PITTSBURGH — Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi announced on Tuesday that Max Browne will be the starting quarterback when the Panthers start the season Sept. 2 against Youngstown State.
The news was not a surprise. Browne had been in an alleged battle with redshirt sophomore Ben DiNucci, but it was pretty clear from the beginning that something would have had to go pretty badly wrong for Browne not to get the starting nod Week 1.
With that, here’s my Five Takeaways from Narduzzi, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and Browne’s press availabilities.
MAX IS MOTIVATED
After being one the most heralded quarterback recruits in the country and spending three years as an understudy as USC, Browne wasn’t even given three games to show what he could do as a starter. That’s something that he’s been carrying with him as he finishes his career with the Panthers.
“I would say there’s a major motivation,” Narduzzi said. “I don’t think he got to finish out his career on the West Coast like he wanted to. I think his goal is to play at the next level and he’s got the ability to do that.”
While the results of those three games with USC didn’t go the way Browne might have wanted — the Trojans went 1-2 and Browne lost the starting job to Sam Darnold — it’s a lot more experience than anyone else on the roster has and he’s going to need it as Pitt start the season with Top 10 opponent in Weeks 2 and 3.
“You learn from it,” Browne said. “Any game experience is huge, especially with two early tests. I think it’s good for the team and I think it’s good for myself.”
COMPETITION CAN HELP
While there wasn’t really a great deal of competition, Narduzzi and Browne both feel that presenting the battle in the way it was presented was the best thing for everyone.
“Competition is good for everybody, I don’t care what position it is,” Narduzzi said. “It made both of them better. I guarantee that Max felt Ben on his heels.”
“I’ve been in a bunch of competitions,” Browne said. “There’s been a lot of competition more often in my college career than not. You learn from each time. I think the biggest thing is to not getting worked up. Everyone makes it out to be the competition, but really it’s just a competition with yourself, about not worrying about what the other guys are doing and just taking it day by day.”
DiNUCCI IN PLACE
DiNucci appears to have used the opportunity to battle for the starting job to improve his stock after a lackluster performance in place of Nathan Peterman in the Pinstripe Bowl.
“From where he was a year ago at this time, it’s night and day,” Narduzzi said. “He’s not the same quarterback that he was. He’s mentally prepared. He’s physically prepared. … This football team has a lot of respect for Ben DiNucci, I can tell you that.”
One of the things that may have helped him is that Watson came in with no preconceived notions about DiNucci being lightly recruited out of Pine-Richland and the lumps he took as a young player on the scout team.
“He came in and competed from day one like he wanted to be the guy,” Watson said. “I think that will be big for him. … It takes so much to go get a job. Well, he’s learned all that. He’s been through that process.”
Tom Savage congratulated Browne on Twitter and used the hashtag #TransferQBU, referencing the fact that between him, Peterman and Browne, three of Pitt’s last four starters have been transfers. But that’s something that Narduzzi would like to change going forward with DiNucci, redshirt freshman Thomas Macvittie and freshman Kenny Pickett waiting in the wings.
“I sure hope we have,” Narduzzi said “We’d like to keep it within, but we’re going to do whatever we have to to win football games and get the most capable quarterback that we can.”
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