PITTSBURGH — Pitt took the field in front of the media for the first time on Friday. While they were only wearing helmets and spider pads at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, the Panthers got in plenty of individual and technique work. As they build up to full pads next week, they seem to be starting small and then growing outwards.
The biggest note of the day was the key absence of Vincent Davis. Pat Narduzzi said the junior running back missed his flight thanks to the Spirit Airlines delays, and thus got tested late as a result. Luckily, Narduzzi believes that Davis will be back at the next practice.
There were several shakeups to the Pitt depth chart as they enter the summer and train towards their season opener on September 4 against Massachusetts. First, Nick Patti seems to have earned himself the backup job behind Kenny Pickett. Narduzzi noted that Patti is cemented as the backup while Davis Beville and Joey Yellen battle it out for that number three spot.
Other key changes include the fact that Israel Abanikanda is now the starting running back. Davis missing even one day is vital if he wants to get that spot back. Branson Taylor has entered the conversation to potentially start at one of the tackle spots. Dave Borbely called Taylor “a completely different person” after offseason development and conditioning. Taylor is now down to around 330 pounds.
The New Secondary
While Damarri Mathis returns after his injury in 2020, the Panthers will have some hiccups to overcome in the secondary. There are a lot of young guys who are in the middle of the battle to potentially win playing time. Those different combinations will be tested when it comes to their communication early. However, Rashad Battle and M.J. Devonshire are both learning cornerback and safety as it stands.
They join guys like Judson Tallandier II and Erick Hallett II as guys that can both conceivably play safety and cornerback. The Panthers are going for versatility and impact wherever they can get it from the guys this year. Narduzzi noted that guys like Kahlil Anderson, Noah Biglow, and Tamarion Crumpley could very well challenge playing time as well.
Among those young guys, Anderson and P.J. O’Brien seemed to get more tread than the rest. Pitt clearly likes what they have in those two guys, but there will be stiff competition to earn significant playing time. Regardless, with seven new defensive backs coming into the fold and a bunch of shuffling going on, Pitt will have their work cut out for them to decipher what they want from this secondary.
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