Tuesday, February 11, 2014

2015 Pitt Recruiting Preview- Tight Ends

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.

Future recruiting:

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.

Bottom line:

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.


  1. Curious... "a position" is the term according to the Trib Review story.on Douglas.

    Maybe its not Def. Secondary Coach but Wide Receivers?

    Or could there be a little something added on to Secondary Coach... say like ASS'T COORDINATOR?


  2. Parrish is a nice player and a pretty smooth athlete for his size. He just looked so big to me at the end of the year. More like a fullback. I can't remember, did he run a lot of routes as a pass catcher?

    1. He was needed more in a blocking capacity last season but he did have 7 catches so he did go out on patterns.

  3. Thoughts:

    - Hopefully we're going to notice a theme with these articles. Some pretty good starters, improved depth to increase competition, and good recruiting options who can keep things going.

    - Thinking the two positions lacking ideal depth are QB and LB.

    - These guys should be big-time involvement in next years offense. With a new QB starting I'm guessing he'll rely on the TE's a lot.

    - Could Edwards and Harper play at DE/DT and LB?

  4. Chris,
    I realize Pitt basketball plays a weak non-conference schedule but they make up for it playing in the ACC and everyone from national and local media crucify them for it and rightly so. How is it that Wichita State gets a free pass for not playing anyone in the non conference and has a weak conference? Right now everyone is talking number 1 seed in the Tourney. I do not see it even if they go undefeated. Am I the only one that sees this? Why is there so much hatred toward Pitt basketball?

    1. Wichita State is cinderella.
      Doubtful they will get a 1 seed.
      Also, they are 6th in RPI and 3-0 vs Top 50 RPI.
      Pitt only quality win is Stanford. Pitt RPI is 26th.
      So, Pitt is ranked where they should be and Wichita is ranked where it should be. However, you should be bitching about San Diego State rankings.

    2. Because they are undefeated (but note they are ranked behind 2 teams with losses) and they made it to the Final 4 last year.

      If Pitt was undefetaed right now, they would probably be ranked ahead of Wich St

    3. Up until last night, SDSU's only loss was to Arizona. They beat Creighton (ranked) on a neutral floor and beat Washington and UNLV. But most important, they had by far the most impressive win this season by any team and di something that is rarely dones ... they beat Kansas at Kansas.

      They deserved their ranking IMO.

    4. Wichita went to the final 4 last year and is 25-0 this year, they've proven they can win when it counts.

      Quite the opposite for Pitt. We under perform in the tournament and have lost to every good team we've played. Until we have more tournament success there will be no benefit of the doubt for us.

    5. That should have nothing to do with the top 25.

    6. I agree that it shouldn't, but it does. I think when voters evaluate teams across conferences they look to common opponents and to past performance.

  5. 10 years of having the most wins in the big east in the hardest conf & wichita state has two good years & they get the benefit of the doubt. Don't see it. Look what is happening with Butler2-10 in conference & 12-12 overall. I will take the opportunity each year that is all you want. I am sure Butler wants that now but they will be watching Pitt on their couch come March. Dixon doesn't get enough credit he deserves. H2P!!

    1. Have you watched the last 2 games???
      That is why Pitt is getting hammered by national media PLUS only 1 quality win. Pitts record is being exposed. Acc is not strong this year.
      Wichita is ranked where they should be and last year has nothing to do with current ranking. Perhaps preseason but not now.
      Dixon gets plenty of credit and is well regarded.
      Do you seriously think Pitt should be ranked higher than 23? If so, why?

    2. I dont have a problem with where Pitt is being ranked, however I will say that hopefully the worst basketball of the season is being played right now and I would rather them play poorly now than come tournament time. Pitt could has a team that is talented enough that if they got screaming hot they could have beaten Cuse, Duke and VA. They were just extremely cold and out of sync the last four games. I hope they get hot and lucky at the end of the season. I would rather be lucky and go deep than be a number 1 seed and head out early. Only one team in the last 13 years has won it all after being ranked number 1. If pitt plays well for the rest of the season, shows well in the ACC tourny and gets a 4 or 5 seed then who knows what can happen.

    3. They deserve their ranking. We are battling injuries to key players. The last two wins have not look great but we won with a young team keep that in mind. I cant believe we are 2.5 point favorite tonight considering the injuries we have on this team.

