It’s never a problem when you have too much of a good thing.
That is the situation Pitt finds itself in heading into the 2019 season, as the Panthers boast a deep and experienced group of wide receivers that exudes confidence, chemistry and some untapped potential.
“As a group last year, you know, we kind of felt like we were not able to showcase our talents to the full extent,” redshirt junior Taysir Mack said. “Now, us having a bigger role, we are just ready to step into the limelight.”
While they did lose last year’s receptions leader Rafael Araujo-Lopes, Pitt returns their leaders in receiving touchdowns and yards from 2018.
Senior Maurice Ffrench led the team with six touchdown receptions last season, part of the reason why he was named to the preseason Maxwell Award Watch list. Ffrench also ran for two touchdowns and took back two kickoff returns for scores.
Mack paced Pitt in receiving yards last season with 557 yards. He also led the team in average yards per catch at 22.3 yards per reception. Mack scored one touchdown in 2018.
Throw in seniors Tre Tipton and Aaron Matthews, and Pitt has four receivers entering their fourth year.
Now that Pitt has added former UMass head coach Mark Whipple as the team’s new offensive coordinator, the receivers feel that they are all poised for a breakout year with expanded opportunities across the board.
“It’s very exciting, man, with the playbook he installed and has put in,” Tipton said. “It’s fun to be around, it’s fun to fly around and have the opportunity to go make a play. And that is what we are here to do, we are here to go make a play. So it’s an exciting feeling.”
Pitt’s receivers have a reason to be excited, as Whipple’s resume with wideouts speaks for itself.
Last season at UMass, Whipple’s offense forged one of the most prolific seasons for a wide receiver in recent memory. Former Minutemen wideout and current Arizona Cardinal Andy Isabella had a record setting senior season in 2018. Isabella led the nation with 1,698 receiving yards, the 26th-best yardage total for a single season in college football history. He was also second in the nation with 102 receptions, and sixth in receiving touchdowns with 13.
With Whipple now the OC for the Panthers, players are salivating at the idea of increased opportunities and advantageous situations.
“I just feel like Coach Whipple is ready to analyze and use his playmakers, not just his running backs, as we did in the past, but like his wideouts and his tight ends in any way possible,” Matthews said. “If a playmaker, if there’s a playmaker out there, and they deserve the ball, I feel like Coach Whipple is going to find a way for them to get the ball.”
Head coach Pat Narduzzi is confident in the group, but still feels they have to prove themselves as consistent weapons.
“We had good receivers last year, and we have really good receivers this year,” he said. “I’m impressed with them, but now we have to get them the ball. I’m impressed with the whole group. They’re competing. We have guys that can play. Right now, they aren’t where they need to be.”
For Pitt’s passing game to reach the next level, the wide receiver group will have to put their money where their mouths are and shine.