Before we know it, the Pitt football team will report to training camp to get ready for the 2016 season. Pat Narduzzi and his staff will then really start to evaluate his roster, especially the young talent.
Without a doubt, two of the biggest story lines of the 2015 season were the breakout seasons of freshman Jordan Whitehead and Qadree Ollison. That dynamic duo was awarded with ACC Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year awards. Ollison took over for James Conner and rushed for 1,121 yards, while Whitehead led Pitt in tackles with 109, the most by a true freshman in Pitt history.
The question now is which Pitt freshman or first year player could be the impact players of 2016? We’ll list a bunch of players and at the end, we’d be interested in your opinion, so leave a comment.
**Damar Hamlin, CB: The 4-star cornerback and jewel of Pitt’s 2016 recruiting class. Aside from possessing big-time talent, Hamlin also plays a position that Pitt needs impact talent at. I won’t guarantee that Hamlin will be starting for the opener vs. Villanova, but I’d be shocked if he doesn’t earn a way into Pitt’s starting secondary with Whitehead.
**Quadree Henderson, WR/RB: The sophomore speedster showed glimpses of the kind of impact he can have in Pitt’s offense. Henderson played in 9 games last year as a wide receiver and kick returner, leading Pitt with 504 yards on 18 attempts, including a 100 yard KO return for a TD vs. Navy in the Military Bowl. Look for Henderson to have a good year because of the experience he gained in 2015.
**Tre Tipton, WR: The sophomore wide receiver played in Pitt’s first four games before suffering a knee injury and didn’t play the rest of the season. With the loss of record-setting receiver Tyler Boyd, Pitt needs receivers to emerge and will be counting on Tipton. During spring practices, the Apollo Ridge graduate was praised by Narduzzi for standing out. Tipton has an opportunity to have a big role but must stay healthy.
**Rueben Flowers and Aaron Mathews: It’s too early to tell on these freshman wideouts. But I can tell you that both players will be given an opportunity to make an impression with Matt Canada and Kevin Sherman.
**Keyshon Camp, DT: With the loss of seniors KK Mosley-Smith and Daryl Rende, this talented 4-star player will have every opportunity to get regular snaps on Pitt’s defensive line. Defensive line coach Tom Sims will really enjoy working with and developing this talent.
**Kaezon Pugh, LB: Of all the incoming freshman, I thought Pugh had the look of a player that could immediately help a college team. This multi-talented player stared at both running back and linebacker for Aliquippa, the question now is where will Narduzzi put him in 2016? To me, Pugh would look great with Rob Harley and his linebackers. Big time talent.
Saleem Brightwell and Anthony McKee: No doubt that Pitt needs to upgrade their speed and overall talent level at linebacker. Are Brightwell and McKee ready to contribute?
What’s your opinion? Did I miss anyone ? We’d love to hear from you so leave a comment.