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An ‘Incredibly Impressive’ Quarterback: Kedon Slovis Will Get a Fresh Start at Pitt

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Kedon Slovis enrolled at USC as a three-star quarterback out of Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, Arizona on Jan. 8, 2019, despite top recruit J.T. Daniels already in place as the incumbent starter. After an injury to Daniels in the first game of Slovis’s freshman season, he took over as the starter and didn’t look back.

Slovis guided USC to an 8-5 season, throwing for 3,502 yards and 30 touchdowns at a 71.9 percent clip, to earn Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors. And after a solid Covid-shortened sophomore campaign, he was expected to compete for some darkhorse Heisman hype and potential first round draft stock in the 2022 NFL Draft.

While Slovis’s junior season didn’t go according to plan, fighting through a multitude of injuries and instability within the program, former Pitt wide receiver and current Pac-12 Network analyst Yogi Roth feels like Slovis could be a difference-maker in Pittsburgh.

“Kedon’s incredibly impressive,” Roth told Pittsburgh Sports Now Tuesday afternoon. “I’ll start with that.”

Slovis signed with Pitt Tuesday night, exiting USC for Pitt after entering the transfer portal a little over a week ago. The signs pointed to either Pitt or Notre Dame securing Slovis’s signature, and it was Pitt that did enough to land the talented Arizona native.

Roth is very confident in Slovis’s skill-set, pointing to an intelligent quarterback who can make throws across all quadrants of the field with pinpoint precision, to be able to step in and help offset the loss of Kenny Pickett next season — and potentially follow in Pickett’s footsteps like he was once projected to do.

“I think going to an offense like Pitt, where you saw what Kenny did last year, you’re not just playing catch,” Roth said. “You gotta be able to read, identify — all the things that he wants to do — to show that he can play at the next level.”

With Slovis being touted as a potential high-level NFL Draft pick — even throwing at USC’s Pro Day in March — when he decided to declare at times during his Trojans’ career, Roth said it’s Slovis’s confidence in himself that sets him apart from others. He’s got a unique belief in himself that dates back to his time at Desert Mountain.

Slovis guided a poor Desert Mountain squad to the Arizona state playoffs as a junior, throwing for 3,000 yards and 32 touchdowns, and despite a first round exit, that work ethic and drive has carried over to the collegiate level — instilled upon him by one of the NFL greats.

Former NFL star Kurt Warner worked with Slovis while he was at Desert Mountain, with the relationship continuing through this day, and Roth said Warner worked Slovis hard. But that hard work and critical eye has allowed Slovis to jump from talented high schooler to legitimate college quarterback.

Despite being an Arizona native and SoCal transplant, Roth said Slovis has the characteristics that define what it means to be a Pitt football player.

“I think Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh really align itself well to the values of the city — which is you gotta be resilient, you gotta be tough, you gotta look adversity in the face and welcome it,” Roth said. “Nobody’s had to do that …  I can’t think of one that’s more than him. When you look at the expectations, he had a Heisman campaign this year, and then the head coach got fired in Week 2 and there was talk of playing a freshman in, what, Week 5? And then he got injured again. I think he can handle the adversity the position offers you.”

With the hardship that plagued Slovis during his time as a Trojan, fighting through injury, program instability, etc., Roth said he’s looking forward to Slovis just being able to have a good time competing at Pitt. And with Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi in place, Roth said Pitt’s staff is well-equipped to help with his development. “I think that’s what you need when you transfer,” Roth said. “It can’t just be, ‘Oh, I’m good, I’m better than everyone.’ It’s gotta be a fit.”

USC may have previously been a fit for Slovis, but it became increasingly clear over the course of his junior season that an exit was in the cards. With former head coach Clay Helton fired early in the season and Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley brought in as a replacement this month, the opportunity for Slovis to continue his career as a Trojan was slipping away.

