PITTSBURGH — The annual Pitt Blue-Gold spring game will be hosted at Heinz Field this afternoon at 1 p.m. Here are five things to look.
It has been clear since the beginning of spring practice that junior Kenny Pickett remains the starting quarterback for Pitt, but the question of who will back him up is still up in the air.
For the spring game on Saturday, redshirt freshman, Nick Patti will get the nod as he was drafted to be the quarterback of the Gold team, while Pickett will quarterback the Blue team. Behind these two, freshman Davis Beville will back up Patti for the Gold team, while redshirt senior, Jeff George Jr will back up Pickett on the Blue team. For Patti, this will be his time to shine as he will get a chance to impress the coaches even more in a starting role. Will the freshman beat out George for the backup quarterback position come this fall? A solid performance on Saturday at Heinz Field would certainly help his cause.
After the 2018 season was over, Pitt lost linebackers, Quintin Wirginis, Elijah Zeise, and Seun Idowu all to graduation. Throughout spring there has been a constant position battle to see who will fill the three vacant positions. At this moment there might be only one position that seems set as we head into the season.
With Elias Reynolds of the Gold team being questionable for the spring game, watch out for Saleem Brightwell of the Blue team as he has made some noise at Mike this spring. A solid performance by Brightwell in the spring game could make things more interesting between him and Reynolds heading into the summer.
At the Star and Money outside linebacker positions, Phil Campbell of the Gold team is someone to keep an eye on. He has had nothing, but positive reviews coming from the coaching staff after making the switch from safety in the off-season. The coaches have been impressed with his speed and toughness. Cam Bright of the Gold team and Chase Pine of the Blue team are the two other outside linebackers that should be not forgotten about. Bright is really the only linebacker that might have solidified his position at the Star linebacker. Pine on the other hand, will be battling with Campbell for the Money spot.
Running Back Usage
It has been noticeable throughout the spring how the running backs in Mark Whipple’s offense have been used in more than just the run game. They have been used in a variety of passing formations. How will they be used in the Spring game?
In the spring game expect the running backs to be used in a variety of different formations and to be used all over the field. A.J. Davis will be the lead horse for the Gold team, while V’Lique Carter was drafted ahead of Todd Sibley for the Blue team. Sibley is listed as the backup behind Carter on the Blue team. Carter, who was known for his electrifying jet-sweeps last year, was converted to running back in the off-season. Is Carter being drafted above Sibley mean that the Blue team wants to benefit from his speed that he has?
As documented throughout the spring, they have been working on flat routes, twin sets out of the backfield, and working out of the slot. Here is some video below from these specific formations the running backs have been lining up in:
Mark Whipple’s Scheme
Mark Whipple is is looking to bring change to Pitt’s offense. After last year when Pitt predominately ran the ball and passed the ball very little, fans have been anticipating what the new offense will look like under Whipple.
Expect the offense to be a balanced attack, as that is the type of offense that Whipple presented at UMass over the last several years. However, Pitt fans, expect a lot more passing plays as Whipple will look to incorporate the amount of young athletes that Pitt has to choose from on the offensive side of the ball.
It will be interesting to see how often the receivers are targeted in the spring game and who will be the receivers that stand out in this new offense. One thing for sure is that the deep ball will be used this season.
New Offensive Line
Jimmy Morrissey is the only returning starter on Pitt’s offensive line from the 2018 season. This spring, the offensive line has been seen using many different combinations of players at the guard and tackle positions. With Morrissey, out for the spring game due to recovering from an injury last season, there is a lack of experience on the offensive line heading into the spring game on Saturday.
At the guard position, it seems as if Brandon Ford may have locked up one of the positions, while there is a battle between Chase Brown and Bryce Hargrove at the other spot. Hargrove has some experience playing last season as he appeared in all the games, but in a limited role. Brown on the other hand, played in clean-up duty in two games this past season. Brown will be starting at guard for the Gold team, while Hargrove will be starting at guard for the Blue team. The spring game will be a good opportunity to show the coaches something and enter the summer on a good note.
At the tackle spots Carter Warren and Carson Van Lynn will be the starters for the Gold team, while Gabe Houy and Jerry Drake will be the starters for the Blue team. In the spring game look for a heated competition between the tackles, as they look to impress the coaches and win the battle for the open spot. Look for the open tackle position to be between the three players of Gabe Houy, Jerry Drake and Carter Warren.