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Thursday, December 6, 2012
Breneman & ESPN's history of top TEs

By Josh Moyer

Adam Breneman
Penn State commit Adam Breneman hopes to fulfill the expectations that come with being ESPN's No. 1-rated tight end.
Adam Breneman (Camp Hill, Pa./Cedar Cliff) isn't shy about listing his career goals at Penn State.

The four-star prospect (Scouts Grade: 85) not only wants to win the Big Ten Leaders Division, he's aiming for high individual accolades. He's hoping to take home the John Mackey Award, a trophy given annually to the country's best tight end.

But what does history say about his potential for success? Have most of ESPN's No. 1 tight ends come in and dominated? Or have they fallen short of lofty expectations?

NittanyNation decided to take a closer look at every one of ESPN's top tight ends since 2006 to determine what history says about those No. 1-rated tight ends -- for both immediate and future success.

Here are ESPN's past tight ends who were ranked No. 1 at their position:

2006
Brandon Warren, 6-3, 230 pounds
Alcoa, Tenn./Alcoa
Committed to: Florida State
Scouts Grade: 89

Synopsis: Boy, is Warren an odd story. He became an instant starter for the Seminoles and finished a strong freshman campaign with 28 catches for 301 yards. He played in every game and was named a third-team freshman All-American. He seemed headed toward a bright future.

But he transferred to Tennessee when his mother fell ill to be closer to her, it started falling apart. He spent a year bringing up his grades at community college and then struggled with the Vols, where his career was defined by team violations and spats with the coaching staff. He was eventually dismissed from the team in 2009 and -- after taking three years off -- spent this season at Div. II North Alabama. He has five catches through 10 games.

Second-year highlights: He moved to wide receiver at Tennessee and played in every game. However, he started just once and saw limited production. He finished with 10 catches for 85 yards.

Aaron Hernandez
The No. 1 tight end prospect in 2007, Aaron Hernandez has turned into a Pro Bowl-caliber player with the New England Patriots.
2007
Aaron Hernandez, 6-4, 235 pounds
Bristol, Conn./Bristol Central
Committed to: Florida
Scouts Grade: 81

Synopsis: Here's a name you might be familiar with. He's part of the most dynamic tight end tandem in NFL history and played under Bill O'Brien when he was with the Patriots. Hernandez declared early and was drafted in the fourth round in 2010; he earned a spot on the Pro Bowl one year later.

He was a winner of the 2009 Mackey Award and also earned All-America honors. His future was bright from the very beginning; he played in 13 games as a freshman. His production increased every year -- from nine catches to 34 to, finally, 68.

Second-year highlights: Hernandez made his presence known immediately. In the first game, against Miami (Fla.), Hernandez hauled in five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown. He helped the Gators to a national championship and turned in another five-catch performance (57 yards) in the title game.

2008
Blake Ayles, 6-4, 240 pounds
Orange, Calif./Lutheran
Committed to: USC
Scouts Grade: 84

Synopsis: Injuries plagued an inconsistent career that initially seemed promising. He became a backup tight end as a true freshman, but missed parts of five games due to a knee sprain that required arthroscopic surgery. He sprained his knee again the next season, missed four games and was forced to undergo a procedure to correct heart arrhythmia.

He then suffered a concussion, underperformed as a junior, transferred to Miami (Fla.) and earned the starting job. He ended up missing that final season with another severe concussion. He finished his career with 14 catches for 182 yards and one touchdown.

Second-year highlights: He remained a backup tight end and twice had games with multiple catches. He had two receptions for 22 yards against San Jose State and two catches for 29 yards against Cal. (He missed the final four games due to injury.)

2009
Morrell Presley, 6-4, 215 pounds
Carson, Calif./Carson
Committed to: UCLA
Scouts Grade: 83

Synopsis: Presley's career was a disappointment. He reportedly arrived to UCLA at only 200 pounds and struggled blocking bigger defensive linemen, so he was moved to the slot and saw limited playing time. He moved to another position, F-Back, the next season and struggled again -- following up his six-catch rookie campaign with just four catches. He almost seemed like UCLA's tight end version of Curtis Dukes -- a talented player who was just not well-rounded and a liability without the ball in his hands.

He earned a backup spot at tight end the spring after his second season, but decided to transfer. He fell off the grid for a year but reappeared this season at Div. II California University of Pennsylvania. In 10 games, he has six catches for 65 yards. He's had numerous personal issues in the last four years: He was twice suspended at UCLA for a violation of team rules, struggled with academics and was arrested last year for a misdemeanor (criminal trespassing and burglary).

Second-year highlights: He lost his starting job to a true freshman. His best game came against Arizona State, where he had one catch for 10 yards. He finished the season with 22 receiving yards.

2010
Xavier Grimble, 6-5, 241 pounds
Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gormon
Committed to: USC
Scouts Grade: 83

Synopsis: He redshirted his first season and came on the next season to earn a lot of playing time. He started in seven games and played often in the other five. He finished with 15 catches for 144 yards and four touchdowns in 2011.

This season, it was surprising not to see him or Randall Telfer -- one of the best tight-end tandems in the conference -- on the preseason Mackey Award watch list. Grimble is currently third in receiving on USC with 27 catches for 297 yards and five touchdowns. He earned an honorable mention on the All-Pac 12 team, and he's been a well-rounded player for the Trojans.

Second-year highlights: In his second-ever start, Grimble came on in a big way. He finished with five catches for 66 yards and the Trojans' only receiving touchdown in a 23-14 victory over Utah.

2011
Jay Rome, 6-5, 230 pounds
Valdosta, Ga./Valdosta
Committed to: Georgia
Scouts Grade: 84

Synopsis: The athletic tight end also plays forward for the Georgia basketball team. He redshirted his freshman year in football and played in seven basketball games.

He's put up meager stats thus far this season -- 11 catches, 152 yards, two touchdowns -- but his blocking has helped open a lot of holes for the running game. He's played behind redshirt junior Arthur Lynch, but he's seen a lot of time and will undoubtedly be the go-to tight end once Lynch graduates.

Second-year highlights: In the SEC title game, Rome set the tone when he caught a 19-yard touchdown pass to hand the Bulldogs an early 7-0 lead. It was his only catch -- but it was his biggest of the season. His best game statistically came against Ole Miss, when he had three receptions for 27 yards.

2012
Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, 6-4, 261 pounds
Rocklin, Calif./Whitney
Committed to: USC
Scouts Grade: 80

Synopsis: With 2010's top TE ahead of him on the depth chart, Cope-Fitzpatrick was a strong redshirt candidate this season -- but he still ended up seeing some playing time. He contributed on special teams and has two catches for 12 yards so far this season. With redshirt sophomores Telfer and Grimble both ahead of him on the depth chart, it might be hard for Cope-Fitzpatrick to grab significant playing time for a while.