PITTSBURGH — Senior tight end Scott Orndoff has been indispensable for the Panthers this season. His 74-yard touchdown helped Pitt come from behind to beat Georgia Tech, 37-34, on Saturday.
But it wasn’t just that clutch catch. Orndoff has an important part of the passing game on third downs all season. Of his 14 catches this season, nine have come on third down and two of them went for touchdowns.
The big plays at key moments have garnered Orndoff some national attention, as he was named to the Mackey Award midseason watchlist as one of the best tight ends in the country Wednesday.
He’s also getting attention from the next level, as well, with a couple scouts stopping by Pitt’s practice facility to take a look at him over the last few weeks.
One of the big things that they’re looking for out of Orndoff is an increase in his blocking abilities. The 6-foot-5, 255 pounder has always had the size to be a plus blocker, but he’s put in extra work this season to improve his technique in that part of the game.
“Over spring ball, throughout camp and every day now, I’m still trying to be more physical on the line,” Orndoff said. “It’s all about footwork and hand placement, pad level. I just had to work on stuff like that and technique.”
Pitt’s new offense under first-year coordinator Matt Canada has given Orndoff some new wrinkles, as well. The tight ends aren’t just expected to block along the line. With the proliferation of jet sweeps, shovel passes and other plays that spread out opposing defenses, Orndoff is expected to block in space as a lead blocker, as well.
“That’s something I had to work on a lot, too,” he said. “We didn’t do as much [of that with the previous offenses.] With as many of the jet sweeps we run, that’s something I was a little more uncomfortable with it in spring ball, but by the time camp came, I kinda knew how to attack the guys and how they were going to react. As the season has gone on, it’s come pretty easy to all of us — [tight ends], the fullbacks and some tackles that do it. It’s coming a lot easier to us now.”
That progress has helped the jet sweep become one of Pitt’s primary offensive weapons, and it could help Orndoff at the next level, as well.
With the proliferation of multi-receiver sets and spread offenses, more NFL teams are asking tight ends to be H-backs and fullbacks, as well. Orndoff also has three special teams tackles, as he’s a primary member of the punt coverage team, even as a senior starter. The Waynesburg native only has a few games left to perfect his craft at the NCAA level, and he’s trying to take full advantage of that opportunity.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “It feels like I just got here and now I have six games left. Time flies.”