Nittany Lions land top junior tight end

UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State’s big day kicked off with a big-time recruit committing to the Nittany Lions.

Zack Kuntz, rated as the No. 1 tight end prospect in the 2018 class whose interest in Penn State seemed to be waning just a few weeks ago despite his having two older brothers play there, announced a verbal commitment early Saturday afternoon as he made an unofficial visit for the Lions’ 45-12 victory over Michigan State at Beaver Stadium.

It was very good recruiting weekend for the Lions, who also hosted five-star defensive end Josh Kaindoh, four-star defensive tackles Fred Hansard and Cam Spence and four-star cornerback Ambry Thomas for official visits. It was made all the move impressive that Penn State was able to attract the prospects it was while Michigan was playing at Ohio State, considering many of those players also have interest in the Wolverines and Buckeyes.

Kuntz’s commitment is Penn State’s fifth for 2018, giving the Lions two of the consensus top 50 prospects in that class and two of the top seven tight ends — Massachusetts’ Pat Freiermuth announced for the Lions in mid-August.

All five of those players are rated as at least four-star recruits, with Harrisburg defensive end Micah Parsons holding five-star status.

Should Kuntz not change his mind in the next 13-plus months, he’ll join siblings Brandon and Christian as Nittany Lions. However, Zack is the most highly-regarded of the three coming out of high school. He’s ranked the top tight end in the class by both 247Sports and Rivals, and is in the top three according to all four major scouting networks.

Kuntz is ranked 17th in his class regardless of position by 247Sports.

The nearly 6-foot-8, 210-pounder has been clocked in the 40-yard dash in about 4.8 seconds and is considered a matchup nightmare and a top-notch receiver. In three years starting for Camp Hill, he already has 107 career catches for 1,648 yards and 18 touchdowns. Many of those passes were thrown to him by Lion freshman preferred walk-on quarterback Michael Shuster.

Despite all the ties, Kuntz seemed to be trended elsewhere in recent months, with Notre Dame and Stanford listed as his most probably destinations. Penn State made up a lot of ground in the last few weeks to garner Kuntz’s pledge.

“Where else?! Happy Valley I’m coming home!! #committed #WeAre,” Kuntz tweeted along with a couple of photos of he and his family with Nittany Lion coach James Franklin.

Penn State hosted a number of blue-chip underclassmen, including New Jersey defensive end Dorian Hardy, California athlete Re-al Mitchell, New Jersey linebacker Antonio Alfano, Virginia running back Jordan Houston, New Jersey cornerback Nyquee Hawkins and D.C. receiver Dean Engram. The last four of those players are sophomores. Engram is the son of former Nittany Lion receiving great Bobby Engram.

In addition to the four official visitors, Boston College cornerback commit Brandon Sebastian was among the 2017 prospects on hand.

Besides Kuntz, no one committed immediately. However, a number of recruiting analysts have been predicting over the last few days that Kaindoh, who has spent the last two years playing in Florida at IMG Academy, would soon decommit from Maryland and switch his college choice to Penn State. That would be a huge addition for this class, as Kaindoh already has the size of a Power-5 defensive end and is a terror playing at the highest level scholastically. Alabama and Florida State also are vying for his services.

Spence and Hansard currently are committed to Maryland and Florida, respectively. Spence is friends with Kaindoh. Hansard was making his second trip to Penn State this season and appears to be piquing the coaching staff’s interest with his recent progress.

Thomas is considered likely to sign with either Michigan or Michigan State.