    4. Buc, so if Pitt ranking is deserved, why are you bitching?
      Injuries, I'm sorry but Patterson and Zanna played toooo many minutes last 2 games. That is on Dixon for not subbing them out. If Patterson has a bad thumb, why is he hoisting up sooo many shots? That is on Dixon.

  6. I guess we're supposed to say "how can we be so unlucky?", but the truth is, Pitt blew another game with the same failings. They CANNOT create good shots when there is a pressing need to do so. In this game, after they ran down the clock in the last 3 minutes, they repeatedly got poor shots. One time, they didn't even attempt a shot. Their only make was an answered prayer by Zana. They need to figure out a way to create shots when the clock (shot clock or game clock) is winding down. Otherwise, they will continue to lose close games.

    One other thing, maybe it's just me, but Dixon looked scared to death after Syracuse took the lead with 10 seconds left. Like he had no idea what to do or say in the timeout huddle. Maybe I'm reading too much into a camera shot. But if the coach is tight, the players will be tight.

    1. Dixon blew it the last 2-3 min of the game.
      Running down the clock is playing scared. The game is 1/2 mental. Players lost confidence and b4 u knew it, Syracuse was in Pitts head.
      The timeout with 4sec left could go either way... but it was the last 3 min that blew it.
      Now, if ennis misses the shot, we would be saying the last 3 min of the game of running down the clock was an excellent strategy, etc. lol

    2. Dixon did not blow it. What we saw in the last 2-3 minutes was a desperate Syracuse team that increased its defensive intensity coupled with Patterson's inability to guard Fair, particularly on the 3 pointer. Pitt got Syracuse to take the shot Pitt wanted them to take. Unfortunately it went in and I'm upset and frustrated as anyone. But one can't pin this on Dixon.

  7. This loss is on Dixon in my opinion. He's micro managing everything and that time out was a bad call. He's kept Pitt where Howland brought us but he's done nothing to improve the brand or the success rate. I'm not saying he's not a good coach but he gets way too much credit when we win and far too little blame when we lose.

    1. For God's sakes they just lost on a late second bomb to the No.1 team in the country. Ennis misses that shot 80% of the time, and if he does, Dixon is a god. Some of you need to get a grip.

    2. Amen Chris!!! I thought Dixon Timeout was the right call.we had good defense with two on ball & hand in the face. Tip your cap to the freshmen. Only one blowout loss & the rest were close games in losses. This should help us tournament time.

    3. C'mon Chris.
      Even Pitt's #1 pom pom shaker critcized Dixon last 3 minutes.
      It should have never got to that shot to begin with and that is the point.
      Pitt played well except the last 3 minutes. That loss is on Dixon. It's not a player issue. Its not a rebounding or defense issue. It is a Dixon coaching, micromanaging issue. Dixon needs to watch tape of himself on the sidelines with a sports psychologist and how his actions negatively affect the team.
      All the pundits (media) were tweeting they didn't like the stall tactic Pitt was doing.

    4. Nobody knows his personnel better than Dixon and he knew that he was going to have trouble scoring in those last three minutes with who he had on the floor. If a freshman doesn't hit a 35-footer at the buzzer then Dixon's method worked. Some things you just can't plan for.

    5. @ Anony 9:37 AM

      I don't know what game you were watching, but that loss is not on Dixon. As throughout the game Pitt ran the shot clock down, but Syracuse stepped up their D at the end. With a 6 point lead Pitt did not defend Fair's 3. That basket hurt. As far as Dixon's actions negatively affecting his team, that's hogwash.

  8. There's nothing wrong with running down the clock. Duke did it against Pitt for about 5 minutes. The difference is Duke got quality shots every single possession, and they made most of them. In this game, Pitt got 0 quality shots after running down the clock.

    To their credit, though, Pitt did run a very nice place with 10 seconds left that drew a foul. They need to do more of that. But they need to be able to do it within the flow of the game; not from a set play after a timeout.

  9. If Dixon didn't call a timeout and a Cuse player makes a 35 footer, then everyone would be hollering that he should have taken a TO.

    Meanwhile, if the Ennis' shot rims out, the Cuse fans are chiding Boeheim for not getting a better shot. There is often a thin line between genius and failure.