PITTSBURGH — Pitt’s 2017 recruiting class had three interesting local name in it at the tight end position.
There’s uber-talented Charles Reeves out of Stuebenville, Ohio, that came into camp as a phenomal athlete at a freakish size but remained raw technique-wise. Then there’s Pine-Richland’s Grant Carrigan, a tall, rangy type with soft hands that quarterbacks love.
Lastly, Neshannock’s Tyler Sear provided a man in the middle. The smallest of the three, he’s also the most versatile. He can run, block and catch and can do so from a variety of fronts and positions. He can be flexed out as a receiver, play a traditional tight end along the line and also be a wing-back in the backfield, more like a fullback.
Think of Sear as a Swiss Army knife. He may not be the best at any one thing. His value is that he can do lots of them. That’s why Sear has gotten playing time as a true freshman, while Carrigan and Reeves have not.
When Pitt lost starting fullback George Aston to an injury before the season, Sear stepped up as a part-time fullback and his positional versatility made it an easy call for tight ends coach Tim Salem to go ahead and take his red shirt off.
“Through George’s injury, he got a chance to play and get in there,” Salem said. “He’s a tough guy. He reminds me very much of J.P. Holtz, who played here at Pitt two years ago. The same guy, the same mannerisms, but he’s a freshman playing big-time football. I like his future very much so. He’s a tough competitor.”
The Holtz comparison is high praise, considering that he’s currently on the practice squad of the Cleveland Browns.
“I get that a lot,” Sear said. “I’m used to it. … I talk to him sometimes. He gives me some good advice.”
Holtz isn’t in the NFL because of his receiving prowess. He developed as an elite blocker at Pitt, and that’s something that Sear is still working towards, particularly the blocking in space that he’s asked to do as a fullback.
“It makes it harder sometimes, but it’s a good opportunity for me,” Sear said. “At first, it was challenging. I was a little frustrated. But it only took me about a week and then I really picked it up and started to roll with it.”
Pitt has used the tight end spot extensively through three games. Flanagan is second on the team with 97 receiving yards and eight catches. Sear and Chris Clark each have one grab. But Flanagan thinks there’s still room for improvement in the unit. But they’re close.
“A lot of the snaps that we see that we’re not succeeding with, it’s just one guy missing an assignment or not getting a call or running the wrong route or something like that,” he said. “That’s something that we try to correct in practice and just try to get as many reps as we can, get guys to see different looks and just try to get everybody on the same page.”
Here’s more from Flanagan, Salem and Sear on Pitt’s tight end play thus far.