The Pitt football team is less than 3 weeks from their 2020 season opener against Austin Peay, which was officially announced on Tuesday.
During a normal training camp, Pat Narduzzi meets with the local media every weekday prior to the first practice of the day to answer questions and provide any team news. Because of the current health situation with COVID-19, college practices across the country are closed to the media and coaches are doing weekly Zoom Interviews with the media.
Narduzzi met with the Pittsburgh media on Tuesday and spoke about a number of players and the progress of his team as they now sit 18 days from the opener.
Here are the newsworthy points brought up by Narduzzi during his 24-minute Zoom session.
Back-Up Quarterback: Narduzzi seems very happy with the depth the Panthers currently have with the 3 players battling for that backup spot behind starter Kenny Pickett. Newcomer Joey Yellen, Davis Beville and Nick Patti have all performed well and because of that, Narduzzi says no decision has been made yet on the backup. He wants one of the 3 players to really stand out and make the decision easy for him and Mark Whipple.
Starting Running Back? The Panthers used a running back by committee approach last year and that very well could be the case again this year. Narduzzi seems happy with his options but said on Tuesday that no one has jumped out to claim the spot. The 3 backs mentioned most prominently during the Zoom Call were Vincent Davis, true freshman Israel Abanikanda and redshirt freshman Daniel Carter. Narduzzi seemed very pleased with Carter, who he referred to as a big back (230 pounds) that has been running well and “getting his pad low”. A.J. Davis is also in the mix for playing time but didn’t play in Saturday’s scrimmage due to a nagging injury.
2019 Rushing Statistics:
A.J. Davis- 126 attempts for 532 yards and 4 TD’s
Todd Sibley- 50 attempts for 249 yards
Vincent Davis- 46 attempts for 245 yards and 4 TD’s
V’Lique Carter- 62 attempts for 231 yards
Talented Class of 2020: Something that really stood out was the praise that Narduzzi had for a number of his true freshman. The Pitt head coach is traditionally very guarded in what he says to the media, especially when talking about freshman but that wasn’t the case Tuesday. Abanikanda has been talked about since the spring but wide receivers Jordan Addison, Aydin Henningham and Jaylon Barden were complimented by Narduzzi, who said that trio have been good from the start of camp and “wouldn’t be shocked” to see them play this year.
Addison has been a camp headliner with Narduzzi calling him “special” and that “he’s going to be a good football player, real good.” Pitt withstood a late charge by Maryland to land Addison last year, who also held offers from Michigan, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech.
Two freshman on the defensive side of the ball that Narduzzi said have “stood out” are 4-star defensive backs Rashad Battle and Jahvante Royal. With the season-ending injury to Damarri Mathis, those two along with Hunter Sellers are could be auditioning for considerable playing time.
Defensive Tackle Depth: The Panthers defensive line depth took a blow with Jaylen Twyman’s decision to opt out of the season and prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft. PSN’s Alan Saunders asked Narduzzi about the Panthers depth at that position and whether they are looking to possibly move another player to defensive tackle. Narduzzi said that he likes the talent and depth with Keyshon Camp, Devin Danielson, Tyler Bentley and David Green but that they’ve “toyed with” the idea of moving Bam Brima and possibly Deslin Alexandre inside if they get “in a pinch”. Narduzzi believes that Alexandre actually has more of a body to play defensive tackle in the NFL than as a defensive end.
Solid Camps: Other players that were mentioned as having solid practices and camps were incoming JUCO TE Daniel Moraga “gradually getting better and better”, DE Patrick Jones (“has been great), CB A.J. Woods and S Brandon Hill (“explosive, physical player that always hitting someone”).