PITTSBURGH — This offseason, Pitt football was part of four transfers at the quarterback position, with Ben DiNucci and Thomas MacVittie transferring out and junior college transfers Ricky Town and Tyler Zelinski replacing them on the roster.
Since Pat Narduzzi took over at Pitt in 2015, the Panthers have had 13 quarterbacks, and every single one, with the exception of Kenny Pickett and yet-to-enroll Nick Patti, has transferred at some point in their career.
Adam Bertke: Transferred to Findlay
Ben DiNucci: Transferring
Nathan Peterman: Transferred from Tennessee
Chad Voytik: Transferred to Arkansas State
Thomas MacVittie: Transferring
Bo Schneider: Transferred from UCF and to Texas A&M
Manny Stocker: Transferred from NC State and UT-Martin
Max Browne: Transferred from USC
Jake Zilinskas: Transferred from James Madison
Ricky Town: Transferred from USC, Arkansas and Ventura College
Tyler Zelinski: Transferred from Erie Community College
It’s not like it’s an issue that just relates to Narduzzi’s tenure, either. Before he arrived, Trey Anderson transferred to FIU, Tom Savage was a transfer from Rutgers via Arizona. Anthony Gonzalez moved to defense. Mark Myers transferred to John Carroll, and of course, who could forget Joe Flacco?
The last Pitt quarterback to play out his entire eligibility with the Panthers was Tino Sunseri, five years ago. But it’s not just a Pitt issue. All around the country, quarterbacks are transferring at an extremely high rate. Town comes to Pitt as a former four-star high school player that was enrolled at both Southern Cal and Arkansas, but spent 2017 playing for Ventura College, a tiny junior college in California. Pitt was also recruiting Kai Locksley of Iowa Western Community College. Locksley had spent two years at Texas.
“Across the country, it’s amazing,” Pitt offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. “When I delved into (the transfer) market, I saw the names that were at junior college and backtracked and did the background information, I was shocked. It is an epidemic in our college football world today.”
Watson said that almost no team can feel good about its depth at quarterback, and it doesn’t take much to see across the country how injuries at that position affected the seasons of Florida State, Michigan and West Virginia, just to name a few. But it’s not just depth that suffers when players transfer.
“College football is an unbelievable place to learn about life,” Watson said. “One of the things that I think is awesome about it is competing.”
Heading into his true sophomore season, Pickett will be nearly assured of being Pitt’s starting quarterback, a less than ideal situation with no one with experience to push the young starter. But Watson feels that the depth and level of competition in his room can be re-built.
“The guys that you get, the guys that will take that on, they too want to be a great player,” Watson said. “That’s when it gets good. … The best is going to play. When you’re a guy like Kenny, you want that. You want competition. If you don’t have competition in the quarterback room, your team doesn’t have a chance.”
“What makes your football team great is competition,” agreed Narduzzi. “If anybody is afraid of competition, then we’ve got problems. … Kenny [Pickett] is a competitor. I think Ricky is a competitor. I think Nick Patti is a competitor. We’ve got guys that want to compete. What you want at that quarterback spot is guys that want to compete. If you’re just going to stay the same and you want to be a backup, that’s great, but I want a guy that wants to push Kenny. Kenny is our starting quarterback right now, and Ricky is coming in to challenge for us and make him better, and it’s going to make everybody in this room a better person, a better coach, a better team. He’s a competitor, and we’re excited to get him here.”