Camp Profiles: WR Zach Challingsworth

The question of who is going to be seen out on the field as our wide receivers when the offense gets the ball against Villanova in the first game of the year is on everyone’s mind.  It’s an important question.

Most times in college ball your see a set up that has basically two wide receivers split out; one, the WR1 spot,  A lot of times he’ll be what is called the “Split End” on the weakside of the formation (away from the TE).

The other, or WR2,  will be what we call the “Flanker” on the side the TE is on and he is usually  a possession receiver, but not always.

One will be the more exciting, speedy guy who can get open on the deep intermediate and longer throws.  The other will run shorter routes to get open and has the good hands – a sure bet as a completion as it were.  They are valuable on 3rd down when you need to get a minimum amount of yards.

To excel as a receiver, a player must

  • Have nimble hands (hands that are very good at catching the ball).

  • Have the ability to concentrate under defensive duress.

  • Be courageous under fire and strong enough to withstand physical punishment.

  • Be named Zach Challingsworth

In 2015 both Boyd and Dontez Ford rotated in and out of those positions but looking back at film it seemed that Boyd was split out most of the time and Ford was kept in tighter to the ball.

This year we are pretty sure that WR Dontez Ford will be in that prime WR1 slot with either rsJR Jester Weah or rsJR Zach Challingsworth opposite him.  We have discussed Jester Weah at length on here and he’d been the topic of conversation in other media so I want look more at Challingsworth’s background.

Another blog, Pittsburgh Sports Now asks five questions one of which is about the reciver opposite Ford:maxresdefault

Wide Receiver – Senior Dontez Ford will be one starter for Matt Canada, but who will take the spot of former Pitt great and current Cincinnati Bengal Tyler Boyd? The battle will likely come down to Zach Challingsworth vs. Quadree Henderson.  Considering the different things that he can do, Henderson might have the slight advantage.

Now this is interesting because the ‘official’ pre-camp two-deep listing Pitt put out listed Jester Weah as that WR2 receiver and Challingsworth and Henderson being in line for a third spot.  That will sure be a position to watch in the fall and I think it is the key to how the offense will run this season.

His high school accomplishments read like a lot of other college D1 players – when you first look at them you are singularly impressed but then you realize all the kids on the roster were stars in High school.  But his accomplishments do jump out at you:

Selected All-State Class AA by the Pennsylvania Sports Writers…Pennsylvania Football News first team All-Class AA…Pittsburgh Post-Gazette “Fabulous 22″…Pittsburgh Tribune-Review “Terrific 25″…rated one of the top 35 prospects in Pennsylvania by Scout…averaged 20.5 yards per catch as a senior, compiling 58 receptions for 1,190 yards and 15 touchdowns…

So he was good in HS.  Why so long to get any sort of playing time at Pitt then?.  He redshirted the first year here so that left his rsFR and rsSO years to get on the field.  His recruitment wasn’t exceptional and suffice to say it was like many other Paul Chryst recruits in that he was a 3* player and Pitt was his best offer.

He was basically two-blocked by the older receivers who already had some experience.  Boyd, Holtz, Garner, Weatherspoon and Ibrahim all had double digit receptions and kept him on the bench.

Last season though, as a rsSO he did find the field and played well when called upon. He played in 10 games last year and started against YSU, GT, SYR and Louisville.  He produced in eight of those games as seen here:Chally 1

Not a ton of production but again he was playing behind Boyd, Holtz, Ford Orndoff and Ollison catching passes out of the backfield.  Take away Boyd and Holtz and there’s a bigger opportunity for him to get the ball this season.

I know that when I saw Challingsworth in practices back in 2013 I though he;d get a starting job sometime in his career and what struck me then is that he has some speed to him as a 4,5 40 yard guy.  That’s not too shabby for someone who when people look at him the see possession receiver.

The question with Challingsworth isn’t whether he’ll see the ball, he will, but how much playing time is he going to get.

Every year we Pitt fans here we are going to multiple WR sets; three TE sets, no RB sets, etc… yet the vast majority of the plays called are standard formation where if we have a FB we’ll see a TE and two WRs.  If we drop the FB we’ll see another WR for three at a time with a TE.  Of course there are many iterations after that but that is basically what we’ll see – either two or

Either way, regardless of where Jester Weah is on that pre-camp two deep I think we see Challingsworth starting and playing the majority of snaps in the offense.  For one thing he’s a good downfield blocker and when you’re throwing to backs coming out of the backfield, to the TEs or in the short passing game those WR block  can make or break the size of yards after the catch.

