PITTSBURGH — The next time Pitt will be in pads will be at Heinz Field for the 2022 Blue-Gold Spring Game on April 9. With Tuesday’s practice down at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex wrapping up, the spring game draft will be Wednesday, and a walkthrough will take place on Thursday.
Pitt hit the outdoor practice field on the South Side Tuesday morning, bundling up in the cold to prepare for Saturday’s scrimmage. With rain and snow keeping Pitt indoors more often this spring, it was a good chance to get back outside one more time.
Kedon Slovis and Nick Patti have both impressed this spring, with the coaching staff and teammates lauding both players’ competitive efforts in trying to win the starting job. Slovis has all the look of a high-caliber starting quarterback, with prototypical size and the ball gliding off his hand nicely. Although Patti’s throwing motion might throw some people off, he’s thrown a nice ball coming off an injury.
With Saturday’s spring game likely pitting the two against one another, it will be a good opportunity to showcase their progression this spring.
Pitt’s defensive line will be stout once again and the edge rushers will get after the quarterback once again. We know who will be leading the charge, with the likes of Calijah Kancey, Tyler Bentley and Devin Danielson inside and Habakkuk Baldonado, Deslin Alexandre, Dayon Hayes and John Morgan outside, but the spring game will be a chance for the younger players to showcase their progression.
Elliot Donald will be a fan favorite to make a leap in 2022, after impressing during drills this spring, and younger defensive linemen like Sean FitzSimmons and Bam Brima have earned praise from head coach Pat Narduzzi and defensive line coach Charlie Partridge.
Hayes, who will feature heavily in the 2022 defensive end rotation, is putting all of the pieces together, and younger players like Nahki Johnson and Samuel Okunlola will have the opportunity to show their spring growth in a more high-profile setting.
It’s no secret that Pitt’s linebacking corps will be a big, athletic unit in 2022, but Pitt’s star linebackers’ ability to drop back in coverage and the units’ ability as a whole to make tackles will be a big point of emphasis through the spring and summer.
Bangally Kamara and Solomon DeShields appear well on their way to cracking the lineup in 2022, at Money and Star linebacker, respectively, and Notre Dame transfer Shayne Simon will continue to push the pair forward. That’s a solid unit to put around SirVocea Dennis at Mike linebacker, but continued progress will occur throughout the spring, summer and fall.
Missouri State transfer Tylar Wiltz will arrive in May to provide depth to the unit, and Brandon George provides experienced depth behind Dennis, but Aydin Hemmingham and Buddy Mack will need to continue their development at Star to support DeShields.
Secondary coach Archie Collins has made waves as a recruiter throughout this spring, and his infectious energy was noticeable during drills available to the media on Tuesday. With the defensive backs working through hitting drills, Collins was quick to jump in, coaching up Rashad Battle as a teaching point for the unit.
Battle is expected to provide key depth at cornerback in 2022, along with Marquis Williams, A.J. Woods and M.J. Devonshire. Early enrollee Ryland Gandy’s spring game performance will be one to watch as he continues to impress the coaching staff with his development this spring.