PITTSBURGH — Around the Pitt practice fields last summer and fall, then-redshirt freshman wide receiver was a popular name as someone that was making big plays when Pitt unleashed its passing game.
Needless to say, that didn’t happen when the regular season rolled around. Butler-Jenkins finished his 2018 season with a measly four catches for 12 yards.
Of course, it’s hard to place the blame at the fault of the young pass-catcher from Hollywood, Florida. All of Pitt’s passing offense struggled through 2018, with starting quarterback Kenny Pickett infamously throwing for eight passing yards in the 2018 ACC Championship Game against Clemson.
This spring, Butler-Jenkins is once again turning heads with his play on Pitt’s practice fields, and this season, Pitt just might have the type of offense that’s going to be able to take advantage of his skillset.
New offensive coordinator Mark Whipple had the NCAA’s leading pass-catcher in Andy Isabella last year at UMass and has installed a more-balanced offense this spring at Pitt. The receivers have noticed.
“Coach Whipple is going to call the right plays,” Butler-Jenkins said after practice on Tuesday. “The thing that really stands out is that he’s a very aggressive play-caller. He’s not settling for just one touchdown, two touchdowns. He wants to score as many times as he can, run as many plays. Pretty much, he just gives everyone the opportunity to make plays, from the receivers, the running backs, everybody.”
Pitt ought to have a talented wide receiver corps this season. Leading 2018 receivers Taysir Mack and Maurice Ffrench both return, as will seniors Aaron Mathews and Tre Tipton. All for of those players are hoping to hold off talented youngsters like Butler-Jenkins, Shockey Jacques-Louis and Michael Smith for playing time.
That’s led Whipple and new receivers coach Chris Beatty to get Butler-Jenkins some experience playing on the inside after being primarily an outside threat in his first two seasons at Pitt.
“I love it,” he said. “Since high school, I’ve kind of felt like I can play inside and outside. I have cousins that play slot, so it kind of helped me working with them, as well.”
Butler-Jenkins and his cousins — Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore and Michigan State’s Laress Nelson — started that work when he went home to Florida for break and they’ll continue it this summer.
In the meantime, it’s Beatty who has Butler-Jenkins’ ear most of the time. Butler-Jenkins is a big fan of his new receiver’s coach.
“If you were to just watch us in a meeting, we are ready to learn, we are ready to hear what Coach Beatty has to say and every day in practice,” he said. “We’re just ready and excited. We’re really looking forward to the season.”
They’re also looking forward to proving that if there was a good reason that Pitt’s passing game faltered in 2018, it wasn’t because of the men that populate the receiver’s room.
“I feel like we definitely had the weapons.”