This is the fourth in a series of position previews for the 2018 Penn State football team heading into the Blue-White game. Check out yesterday’s preview of the defensive ends here.)
Penn State got more than an adequate amount of production from tight ends in 2017, but more than 90 percent of the receiving yards and touchdowns from the position is headed out the door with the graduations of Mike Gesicki and Tom Pancoast. Who will step up and fill the void? We probably won’t find out until the autumn, but here are our best guesses.
The top remaining player from last year’s tight end depth chart is Nick Bowers, but even he doesn’t have that much experience. He redshirted the 2015 season and then missed all of 2016 due to injury before finally making his on-field debut against Northwestern last October. That was one of just three games in which he appeared, but Bowers made the most of the small opportunity by hauling in a touchdown catch against Nebraska. As a relatively unheralded recruit from the class of 2015, Bowers will have to fend off players with flashier pedigrees if he hopes to stay atop the depth chart.
One of those “pedigree” guys is Jonathan Holland, who was rated higher than Bowers in that same 2015 recruiting class. However, Holland came into Penn State as a defensive end, so he’ll have to overcome a position change to grab the starting spot. The good news for Holland is that he got some time on offense in 2017, catching short passes against Georgia State, Iowa, and Michigan State. Both Bowers and Holland have the size of a starting tight end, but both are equally unproven. It will be interesting to see if Holland can show enough promise to surpass Bowers in the pecking order, but we’re probably looking at some kind of committee come September.
Another player to keep track of this spring is true freshman Zack Kuntz out of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. The new recruit 6’7” and boasts serious athleticism, but he’s also quite raw and very slim for a tight end. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him redshirt in 2018, but he could also challenge for a role on talent alone.
Fellow incoming freshman Patrick Freiermuth isn’t as tall as Kuntz, but he appears to be more ready for the college game due to his 250-pound frame. However, Freiermuth isn’t on campus until the fall, so he’ll have some catching up to do when it comes to challenging for a job.
The other two tight ends on the current roster, Danny Dalton and Joe Arcangelo, probably won’t see the field unless injuries take their toll on other players. They’re worth mentioning in any case because of how wide open the position is in the early going.
On Monday: Wide Receivers