Well, that was quick.
Last week, it was announced that last year’s fourth-string quarterback Tom MacVittie would be transferring out of the program. Shortly afterward, part-time starter in 2016 Ben DiNucci announced he was leaving, too. Both decisions seemed to be due to the emergence of Kenny Pickett, who seems to have had a good hold on the starting job after his impressive play in the season-ending win against Miami.
Neither loss, I don’t think, was really unexpected. But it also left Pitt in a bind with only incoming freshman Nick Patti the presumed backup to Pickett with a pair of walk-ons. I figured the Panthers would try to add another guy and they did on Sunday in JUCO transfer Ricky Town.
If you follow the recruiting landscape on a national level, Town’s name might sound familiar to you. At one time, he was one of the top quarterback recruits in the nation in 2015. Town was originally committed to Alabama of the, you know, national championship Alabamas before decommitting and going to USC instead. According to Rivals, he also had a slew of other offers from the likes of Florida State, Georia, Miami, Texas, and just about everyone else, which is what you expect from a top five quarterback.
And, for a while, Town was even more highly thought of. At one point, he was the No. overall quarterback as ranked by Scout. But he would suffer an injury in high school and dealt with numerous coaching changes, dropping his stock a little. This Los Angeles Times article gives a good rundown.
Town didn’t stay at USC long. After only two weeks into training camp, he went left and eventually ended up at Arkansas. Town didn’t win the job there and transferred to Ventura College last year, where he put up numbers that were hardly impressive (1,160 yards, 12 touchdowns, five interceptions in nine games, according to the Post-Gazette, which says he should have two years of eligibility remaining). He has no D-I game experience and that L.A. Times article linked above says that he seemed to be way behind the other quarterbacks at Arkansas, so there’s still very much a ‘can he play at this level’ element. But many guys take a little longer to progress so I’m not sure he’s a total write-off, either.
Town’s collegiate career, to date, has been unremarkable. All of that said, I’m still a little surprised Pitt was able to nab him with that kind of reputation. Pickett looks pretty entrenched so this move is about adding depth as insurance. An argument can be made that Pickett still has some work to do and is still really inexperienced, playing basically three games last year. Town perhaps sees an opening there or, at the very least, a chance for one.
Given how much Pitt has changed quarterbacks in the past year, maybe that’s even a reasonable assertion. But I don’t look at this as bringing in a guy to be the guaranteed winner of the job out of camp the way I did with Tom Savage or Max Browne. I can see Town challenging Pickett so I’m not saying he’s not a threat to win the job. But this doesn’t look anything close like the slam dunk others before him did. It seems to be more about insurance than bringing in a guy to anoint as the starter.
Whatever the case, his addition seems to be really good for Pitt. He’s bounced around a lot but he’s also not a guy they’re relying on to be a definitive starter as with past guys like Browne or Savage. If that were the case, there’d be more cause for concern. But if Pickett does everything he’s supposed to and if Town can come to merely provide depth and insurance, that’s a big bonus for a team in need of another quarterback.