By Elton Hayes
CNHI News Service
At 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth boasts a prototypical tight end frame that makes offensive coordinators salivate.
However, his imposing size is just one aspect that makes him elite. Last season, Freiermuth caught eight touchdowns in a stellar freshman campaign.
Freiermuth arrived in State College as the nation’s ninth-ranked tight end by 247 Sports. He wasted little time establishing himself as a household name both in the Big Ten and nationally. His eight scoring receptions last season ranked second among NCAA tight ends and paced all Big Ten tight ends.
As he enters his second season as the projected starter at the position, Freiermuth’s devoted a large portion of his offseason training with Penn State’s quarterbacks to ensure an even more prosperous year this go round.
“We love throwing,” Freiermuth said. “We’ll probably throw four of the five days of the week. They’ll come out here and text us, ‘Let’s go throw,’ and all that stuff. I caught a lot of balls this summer. During a throwing session with the quarterbacks, I’ll probably catch anywhere from 15 to 20 (balls), and then I’ll probably catch the judge (machine) and do hand-eye coordination with the tennis balls. I’ve caught a lot this summer.”
Penn State will break for a discretionary period this week, and although Freiermuth plans to head home to his native Massachusetts, he said he’ll spend time working with New England Patriots defensive back Obi Melifonwu on some of the more technical aspects of the game.
“I’m training with him and picking his brain and talking about safeties and tight ends and matchups and all that kind of stuff,” Freiermuth said.
Freiermuth won’t have Nittany Lion record-setting quarterback and current Baltimore Raven Trace McSorley throwing him passes next season, but he said he’s confident whoever emerges as Penn State’s starting quarterback for Week 1 will be well-equipped for the task.
“They’re taking control of the offense, and they’re kind of getting everyone going,” Freiermuth said of Penn State’s quarterback room this offseason. “Every single one in that room is working hard. They’re all fighting for position. They came here to play football, and they’re all fighting for that No. 1 spot. There’s definitely not a lack of competition. So whoever is the starting quarterback come Idaho, everyone in the offense and in the program is going to back them up.”
Freiermuth tallied receptions in 12 contests last year, and finished the season with 26 catches for 368 yards. He scored four touchdowns and pulled in seven catches in Penn State’s last three games of the season.
Sean Clifford, who is the presumed starter at quarterback when the Nittany Lions open the season, said he thinks the offense — including Freiermuth at tight end — will be good this season.
“I think you’re going to see one of the quickest, fastest Penn State football offenses that you’ve seen in a long time,” Clifford said. “(In the) spring, we were very explosive, but we left a lot on the table, and I think our offense is really hungry to prove that we can be a 400-, 500-, 600-yard offense each and every game consistently, so that way it can take pressure off the defense and let them play their game.”
Zack Kuntz and Freiermuth entered Penn State as highly decorated tight end recruits last fall. Kuntz saw action in just one game last season, where he recorded one catch for 8 yards against Iowa. Having played in just one game, Kuntz preserved his redshirt.
Kuntz was ranked the nation’s No. 4 tight end prospect in 2018, according to 247Sports. While the start of their Penn State careers differed last season, Freiermuth believes the two will eventually contribute together to Penn State’s passing attack.
“Me and Zack have been together since Day 1,” Freiermuth said. “Whenever he committed, there was never any doubt from me that I was going to leave or anything like that. Me and him are going to take over college football together, and if that’s this year or if that’s next year — in three years — we’re going to take it over.”
Trio lands on watch lists
Penn State sophomore Micah Parsons (linebacker) and junior Yetur Gross-Matos landed on the Bednarik Award watch list. The Bednarik Award is given to the nation’s top defensive player. Penn State redshirt sophomore wide receiver KJ Hamler was also named to the Maxwell Award watch list. The Maxwell Award is given to the nation’s most outstanding player.