There has been plenty of excitement for the 2020 season. But if Pitt played a game today, things might not look as optimistic because they started spring practice on Monday morning with several players on the sidelines.
One of those players is redshirt junior offensive lineman Gabe Houy. Houy started one game at left tackle in 2018 and six games at right guard last season and appeared in 12 of the Panthers’ 13 games. But the 6-foot-6, 300-pound Upper St. Clair alum was never fully healthy, according to Pat Narduzzi on Monday.
And because of that, Houy is going to wait until he’s 100% before he officially gets back on the field to help the Panthers.
“Gabe will be out for the spring,” Narduzzi said after the Panthers’ first spring practice. “He was hurt all last year, guys. He’ll be ready to roll, though; he’ll be strong and ready to roll in the fall.”
Right now, redshirt sophomore Jake Kradel looks like the starting man at right guard. Houy and Kradel dueled it out last season as well. Kradel started the final seven games of the season and looks to maintain a hold on that job for 2020. When healthy, Houy will likely battle converted tight end Grant Carrigan and Carson Van Lynn for the vacant right tackle spot.
On the opposite side of the line, another player who is still not fully ready to get back out on the field is senior defensive end Rashad Weaver. Last August, Weaver suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during a Pitt practice. During the 2018 season, Weaver led Pitt in sacks, tackles for loss, and fumble recoveries.
But an ACL injury isn’t something that many guys can just jump right back into things from and look like their old self. Weaver and Narduzzi feel that right now, they should just take things slower than usual.
“He’s not full-go right now,” Narduzzi said. “We are going to be smart with him, until we kind of know what he’s got, we aren’t going to mess it up. … We aren’t beating anybody (now), there’s no pressure in March. So, we’re going to see what he can do moving on, but we aren’t going to push it.”
Weaver is the headliner of Pitt guys that are dealing with current injuries or recovering from one suffered dating back to last season.
“We got a few guys like that, that are on the IR right now,” Narduzzi said. “Whether they had a postseason injury, that will be on the sideline. There’re some guys that will miss spring ball, as we know, across the country. We’ve got probably maybe six, seven, eight guys that we’re going to be smart with.”
One of Pitt’s skill guys that is also still a little banged up as spring ball has started is redshirt senior, Tre Tipton. Tipton has battled numerous injuries throughout his Panther career, but the 6-foot Apollo native will try to make his biggest impact on the field in his final season after being granted a sixth year of eligibility.
Tipton played in three games last season, catching seven passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice before Pitt’s Sept. 21 game against UCF.
“(Having Tipton back), just from a leadership standpoint in the receiver room, I think that the biggest standpoint,” quarterback Kenny Pickett said. “He’s a really smart kid. He knows what he’s doing. He’s been around for a while. … He’s going to be huge moving forward.”