In the days leading up to Pitt's first training camp under new coach Pat Narduzzi, we'll go over each position to look at where the Panthers sit going into 2015. Up today: Wide receivers and tight ends...
Projected depth chart
1. Tyler Boyd (Jr; 6-2, 200)
2. Zach Challingsworth (RS So; 6-2, 200)
3. Elijah Zeise (RS Fr; 6-2, 215)
4. Quadree Henderson (Fr; 5-8, 170)
5. Rafael Araujo-Lopes (So; 5-9, 190)
1. Dontez Ford (RS Jr; 6-2, 215)
2. Jester Weah (RS So; 6-3, 205)
3. Chris Wuestner (RS Jr; 6-2, 210)
4. Jaquaun Davidson (RS Fr; 6-2, 205)
5. Tre Tipton (Fr; 6-0, 170)
6. Gentry Ivery (Fr; 6-1, 195)
1. J.P. Holtz (Sr; 6-4, 250)
2. Scott Orndoff (Jr; 6-5, 265)
3. Jaymar Parrish (Jr; 6-2, 270)
4. Devon Edwards (RS So; 6-4, 270)
5. Tony Harper (RS So; 6-4, 225)
Putting together wide receiver depth charts is always a bit of an interesting exercise, since the actual rotation and positions are a lot more fluid than any two-deep could indicate, but the above represents what should be a rough estimation of the order the rotation will follow this season. Obviously this position starts with Tyler Boyd, who represents over 95 percent of Pitt's returning receptions from receivers last year. He had 78 catches in 2014, Ford had three and Wuestner had one. That's it in terms of returning wide receivers.
So the opener against Youngstown State, for which Boyd has been suspended following offseason DUI charges, should be pretty interesting in that regard. Ford seems pretty solid as the No. 2 receiver, who will start opposite Boyd against Akron. Ford, a former Syracuse transfer, started earning more playing time at the end of last season, and all three of his catches came in November. But, still, having a No. 2 receiver with only three career receptions speaks to the level of inexperience at wide receiver beyond Boyd.
After Ford, it gets even more muddled, and we'll see who steps up in the Youngstown State game. The next group of receivers is Challingsworth, Weah and Zeise, but all three have some questions. Challingsworth has always drawn praise from teammates and coaches, but hasn't been able to put it together on the field. Weah has shown flashes of supreme athleticism, but he's still learning the finer points of the receiver position. Zeise is an intriguing prospect, but as a redshirt freshman, it's hard to say where he's at in terms of game-readiness.
It'll be interesting to see what ends up happening in the slot. There are a couple of guys — namely Henderson and Araujo-Lopes — who seem like good fits for the position, but whether or not they're ready to contribute in their first year is another question. It's tough to imagine too big a role for anyone beyond Boyd, Ford, Challingsworth, Weah and Zeise (so I wouldn't be surprised if most or even all of the newcomers end up redshirting) but it's always possible someone breaks out during camp. I'm sure the staff would like to see more of a diversity in receiver options than Pitt had last year.
At tight end, it's going to be mostly Holtz and Orndoff, both of whom seem like they've been at Pitt forever now. Holtz was Pitt's second-leading receiver with 21 catches (including four TDs) last season, and Orndoff added four catches and a touchdown. Arkansas' top two tight ends combined for 816 yards and five touchdowns last year, so I expect Jim Chaney to use Holtz and Orndoff as major pieces in the passing game.
The depth at tight end took a bit of a hit this offseason with Brian O'Neill's apparent move to offensive line, but there are enough guys there that it shouldn't be a concern. Edwards and Harper are more pure tight ends, and will serve as back-ups to Holtz and Orndoff.
Parrish is a bit of a different story. In the media guide, he's listed as a tight end on the roster page and a fullback on the depth chart, which is kind of appropriate. He has started 19 games over the past two years at fullback/H-back, and he'll honestly probably play a similar role this year, even if he's officially listed as a tight end. He might flex out a little bit more this season, but I expect him to be a factor out of the backfield a healthy dose as well.