I think we’ll see a lot of him and as a teaser here is that Duke game where he and Dontez Ford (Ebony and Ivory) did so well…

Note: I may have to miss the interview sessions – just found out an old friend died over the weekend and his service is going on while I’ll be in PGH.  I’ll try to get there and have your questions… ask more and I’ll take all of them up with me.






28 thoughts on “Camp Profiles: WR Zach Challingsworth

  1. Going back to one of your past blog’s Reed concerning Boyd and more importantly Chaney. imo, there was just too much emphasis on getting Boyd the ball last year, especially on crucial 3rd downs. This year the ball will be spread around a lot more and more receiver’s will be an utilized in the new PITT offense. Zach will get his catches along with Ford, Henderson, Tipton, Raul and possibly/hopefully Flowers and Matthews


  2. 12 receptions isn’t much. But it’s 12 more than Jester. And Zach’s YPC was very good at 14.3 YPC. So that number is pretty promising. Now the question is, was it that high because of the doubles on Boyd, or can Zach get open on his on accord. If you’re looking for a possession WR opposite Ford, we know it’s not Jester. Maybe it will be Zach. Or maybe Flowers will blow past everyone during camp and challenge for number 1. And drops everyone down a notch.


  3. Ford, Henderson and Weah are starting out at the WR positions.—Anyone else notice that Jarod Jones-Smith is not listed on either the 1st or 2nd team offensive line? That just may be because he didn’t practice in the Spring and until he beats out someone in camp he’s not ranked yet.


  4. I think that as the season progresses this unit will surprise and impress. One good thing is that with the departure of Boyd, defenses really don’t have anyone to focus on other than Ford. Ford won’t be double teamed at least through the first few games.


  5. Zach Challingsworth is definitely a shifty, agile receiver who made some really great contested catches against Duke.

    I think the biggest problem with Challingsworth more than anything is that he isn’t the most explosive guy who can get off the line vs. press, nor get himself open vs. press and man-on-man. So that makes kind of relegates him only effective on the outside against zone if he can find a soft spot, or maybe in the slot if he can get matched up on a slower, burlier linebacker.

    Now, counting that, you have to additionally factor in Challingsworth always has had health issues his entire career. Unfortunately he seems to a guy who gets injured a lot as well.

    ^^^^ That’s the tape of 6’4”, 200lb incoming freshman wide receiver Ruben Flowers. Clearly he’s just a Man-among-Boys on his tape, but no one ever doubted that he was a specimen physically. The question is does he have the mental edge to come into Power 5, D-1 football and adapt as a freshman?? Eh, with Tre Tipton coming in now officially as a R.S. Freshman I say try to redshirt all of our incoming receivers……We won’t need them regardless once the “2016 Jester Weah Show” commences against Penn State. (kidding, kidding)

    Obviously, similar to Pitt’s conundrum at Linebacker, Challingsworth will have to play a ton of snaps simply because there’s no one else! Because almost all of the guys on this team are still Paul Chryst’s recruits, we simply ‘gotta play who we got’.

    @ Reed good luck with everything.


  6. Weaaaah a possession receiver, can handle pressure? Not. It is Zach all the way. Chaney’s offense relied so much on Boyd that it and he were less effective. Zach missed spring ball so he wont be listed on depth chart at the outset; he will be at the end if healthy.


  7. Dark Knight,
    Flowers certainly is a physical specimen that can catch and run. Being 6’4″ doesn’t hurt either! It will be interesting to see how the WR competition shakes out. H2P


  8. @Reed

    I agree that as an overall group this years groups of receivers will produce better than last years group.

    I like Challlingsworth and recall several times noticing that he was deceptively faster than he looks.

    Not to beat a dead horse, but I think Boyd let his ego and needs for highlights last year be more important than overall team success. I recall several times seeming him not even attempt to block for a teammate etc. He was a great player no doubt but it reminded me a lot of AB in his last year 2001 where he was still good but seemed to be playing to enter the NFL as opposed to playing to win like he did in the previous two years.

    I am excepted about this group and the fact that there isn’t one guy that everyone
    s focus is on will serve the team well.


  9. I think if you asked Chaney if he purposely tried to mostly throw Boyds way he would laugh his ass off. That is so overblown. No one truly knows except the coaches and Peterman.
    Maybe Peterman was incapabale of looking for his second option, maybe Ford ran shitty routes, who knows?

    Challingsworth will not be the number 2 receiver. If Pitt needs anything at all skill positions it is more speed. Thus Henderson and Weah.

    If it isn’t Henderson and Weah it will be a younger guy. Flowers, Ffrench, etc. Someone will step up.

    I agree with Reed on Ford, he will have a big year as will the tight end Scott O.


  10. Really excited for Pitt Football this year. We should have a really strong offense and a somewhat better defense, if we get a pass rush.

