First Look: Pittsburgh Panthers

The Panthers are one of only two ACC teams that have been able to get a win versus Clemson during their current streak of domination.

Pat Narduzzi, Pitt’s third-longest-tenured head coach in more than 50 years enters his seventh season. His team entered last season with huge expectations but were only able to finish 6–5 overall (5-5 ACC). It was also their 11th straight season with five losses or more. This includes every season since they moved to the ACC eight years ago.

The Panthers started 3–0, then lost their next four. After that Pitt ended the season with a winning record by taking three of their final four games. Now, they look to become more than a .500 conference team.

They start the season with something very rare. That’s right, fifth-year quarterback, Kenny Pickett is back. Pickett completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 2,408 yards, and 13 touchdowns for an offense that ranked 39th in passing. He also added eight rushing touchdowns.

At receiver, Pickett will have Jordan Addison, the ACC Rookie of the Year runner-up, who led the nation’s freshmen in receptions per game (6.0) and total receptions (60). They also will have Shocky Jacques-Louis (26 catches for 327 yards last season) and Taysir Mack who has 134 total catches over his career. Also expected to help out is Florida transfer tight end Lucas Krull.

Their rushing game was horrid, ranking 111th nationally, with 119.9 yards per game. This had a lot to do with why their offense ranked 96th in yards per play, 58th in points, and converted just 27 of their 47 red zone trips into TDs. They look to junior Vincent Davis to help improve in that area. Others that could help out are senior A.J. Davis Jr. who’s rushed for 970 career yards and Israel Abanikanda, a highly regarded 2020 recruit.

A calling card of Narduzzi’s teams has been his defense and the Panthers defense ranked second nationally in sacks (4.18 per game) and tackles for a loss (10.1), third in rush defense (93.5), ninth in interceptions (14), and 20th in yards allowed (339.5).

One thing that’s going to hurt is five starters from that group are now gone. The biggest of those are the departures is 2020 All-American defensive ends Rashad Weaver and Patrick Jones II while, a bright spot on the other hand, is Weaver’s backup, Deslin Alexandre, who has 15 career starts under his belt does return.

A strength should be the linebackers where Cam Bright (53 tackles, 8.5 TFLs), Phil Campbell (4.5 sacks), SirVocea Dennis (14.5 TFLs and four sacks), Chase Pine (43 tackles, seven TFLs), and Wendell Davis all return.

The secondary lost their star safeties, Damar Hamlin and Paris Ford but junior Erick Hallett II did give the Panthers glimpses of his ability with 30 tackles and two interceptions at safety last season which should ease the losses. They also have experience on the corners with A.J. Woods, Marquis Williams, Rashad Battle, and Damarri Mathis.

Pitt does have an early matchup with Tennessee but outside of that they’re other three out of conference games should be favorable. Then, if they can get some wins in conference they just might be able to break that streak of theirs.

Leave a Reply