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Will Pitt Run “Vanilla” Offense Saturday?



Pitt throwback helmet

PITTSBURGH — The Pitt Panthers will have a new offense for the 2017, as Shawn Watson has replaced Matt Canada as offensive coordinator this past offseason and will make his debut on Saturday.

At least, parts of the offense will be new. Pitt set a program record by averaging 40.9 points per game under Canada in 2016 and finished 10th in FBS. When Watson arrived from Indiana, he learned Canada’s system and then put in his own tweaks rather than starting from scratch.

That means that for the most part, the Pitt offense will look familiar to fans on Saturday when the Panthers open the season against Youngstown State.

In fact, it might not look very different at all as the Panthers will probably look to hide most of the changes they’ve made, just like they did last year against Villanova, when they ran a very limited offense in the opener.

“We might be a little bit boring,” Narduzzi said Monday. “I don’t know. … Put it this way: There’s some things we’re going to hold, but we’re going out to win that football game. That’s what it comes down to.”

Pitt fans should expect to see a lot of the same things that worked well for the offense last season, like jet sweeps, shovel passes and unbalanced offensive lines, with new wrinkles installed by Watson less likely to appear.

One of those things the team does seem willing to at least talk about, if not show, is the use of Quadree Henderson as more of a downfield threat.
The 5-foot-8 Henderson is an All-American with good reason, thanks to his nation-wide lead in return touchdowns and explosiveness with jet sweeps and screens. But if the Panthers want to use Henderson down the field, more — and by all accounts, they do — he needed to prove his mettle in training camp.

“I don’t want to just be a gadget guy anymore,” Henderson said this week. “I want to be a complete player.

Hear more from Henderson on how his involvement in the offense will be taken to the next level in 2017, even if you might not see that this week.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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