PITTSBURGH — Last year, as the 2017 Pitt football season went on, the cries for Kenny Pickett to be the team’s starting quarterback grew louder and louder.
Pickett finally started the team’s final game in 2017, a 24-14 victory over the No. 2 Miami Hurricanes. Since then, it’s been generally understood that Picket would be the Panthers’ starting quarterback going forward.
But you know how coaches get. Whether it’s motivating the player himself or the competition, or just not wanting to have to publicly backtrack if they change their mind, coaches are loathe to commit to anyone doing anything too far ahead of time.
Pitt brought in quarterback Ricky Town from Ventura Community College in California to compete with Pickett, push him for the starter’s job, and serve as a backup with at least some college experience.
But despite all of that, Pat Narduzzi and the Pitt coaching staff haven’t been shy about how the quarterback depth chart stands as of Day One of Pitt’s 2018 practices. Kenny Pickett is the guy.
“Kenny is our guy, but he’s going to get pushed,” Narduzzi said. “There’s competition. … I can’t say that those two [quarterbacks] are both ones right now; Kenny is clearly the No. 1 guy. But, I’ll tell you what, Ricky Town did some great things today. He’s got a nice arm. You guys will be impressed when you get to watch him. He can throw the ball around.”
Despite the fact that Pickett and Town have just one NCAA start between them, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson feels good about his quarterback room right now.
“I feel good about both guys because of who they are and what their football intelligence are and what type of character guys they are,” Watson said. “They want to be great players and they have been awesome in that meeting room. Kenny has been a great help to Ricky and Ricky will ask Kenny questions. That’s what I want in my room.”
For Pickett, it’s a pretty big contrast to a year ago, when he was the freshman in a room full of more experienced quarterbacks. But after Max Browne graduated and Ben DiNucci and Thomas MacVittie transferred, Pickett is now the elder statesman.
“It’s a lot different,” Pickett said. “Having a year under my belt coming into this spring was definitely huge in my progress and my growth. I think you could see that out there today. I was playing a lot more confident this spring than I was last spring.”
When it comes to Pickett’s personal progress, he’s put in many hours in the gym, studying with Watson and throwing with a new group of receivers that no longer includes NFL-bound Quadree Henderson and Jester Weah. But the part of his game that he wants to improve upon the most is being a more vocal leader.
“Coming in last spring, I was a freshman, low on the totem poll, so you can’t really get up there and start talking much,” he said. “Now, with a year under my belt, and now that I’ve become the starter, I’ve got to step up and take that role.”