There were quite a few applause breaks during the nearly hour-long conference at Cedar Cliff High School in which junior tight end Adam Breneman announced his decision to play his college football at Penn State.
But none was quite as loud as when Breneman stared out to those in attendance and stated one of the most important reasons for his decision.
“I want to start the healing process at Penn State,” he said.
More than playing for a former NFL coach with experience coaching some of the game’s most talented players. More than the opportunity to star in an offense that figures to use the tight end as a primary pass catching threat. Breneman wanted a chance to rebuild Penn State.
He’s not alone in those thoughts either.
Four-star quarterback Christian Hackenberg from Virginia’s Fork Union Military Academy, who committed to Penn State on Feb. 29, echoed the same sentiments just a day after Breneman’s commitment.
“There’s not a better opportunity right now in the country to rebuild a program to what it should be,” Hackenberg said. “I feel if we get a good class, we’ll be able to compete for Big Ten titles.”
That class is off to a good start with Breneman and Hackenberg being joined by New Jersey defensive end Garrett Sickels and Ohio athlete Ross Douglas. But if the four early commits have anything to say about it, Penn State’s recruiting for the class of 2013 is far from over.
Hackenberg and Breneman have been corresponding for weeks, according to both. Some feel that Breneman’s designation as the top tight end in the country could have a snowball effect on the program’s recruiting. He hopes to get that ball rolling a little quicker.
Going as far to mention certain potential recruits by name, Breneman said during Friday’s conference that he plans on getting in touch with some of the state’s best juniors and convincing them pick Penn State. With Hackenberg in Virginia, Ross in Ohio and Sickels in New Jersey, Penn State has pieces in four key states to do its bidding leading up to the start of the 2012 high school season.
“I would consider myself a pretty good recruiter,” Breneman said. “We’re going to put together a pretty good recruiting class.”
According to his father, Brian, Adam has always gravitated toward the idea of being part of a rebuilding process. Coach Jim Cantafio took over the Cedar Cliff program in 2008, one year removed from a 2-8 season. In his first year, the Colts went 5-5 and have improved every season since, culminating in last year’s 9-3 record. Breneman’s first three years at Cedar Cliff have conicided with that success.
Penn State struggled at points last season, ending the year with a loss to Houston in the TicketCity Bowl to finish 9-4. The team has reached a BCS bowl game just five times in the 25 seasons since winning its second national championship in 1986.
Rebuilding Penn State means not only returning its football program to national prominence, but also helping the university regain its reputation in light of its recent troubles.
Shortly after Breneman’s announcement, he was flooded with congratulations on Twitter with remarks that ended with “Restore the roar.”
For Hackenberg and Breneman, bringing back Penn State was too good of an opportunity to pass up on.
“(Adam’s) heart was with Penn State and Coach (Bill) O’Brien and the opportunity to rebuild,” Brian Breneman said. “That’s what he did here. Cedar Cliff was a great school. It dipped and then it came back. Adam always appealed to that rebuilding process.”