Let’s start this pre-spring drills review off with what I think has to be a prime target this year for our new QB Kenny Pickett – the Tight End unit. I like it when the TE has been used as a major part of our offense over the years. If you look back at some of most successful seasons in Pitt’s modern history you’ll find a TE had a lot to do with it.
Just to name two in DW’s 2009 year Dorin Dickerson and Nate Byham combined for 59 catches and 11 TDs – plus Byham was a beast in his blocking. In Harris’ nine win 2002 season Kris Wilson had 18 catches for 389 yards at a 21.6 ypc clip… we’ve always relied on good TEs to get our best offensive results.
Let’s take the recent 2016 season for example. We had a record-setting offense that year and our starting TE SR Scott Orndoff had a big part in that. He was our 2nd leading receiver and in addition he had a solid and successful presence on the end of our Offensive Line that season. Where he truly excelled was in his downfield blocking which you really have to look for in the highlights to notice.
Look closely at that Yards Per Catch number of his – 16.5 for a TE is superb.
I’m not sure we’ll replicate that with any one of our TEs this season. That ’16 season was under Matt Canada and for some reason Watson has never really used his TEs in his previous offenses.
Here is who we had out there in our TE two-deep for 2017, you can see the difference between Orndoffs production and then last season’s TE production. We had two less catches, 297 less yards and four less TDs…that almost 300 less yards really jumps out at you in a bad way.
Flanagan has departed and we have the returning rsJR Chris Clark and SO Tyler Sear with the only in-game experience. SO Tyler Sear was a surprise when he was on the special teams unit and got into one game of live offensive action as a true FR. he’s a tough bastard though as evidenced from this brutal video.
However we have two other TEs on roster and 4* rsFR Charles Reeves looks to be a good one. He’s already 6’5′ and 265 lbs which is a great height for both a Power Forward and a TE. From the Pitt roster:
A four-year contributor as a receiver and defensive end for traditional Ohio power Steubenville…ranked the No. 1 tight end prospect in the state by Scout and 247Sports…selected first team Associated Press Division IV All-Ohio as a senior and junior…Ohio East District Offensive Player of the Year…compiled 47 receptions for 750 yards (15.9 avg.) and eight touchdowns his final season…also had an interception return for a TD on defense…selected to the Scout 300 (No. 177)…rated one of the nation’s top 15 tight end prospects by Scout (No. 5), ESPN (No. 10), 247Sports (No. 13) and Rivals (No. 13)…rated the No. 6 overall prospect in Ohio by Scout, No. 14 by Rivals, No. 21 by ESPN and No. 23 by 247Sports…also a 1,200-point scorer in basketball.
Rated the top tight end prospect in Pennsylvania and No. 3 in the East region by Scout…was a two-way standout for Pine-Richland, playing on the defensive line in addition to offense…played in only nine games due to injury but had eight receptions for 78 yards (9.8 avg.) on offense and 31 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss on defense…helped team to a 7-5 record and the semifinals of the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs…Carrigan joined Pine-Richland for his senior year, transferring from Weirton (W.Va.) Weir after spending two years at national power Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas…rated the No. 11 overall prospect in Pennsylvania by Scout, No. 15 by 247Sports, No. 20 by ESPN and No. 23 by Rivals…Honor Roll student.
I have a feeling we are going to see Clark, Reeves and Sear play the most TE this season and in that two-deep order at the beginning of the season. But, I think Reeves may be a surprisingly good TE even in his first season and may usurp that starting role from Clark.
I believe Chris Clark has been a bit of a disappointment for the team and fans. He was a heralded 5* recruit who bounced from school to school before landing at Pitt. From the Pitt website:
Rated the nation’s No. 1 tight end by Rivals and Scout as a senior at Avon Old Farms and had more than 40 scholarship offers…averaged 19.4 yards per catch his senior year with 32 receptions for 621 yards and seven touchdowns…had 33 catches for 417 yards (12.6 avg.) and six TDs as a junior…selected to play in the Under Armour All-America Game…named to the Scout 300 (No. 23), Rivals 100 (No. 79) and ESPN 100 (No. 111)
His lack of experience was the main reason Narduzzi convinced the ex-Rutgers Mike Flanagan to come and start last season.
