Where the position stands now:
For the past two years this unit has had good depth and talent, and now they may finally turn into a real force. Junior J.P. Holtz will be starting for his third year, and he finally got the chance to help in the passing game during the second half of last season. In the first seven games, Holtz caught just 4 passes. In the last six games he caught 19 passes. Combined with his hard-nosed blocking and toughness, he has proven to be a plus for the offense.
Senior H-Back Manasseh Garner is the biggest pass catching threat of the unit and at 6'2" 230 pounds, he almost operates as another wide receiver. Like Holtz his production skyrocketed in the second half of the season going from 11 catches in the first 7 games to 22 catches in the last 6 games.
The third part of the excellent trio is 6'6" 260 pound sophomore Scott Orndoff, who has the highest ceiling of anybody in the unit thanks to his great size and running ability. Injuries cost him the last 4 games of the season, and he only caught 6 passes on the year, but he showed his great potential in the red zone with 2 touchdowns. Holtz and Garner may again get most of the catches next year but Orndoff has the ability to explode into another level eventually, maybe this season since his cautious freshman season is in the books.
After those three are 6'4" 255 pound Devon Edwards, and 6'4" 215 pound Tony Harper, both redshirt freshmen. Both were projects when they signed. Edwards lacks quickness and Harper lacks size, so it remains to be seen how much they will play in the future. If the Panthers keep bringing in quality tight ends every year they may have trouble making a big impact. Or Edwards may turn into a blocking tight end, and Harper may take over for Garner as a wide receiver type pass catching tight end. Barring injuries we probably won't know until two seasons from now.
Incoming freshman Brian O'Neill has the length at 6'6" and 230 pounds, and he's got good straight line speed, but he has to get stronger and more aggressive because he was too easy to tackle in high school.
I'll also include in this bunch FB/H-Back Jaymar Parrish, who played as a true freshman this past year. The 6'1" 235 pound Parrish will be used some in the running game as a blocker or even a handful of times as a runner, but he's mostly going to be used in the passing game. As a freshman he ran the ball 4 times and caught 7 passes. He could be the favorite to take over for Garner once he graduates.
Garner will be graduating but that still will leave seven tight ends or H-Backs on the roster. But of the six underclassmen already on the roster, only Orndoff has talent that just jumps out at you. The staff remedied that quickly for the 2015 class as they've already got a commitment from 6'4" 235 pound local Nick Bowers of Kittanning HS. Bowers is a pass catching tight end that can stretch the field and has great hands.
Even though the unit has numbers they probably wouldn't turn away another talented tight end if they can get him. But I don't really see them wasting much time recruiting another one. They have four other offers out to tight ends and any of the four would be excellent additions. But all four are also being recruited nationally so I don't think they'll end up at Pitt considering the circumstances. But just to cover all bases, those four are 6'5" 225 pound C.J. Conrad of Keystone HS (LaGrange, OH), 6'6" 250 pound Chris Clark of Avon Old Farms HS (Avon, CT), 6'5" 245 pound Jackson Harris of Columbia Central HS (Columbia, TN), and 6'6" 240 pound Bowman Archibald of Pasco HS (Dade City, FL).
Bowers is more of an under the radar sleeper instead of a national recruit like the four aforementioned prospects, but since it was unlikely that the Panthers would have landed any of those four anyway, landing Bowers was a nice get. It's also a good sign that the staff has targeted the best tight ends in the east, and offered them. If Bowers hadn't already committed it would have been interesting to see just how hard Pitt tried to land these elite prospects.
One last note is that one of the better tight ends in the east for the 2016 class will be from PA. Unfortunately, that player, Naseir Upshur, is from Imhotep HS in Philadelphia, so it's not really local.
Holtz, Garner, and Orndoff are all back next year so the unit should improve even more. And Holtz and Orndoff will be back for one more, and two more years, respectively, after that. And then there's Parrish who may also have a bright future. With that in mind, the unit looks like it's good shape, and hopefully the staff will continue to add an elite prospect at least every two years.