The tight end position has been a weak spot for Pitt since Scott Orndoff graduated in 2017. But if Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi’s take on Lucas Krull’s performance at the Panthers’ spring practices is accurate, that may not be the case when the team takes the field in 2021.
“Lucas is a beast right now,” Narduzzi told reporters on Tuesday. “He’s playing like first-round material right now — knock on wood. That dude is playing really well and had another day like that today. You look at him and we think we might want to put him on the shelf and not practice as much. Heck, if he keeps practicing as much as he does, you might not see much of him in the spring game.”
Narduzzi was not the only Pitt coach to publicly praise Krull for his play, as Pitt receivers coach Brennan Marion has also been impressed with what he has seen from the tight end.
“Seen some great tight ends in my day,” Marion wrote on Twitter. “This guy [Lucas Krull] is next! Physical capturing the edge, can run all the routes with speed! Great hands, not to mention [he’s] 6’6”, 255. The best is yet to come!”
Krull joined Pitt ahead of the 2020 season as a transfer from Florida. But he was only able to play in one game due to a knee injury. Krull came to Pitt after seeing limited opportunities in Florida. As a result, he caught just nine passes in 25 games and finished his Gators career with 108 yards in two seasons.
However, in his last full season as a starting tight end, which was his senior year at Mill Valley High School in Shawnee, Kansas, Krull had 52 receptions for 745 yards and 13 touchdowns. And with his help, Mill Valley went 12-1 and won a state title in 2015.
If Krull is able to replicate his success at the high school level at Pitt in 2021, he would become the most successful tight end of the Narduzzi era, which dates back to 2015. During that time, Orndoff has been the only tight end to amass 500 or more yards in a season. And since he achieved that feat in 2016, Pitt has gone four seasons without another tight end accruing so much as 200 yards.
The limited production at tight end has played a role in hindering Pitt’s offense over the last few years, and that fact is not lost on Narduzzi. The coach recognizes the part the position plays in creating opportunities for the offense, particularly in blocking for runners and complementing Pitt’s receivers, and he noted that the lack of contributions from a capable tight end was a problem in 2020.
“In our open week, we looked at what we did well and what we didn’t do well,” Narduzzi said. “It came down to personnel. We didn’t have a tight end. When you don’t have a tight end, it limits you. And we molded our offense to work with who we had. That led to us being something we weren’t. That was the key.”
Given all that, it’s clear that an opportunity exists for Krull to play a prominent role on the Pitt offense in 2021. And if he is able to live up to the hype surrounding him this spring, he could be a transformative presence for the Panthers, who will also return Kenny Pickett and Jordan Addison next season.