It would be great to see Clark finally break out and start showing those receiving skills because Pickett is very accurate in the short-intermediate passing game and that is where TEs really produce. However, Clark’s blocking isn’t as good as one would hope for in a TE so we’ll see situational play at that position. If Reeves can block well and catch some passes then I think he’ll have a clear shot to the top of the TE chart.
We’ll keep an eye on this position through spring drills and especially coming out of Fall Camp as this is a spot where we could see a big shake up in the TE depth chart. But as always with every skill position on offense how well the TEs will do is based on what sort of offensive playcalling is coming in from the offensive coordinator.
So far at Pitt Watson didn’t use his TEs as we fans thought he would and that was surprising because QB Ben DiNucci played rather a lot and you’d think the TE would have been a good call for him to go to given his inaccuracy on longer passes.
EDIT: I just read Dokish’s take on the TE situation and he made a good point I overlooked:
The Panthers did a good job of nabbing Clark in 2006, and Reeves, Sear, and Carrigan in 2017, but they failed this year to bring in another tight end. Little recruited Jay Symonds looked like a steal when he committed to Pitt, and the Panthers looked at him as an eventual George Aston replacement, though with tight end skills. But then his dream school, Stanford, offered him, and he flipped to them. Another commit, Matt Alaimo, opened up his recruitment just before the early signing day before eventually signing with UCLA. He had the talent to be an all around quality starter some day so that one hurt, too.
Because of the failure to sign a tight end, the Panthers may be forced to move one of their incoming defensive ends to tight end to strengthen the depth. The problem with that, though, is that all three of the possibilities to move project better as defensive ends. So the failure to land a quality tight end will have an effect on not one, but two positions.
NOTES: This may be old news…Season ticket holders that are being displaced by the moves of our Student Section and The Pitt Band received this note for AD Lyke a couple of weeks ago:
Dear Joe Schmoe,
If you’re like me, I’m certain the memory of our resounding victory over the No. 2 Miami Hurricanes to close last season remains fresh in your mind. Our young football team really put it all together that afternoon—a stifling defensive effort, timely heroics and that unforgettable game-clinching drive in the fourth quarter.
(Raise your hand if you watched ESPN the rest of the weekend for all the Pitt highlights. “Another Pitt upset of a Top 3 team!”)
The action on the field was outstanding, but my most vivid memory from that afternoon was the electricity from the crowd. I can still hear your fourth-quarter “Let’s go Pitt!” chants. You created an electric environment that helped push our team to victory over a team in contention for the College Football Playoff.
The goal for 2018 is to build on that win—on the field and in the stands. We want a game-changing atmosphere at Heinz Field every Saturday. To achieve that end, I want to provide you, our valued season ticket holders, with some details on what will be new about the Pitt Football Experience this fall.
A New and Prominent “Panther Pitt” Student Section: This fall, a newly energized Panther Pitt student section will be augmented to run the width of the north end zone. Our students provide the “pulse” of Heinz Field and we want them located in an area where they can have the greatest impact on the game. Additionally, the Pitt Band will move from Section 131 to the corner adjacent to the visiting team tunnel. This location shift will make a noticeable difference in the quality of acoustics. (These location changes are detailed on the map below.)
Our ticket staff will be contacting those individuals whose 2017 ticket locations were located in the aforementioned areas. We will work diligently to ensure you are informed and satisfied with your new seating options.
2018 Renewal Information: You will be receiving ticket renewal information in early March. Should you have any questions in the interim, please do not hesitate to contact the Panthers Ticket Office at (800) 643-PITT (7488). Our staff is eager to assist you with any questions or issues you may have.
We want you to have a remarkable experience as a Pitt season ticket holder. We appreciate your feedback and greatly value your commitment to the Pitt football program. Together, we can make our championship goals a reality!
Hail to Pitt!