Panther-lair - Tyler Sear is young and old, big and small
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Tyler Sear is young and old, big and small

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Tyler Sear is a mix of paradoxes.

He’s 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, but he calls himself “the small one.” And while he’s the same age as the two other tight ends on Pitt’s roster this spring - they’re all 19 - he’s also, in a certain sense, older.

“It’s weird: I’m the same age as them and I’m the oldest,” Sear said recently. “It’s different. It’s definitely weird.”

Why so many logical conundrums with the sophomore from Neshannock? On the matter of size, he’s “the small one” because the two comparison points are Charles Reeves and Grant Carrigan, a pair of tight ends who combine to weigh approximately 580 pounds.

That’s right: each of them is roughly 290, which makes Sear, who is by no means a small man, “the small one.”

On the matter of age, Sear truly is older than Carrigan and Reeves. He was born four months before Reeves and a little more than six months before Carrigan. So he is the oldest. But he’s also in the same class as those two - they’re all second-year players who signed with Pitt in the 2017 recruiting class - and for all intents and purposes, that makes him the same age.

In terms of football, though, Sear is a veteran compared to his two position-mates, as Carrigan and Reeves redshirted in 2017 while Sear was one of six true freshmen to see the field last season. He made his debut in the season opener against Youngstown State, catching a 10-yard pass to convert a third-and-2 on a second-quarter drive that resulted in a touchdown.

At that point, it looked like Sear would be a fixture in Pitt’s offense, but while he saw playing time in the next four games, the amount of snaps that he actually got on offense decreased until he was only playing special teams. Then that work fell off, too, and he didn’t get on the field for three games in the middle of the season.

“I played a lot at the beginning of the season; then, toward, the middle, there was a drought for me,” Sear said. “For me, that was the biggest learning point, because I had to learn to get through the mental - the hurdles of the season. I fought through it and then ended up starting the last two games and played a lot. I played like 40 plays against Miami and just got a lot of good playing time and learned a lot. So I feel like coming into this season I’ll be pretty well-prepared.”

“He finished really well in that Miami game, the last game of the season for us,” tight ends coach Tim Salem said. “Very competitive. Actually locked guys up, knocked guys around, so he kind of left the season with some confidence and he’s kind of taken off now, just still being that kind of gritty, tough dude that’s kind of got that Western Pa. mentality.”

Any Pitt tight end who grew up west of Delmont and wears No. 86 is going to draw some natural comparisons, and those have certainly come for Sear. JP Holtz was the mold for the tough tight end whose every step forward was a step toward knocking someone out, whether it was in the process of blocking or catching passes.

“I get the comparisons all the time,” Sear said. “Coach Salem always gives me JP Holtz comparisons and makes me watch JP Holtz’s film and says, ‘This is what you can do, this is what you should do.’”

What Sear should do this season is catch more passes and be more involved with the offense. That goes for the tight end position as a whole; last season the tight ends caught 34 passes 292 yards and one touchdown (plus backup long-snapper/tight end Nate Bossory’s 15-yard score on a trick pass from punter Ryan Winslow).

In 2018, Sear will be counted on to improve that number. He is the elder statesman of the group after redshirt junior Chris Clark left the team for personal reasons early in spring camp; plus, he’ll be working in multiple roles, which should get him more involved in the offense.

“He is a dual player for us,” Salem said. “He’s both that fullback in the backfield and that tight end on the edge. He’s fast enough to be out on the edges and play in the slots.”

“I’ve always been a jack-of-all-trades, especially in this group. Charles is definitely the guy you want in a two-minute and Grant is the guy you want grinding the holes and I’ve always just been the guy who can do both, just like [grad transfer tight end Matt Flanagan] was last year.”

So Sear, the 255-pound “small one,” the sophomore veteran of the tight ends, will look to do like his fellow 2017 recruit, quarterback Kenny Pickett, and build off the season finale against Miami. Pickett had his breakout performance that day at Heinz Field, and expectations for him are high as a result.

In Sear’s view, the same goes for him.

“That was probably one of my best games, blocking-wise. I got to see that the best of the best aren’t that much better. I mean, I truly don’t think that they’re better than we are; myself, I think we can compete with anybody.”