PITTSBURGH — While the first spring practice of 2022 wasn’t especially exciting, it did allow the reigning ACC champions to hit the field. Storylines were furthered, questions were raised and expectations were bolstered.
The quarterback competition between Kedon Slovis and Nick Patti is at full tilt, the linebacking corps is adding depth and looking for the right combination to send onto the field in September and the general feeling of being “back” is higher than ever. Wednesday’s second spring practice wasn’t in pads yet, but the action was plentiful.
The quarterback competition between Slovis and Patti remains the hottest topic surrounding Pitt football as the spring practices roll on, but not much will be decided until the pads come on. Both quarterbacks looked sharp again during drills, working all phases of the field across various drills open the media Wednesday, but all the quarterbacks looked solid.
It’s shaping up Davis Beville will likely fill the third-string role behind the loser of quarterback competition between Slovis and Patti — if there are no exits following the spring.
The running backs and wide receivers worked in tandem with the quarterbacks, obviously, running various drills in RPO, play-action and simple drop-back routes. Jordan Addison, Jared Wayne and Konata Mumpfield have all looked good during the first two days, and Jaden Bradley looks like he’s grown even taller than his 6-foot-3 frame.
The wide receivers and cornerbacks haven’t matched up yet, but the defensive backs — which will need to fill the loss of Damarri Mathis — worked run recognition, hand-eye and other drills available to the media. Brandon Hill, coming off a strong redshirt sophomore season, popped on Wednesday during the drills available to the media. He and Erick Hallett II return as Pitt’s safety duo in 2022, and Marquis Williams is looking for his running mate at cornerback.
Pitt’s defensive line room finished second nationally in sacks in 2022, and while the unit is first in sacks since the 2019 season, the quest to once again lead the nation is one. Deslin Alexandre and Habakkuk Baldonado are both back in 2022, and Dayon Hayes is arguably the strongest breakout candidate on the roster.
The former top-recruit out of Westinghouse in Pittsburgh is listed at 6-foot-3, 275 pounds entering his junior season, and he looks every bit of it. Hayes is huge, but he’s still extremely lean. He may not enter the season as the Week 1 starter, but Hayes is going to be a force on Pitt’s defensive line.
The linebacking corps wasn’t too noticeable Wednesday during the drills available to the media, but the lineup surrounding SirVocea Dennis at Mike linebacker will be heating up as the practices heat up themselves. Notre Dame transfer Shayne Simon is likely slotting into the Money slot, and Bangally Kamara could be moving to the Star slot. Buddy Mack III has also moved to linebacker, practicing now as a Star linebacker.
The linebacker depth is one of the bigger storylines of the 2022 season, and while the current depth isn’t exactly inspiring, Pitt should field a fast, athletic unit next season.