There aren’t many bright spots on this Pitt offense other than QB Kenny Pickett. He didn’t get a ton of work as a true freshman in 2017 but he made his lone start count. Against Miami, he went 18 of 29 for 193 yards and a TD while rushing for 13-60-2 in the 24-14 win. The rushing numbers in that game alone should do enough to get Pickett on the CFF radar in 2018. While he may not be a volume passer this season, his ability to score with his legs makes him valuable. I’m hesitant to use this comparison because the schemes and production will be so different but Pickett reminds me some of Syracuse QB Eric Dungey. Let’s hope he can stay healthier. Ricky Town will be his backup. From the Post-Gazette, “But Town — who first decommitted from Alabama — transferred out of USC during training camp and jumped to Arkansas. He never played in the SEC, either, eventually ending up at Ventura where he threw for 1,160 yards and 12 touchdowns with five interceptions in nine games this past season. He should have two years of eligibility remaining.”
The offensive line was really struggling with their pass blocking early in camp, but they are supposedly making some strides. They replace three players, and I’m looking forward to watching this group in the scrimmage.
There are a lot of options for Pitt to use at RB. Pat Narduzzi had this to say about the backs at the midpoint of camp, “Hall is good. Ollison is banged up right now, so he is not getting a whole lot. A.J. Davis and Todd Sibley Jr. are both getting a lot of reps, which is good. Those two young guys could use as much reps as possible. We know Qadree Ollison can play, so it’s good to get those young guys some reps.” He recently followed up those comments and provided more clarity about who the RB1 will be, “We’ll find out. We’ll go through August and find out who are the guys, who’s reliable, who’s going to get the yards and playing with good leverage, who’s holding onto the ball and not turning it over. Darrin Hall is doing well. A.J. Davis, [Todd] Sibley have had a great camp so far as well. So there’s a lot of competition in the backfield, and Darrin Hall is our guy right now without a doubt. He’s proven that every day in spring ball. But those other guys, it’s like ‘Who’s going to be that second guy?’ That’s still yet to be said.” There was a committee approach taken by Pitt last season, but Darrin Hall was their best back, and it wasn’t particularly close, in my opinion. He finished last season with 129-630-9. His usage was erratic, and he only had three games where he got 20+ carries, but it sounds like as long as he is healthy, he will be the guy for them. I’m not sure who will be his primary backup, and hopefully, we get answers about that during the scrimmage. George Aston plays FB for them and will likely get a look from NFL teams after this season.
Jester Weah moves on at WR, but the next three most productive WRs from the 2017 season will return. Rafael Araujo-Lopes, Maurice Ffrench, and Aaron Mathews will be battling for starting reps. Matthews is 6’4” but the other two are both sub-six-feet. The player that seems to get mentioned after most practices is rJR Tre Tipton. He missed the entire 2017 season due to injury but if the practice reports are any indication, he could be the focal point of the passing attack this season. There are some talented underclassmen that could factor into the conversation as well. rFR Darian Street is one guy that I will probably pay some attention to. Overall, I’m not likely going to be in a hurry to add any of these guys to my CFF nor Devy rosters.
Pitt used their TEs quite a bit last season. They combined to make 35 catches but the leading returning receiver, Chris Clark, has left the team for personal reasons. Pitt HC Pat “Nard Dog” Narduzzi recently had this to say about the TEs, “Up and down really as the offense is being installed. Those are three very talented guys. Tyler Sear, Charles Reeves Jr., and Grant Carrigan are three very talented guys that are all going to play for us next year, period. It’s not like we’re saying these two are really good and this one not quite ready; all three of them do things. Carrigan is probably the best blocker at this point and can still run at 290. Just like Charles can run at 290. But they’re all doing different things that make you go, ‘wow!’ So we’ll have an assortment of guys to put in the game.” Same as the WRs, I’m not sure that I want any of these guys on my CFF rosters.
Pat Narduzzi has a reputation for being a terrific defensive coach. His teams have been nothing short of embarrassing on that side of the football while he’s been at Pitt. The issues start and stop with his persistence to put his corners on islands only to see them get smoked every single game. Few teams have given up big passing gains like Pitt has over the past couple seasons. There is some experience returning at the back end, and hopefully, he’s learned from his mistakes and these players will have come out of the fire even more refined. rSO Rashad Weaver is a player that I think could be a very effective pass rusher for them. The linebackers are probably the best position group as they have an abundance of depth and talent. Paris Ford is a really talented player in the secondary who redshirted last season and has a very high ceiling. Hamlin, Coleman, and Jackson have all been players in the secondary who have been praised for having good practices this spring. I really am not very excited about the direction of Pitt’s football program relative to the upward trajectory many other ACC programs are on. Without knowing the intricacies of Narduzzi’s contract, I would think his time is about done.