Pitt fans will have the opportunity to cheer for freshman J.P. Holtz this season. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone following the camp coverage here or in the papers, but it's notable nonetheless - freshman tight end J.P. Holtz will forgo a freshman redshirt and contribute this season.It's a bit of "the perfect storm" culminating to get Holtz on the field just months after his high school graduation. A lot of it has to do with Pitt's lack of depth at the tight end position. Just one year of the spread offense really did a number on that position, mostly attributable to Brock DeCicco's decision to transfer to Wisconsin before last season and the lack of a tight end in recruit in the 2011 class. Pitt has senior Hubie Graham and sophomore Drew Carswell ahead of Holtz, but Carswell is more of a hybrid player than a traditional tight end. But more than anything, it has to do with Holtz and his work at camp this month:
"I love his attitude," [Pitt offensive coordinator Joe] Rudolph said. "He doesn't flinch for one second about being in there and being in the huddle with the first group. Anything he is asked to do he is good with it. He tells you day in and day out that he's ready for this.
"Now, there's a lot of stuff to clean up and a lot of stuff to get better at and to work on, but he's got an approach that he'll get there."
So few freshmen are able to come in and make an immediate impact in football. Pitt fans have been a spoiled lately with freshman running backs being able to contribute at a high level early, but that's certainly not the norm at that position or any other. That Holtz will be contributing so early is a good omen for the tight end position in a few years.
As for Holtz, he came into camp already with BCS-level size, so it was more about learning the game:
“I’m trying to help the team out with whatever I can do,” he said. “If it’s one rep a game, it’s one rep a game. That’s what I came here to do: Work and try to play my freshman year, and it happened.”
Holtz, 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, said he has adjusted well to the physical aspects of the game. Mentally, it’s a challenge.
“The mental (part) is all the things you have to do,” he said. “Learning the plays, school, your social life, you can’t be out the night before practice, adapting to all the new things, being on your own as an adult. But I’m ready to play. I’d rather play than sit on the sidelines.”
Looks like he'll get his chance.