UMass tight end Adam Breneman becoming latest to thrive in Whipple’s offense

By Andrew Cyr

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(Caroline O’Connor/Collegian)

(Caroline O’Connor/Collegian)

Throughout his college coaching career, Massachusetts football coach Mark Whipple has used tight ends as an intricate part of his pro-style offense.

Over the past two seasons, Whipple has had the luxury of playing with versatile tight ends since returning to UMass, such as the 6-foot-7 Jean Sifrin in 2014 and Rodney Mills in both 2014 and 2015. Both former Minutemen were used in a variety of different positions depending on the certain formation, and the two became safety-blankets for quarterback Blake Frohnapfel when the pressure was on.

This season Whipple has once again found success with the tight end position, the latest player being Penn State transfer Adam Breneman.

After having just five receptions through the first two games of 2016, Breneman emerged as UMass’ (1-2) next great tight end, hauling in 10 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown in the Minutemen’s 21-13 win against Florida International last Saturday.

Breneman’s 10 catches were the most by a tight end since Whipple returned to UMass in 2014. His 10 catches against the Panthers also double the single-game best (five receptions) set by current Seattle Seahawk tight end, Jimmy Graham, who Whipple coached during the 2009 season at Miami.

“When you look at it, I think eight of his catches went for first downs,” Whipple said of Breneman’s performance against FIU. “That certainly helps. It’s a big body and he’s really quarterback friendly, a wide area to target. He’s doing really good. We’ll move him around. He’s also a really smart guy.”

“We have a really good group of tight ends,” quarterback Andrew Ford said. “As a quarterback that’s kind of your best friend.”

Breneman currently leads the Minutemen in both receptions (15) and receiving touchdowns (two) through two games.

With UMass facing its third Power Five school this Saturday, hosting Mississippi State at Gillette Stadium, Breneman is expecting additional attention from the Bulldog defense.

“After 10 catches, I’m assuming [Mississippi State] will be keying in on me a little bit, but that opens some things up for some other guys so they can make some plays,” Breneman said.

In order to accommodate for the added attention, Whipple will move Breneman all over the field in an effort to not only create mismatches for himself, but also to open up space for wide receivers running across the field.

“You saw it on Saturday, Florida International everywhere I went was trying to point out where I’m at because we play in all different spots,” Breneman said. “Sometimes I even line up at left tackle, the defense sometimes doesn’t even recognize it. That’s part of the fun part, is moving around and playing all over the field.”

Breneman added: “One thing that I value in being able to do is play anywhere on the field. Whether it’s wide receiver, tight end, even fullback or running back—I’m trying to get a handoff at some point—but [I’ll do] whatever they ask me to do.

“That’s one thing that’s fun about this offense, [before the] play is called, I never know where I’m going to line up, it could be anywhere on the field and it confuses the defenses a lot.”

“I think each team is going to play him differently. I don’t really know how Mississippi State is going to play him,” Ford added. “I think the way we use tight ends in this offense people are going to start to take notice whether that’s Adam [Breneman] or Todd [Stafford] or Travis [Reynolds].”

Andrew Cyr can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.