Brenton Strange thrives with expanded offensive role in victory at Auburn
Throughout the offseason, James Franklin labeled his tight end room one of the best in the nation. The group consists of a trio of playmakers, including Brenton Strange, Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren.
While Johnson made his season debut on Saturday against Auburn, Strange has stepped up big time in his absence and is the teams leading receiver through three games.
On Saturday, Strange went off for six catches for 80 yards in Penn State’s 41-12 victory, and on the campaign, he’s hauled in nine passes for 169 yards and a touchdown.
The Nittany Lions are just three games into the year, but Strange is just 56 yards away from surpassing his total from a year ago, and feeding him the ball has been more of an emphasis.
“We’re always going to try to feed Brenton the ball,” Sean Clifford said. “We’re trying to get all of our playmakers the ball, and I think that Brenton definitely converted on a lot of that.”
The Nittany Lions have thrived in two-minute drills this year, and in the season-opener, Clifford found Strange for a 67-yard score seconds before halftime.
However, his receiving game isn’t the only thing that improved from last year, as Clifford noted, Strange has become more of a leader in the locker room.
“I think it’s just his preparation starts all the way back in the winter,” Clifford said. “He’s kind of taken over with Theo and Tyler in that room and making sure that they’re on their stuff every single day through winter workouts, spring ball, fall camp, summer workouts, all that.”
Throughout Saturday’s contest, the blue and white utilized Strange in short-yard situations, with Clifford finding him several times late in plays.
Besides using him in short-yard situations, the redshirt junior has the ability to rise above defenders as well as make players miss with his elusiveness.
Strange showed his agility and elusiveness against Auburn hurdling a defender en route to picking up a big gain for the offense.
After the game on Saturday, Strange displayed a great deal of confidence in himself.
“No one person should ever take me to the ground,” Strange said. “I’m 6-foot-4, a little less than 250 pounds. One defender should never tackle me. That’s always been my mindset.”
Along with playing a pivotal role in the air attack for Penn State, the Parkersburg, West Virginia, native prides himself on his running blocking.
The Nittany Lions struggled to run the ball a year ago, but things have changed drastically as they pounded the rock the entire game against Auburn.
The blue and white finished with 245 rushing yards, with the two freshman backs dominating as Nicholas Singleton tallied 124 yards and two touchdowns, while Kaytron Allen matched Singleton in touchdowns and had 52 yards.
Strange was a major reason why Penn State had so much success running the ball, as he created several running lanes for the halfbacks.
Despite a 3-0 start to the season and the offense firing on cylinders, Strange still feels this team can elevate their play to a new level.
“I can’t say I’m happy yet. We still have a lot of improvements to do. I’m definitely appreciative of our progress, but I’m not happy,” Strange said. “We’re just starting to continue to improve as a group and find ways to get better each week.”
While Strange may not be content just yet, his commitment to run-blocking has allowed the offense to become more explosive.
Penn State failed to have a player rush for 100 yards in a game last season, and in its previous two contests, Singleton has surpassed the century mark.
“I love that. I enjoy that just as much as a touchdown,” Strange said. “Seeing my brother go 60 yards, I don’t know how long it was, but I enjoy that so much. That’s why I love being a tight end. You get to do everything, you get to catch the ball, you get to pass protect, you get to run block, and I think that’s why tight end is the best position in football.”
Alex Rocco is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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