With the 2017 Pitt football season in the rearview mirror, it’s time to take a look at what the Panthers have as they head into 2018.
But what Pitt has on the roster is now isn’t necessarily what the Panthers will have when training camp start on Aug. 1. I wrote on Monday about the decisions that safety Jordan Whitehead and left tackle Brian O’Neill have when it comes to leaving early for the NFL.
But that’s not the only source of departures in college football. Transfers are a fact of life for most teams.
Pitt only had 10 scholarship players walk as part of the senior day festivities against Miami and the Panthers already have 13 players committed as part of the recruiting class of 2018. So the coaching staff is planning on at least three players leaving Pitt eligibility on the table, with potentially even more, as the coaching staff has been handing out offers to 2018 prospects left and right since the season ended.
So who are some of the candidates to move on? The typical go-to’s are players that have been passed by a younger player or players on the depth chart and players that can transfer without losing a season of eligibility. Let’s take a look at some of the Pitt players that fit into that scenario.
QB Ben DiNucci
DiNucci had his starting job usurped by Kenny Pickett in the 2017 finale and Pickett performed well, but DiNucci would probably still enter 2018 as a play away from significant playing time. DiNucci would lose a year if he transferred this offseason unless he’s been able to graduate in three years or he bumps down a level, which might work out for him.
QB Thomas MacVittie
There seem to only be two options for MacVittie going forward: change positions or transfer. After being relegated to fourth-string duties all season while Pitt struggled to work out its quarterback position, it seems pretty clear that MacVittie won’t be passing DiNucci or Kenny Pickett on the depth chart any time soon.
But MacVittie is finishing up his redshirt freshman year, which would mean he would lose a season if he transferred now. Maybe he finds a home as a slot receiver/backup quarterback hybrid in the mold of Penn State’s Tommy Stevens.
RB Qadree Ollison
Ollison played well in the finale against Miami, but spent most of the stretch run blocking for Darrin Hall, which is not where any running back really wants to be. Ollison never complained about the modified duty, but he could have a free graduate transfer to greener pastures if he wants it. There are certainly teams that would line up for a former 1,000-yard rusher.
RB Chawntez Moss
Moss hasn’t been passed by a younger player, as both Hall and Ollison are juniors and Moss is a sophomore, but all three (as well as A.J. Davis and Todd Sibley) will be returning, which makes for a crowded backfield.
The coaching staff never seemed to embrace Moss after he returned from a four-game suspension and it’s possible he decides to move on. As a true sophomore, he would be able to transfer without losing a season.
C Connor Dintino
Former walk-on redshirt freshman Jimmy Morrissey seemed to lock down the starting center position, leaving Dintino, who will be entering his redshirt senior year, without a spot. It’s possible that he moves to guard or to defensive tackle or fullback, where he’s also played. He could also move on as a graduate transfer after your years at Pitt.
CB Malik Henderson
Henderson just finished his redshirt sophomore season, but he was passed by redshirt freshman Therran Coleman and true freshmen Damarri Mathis and Jason Pinnock for playing time this past season. Henderson spent a good deal of time on the injured list and would lose a year if he transferred to another Division I school, so maybe he takes another shot at wrestling playing time back from the young bucks with Avonte Maddox out of the mix.
LB Anthony McKee
McKee is in a similar spot to Henderson. Chase Pine and Elijah Reynolds seemed to have hopped over him while McKee spent a lot of 2017 on the sidelines with an injury. He’ll have the same difficult decision to make after his redshirt sophomore year. Unlike at corner, Pitt didn’t graduate a linebacker and Quintin Wirginis is projected to return for his redshirt senior season after missing all of 2017, making an even bigger log jam.
LB Jalen Williams
Another player that was injured down the stretch, Williams has basically the same scenario as McKee, except that he could be a graduate transfer as a redshirt junior. Williams could also make the move back to safety if Whitehead turns pro.
Of course, playing time situations aren’t the only reason players decide to transfer. There are personality conflicts, the coaches that recruited them move on, they want to be closer to home and academic concerns all play a part, but those factors are more difficult to project.
It looks like it’ll be a little while before there is any clarity when it comes to exactly how many scholarships Pat Narduzzi is recruiting with, but there are certainly some departures still to come for the Panthers.