For one member of the Pitt defense, it won’t be that hard to get into the head of Louisville quarterback Micale Cunningham when the Panthers face the Cardinals at Heinz Field on Saturday.
Yes, there’s the scouting report and an entire week’s worth of practice reps, but for Pitt linebacker Cam Bright, those are secondary to his deep knowledge of Cunningham’s game from a more direct source: They’re high school teammates.
Both Bright and Cunningham suited up for Park Crossing (Ala.) before matriculating to their respective institutions and for Bright, that means he has a pretty good idea what the Louisville dual-threat leader is looking to do.
“I know his game a lot,” Bright said. “So I know how to approach it and what his positives are and negatives are. As far as our game approach, I just feel like we gotta contain him, keep him bottled up in the pocket and take away his first read.”
Cunningham missed some time with an injury in 2019 and was part of a group effort at the quarterback in the first year under Cardinals head coach Scott Satterfield. But this season, he has the reins, with 70 attempts and 650 passing yards through two games, to go along with 31 yards on the ground.
For the rest of the Panthers that perhaps aren’t as familiar with Cunningham’s game, a young member of the Pitt squad did his best this week to show them the way. Pitt’s scout-team quarterback options consist of walk-ons Logan Clouse and Eli Kosanovich, who are certainly capable passers, if not quite at the same level as Cunningham. They also aren’t anywhere near the same level of athlete.
So redshirt freshman wide receiver Will Gipson from Aliquippa donned a No. 3 practice jersey this week to simulate the Louisville signal caller.
“We’ll kind of mix it up, you know, just to put an athlete back there and then put a guy that can really throw because [Cunningham] can do both,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said. “He’s got a great arm, he’s got a quick release, he gets rid of the ball. He knows where to go with the ball. So obviously, we’ve got quarterbacks that can throw the ball and then and then we used Will Gipson, who did an outstanding job. He loves it. He was begging to play quarterback. He did a great job. Anytime we need an athletic quarterback, we know we found one, not only that can do it, but that wants to do it.”
For Gipson, it’s an important way to contribute as he works his way back from an injury that cost him his entire true freshman season in 2019.
“This is really Will Gipson’s first year,” Narduzzi said. “He’s a young guy but last year he didn’t get to do any scout team or rocks periods, because he was injured all year. So this is first opportunity really to show what he’s got. It’s gonna make him a better football player, having that opportunity to do that. So he’s given us a great look this week.”
The 6-foot-2 Gipson can also take a hit, which is key to letting the Pitt defense simulate their assault on Cunningham. Oh, and it serves as a nice fill-in for Bright, who has been waiting a while to get his chance at the real thing.
“This is the game I was most looking forward to, because in high school, I couldn’t ever tackle him in practice, of course, because he was our QB1,” Bright said. “So when I get to hit him and don’t get in trouble for it, it’s gonna be fine.”