PITTSBURGH — The rosters and coaches are set for the 2017 Blue/Gold Game, which will be held at Heinz Field on Saturday with a 1 p.m. kickoff.
Former Pitt greats Tyler Boyd and Jabaal Sheard will be the honorary coaches. The Gold team will be coached by running backs coach and special teams coordinator Andre Powell. The Blue team will be coached by linebackers coach Rob Harley.
The coaching staff divided the seniors onto the teams, with cornerback Avonte Maddox being selected as the general manager of the Gold team, with Max Browne as his opposing number on the Blue team. The players drafted the teams without the input of the coaching staff.
Left tackle Brian O’Neill was the first selection and injured tight end Chris Clark was the last pick. After the draft, a trade saw cornerback Rob Boatright, quarterback Ben DiNucci and middle linebacker Chase Pine go to the Gold Team in exchange for defensive tackle Keyshon Camp and cornerback Phillipie Motley.
Here’s how the rosters shook out after all of the drafting and trading:
The Gold team seems to be the favorite, with both starting wide receivers, 3/5 of the starting offensive line and seven of 12 defensive starters. Maddox, as always, was confident his team will have success.
“I don’t know what they were thinking over there,” he said, laughing. “They were playing checkers and I was playing chess. I was thinking ahead of the game and they were playing the next move. That’s why we got 13 starters and they have two. But good to luck to them.”
“The good news is, on Saturday at one, we’ll get to see,” Harley responded. He also said he may have some tricks up his sleeve. “I’m going rouge. We’ve got a young head coach that can always just claim ignorance if we go off schedule. It’s my first head coaching opportunity so this means something … only if we win.”
Harley said that having the players pick the teams themselves is a fun way to keep the players engaged with the process, but it also provides some insight into the way the players see the roster decisions that coaches usually make.
“It’s very telling to see who they want to play with and who they value as their teammates. I kind of like that, it’s kind of fun to see,” Harley said. “It’s one thing for us as coaches to order guys and say this is who I think is the best. But it’s these guys saying, ‘Who do I trust?”
Playing in a split squad fashion instead of just playing the top defense against the top offense like other schools do helps provide a more typical game atmosphere for the fans and also gives players a chance to do some things they usually might not do.
“I think it’s reps and not only that, everyone should have a chance to play in Heinz Field,” Harley said. “Everyone gets a great experience in the spring game and I think it helps offensive and defensive guys play with different people. You never who you’re going to play with. We can say here’s the starting five linemen or three backers and then all it takes is one guy to go down, everything gets shuffled and now, you’re playing with a whole new group.”
Admission on Saturday is free. Parking lots will open at 10 a.m.