Pitt has started the 2020 season 3-0 and finds themselves ranked No. 24 in the AP Top 25 Poll, so things are going well and their isn’t much too complain about.
The only thing that’s even registered as critical amongst the fan base is the Panthers inability to get the ball in the endzone and having to settle for field goals. As the season progresses and the competition increases, that could be something that comes back to haunt Pitt.
In case Pat Narduzzi and Mark Whipple want to listen, here are three suggestions that I believe would improve Pitt’s offense and lead them to score six instead of three
1) Get Shocky Involved More
Jordan Addison has been Pitt’s best offensive player this season and appears to have quickly developed into Kenny Pickett’s go-to receiver but this offense needs a second consistent option and Shocky Jacques-Louis should be that guy.
Opposing defenses are quickly going to start game planning to take Addison out of Pitt’s offense and Pitt needs to be able to answer that. Injuries are the only thing that’s really stopped Jacques-Louis from producing. Last season, he averaged 15.1 yards/catch and 6.4 yards per carry.
Jacques-Louis has big-time speed and is a player that can make a big play when the ball comes his way. In 2019, he only caught 23 passes because Pickett and the offensive game plan was to feed Maurice Ffrench.
This Pitt offense throws the ball enough to utilize the skills of both Addison and Jacques-Louis. If they’re able to find away to get both involved, that would be a big plus.
2) Start Going Vertical
I’m sure a portion of the Pitt fan base will laugh at this next suggestion but Whipple needs to unleash Pickett.
Pitt’s passing game still has too much horizontal and not enough vertical in it. Unlike Pitt teams of the last, this 2020 has speed and players that can make plays down the field, let them do it.
This season, Pickett is 16-32 for 425 yards on passes of 10+ yards. Enough of the wide receiver screens, short passes to to running backs or short slants. Let’s start getting guys like Addison, Jacques- Louis, Jaylon Barden, Taysir Mack on deep down the field.
Pitt finally has speed, let’s see it!
3) More Touches For Izzy
I want to be sure this doesn’t come off as a criticism of any of the other Pitt running backs because it isn’t meant to be that.
The Pitt offense has been missing a lead back since the graduation of Qadree Ollison, which has been a problem. While Vincent Davis, A.J. Davis, Todd Sibley and other have had their moments, none are what I’d consider a lead back.
This year’s team finally has that guy and it’s freshman Isreal Abanikanda.
“Izzy” is the only back on the roster that possesses size (6-foot, 200 pounds), speed, cutback ability and home run ability.
Last week against Louisville, Abanikanda had 9 carries for 41 yards and looked good but Whipple needs to find a way to get him more touches. Since taking over Pitt’s offense, Whipple has been reluctant to have one back carry the load. In fact, a Pitt running back has only had 20-plus carries in a game once under Whipple (Sibley 22 carries for 106 yards vs. Delaware).
For whatever the reason, that number should change and Abanikanda could be the guy to do it. I realize he’s only a freshman but Narduzzi has shown faith in Addison and has started him from Day One.
It’s time to see if Izzy can become the next great back at Pitt.