Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett was placed on the watch list for the Maxwell Award on Monday morning. The award recognizes the best all-around player in college football on an annual basis and is voted on by members of the media, NCAA head coaches as well as members of the Maxwell Football Club.
Pickett is one of seven ACC players included on the watch list and the only Pitt representative. Also included from the ACC were Clemson defensive tackle Bryan Bresee, Clemson safety Nolan Turner, Florida State linebacker Amari Gainer, Miami safety Bubba Bolden, NC State linebacker Payton Wilson and North Carolina linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel.
During a 2020 season shortened to 11 games by COVID-19, Pickett played in nine games, missing two due to injury. Pitt also declined to play in a bowl game further shortening the season, and as a result, Pickett experienced a statistical decline despite an upward trend in his production on a per-game basis.
All told, Pickett threw for 267.6 yards per game, an improvement on his 258.2 per game in 2019, and 2,408 yards on the year, a step down from his 3,098 in 2019. He also matched his 13 touchdowns from 2019 and took just nine games to do it as opposed to 12 the previous season. But turnovers remained an issue, as he threw one interception per game in 2020, which was his worst showing on that front yet.
Given Pickett’s issues with turnovers, his receivers’ recent issues with drops, his injury issues and the general offensive ineptitude displayed by Pitt under Mark Whipple, Pickett will face more hurdles than many of the other players on the Maxwell Award watch list. But as a quarterback, he should have ample opportunity to impact high-profile games and show off any steps forward he has taken this offseason. And if he manages to sort out his deficiencies and develop better chemistry with his receiving corps, he could find himself in the mix for the honor late in the year.
The most recent recipient of the Maxwell Award was Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith in 2020. The last ACC player to win the award was Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson in 2016. And only two Pitt players have won the award in its 84-year history: Tony Dorsett in 1976 and Hugh Green in 1980.