Kenny Pickett will no doubt be a major key for Pitt this upcoming football season and if last week was any indication, big things are in store for the Panthers offense.
Pickett just concluded a four-day stay at the prestigious Manning Passing Academy, where he was one of the 35 college quarterbacks that were invited to participate with Archie, Eli and Peyton Manning.
The camp, which was in its 20th season, took place in Thibodaux, Louisiana.
Tony Racioppi, who is Pickett’s personal off-season quarterback coach and one of the top quarterback coaches in the country, attended the camp and talked with Pittsburgh Sports Now about what he saw from his pupil.
“Physically, he went toe-to-toe with all of those guys,” said Racioppi, “I thought that he showed tremendous arm strength, an ability to move in the pocket. Obviously, these were just drills and not live-game scenarios but he threw the deep comeback well, he threw a post like 70 yards in the air and dropped it in the bucket, which impressed a lot of people.
“After the first night, Peyton (Manning) came up to me and said, ‘That kid from Pitt, Pickett, I really like him. He throws the ball really well and I like the way that he carries himself. He’s a quarterback.’
“That stood out to me because Peyton came up to me, I didn’t bring his name up to Peyton, he brought Kenny up to me.”
Everyone knows that Pickett’s sophomore season didn’t go as he’d hoped and a big reason for that was the offensive system employed by former offensive coordinator Shawn Watson. Mark Whipple is now in charge of the Panthers’ offense and that, coupled with attending an event like this will no doubt improve and benefit Pickett.
“I think this was a huge benefit for him,” said Racioppi. “Number one, he saw that he can throw with the best out there. Number two, I think he really soaked up Peyton and Eli talking about film study, off-season stuff. The best thing about those guys is that their person systems and preparation that they had in place are phenomenal. It’s not just the fact that they could throw, it’s all the other stuff that they do that Kenny was able to take from it.”
Pickett finished the 2018 season by completing 180 of 310 passes for 1969 yards (58.1%) with 12 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Racioppi has worked with him all off-season and strongly believes 2019 will be a strong season for Pickett and Pitt.
“No doubt. I think it’s going to be a combination that he’s gotten better and he’s worked really hard to get his game better,” said Racioppi. “Number two, he’s now played a full year and learned a lot but also experience some success that people forget about but the negative times that he had are something he learned from.
“I know that he’s excited to play in Coach Whipple’s offense. He loves the schemes that they’re running and the way he coaches the quarterback position. Coach Whipple frees the quarterback up and has answers for every coverage that defenses show him. He’s really excited.”