Pitt wide receiver Jester Weah was a dominant force for the team last year. Weah didn't catch a ton of passes but his 24.2 yards per reception led the entire ACC and ranked among the best in the nation. On the year, he had 36 catches for 870 yards and ten touchdowns.
That big year brought Weah straight from obscurity and into the spotlight. He literally went from a guy that hadn't caught a pass the year before to one of the team's biggest weapons on offense. It looked like Weah would not only be a big part of the team again this year but that he might even be able to parlay that into a shot at the NFL. But three games in, Weah is struggling to be much of a difference maker.
In the opener against Youngstown State, Weah was shut out in regulation. He needed overtime to register his only catch - an 11-yard touchdown on the short field to win the game. His lack of use was somewhat understandable because the Panthers didn't attempt a ton of passes and he was also double teamed quite a bit. But it was still a quiet 2017 debut, nonetheless.
Weah did see more action against Penn State. He had six catches but for a modest 65 yards. By comparison, the only other time Weah caught five passes or more was against Marshall last year and he had 176 yards in that game. At under 11 yards a catch, that wasn't even half of his 2016 average and while he caught some intermediate throws, he was taken away as a deep threat in that game and also held out of the end zone.
Today against Oklahoma State, Weah had his worst game statistically since the Penn State game last year when he didn't record a single catch. Weah was shut out today despite the Panthers throwing the ball 35 times so it was even more glaring in the box score.
Now, this isn't all on the senior, of course. He broke loose today and had an easy long touchdown coming his way if not for being overthrown by quarterback Max Browne. Pitt hasn't gotten good quarterback play all year and Weah is certainly getting open on some longer routes.
It's also worth pointing out that Weah isn't exactly a catch machine. Seven times last year, he caught two or fewer passes. And technically, his seven catches now are more than he had last season at this point. It's not time to panic yet regarding Weah. He just is off to a slow start and that's part of the reason for Pitt's struggles on offense.
The argument here isn't so much to pin these failures on Weah as it is to recognize that Pitt is a completely different team if he's not a factor. The Panthers aren't getting much going on offense this year and with Quadree Henderson also not being as successful this season, Pitt is struggling to put points on the board.
Maybe things change with the likely insertion of Ben DiNucci at quarterback but he isn't known for his ability to air the ball out, either. Because of that, Weah might find himself with a statistically down season, which is kind of a shame because he has real talent. Pitt needs to find ways to get him the ball and, particularly, connect on some longer throws where he can break free from opposing defenders for quick scores. His real value is as a deep threat and Pitt needs to capitalize on that.