Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi was more of a bystander on Monday at Pitt’s 2022 Pro Day, serving as the observer and communicator with NFL staffs — spending a lot of time with Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule — but he got to see some of his former players in action for the last time in Pitt gear.
And while it wasn’t necessarily an emotional day for Narduzzi, it was a good day all around for Pitt football at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
“Not much emotion,” Narduzzi said after Pro Day Monday. “Emotions of we’re gonna miss these guys, it’s the last day of them preparing for football in that Pitt gear. They’ll be wearing it on their own somewhere else, but to be here in this facility putting on a show … The emotions come, the draft is not easy for a coach. Just waiting and waiting and watching and going, ‘Jeez.’ There’s more stress that day.”
Kenny Pickett drew the crowds Monday, but quite a few Pitt players put together strong performances — led by Damarri Mathis and Johnny Petrishen. Phil Campbell III, Keyshon Camp, Taysir Mack and Lucas Krull put together nice days, and Narduzzi wasn’t at all surprised to see it.
“Great day for our kids, 13 guys working out, proud of each one of them,” Narduzzi said. “I thought they really looked good, they did a great job training, there was no, like, ‘Oh, where’s he been training?’ So, I’m really proud of the way they prepared coming into this.”
With scouts, coaches and executives from nearly every team in the NFL Monday, Narduzzi said he heard a lot of good feedback about the way the guys performed.
No Hard Feelings From Matt Rhule
Kenny Pickett originally committed to Temple in 2016, pledging his signature to Rhule’s Owls, but Narduzzi was able to do enough to sway Pickett into de-committing and pledging himself to Pitt.
Rhule left Temple after the season for Baylor, spent a few seasons in Waco and wound up making the jump to the NFL with the Panthers. After two ho-hum seasons with the Panthers, he’s now looking for his franchise quarterback, and it could be the one that got away at Temple in Pickett.
Narduzzi and Rhule spent some time together Monday, especially during Pickett’s portion of Pitt’s Pro Day drills, but the Pickett college decision did not come up.
“(Rhule) did not,” Narduzzi said about Rhule bringing up Pickett’s commitment. “We didn’t really talk about it. He’s moved on, just like I did, I almost forgot that that’s where he was committed, so there was nothing there.”
The Most Talented Pitt Corner in the Last Seven Years?
Dane Jackson, Damar Hamlin, K’Waun Williams, Avonte Maddox, Jason Pinnock.
Some talented cornerbacks have left Pitt for the NFL in recent seasons, without even mentioning the safeties, and Narduzzi feels like Mathis might be the most talented of the bunch, offering a glowing review:
“It says a lot, you know our defense is built around what those corners can do. … The NFL loves it, Damarri gave me a big hug over there and said why I came here,” Narduzzi said. “I watch a lot of guys in the NFL, you watch Dane Jackson and how well he performed in the playoffs. I have a text message to and from, going back and forth like, I thought in the NFL it was all about matchups but they aren’t matching up with you, they’re throwing to the other side. If you watched any game, they’re throwing away from Dane Jackson. You look at what Damarri did today, and he’s impressive. You look at Avonte Maddox with Philadelphia and all the guys we have and you look at (Jason Pinnock), I haven’t got a chance to watch a lot of tape with the Jets, but (Mathis is) gonna be really good in the NFL. He’s gonna play in the NFL for a long time because he’s smart, he’s tough, he will hit you, he’s a boundary corner. We usually put our best corner in the boundary because it’s shorter throws and the balls gonna go that way, so he’s tough, he’s physical, he’s got ball skills and he can jump out of the roof and he’s really fast with that 4.39 he ran in Indianapolis. So, he might be the most talented corner we’ve had come out of here in seven years.”
Mathis ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine earlier this month, and he put together a superb Pro Day with a 43.5-inch vertical jump and 11.1-foot broad jump — to complement explosive speed and agility drills in the shuttle and three-cone. Mathis may be a higher riser as the NFL Draft draws closer.
— Ben Glassmire (@BenGlassmireNFL) March 21, 2022
Jordan Addison Showing off Potential for NFL Scouts
When Pickett targeted Jordan Addison during his throwing drills Monday, he didn’t miss. Addison ran just 10 scripted routes, and he caught every ball.
It was mainly deep shots, the Pickett-Addison special from 2021, and Narduzzi said it was a lucky coincidence that Addison was able to take the field on Pro Day and show off the chemistry with Pickett that helped him earn the 2021 Biletnikoff Award.
“It was,” Narduzzi said about Addison being able to run some routes. “And again, just rule-wise, he wouldn’t have been out there if he hadn’t missed a practice already. He missed the first Friday before Spring Break because he had to go to Tallahassee for the Biletnikoff Award … and all he did was catch 10 passes. We had it scripted for 10 passes.
“So, he got his extra practice in. But he wouldn’t have been able to do that, so you can watch him run down, he’s waiting on that ball to get there, he’s so fast.”
One of the best throws of the day came on a Pickett deep shot to Addison which dropped right into Addison’s waiting arms on a perfectly thrown ball. In 12 months, it could be Addison suiting up for his own Pro Day in preparation for a first round selection.
Program Success Leading to Increased Recruiting Results?
Pitt’s first spring practice at Heinz Field over the weekend was home to some of the top recruits in the class of 2023 and 2024, including four-star WR Hykeem Williams, four-star OG Knijeah Harris, four-star DE Mason Robinson, four-star DE Desmond Umeozulu, among others, and it’s been helped by Pitt’s continued growth on and off the field.
Pitt’s Pro Day, with NFL teams pouring in from across the country, certainly helps Pitt’s national brand in bringing in top recruits.
“This helps,” Narduzzi said. “Kenny’s success, Jordan Addison’s success and Pitt’s success, ACC championships, all that stuff affect recruiting. We had more guys out at a Saturday practice this year, this last weekend, then we ever have probably.”
Lucas Krull Could be a Sleeper TE Target for NFL Teams
Lucas Krull’s college tenure was tumultuous, even at Pitt, but he was able to put together a full season in 2021 — serving as a key security blanket for Pickett.
He wasn’t invited to the Combine, but his performance Monday showed exactly why his snub shouldn’t matter when it comes to interested NFL teams.
“I was impressed with him, and I think the sky is the limit for Lucas,” Narduzzi said. “You look at, he’s played two seasons at Pitt, didn’t get a whole lot of playing time at Florida. He’s big, he’s athletic, he can run … but he’s tall, he’s a huge target, quarterbacks want that. And again, to me, he’s like a guy that’s played two years of college football and is going to the NFL. He’s still got a lot of learning to do, he’s a man, he’s athletic, he can do it all. He’s going to make somebody really happy I think.”
Krull measured in a huge 6-foot-6 1/8 and 253 pounds, but he displayed top-notch speed and strength with a 4.54 40-yard dash time, a 35-inch vertical jump and strong times in the speed and agility shuttle and three-cone drills.
Update from @Pitt_FB Pro Day for Lucas Krull:
Wingspan: 80 in.
VJ: 35 in.
— Eric Galko (@EricGalko) March 21, 2022