PITTSBURGH — Ever since he arrived in Pittsburgh in January, Pitt quarterback Ricky Town’s primary job has been that of Kenny Pickett’s backup.
It was a job that Town signed up for, as Pickett’s emergence down the stretch of the 2017 season had all but assured him of starting for Pitt this season, and Town, a transfer from Ventura College in California, was slated to be the understudy despite being the elder of the two.
He started the Blue-Gold game opposite Pickett and wasn’t exactly inspiring, completing one pass on nine attempts, a 49-yard grab by Michael Smith.
But there wasn’t exactly a lot of competition as the Panthers entered training camp. True freshman Nick Patti is slated for a redshirt season, walk-on junior college transfer Tyler Zelinski left the team and fellow walk-on Jake Zilinskas was moved to tight end.
That changed right on the eve of the season, when Jeff George, Jr. transferred to Pitt after having spent the summer with Michigan. George had started at Illinois in 2017, pursued a graduate transfer with the Wolverines, and when then that didn’t work out, was looking for a landing spot. He found one with the Panthers, and was added to the roster as a walk on.
He was declared eligible to play for the Penn State game in Week 2 and has been a regular fixture in the top quarterbacks group ever since he arrived.
When Pickett was injured in the George Tech game in Week 3, it was Town that came in for a few plays while he was getting treated.
But against Notre Dame last Saturday, when Pitt decided to run a trick fake punt, it was George that got the call to go out, disguised in No. 96, as a pretend punter.
Monday, Pat Narduzzi was asked which of his backup quarterbacks would be the one he’d turn to if the situation arose that Pickett was unable to play.
“Right now it would be Jeff George I believe,” Narduzzi said. “Right now Jeff would be the guy. We know we have confidence in Ricky, as well. Jeff has come in and really picked stuff up well.”
Pickett hasn’t been playing all that well this season, with a passer efficiency rating of 117.6 that is No. 98 in the country. A lack of confidence in his backups could explain why Pickett has seen nearly every snap this season.