SOUTH FAYETTE — With the midpoint of Pitt’s 2018 training camp having come and gone, most players have a pretty good idea where they’re going to stand when the first depth chart of the 2018 season gets release.
In the past, for freshmen on the team, that’s usually meant an honest bit of self-evaluation on whether they’re going to play this season or spend the entire fall on the scout field while taking a redshirt.
But this season, the math is different. Thanks to an NCAA rule change, players can play in up to four games and still take a redshirt year, meaning that almost every player, no matter how far down the depth chart, should still feel like they’ve got a shot to don the pads in a meaningful way in 2018.
The change in attitude hasn’t been easy to see, but Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi does believe that the change has been a positive one for the mindset of those players on the bubble.
“I think so,” Narduzzi said Monday. “It’s one of the those things that it’s hard to tell. You sure hope it has. I think, even at this time, until we give them that pep talk and until things are dealt with, all of those freshmen are, you know, five-star guys. They’re all five stars in their minds. They’re ready to come in and play right now. So, there’s still probably that disappointment that they’ve got to wait just to get four games.”
Of course, there are some first-year players that probably feel pretty good about where they stand when it comes to the possibility of playing time coming quickly, and wide receiver Shocky Jacques-Louis should be at the top of the list.
Lauded for one of the best plays of the team’s Saturday scrimmage by Narduzzi and as a player that’s going to elevate Pitt’s deep passing game by quarterback Kenny Pickett, Jacques-Louis figures to have an instant impact with the Panthers. In fact, Narduzzi said there isn’t much doubt in his mind at all as to whether that’s going to happen.
“I feel pretty good about that,” Narduzzi said. “He hasn’t hit a wall and he’s pretty locked in. I think the mental part of (being here in) the spring helped him. Some guys didn’t have that.”
So it seems that Jacques-Louis is a safe bet to see the field in 2018. Which other freshmen could see playing time? Narduzzi ran down the list:
“(Cornerback) Marquis Williams has been a guy that you’ve noticed. Judson Tallandier is another guy that’s been, the last four days, has played really good, just posting his game.
“At linebacker, Wendell Davis is going to be really good. I really think he’s going to help us this year, I think probably, we’d like to save him, anyway, but he’s really smart. He’s a guy that could help you for four games on special teams. So we’ll try to take advantage of that, when we need it. I would say if we don’t need it early, let’s hold it and wait until he gets more mature. To me, he’s a guy that I’d like to take advantage of right now. I can think of four games, special teams, and then try to have four more years of him at Mike, strategically.
“John Morgan, we’ve talked about, could be a guy that could come in. Devin Danielson is kicking butt pretty good.
“Then there’s Shocky at wide receiver. Kaymar Mimes is doing a really good job at tight end. He’s going to be really good. He has a good move. He’s still a baby but he does some great things. He’s kind of a natural guy at that position, I think.”
Of course, it’s still August, and a lot can change, but it seems like those are the Pitt freshmen that have stood out in a way that’s likely to get them a four-game audition this season — if not more.
“We like them all, but those would be the ones that stand out to me,” Narduzzi said.