“He obviously started as a freshman, thrust into the action in Week 2 and thrived,” Roth said. “I think the offense was perfect for him early in his career — to be able to play at the level that he has early on. And then he just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Add that into the chaos that was Clay Helton getting fired Week 2, it made it challenging for him as the year went on.”

Roth said while Helton and USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell fell in love with Slovis early on, he was still seen as just another arm to many around the country. He was just another quarterback who fit the USC system.

With 5,423 yards and 47 touchdowns (to just 16 interceptions) on 459-of-656 passing attempts through a season and a half at USC, Slovis made it clear that he wasn’t just another arm in the Trojans’ system. But injuries still held back what he could be, and injuries took away a good chunk of his junior season.

“He’s gotta stay healthy,” Roth said. “It was an elbow, it was a shoulder and this year, I don’t know what it was, but he didn’t play the last two games due to injury. He hasn’t made it through a whole season healthy.”

However, when Slovis has been healthy, he’s flashed enough pro potential to excite NFL scouts and earn the starting spot at USC as a freshman.

“I think that was his (top) skill, his ball placement,” Roth said. “Hitting certain spots, and I think that’s everything. Can you throw guys open? Kedon has always done that. Since he got (to USC), that was the thing that got him the job, the type of passer that he is. I think the thing that’s grown over the years is just looking the part.”

When Slovis came into the program, he was 6-foot-2, 185 pounds. He’s grown to 6-foot-3, 210 pounds over his couple of seasons in SoCal, and Roth said he’s transformed his body in the process. With a penchant for clutch fourth quarter performances and supreme confidence in himself, Roth lauded the intelligence in Slovis’s game.

“His understanding of the game is really at a high level,” Roth said. “He’s always been a student of the game, I’ve sat in on quarterback meetings with him and that position group, and he’s really impressive.”

But with injuries piling up at times during his USC career and some poor teams (playing with high expectations) failing to fulfill preseason promise and subsequently playing from behind — which allowed opposing defenses to tee off on Slovis — during his junior season, it wore on Slovis.

Having a full offseason to get healthy, get caught up with Pitt’s offense and living situation and just be happy again, Roth said he knows Slovis will put his head down and get to work. While it’ll be impossible to mirror Pickett’s magical super-senior season, Roth believes Slovis will have a big impact when he sees the field.

“I think he could,” Roth said. “I think he has that type of ability. Of all the quarterbacks in the portal this year — Bo Nix will be interesting at Oregon, he’s obviously a gamer. Spencer (Rattler), he can deal. Kedon’s in the dialogue. It can’t be forgotten that this guy threw at a Pro Day last year because the NCAA allowed you to do it. This is a guy who’s always been a pure passer, now he’s gotta find that consistency again and he’s gotta find his health.”

While Slovis will need to compete against the quarterbacks on Pitt’s roster currently, Nick Patti, Joey Yellen, Davis Beville, Eli Kosanovich, Nate Yarnell and Jake Frantl, it’s an inexperienced group that is surrounded by an experienced, talented group of skill players. It would be tough to find a better landing spot, and Roth believes that Slovis will quickly earn the affection of his new teammates.

Roth said Slovis isn’t a freak athlete, but he’s not a statue in the pocket — and he can spin the ball. Slovis has all the talent, he just needs to regain the consistency. The former All-State tuba player, Roth said, could be exactly what Pitt needs.

“He’s kind of excelled at everything he’s ever done, and he’s got a great work ethic about him,” Roth said. “I’ve seen his workouts, I’ve seen him in meetings, I’ve called his games, I’ve watched him at camps, Kedon’s got an edge to him. And I think that’s what you need.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Jim_99
Jim_99
9 months ago

My only hope is that the other QB’s get an fair shake. The upshot is that Slovis has two years left, and comes with experience playing in a power 5 conference.

Eli
Eli
9 months ago

I just hope they don’t wind up in the same situation as that one other team in PA, where the #2 and #3 QB’s on the depth chart transfer out in the offseason and they’re left with one veteran guy and a couple of freshmen who’ve never seen the field before.

Dukes

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