Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi unveiled his team’s first two-deep depth chart of the 2016 season, and there are some surprises, even after three weeks of training camp.
Here’s what the first two-deep of the year looks like:
Let’s dive in with some instant analysis on the Panthers’ roster.
Manny Stocker has, as expected, beaten out Ben DiNucci for the back up quarterback spot, but Narduzzi didn’t seem enthused with the amount of depth at the position.
“It’s something we’ve prepared for,” Narduzzi said. “I think they guys have matured a lot over 20 games of camp and thought spring ball. We’ll find out. Will they be the same without (starter Nate Peterman)? No.”
Stocker, the only one with any game experience, last played quarterback in 2014 with FCS school UT-Martin.
At running back, Rachid Ibrahim seems to be the odd man out, with Chawntez Moss, Darren Hall and Qadree Ollison all listed as co-second team players behind James Conner. Narduzzi expects it to be a fluid situation amongst the three backups.
“It’s not for a bad reason there’s a bunch of (players listed) there. Qadree Ollison had a great camp. He’s better than he was a year ago. Really, all those guys have had a great camp. The backfield is big, fast and they’re physical.”
Add 6-foot-5, Aaron Matthews is definitely the biggest surprise on the two deep roster. The true freshman will back up Jester Weah at one outside spot, with Tre Tipton behind senior Dontez Ford at the other. Matthews, a Clairton native, is one of five true freshmen on the two-deep.
“Aaron has done a nice job,” Narduzzi said. “He’s a mature, smart guy who is physical. (He’s) tough. He doesn’t act like a freshman when he’s on the field. He goes up and gets the ball. He’s a guy that has impressed the coaches here at camp. He’s going to have an opportunity.”
“He plays with confidence,” Ford added. “A lot of the guys from Clairton, that’s what they do. They ball. I respect that from them. I think he’s able to take what he learned in the meeting room out onto the field.”
Quadree Henderson gets the start in the slot with Rafael Araujo-Lopes as his backup. The Panthers list three starters at wide receiver this season, an increase from last season when they started two wide receivers and fullback George Aston.
“We have several guys that can go out there and play,” Ford said of the increased role of wide receivers. “I think for any given game, you may see different guys go out there as starters.”
It seems like the offense of line is pretty set with Alex Officer at center Alex Bookser at right guard and Brian O’Neill at right tackle, but Narduzzi expect them to move around a bit, especially during the opening weeks.
Senior John Guy, redshirt juniors Carson Baker, Aaron Reese and Jaryd Jones-Smith and redshirt sophomore Connor Dintino make up the second team.
In something of an expected move, Dwayne Hendrix beat out Rori Blair for the starting defense end job opposite Ejuan Price. James Folston is the other back up, beating out Alan Edwards for that spot.
At defensive tackle, true freshmen. Amir Watts and Keyshon Camp are splitting time behind Shakir Soto. Shane Roy and converted offensive lineman Mike Herndon are doing the same behind Tyrique Jarrett at nose tackle. Returning letterman Jeremiah Taleni is not on the two deep.
Seun Idowu will get the start at the star linebacker, ahead of Elijah Zeise. Idowu came over from safety back in the spring and has impressed with his athleticism at the linebacker position.
“He’s very athletic and smart,” said senior Matt Galambos, who will start again at middle linebacker. “He makes tackles and flies around. He’s good.”
Senior Bam Bradley, who has played some star in training camp, will back up fellow senior Mike Caprara at the money position.
“Seun is a great football player,” Narduzzi said. “He had a great camp. Him and Elijah and Bam have battled back and forth in there for that position. Seun has done a nice job. That outside linebacker spot will be a position we continue to evaluate throughout the season.”
Injured freshman Damar Hamlin is not on the two-deep at cornerback, with Ryan Lewis and Avonte Maddox starting and Dane Jackson and Malik Henderson providing depth. Terrance Webb got the nod over Reggie Mitchell at starting free safety, but again, Narduzzi expects both to have roles this season.
The specialists are all holdovers, with Chris Blewitt, Ryan Winslow and Pat Quirin maintaining their roles from 2015. Henderson is expected to be the primary punt and kick returner, with Maddox serving as his backup. Junior tight end Nathan Bossory finds a spot on the two-deep as Quirin’s backup.
Narduzzi wasn’t willing to commit to any redshirts for the 2016 season other than defensive end Zack Gilbert (heart condition) and ineligible transfers tight end Chris Clark and quarterback Bo Schneider.
“You’re never a redshirt until the end of the year,” Narduzzi said. “We flat-out tell those guys that. It doesn’t really matter. You really are. If you go into the 11th game of the season and you really need a guy, he’s playing.”
UPDATE, 5:00 PM:
Pitt has updated the two-deep depth chart to include Challingsworth, listed alongside Mathews at wide receiver and Edwards, listed with Folston at defensive end.