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Seton-La Salle grad Orndoff excited about his role in Pitt offense

| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Courtesy of Pitt athletics | for trib total media
ATLANTA, GA- November 2: The Pitt Panthers meet the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets in NCAA Div. 1 Football at Bobby Dodd Stadium on November 2, 2013 in Atlanta, GA. (Pete Madia / www.petemadia.com)

Tight end is perhaps the deepest position on the Pitt football roster. With three legitimate playmakers at the position, it would be easy to understand if Scott Orndoff was concerned about playing time.

But the South Hills product isn't worried. Instead, he's excited.

Excited about his role. Excited about the talent of his fellow tight ends. Excited about the season.

“I think all three of us will play a big role in this offense,” said Orndoff, a Seton-LaSalle graduate. “I'm not focused on (the competition). I'm focused on getting better, and getting ready for the season.”

The 6-foot-2, 260-pound sophomore is expected to play key roles in both the running and passing games for the Panthers this fall, as are his teammates and fellow tight ends, junior J.P. Holtz (Shaler) and sophomore Jaymar Parrish (Gateway).

One of the key reasons there is such depth at the position — and one of the reasons the highly recruited Orndoff chose to go to Pitt — is because head coach Paul Chryst runs an offense that features heavy doses of tight ends, unlike the systems used by many other college teams.

In Pitt's system, tight ends generally stay on the field in passing situations. It's not uncommon for the Panthers to have two or three tight ends on the field at the same time.

“In this offense, tight ends are on the field on first, second and third downs,” Orndoff said. “You have to be able to play multiple downs. Tight ends are a big part of what we do.”

Orndoff was a major part of the offense at Seton-La Salle, where he had 35 catches for 625 yards over his junior and senior seasons, helping lead the Rebels to a 20-3 record during that span.

He went to Pitt and quickly made an impact, catching a touchdown pass in his second collegiate game, a 49-27 win over New Mexico.

Orndoff played in nine games — reeling in six passes including two touchdowns — before a sprained knee caused him to miss the final four games of the year.

This season, his role is expected to increase.

“Scotty is one of two players on the team who has to learn all of our tight end positions, and that's a reflection of how smart he is,” said Joe Rudolph, Pitt's assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and tight ends coach.

Rudolph shared Orndoff's view that there will be plenty of snaps for all three tight ends.

“And all three are still young players,” he said. “If you had a fifth-year guy, maybe he would be out there 50 snaps. But when they're young guys, you'll rotate them.

“They understand that. It keeps them hungry, and keeps them competing.”

Rudolph also expanded on the importance of the tight end position in Pitt's offense. He said the Panthers aren't looking for “pass catching tight ends” or “blocking tight ends,” but those who can do both.

“If you have a guy who's just a run blocker, you're limited. But if he is a threat in the passing game too, now you can play action,” Rudolph said. “And then, if he also has the speed to separate from defenders, now you have a combination that works extremely well.

“And, if you go the other way, if you have a tight end who can just catch passes (and not block), the question is ‘why not just use a wide receiver?' You want your tight ends to be able to block and make plays.”

Rudolph said Orndoff is that type of tight end. The coach also explained that, as camp has continued, Orndoff's confidence has grown. He's evolved into a “more complete” player off the field as well.

“On the field, Scotty is maturing and becoming more polished,” Rudolph said. “Off of the field, he's funny, he's smart, and I think he's grown a lot.

“He's the kind of kid who is always putting in the extra work, and we can count on him.”

Brian Knavish is a freelance writer.

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