Pitt is set to kick off their 2020 season in just a mere three days at Heinz Field against the Austin Peay Governors. Through trials and tribulations and a few different schedule permutations, the season is almost here. So, what about Austin Peay? Who are their key players and what type of schemes do they run?
Austin Peay’s Schemes
The Governors run a very up-tempo and fast-paced offense. There are a lot of quick hitters and no-huddle from the Austin Peay. It is a way to set up a rhythm with the team’s overall quickness and speed. They have done a good job to mold this scheme around the players. They like to run what is called a diamond package and it often has three running backs on the field. However, uniquely, they are far from just an option team. That is a bread and butter aspect of their offense, but they like to push the ball vertically and maneuver these running backs around as lead blockers for the speed tailback behind quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall.
This is a prime example of that diamond package and how it can break big plays. This was the big opening touchdown of the season for the Governors on their first play. Read option, speed option, triple option, dive, and more are all viable out of the set. They often function from the pistol or shotgun otherwise. When in 11 personnel, they run a variation of the Air Coryell offense and try to push the ball vertically, but mix in those RPOs as well. The point of their offense is to get a rhythm going and then try to push it downfield for the explosive play.
As for the defense, they run a basic 4-3 defense as their base defense. Sometimes what they do is instead of having three linebackers, however, they line up with a smaller set of guys, and that includes safeties. It gives them an interesting variety of coverage options. The Los Angeles Chargers ran something similar a few years back where this small, speedy package can allow the defense to have infinite options on the back end but handicap them against the run.
The defense likes to run a lot of quarters, Cover 3, and Tampa 2. Their match-man style of quarters allows a lot of schematic versatility and they can run a “trap” at times to get quick hitters out of spread offense off guard. The coverage is rather basic. They have their sub-packages on top of that small package and have some talented defensive backs. However, the other key wrinkle is that they do bring the heat situationally. They have talented defensive backs, know that, and let them run man coverage across the board while they send the house. Austin Peay mixed and matched their coverages from pre-snap to post-snap often, so Kenny Pickett will have to make sure his processing is up to snuff.
WR DeAngelo Wilson
Wilson did not play against Central Arkansas after being forced into quarantine prior to the game. While it is unclear if he is going to play Saturday, the timeline would suggest there is a good possibility he suits up. Wilson very well may be the best wide receiver in the FCS. He is a small receiver, but he is quick and electric. Wilson amassed over 1,500 receiving yards last year and was an FCS All-American. If he is on the field, this will be a good test for Pitt as he is an NFL talent. To get an idea of who he is, think of a guy like Qadree Henderson or Jakeem Grant. That is the type of player Wilson is, but he is a more potent route runner and deep threat than both of those players. Jason Pinnock and Marquis Williams will be tested by the twitchy Wilson.
CB Kordell Jackson
Another small player, Jackson is only 5-foot-9, but he is a fiery playmaker that has zero problems chirping with opposing receivers. Jackson is a smooth, quick, and fast player that keeps up well on deep routes and has the physicality to hang on the boundary at the collegiate level. He does have NFL upside since there is a perfect template with his traits on it that are wanted for slot cornerbacks. Jackson is occasionally a blitzer. However, his biggest asset is his ball skills. Jackson is simply a playmaker. Having already had impressive games against teams like Georgia and Cincinnati in the past, Jackson is a player that will likely make his presence felt on Saturday.
RB C.J. Evans Jr.
Despite only being a Freshman, Evans made his impact on the first play of the game against Central Arkansas as he got his first collegiate touchdown on his first carry. Evans, throughout the rest of the game, showcased his shifty style of running. His change of direction is the best that will show up in this backfield and it should be expected that Evans could break one at any time given his elusiveness and speed.
Matchup to Watch: Jason Pinnock vs DeAngelo Wilson
This is going to be the matchup of the game bar none. Wilson has NFL hopes and aspirations while Pinnock is hoping to step into the top cornerback role and raise his draft stock as well. It is a battle between two long-standing heavyweights on both of these squads. Pinnock has struggled at times against vertically threatening receivers, such as Gabriel Davis from UCF last year. Wilson is a very welcome challenge for Pinnock, who will face other great receiver talents over the season such as Tamorrion Terry, Amari Rodgers, Tutu Atwell, and more. This is Wilson’s best chance to get 2020 tape out, as the Governors season will end next weekend against Cincinnati. So to get some quality tape out against a lengthy cornerback can only help Wilson’s prospects.