UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Tight end Adam Breneman needed a few days in the summer to move past the realization that a nagging left knee injury would cost him his sophomore season.
"I was just having problems all offseason," Breneman said Tuesday, addressing the media for the first time since the injury. "I'd be fine for a month, then I would have pain or swelling or something like that, and we tried to play through it and play with it for a few months."
Breneman redshirted in 2014 after having surgery late in the summer to repair the knee injury. This former four-star prospect from Cedar Cliff High School is no stranger to injuries.
Breneman missed his senior year of high school with an anterior cruciate ligament tear in his right knee and rebounded for 15 receptions in Bill O'Brien's offense as a freshman in 2013. Breneman is practicing this spring and even took some full-speed reps, but the staff continues making sure he isn't overdoing it.
"It is a process to get back," Breneman said. "I don't feel as athletic as I could be right now. That's because I haven't been running and I haven't been back for that long, which is another reason why this summer is such a big summer for me."
He used his redshirt year to become stronger, adding 60 pounds to his bench press and now weighs in around 256 pounds. Breneman said the physical change also came with a new nastiness as a blocker, a point of emphasis at his position.
"Coach [James] Franklin says to us a lot, 'If you can't block at tight end, you're just a big, slow wide receiver,' " Breneman said. "Which is true. If there's no threat of us in the running game, then you might as well just have another wideout that's running a 4.4 out there."
Line gains confidence: Right tackle Andrew Nelson, a Hershey High grad, said he is comfortable lining up at left tackle if that is what is asked of him. For now, though, his teammates need practice at their natural positions.
Penn State continues working junior-college transfer Paris Palmer and redshirt freshman Chance Sorrell at left tackle, giving both valuable practice experience in hopes that one emerges as the starter this summer.
Nelson, a redshirt sophomore, said the speed of the game is slowing down for him after his first year as a starter, allowing him to settle in and focus on technique. From last year to now, he said, he's "100 percent more confident."
"We're taking the attitude right now that we're tired of people scrutinizing the offensive line," Nelson said. "We're going to come out this year and show people that we're a different offensive line than we were last year."
Zettel eyes All-American season: Anthony Zettel didn't put much thought into leaving for the NFL draft after his junior season, one where he moved inside to defensive tackle and became a force for opponents.
Aiming for an All-American season, Zettel said he wants to trim body fat, add muscle and maintain his quickness so he can play at 285 pounds. He was effective and versatile as an undersized tackle at 280 pounds in 2014.
Zettel, a first team All-Big Ten Conference honoree, said fellow defensive tackle Austin Johnson continues making him better. The two watch film on each other, with Zettel helping the 325-pound redshirt junior improve on coming off blocks.
"If he can continue to work on that, I think there's no one in the country that will be able to stop him because he's so physical and big and strong," Zettel said. "If he can get engaged and disengaged right away, I don't think there's anyone that can match him."