With less than two months left until the 2021 college football season kicks off, preseason honors are being distributed, and on Friday, five Pitt players were placed on preseason All-ACC teams by Pro Football Network.
Pitt wide receiver Jordan Addison and Pitt linebacker Cam Bright made the first team, while Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett, Pitt defensive lineman Calijah Kancey and Pitt cornerback Damarri Mathis were placed on the second all-conference team.
Addison enjoyed a breakout season in 2020, amassing 666 yards and four touchdowns on 60 receptions and leading Pitt in each of the three categories. In addition, the 6’0”, 170-pound receiver led all freshman receivers in the ACC in receiving yards, and his four scores ranked second among freshmen in the ACC.
“After finishing second in the voting for ACC Rookie of the Year, his place on our ACC all-conference first team is a measure of the expectation and potential for the Pitt pass-catcher,” Oliver Hodgkinson of Pro Football Network said of Addison. “Don’t rule out a 1,000-yard season with Kenny Pickett back.”
As for Bright, he has been one of Pitt’s most productive defenders since becoming a starter in 2019, as he has racked up 112 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, two pass breakups, and one forced fumble in that time frame.
“With a raft of talent headed out the door of Heinz Field to the NFL, Bright should be set for a breakout year this upcoming college football season,” Hodgkinson said of Bright. “After leading all Pitt linebackers in sacks last season, you can expect him to be a defensive leader this year. Although we’ve highlighted his pass-rush production and tackling acumen, Bright also possesses exceptional coverage ability, making him an all-around threat.”
Pickett highlights the second-team selections as the contributor on whom Pitt’s fortunes depend on more than anyone else. Last season, Pickett completed fewer passes for fewer yards at a worse rate than he did as a junior. He also posted the same pedestrian 13-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio he did in 2019. If Pickett can develop better chemistry with his receivers and find the end zone more often, he can justify his preseason All-ACC status. If not, Pitt is likely bound for another mediocre year.
Kancey and Mathis round out Pitt’s second-team selections, and much is expected of each of them. Kancey had seven tackles for losses and 1.5 sacks in 2020 despite starting in just four games, and he will have a shot at a larger role in 2021. Mathis last played in 2019 due to an injury, and as a regular starter, he totaled 23 tackles, two tackles for losses, 11 pass breakups and two picks on the season.