The two deep rotation for the Pitt football team was recently released for next weekend’s contest against Albany. Many of the probable starters named on it are not a surprise. There were a few noteworthy things for discussion, though.
At quarterback, backups Ricky Town and Nick Patti are listed as an ‘OR’, meaning that neither one has really outdone the other to this point. That’s kind of interesting in that Town has several years in college football and Patti is a true freshman. Head coach Pat Narduzzi had good things to say about Patti and it looks like he’s right there for the backup job to Kenny Pickett.
That sort of makes me wonder how last season’s debacle will play into things should Pickett go down with an injury. Would Pitt burn Patti’s redshirt or would they try to get by with Town? Let’s hope we don’t need to find out.
At running back, it seems like Darrin Hall and Qadree Ollison have been battling each other here their entire careers. That could again be the case this year and both seniors are listed as co-starters. As has been the case under Narduzzi, Pitt will likely go with the hot hand and whichever guy is playing better.
Who gets the first crack? Hard to say, obviously, but Hall was the Panthers’ top back last season so I suppose I’d lean that way if I had to guess. Again, though, we’re flying blind here. Practices are mostly closed off to the media so it’s hard to get a good handle on how guys have looked in camp.
The offensive line, a big question mark at the end of last season, appears set for now. No one is listed as an ‘OR’ there and, left to right, Pitt will go with grad transfer Stefano Millin, Connor Dintino, Jimmy Morrissey, Mike Herndon, and Alex Bookser. The line has a much different look this year with some guys graduating but it should be pointed out that this is an older, experienced group. All are seniors with the exception of Morrissey, the sophomore center. Millin gets the tough task of trying to follow NFL Draft pick Brian O’Neill at left tackle. He’ll be under the spotlight but is experienced there, starting at that position last year at Kent State.
One thing to watch there is the depth of the line. For example, should Millin need to come out, backing him up is redshirt freshman Carson Van Lynn. Van Lynn doesn’t have experience and, being thrown into left tackle could be ... interesting? It’s not just there, though. While Pitt has upperclassmen starting, all of the backups on the two deep rotation are underclassmen. In fact, four of the six are freshmen. In other words, Pitt really needs its starters to play well and remain healthy.
Last year, they had all kinds of depth. This year? Not so much. We talked about the line being retooled this year but that’s nothing compared to what it will like next year when they have to replace four starters.
Defensively, Pitt has four good linebackers and only three spots. That’s led to Elijah Zeise and Saleem Brightwell battling it out for one spot. Things will loosen up after this year as three of those four are seniors but this year, Pitt has some really experienced guys at linebacker.
Finally, there’s the secondary. For those hoping to see Paris Ford jump into the starting lineup, seems like you’ll be waiting a little while as Ford and Jason Pinnock are backing up Damarri Mathis. The other cornerback spot is still up for grabs as Dane Jackson and Phillippe Motley are listed as an ‘OR’ group.
Jackson not locking down a starting spot surprised me a little and I’m sure it did others as well. He was pretty solid last year and I thought he could be the best corner they have this year. That still might be the case but either he is not yet playing well enough to be a guaranteed starter or Motley is performing better than expected. Just another position to watch this weekend.