Things haven’t played out this 2020 season as most surrounding the Pitt football program expected them to. Instead of competing in the top half of the ACC conference, Pitt currently sits with a 4-game losing streak and wondering when and where their next win will come.
With unexpected losing comes negativity and questions surrounding the future of the coaching staff. Considering it’s the middle of the week and four days removed from the Notre Dame embarrassment, it appears the staff will remain as is for their next game against Florida State.
It’s easy to just focus on what’s going wrong and forget to point out there are some players having good individual and breakout seasons on this Pitt roster.
Instead of harping on what’s going wrong, which is pretty obvious, here are five bright spots for the Panthers that people may be overlooking.
Patrick Jones Is A Legit Star
Defensive end Patrick Jones decided to return to Pitt for his senior season and bypassed the 2020 NFL Draft in order to help Pitt win and also improve his draft stock. Following last season, Jones was believed to be anywhere from a 3rd to 5th round pick and many believed he could improve on that. It’s a good thing Jones bet on himself because not only has he improved his draft status, he’s now looked at by nearly every mock draft as a 1st round pick in the 2021 Draft. Jones is not only a dominating pass-rusher but has developed into a good run stuffer and a tremendous character player. One veteran ACC writer named Jones on Tuesday as his mid-season pick for ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Jones will continue Pitt’s line of players playing on Sunday’s next season. Pretty good story considering Jones was a two-star recruit without much hype.
Dominance Of Pitt’s Defensive Line
Staying with the theme of the defensive line, Charlie Partridge’s unit has done a tremendous job considering the circumstances. While the defensive unit as a whole hasn’t performed up to what was expected of them, I can’t find much fault in the play of the guys up front. Despite Jaylen Twyman opting out of the season, losing talented defensive end Habakkuk Baldonado to injury in the opener and senior Keyshon Camp for a large period of time, this front four really hasn’t missed a beat. Jones and Rashad Weaver have been tremendous, a star is developing in Calijah Kancey and guys like Tyler Bentley, Devin Danielson, Deslin Alexandre and John Morgan have been solid all season.
Thanks in large part to the stout defensive line, Pitt once again leads the country in sacks, which gets the headlines but something that gets overlooked is the way they’ve stuffed their opponents running games. Here’s a game-by-game breakdown:
Brian Snead, Austin Peay: 8 carries for 9 yards
Jawhar Jordan, Syracuse: 13 carries for 40 yards
Javian Hawkins, Louisville: 13 carries for 78 yards. Keep in mind, Hawkins scored on a 75 yard TD run, so his other 12 carries were for 3 yards.
Ricky Person, NC State: 14 carries for 39 yards
Zonovan Knight, NC State: 7 carries for 29 yards
David Bailey, Boston College: 15 carries for 36 yards
Pat Garwo III, Boston College: 14 carries for 36 yards
Jaylan Knighton, Miami: 7 carries for 25 yards
Cam’Ron Harris, Miami: 12 carries for 24 yards
C’Bo Flemister, Notre Dame: 13 carries for 48 yards
Kyren Williams, Notre Dame: 17 carries for 38 yards
Emergence of SirVocea Dennis
Sophomore linebacker SirVocea Dennis is arguably the surprise story of this season for Pitt. Despite not being a starter, Dennis is Pitt’s leader in tackles with 42 and might be their most complete and talented linebacker. Dennis took advantage of Cam Bright’s injury and opened the eyes of Pitt’s coaching staff and everyone in the ACC. Dennis is a physical linebacker with the ability to make plays sideline to sideline. Dennis has a story similar to Jones in that he was a unheralded 2-star recruit when signing with Pitt in 2019 and like Jones, has a bright future. Credit the Pitt staff for spotting this talented player and bringing him to Pitt.
Freshman Star Jordan Addison
The coaches spotted and boasted about Jordan Addison’s talent from day one and they were correct with their evaluation. Despite being so young, Addison was thrown in the starting lineup and since then, has not only developed into Pitt’s top wide receiver but one of the best in the ACC. Addison is currently tied with Virginia’s Billy Kemp for the most receptions and is second to Clemson’s Amari Rodgers in receiving yards with 484. This kid has unlimited potential and has the look of someone that will be playing in the NFL one day.
Appreciation For Kenny Pickett
The talent level and value of Kenny Pickett has always been a topic of conversation. Despite being questioned by many, Narduzzi has always stuck with his senior quarterback and sung his praises more than most. That opinion was mostly laughed at but it now looks like a lot of it was spot on. Before injuring his ankle, Pickett was playing the best ball of his career at Pitt and now that he’s gone, everyone is seeing how important he was to this team. For much of his time at Pitt, Pickett has never been surrounded by a running game, a great offensive line and many play makers and NFL scouts recognize that and have him as someone that can potentially be a late round pick and make an NFL roster.