiermuth was the target on a well-designed fourth down play earlier in the game that was unfortunately swatted away by Chase Young. It says a lot about the staff's confidence in the young tight end, though, that he was the intended target for such an important moment in the game.
But as a tight end, pass-catching is only part of the story of Freiermuth's importance. In that previous piece highlighting reasons why he should start, we showed some of his excellent work as a blocker on goal-line carries. But his blocking skill doesn't just show up near the end zone. Check out this vicious block he threw on Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette.
Not only did he pave the way for McSorley to pick up a huge gain, but he made one-hundred-percent sure that Arnette had no chance to get up and even make a play as a trailer. He completely obliterated him in every sense of the word. It was magnificent to see.
Freiermuth has done everything he's needed to do from the tight end position to cement his place in the starting lineup. He's flashed his massive potential as a receiver, already become an excellent blocker, and generally done everything that has been asked of him. Don't be surprised to see the passing game start to feature the former blue-chip recruit on an even more regular basis moving forward, or to see him emerge as a star by the end of the regular season.