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Penn State’s 4-star TE tandem draws praise from The Opening staff member
Plenty of talent packed the New York Jets’ practice facilities Sunday in Florham Park, N.J., home of The Opening’s latest regional camp. The tight ends in particular stood out, as they featured four of the top 15 prospects in the 247Sports Composite 2018 position rankings.
This group lived up to the hype, and a few under-the-radar performers enhanced the tight ends’ overall efforts Sunday. The collective performance led Ronny Torres, The Opening’s director of player personnel for TEs and WRs, to issue public praise.
If you enjoy good TE play, #TheOpening New Jersey was as good as it gets at the HS level.
— Ronny Torres (@RonnyTorresSS) May 1, 2017
Torres, who played tight end at New Mexico State, joined Land of 10 to discuss two TEs of particular interest in these parts — Pat Freiermuth and Zack Kuntz.
These 4-star Penn State commits attended the camp, attempting to live up to lofty national reputations. Kuntz is considered the No. 3 TE in 2018 composite rankings. Freiermuth lands at No. 6 on the list, and both are recognized as top-150 overall recruits in the class.
Torres looked back to last spring for the most recent example of such a strong TE tandem heading to the same university. He recalled coaching 2017 Stanford signees Colby Parkinson and Tucker Fisk at The Opening’s Oakland regional.
His thoughts again shifted toward Parkinson — the top-ranked TE in 2017 composite rankings — while comparing him to Kuntz. The Camp Hill (Pa.) High School junior measured in at 6-foot-8, 221 pounds Sunday, yet attacked downfield with the agility of a more compact athlete.
“It’s hard to be coordinated when you’re 6-8 at that age,” Torres said. “But what we saw from Colby Parkinson (6-7, 228 pounds), I kind of see in Zack Kuntz. The guy handles his body really well, and in that aspect he should get better and better. At 221 pounds, he has plenty of room to grow.”
Kuntz, who completed the 40-yard dash in 4.88 seconds Sunday, also participates in spring track and field. He established a school record in the high jump in April with a 6-7 leap.
After breaking a bone in his right foot at a summer camp at Ohio State, Kuntz missed multiple games last fall, according to Brian Linder of PennLive.com. He rebounded with three multi-reception games in the final month of the season, per MaxPreps, and he committed to the Nittany Lions on Nov. 26.
His underclassman career more accurately exemplifies Kuntz’s impact on the passing game. He recorded 96 receptions for 1,451 yards and 17 touchdowns as a freshman and sophomore.
“Zack is a smooth route runner and pass catcher, so I see him being the guy utilized in the passing game a lot more [than Freiermuth],” Torres said. “He also has the ability to spread out wide sometimes, or line up in the slot.”
Torres said he views Freiermuth, who plays at the Brooks School (North Andover, Mass.), as a classic “Y” best utilized near the line of scrimmage. This isn’t a knock on Freiermuth but rather a tip of the cap to his strength, and he might be physically prepared to make an immediate impact in Happy Valley.
“Freiermuth is maybe the most college-ready right now [among 2018 TE recruits],” Torres said. “He’s already 6-5, 250 pounds. I see him being kind of that road grader, blocking tight end who can make an impact in the short passing game. He’s athletic enough to get downfield and beat linebackers, but I see him being counted on more in the run-blocking game, which is so important.”
Freiermuth caught 25 passes for 527 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2016, according to David McKinney of Rivals.com.
— Pat Freiermuth (@pat_fry5) February 7, 2017
Kuntz and Freiermuth further developed their friendship Sunday on the field, where they routinely stood alongside each other.
“Our relationship is very strong, and we text back-and-forth every week, if not every day, in our Penn State group chat,” Freiermuth said. “Obviously it’s going to be a competition, but we’re going to embrace it. At the end of the day, even though we’re both very competitive guys, we’ll be able to look at each other and know that we’re good friends.”
4-star DE Dorian Hardy has history with new Nittany Lions recruiting coordinator
Penn State suffered a monumental recruiting loss April 23 when 5-star defensive end Micah Parsons decommitted. Fortunately for coach James Franklin, the Nittany Lions have been diligent hunting for alternative edge rushers.
New Jersey standout Dorian Hardy is one of the nation’s top edge defenders, ranked No. 6 nationally among strongside DEs in 2018 composite rankings. Like Parsons, Kuntz and Freiermuth, he attended The Opening’s most recent regional event.
The 6-5, 245-pound prospect remains a bit of a mystery when it comes to his ideal position at the collegiate level, though Hardy said college coaches typically project him to play a 5-technique role. He attends Paramus (N.J.) Catholic High School, which produced two players who chose the Wolverines: 2016 Heisman Trophy finalist Jabrill Peppers and No. 1 overall 2016 recruit Rashan Gary.
Hardy holds an offer from the Wolverines, but at this stage his strongest interest seems to reside elsewhere. He traveled to Penn State in April for the program’s spring game, and he seemingly left impressed.
“It was amazing to see fans come out for a spring game like that,” Hardy said. “[The atmosphere] was just like a regular game, and I’m not really used to that. It was crazy.”
When asked how that experience compared to other campus visits across the country, he replied: “It’s definitely up there.”
Hardy said he expects to make return trips to Penn State, Ohio State and Rutgers this summer, but he sounded most enthused about potential first-time destinations. He listed Alabama, LSU and Tennessee as intended stops this offseason.
Florida is the lone SEC school to host him through nearly three years of high school.
Former Bleacher Report college football analyst Sanjay Kirpalani noted Hardy’s affection for Alabama last spring.
“My family has always been huge Alabama fans,” Hardy said. “My dad has a lot of family in Alabama. With all of them being fans and him being a fan, it kind of made me become one growing up.”
He acknowledged there was a recent lull in his relationship with the Crimson Tide but asserted “everything is back up to speed” with Alabama coaches.
Any staff will be hard-pressed to challenge the rapport Hardy has in place with first-year Penn State recruiting coordinator E.J. Barthel, though. A former Temple and Rutgers employee, he brings New Jersey roots to State College.
That’s key for Hardy and his family.
— Sharon Hardy (@Hardy39Hardy) April 23, 2017
Barthel’s presence “is definitely going to bring something to the table,” Hardy said. “He’s a great guy. I’ve known him for a while, and I know he’s going to have my best interests [in mind]. He was giving me feedback and info on the new stuff going on there.”
Hardy, who holds more than 20 scholarship offers, said he doesn’t have a commitment timetable.