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Opinion

Plenty of Positive Signs Developing for Pitt

Plenty of Positive Signs Developing for Pitt

It’s amazing what a small winning streak will do for everyone’s confidence.

Three weeks ago, the Pitt fan base didn’t think they’d see another win the rest of the season. Now after their win over Virginia, some now believe that a 10th straight bowl appearance isn’t unthinkable.

What’s changed with Pitt?

Honestly nothing much but playing time.

While the team was losing to ranked and more experienced competition, Pat Narduzzi kept calm realizing the number of underclassman he was playing on his first and second team depth chart.

Pat Narduzzi celebrates after defensive stop October 28, 2017 — David Hague

The Pitt 2017 team is one of the 5 youngest teams in all of college football. While instant results would’ve been nice, that’s not realistic when playing the level of competition the Panthers were scheduled to play in their non-conference and ACC schedule.

It’s called growing pains and steady growth is what we’re starting to see especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Consider that Pitt probably played their best defensive game of the year and played only one senior.

Game by game, players like Rashad Weaver, Amir Watts, Dane Jackson, Damar Hamlin, Elijah Zeise, Keyshon Camp, Elias Reynolds, Salem Brightwell, Rashad Wheeler, Therran Coleman and Chase Pine continue to get better and show signs that the strength of Pitt’s future could very well be on the defensive side of the ball.

Elijah Zeise (25) hits Virginia QB Kurt Benkert (6) October 28, 2017 — David Hague

The thing that has to be exciting for the Pitt future is that aside from players listed above, we’ve yet to see Henry Miller, Kaezon Pugh, and Paris Ford, who might be the best of the bunch.

That’s not to mention a certain local recruit who’s making his college decision tomorrow. If he says “Pitt is It”, the talent pool will be adding a big time player who has a chance to contribute right away.

For three years, Pitt fans have been wondering when Pat Narduzzi would build a defense that resembled some of his Michigan State’s teams.

We could be in the process of seeing just that.

While the defense looks to be making big strides, something is also happening on offense that is encouraging for 2018.

Pitt has appeared to have found a feature back in junior Darrin Hall.

Darrin Hall (22) breaks a tackle up the middle October 28, 2017 — David Hague

Coming off a near record-breaking performance against Duke, Hall came back with a 111 yard game against Virginia.

With no one stepping up and grabbing the job at the start of the season, Narduzzi was forced to place musical chairs at that position but it looks like the music has stopped and Hall is the man.

Like on defense, Pitt will have their entire 2017 backfield back next year plus will have Todd Sibley in the mix.

Hall has been good but so has the offensive line. The biggest reason for Pitt’s early season struggles running the ball had to be attributed to the line.  They were bad, real bad but to their credit they’ve shown improvement.

If left tackle Brian O’Neil returns for his senior season, three of five starters come back.

Unfortunately, the most important position on the field remains the Panthers biggest question mark.

Who will be Pitt’s starting quarterback and can he be effective?

Junior Ben DiNucci will enter the offseason as the starter but will no doubt be challenged by Kenny Pickett.

If one of those two can truly develop and become reliable, with all of the other returning talent, 2018 might finally be the year for Pitt.

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