The talk is there every year that Pitt will look to utilize its tight ends more. We're only two games into the season and while it's premature to say that the team is greatly utilizing the tight ends, the Panthers' combination of J.P. Holtz and Scott Orndoff is already seeing some opportunities early this year.
Holtz has three catches through the first two games, and they all came against Akron as part of a 42-yard game. Of course, he also caught the big 18-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Nathan Peterman and really made his presence felt after being shut out in the opener. In addition to the scoring grab, Holtz also had a big 25-yard reception on the Panthers' scoring drive that put them ahead 17-7. After Tyler Boyd, the senior tight end's three receptions are second on the team.
Orndoff has only one catch to his credit, but it was a big one - a 55-yard touchdown strike against Youngstown State. Full disclosure here: Orndoff managed to catch a ball that looked designed for wide receiver Elijah Zeise and happened to be in the right place at the right time. But it's also worth noting that he came down with the ball that easily could have resulted in an incompletion. He may not have been targeted on the play, but he made a huge grab nonetheless.
Holtz and Orndoff actually have accounted for the team's only two receiving touchdowns on the season - combined, they have the two scores and four catches for 97 yards. Both are also set up for potentially career years.
While Holtz is slightly off pace from his career-high 23 catches two years ago, his 14 yards per reception are a career-high and his 42 yards have him on pace for a career-best total. The 55 yards are already a career-high for the junior Orndoff and with a touchdown already, he'll have a great chance to top his previous high in that category (two as a freshman in 2013).
The tight ends still aren't a big enough part of the game plan for my liking - particularly when you have two quarterbacks that aren't known as big-time passers and they could be utilized on shorter, safe routes. There, too, is the fact that both are capable receivers. When you add in Boyd's absence earlier this year, a good argument can be made that they should have been utilized even more.
I don't envision huge seasons for either one. Collectively, though, they area already making an impact and could post decent totals by the end of the season.