After 18 additions during the early signing period, three transfers and three early departures for the NFL, Pitt’s football team stood at 86 scholarships — one over the limit — and the coaching staff was still recruiting players for the Class of 2018, so there were bound to be more departures before the end of the 2017-18 offseason.
News broke on Friday that at least four more Panthers will be transferring, as redshirt freshman defensive end Kaezon Pugh, redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Kam Carter, redshirt freshman linebacker Henry Miller II and redshirt sophomore cornerback Malik Henderson are all expected to leave the team, Pittsburgh Sports Now confirmed.
The losses in some fashion were inevitable, but what does the specific players departing mean for Pitt in 2018 and beyond?
Miller was part of Pitt’s plan to move more athletic players from skill positions to lesser ones. Miller moved from safety to linebacker, along with Seun Idowu and Jalen Williams.
Idowu, a former walk-on, has become a starter at the star position. But Idowu will be a senior in 2018 and Miller was one of the players being groomed as his replacement. Miller and Williams would have been penciled in for a battle to make the two-deep this summer, so Miller’s departure will probably open things up for Williams, along with younger linebackers like Cam Bright.
Williams has more experience than Miller, so it seems unlikely that Miller’s departure will have a huge impact on 2018. It’s more likely to be felt after Idowu and Williams’ departure, when Miller would have been seen as a likely starting option.
Pugh never seemed to find a place to fit at Pitt. He redshirted as a true freshman linebacker, then moved to defensive end and didn’t see the field much there, either. He also mysteriously didn’t dress for at least one game in 2018. He was going to have to find a way to pass Patrick Jones to get on the two-deep in 2018, which he was unable to do in 2017.
One of the most heralded players in Pitt’s 2016 class, it’s hard to say what exactly went wrong that the former Aliquippa star wasn’t able to find a way to even contribute on special teams. Regardless, Pugh has already been passed by Jones and Weaver, so his loss is more about the Panthers never getting to realize the potential of a four-star recruit that is in any specific hole his departure will cause.
Henderson is one of the players that Pittsburgh Sports Now highlighted as a potential transfer at the beginning of the offseason. He was quickly passed by both of the team’s true freshmen corners in 2017 and never saw much playing time despite injuries to both Avonte Maddox and Phillipie Motley.
Carter’s path will take another twist as the one-time Penn State signee, who then played two years at Eastern Mississippi Community College, will transfer from Pitt after one season. Carter never seemed to be in the good graces of the coaching staff from the beginning. He was restricted from speaking with the media long after the true freshmen that played made available and his playing time waned down the stretch as he was passed for playing time by Rashad Wheeler.
Amir Watts and Keyshon Camp are also young tackles that saw more playing time than Carter, so his role would have probably been limited to backup duty going forward. Pitt still has four experienced defensive tackles on the two-deep with talented freshmen Jalen Twyman waiting in the wings.
Pitt’s coaching staff now has at least three scholarships to recruit with until the February singing period opens, and they still could have some more. The Panthers just offered 2018 defensive end Jaevon Becton. Becton is a former Georgia commit that de-committed before the early singing period. His recruitment could signify that the Panthers are looking for another pass-rushing type to add to the Class of 2018.
The other positions Pitt is actively recruiting include running back, linebacker and defensive back. If they have a player they’d take at all four spots, there may be more departures before everything is said and done.