    Still concerned with the future since we lose so many starters this year and recruiting seems very so so, so far. Hopefully Narduzzi finishes strong like he did last year, but off to a very weak start.


  11. Notrocket – I hope NP is capable of scanning the field to find his 2nd option. If not, this team will be one dimensional on offense –

    On the D side, Pitt “could” play 11 former starters. For this to happen, the front four would be Price, Blair, Soto and Jarrett. The LB corp would be Caprara, Galambos & Bradley and the secondary would be Whitehead, Webb, Mitchell and Maddox.

    I think Blair will get beat out by Hendrix, Bradley has much work to do to secure a starting LB spot and the secondary has one starter with security in Whitehead. Remember, Mitchell started at CB and Safety the past two years.

    I like that there is much competition in camp this year and several former starters may have to play coming off the bench.

    I see Watts and Hamlin gaining early playing time and possibly starting as the season progresses, like J.Whitehead did last year.

    The theme for this team in 2016 is #The Pursuit.



  12. Challingsworth is way more reliable than Weah. Receivers just don’t get it when it comes to catching the ball. You either can or you can’t. I don’t want Weah playing a big role on offense this season. If he proves me wrong, great. I’m cheering for Pitt either way.


  13. If Weah can’t catch, and so far he’s proven he can’t. One way they could use his speed, without him having to catch the ball, is to use him on Flanker reverses and such. So he would be a situational player.

    Other than that, unless he does a 180 on pass catching skills, I don’t see much usage for him.


  14. With Connor and Ollison seemingly taking most of the handoffs and they like Hall too. I’d like to see Ibrahim tried at the slot receiver spot, to get him on the field. Or they could try him as a sort of a hybrid split TE ala Dorin Dickerson (another former RB with speed). He seemed to be coming into his own catches passes for pretty good yardage 2 seasons ago. Like to see him on the field in more than just the occasional down.


  15. Interesting comments from PittsburghSportsToday after practice. Herndon moving from OL to DT(I’m very concerned about our DT depth this year). Conner may play some DE according to Narduzzi(maybe just a ploy to keep the opposition guessing–I don’t think so). Also Narduzzi praising freshman DB’s Garner and Hamlin from picking up the defensive scheme quickly.


  16. WR will sort out with the options there.We must get a better pass rush on D this year.That may be the most important question before us.


  17. @ Reed I heard your question in the Narduzzi Press Conference!!! Haha

    So excited for Pitt Football —- right now and the future…..

    Man priorities, I know but…..seriously what is up with Pitt Basketball recruiting??? Kevin Stallings and his staff are not getting Anyone and each day more top players are totally whittling Pitt out of their lists……..

    Anyways, Pitt Football is awesome. Hail to Pitt. Pitt is IT. Penn State doesn’t matter and James Franklin’s Tush is gonna be over the Bunsen Burner after Pitt rocks the Nittany Endangered Cats at Heinz on 9/10.


  18. Herndon couldn’t make the two deep on O-line so much greater chance to see the field on D, at the thinnest position other than QB.


  19. Watched the Narduzzi press conference after practice today. The guy is so enthusiastic and animated that I want to put on the pads and a helmet and go play for the guy myself. Hail to Pitt!


  20. Yes, Duzz clearly seems very excited about how his team already looks on day 2 of no pads!
    Apparently the team has passed the dreaded “eye test” thus far.
    Keep up the good work mighty Panthers ( and praying on your behalf James) #H2P


  21. A few things – my new report from yesterday is up.

    Narduzzi was joking about Conner at DE.

    @ Not – I know for a fact that the priarye passing playcalling was to go to Boyd first and stick with him unless he was totally covered. Heard that last year and again yesterday. We won’t see that this year and my conversations were about that when I talked with WR Coach Sherman and then with the other WRs.

    To paraphrase the WRs I spoke to “Now we’ll get our chance at the ball…” Each one mentioned that in some way.

    re: Jones-Smith I don’t think they list any who isn’t practicing and he’s still on the sidelines (at least I didn’t see him out on the field yesterday but I might have missed him).

    BTW – it was great fun yesterday…


  22. Jones-Smith is practicing and definitely is in the mix for a starting job or as the top backup tackle. His knee was pretty much healed before the bowl game and he could have played in it, but there was no need for him to do so.

    Yeah, Pitt hoops recruiting. Heard so much about the staff and their recruiting prowess yet Carmody has a top three of Michigan, ND and one other who isn’t Pitt. I know this staff has to focus on 2017, but the kid is in Pitt’s backyard and there hasn’t been much effort toward recruiting him. Bizarre. The 2017 class is so important for the future of this program that if it doesn’t pan out Pitt could become just a little better version of Boston College. Tell me that wouldn’t suck.


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