Pitt Tight Ends Have a Big Week

Paul SieversAnalyst IAugust 3, 2009

EAST HARTFORD, CT - DECEMBER 06:  Nate Byham #80 of the Pittsburgh Panthers makes the catch and runs it in for a touchdown in the second half against the Connecticut Huskies on December 6, 2008 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. The Panthers defeated the Huskies 34-10.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

First on Wednesday, Nate Byham was named to the Mackey Award Watch List.

According to Pitt's press release:

Pitt's All-Big East tight end Nate Byham has been named to the watch list for the 2009 John Mackey Award, annually presented to the nation's top tight end by the Nassau County Sports Commission.

30 players were named to the watch list for the John Mackey Award, named after the Pro Football Hall-of-Famer who starred for the Baltimore Colts. The 2009 Mackey Award recipient will be announced on December 10.

Former Pitt tight end Kris Wilson, now a member of the San Diego Chargers, was a finalist for the John Mackey Award in 2003.

This is the second national award watch list to recognize Byham (Franklin, Pa./Franklin), who previously was named a preseason candidate for the 2009 Rotary Lombardi Award. Byham was one of only two tight ends on the Rotary Lombardi list.

Byham was a 2008 first-team All-Big East selection, an unprecedented achievement for a Pitt tight end. The 6'4", 265-pounder had 20 catches for 260 yards (13.0 avg.) and one touchdown last year. He was also a major asset in the run game, helping Pitt produce a 1,000-yard rusher for the second consecutive year.

As a resident of Nassau County and former All-County High School golfer, do I get a vote?

More importantly how does Nassau County even have an award like this, I guarantee that you will be hard pressed to find another area with less of a passion for football than Long Island. We don't even send our high school champions to the state playoffs, it ends with the Long Island championships.

Amateur football is taken less seriously on Long Island than literacy is in Morgantown. This award should be given by a commission with a track record of football excellence.

I digress.

Three days after Byham was announced on the award list, Ohio TE prospect Dan Schneider became the 17th player in the class of 2010 to verbally commit to the Panthers.

Schneider was personally recruited by none other than Byham himself.

''It helped a lot to sit down with Nate and get the perspective of someone who's been through this and get his honest opinion of his experience at Pitt...It was invaluable.''

Schneider is the second TE to commit to Pitt in the class of 2010 as his verbal came almost a month after fellow Ohio product Brandon Carozzoni committed. Schneider and Carozzoni are familiar with one another and look forward to playing together.

''At the beginning of the process, before we had any scholarship offers, Brendan and I were talking about how it would be sweet to be on the field at the same time in a double-tight formation...It's favorable, the way Pitt uses its tight ends. I feel like I'll fit in and have a chance to contribute real quick.''

Schneider is considered a three-star prospect by both Rivals and Scout. He chose Pitt from a decent group of schools. Cinci (makes Pittsburgh look like Paris), WVU (sorry, not a criminal), Florida State (see WVU), Colorado (not a tree hugger), Syracuse (having an awful decade), Indiana (having an awful life), and Louisville (Kragthorpe).

That would be my logic for picking Pitt, Schneider of course gave the company lines.

''Pitt's an unbelievable school...The academic support staff does a great job. The tradition and name Pitt means a lot.''

With so many teams going to the spread, tight ends are going to flock to Pitt (feel free to take that sentence out of context and run with it). Because Pitt is a run first offense, the play action is very effective and which is where both Byham and Dickerson should do a lot of damage on short and intermediate routes this season.

While it remains to be seen how Coach Cignetti will use the tight ends, on the surface it would seem like Pitt would make sense as an attractive offense for a tight end prospect. Once Byham and Dickerson leave, there is no reason guys like Mike Cruz, Brock DeCcico, Schneider and Carozzoni can't thrive.

To read more on Pitt athletics, please visit The First Church of Fitzgerald.

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