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Breaking Down Pitt’s 2022 Spring Game Draft By Position

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Charlie Partridge said that with the 2022 Spring Game draft on Wednesday, those in attendance were able to see Pitt’s players show off their personality in ways that aren’t usually seen. It was a lively affair, an atmosphere wrought with competitive energy and just plain fun.

Dozens and dozens of players filed into the team room at Pitt’s UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, with the seniors seated at draft tables, and the rest scattered throughout the meeting room. There were loud cheers and catcalls for nearly every pick, with both the Blue and Gold teams engaging in the spirit of competition.

It was a fun way to get inter-team energy and competitiveness at an all-time high entering the Spring Game on Saturday. And it’s clear there’s boundless excitement around the team.

The Gold team featured the senior presence of captain Deslin Alexandre, Nick Patti, Vincent Davis, Jared Wayne, Carter Warren, Marcus Minor, John Morgan, David Green and Marquis Williams. And the Blue team featured captain SirVocea Dennis, Kedon Slovis, Blake Zubovic, Jake Cortes, Dakota Peters, Kaymar Mimes, Habakkuk Baldonado, Chris Maloney, Brandon George, Erick Hallett and A.J. Woods.

With the seniors in place, the Blue and Gold senior groups drafted their Spring Game players, and we’ll break down who went where and when. And this is in chronological order.

Bangally Kamara (11) – September 4, 2021 David Hague/PSN

Linebackers

Blue – Bangally Kamara

Gold – Solomon DeShields

Blue – Nick Lapi

Gold – Aydin Henningham

With Dennis and George already on rosters, the outside linebackers were the first position group touched upon in Wednesday’s draft. Bangally Kamara to the Blue team and Solomon DeShields to the Gold team at No. 1 and 2 only strengthens the pair’s continued growth this spring. They’ll be on opposite sides Saturday, but the two will be big factors for Pitt this season.

Nick Lapi and Aydin Henningham followed, and with limited options at outside linebacker, there’s not much to be gleaned from looking into the choices.

With Dennis, Kamara and George, the Blue team could trot out onto the field against WVU and not miss a beat. Simon and DeShields is a strong pairing for the Gold team, but they’re weak at Mike.

PJ O’Brien (22) – October 23, 2021 David Hague/PSN

Safeties

Gold – P.J. O’Brien

Blue – Brandon Hill

Gold – Javon McIntyre

Blue – Dante Caputo

Gold – Hudson Primus

Blue – Khalil Anderson

With Brandon Hill likely not playing much in Saturday’s game, the Blue team nabbing Khalil Anderson last was a big-time pick. Anderson has impressed the coaching staff all spring, and he should play a lot on Saturday. However, P.J. O’Brien has also earned praise this spring, and he’ll be a big-time player Saturday.

Javon McIntyre and Hudson Primus will play a lot for the Gold team, and McIntyre specifically will have a chance to earn some points in the battle for Hallett and Hill’s backups.

The duo of Hill and Hallett probably won’t play too much on Saturday, but that’s the starting unit. The Gold team’s unit of O’Brien and McIntyre just isn’t as strong, but it might play more.

Gavin Bartholomew (86) – September 18, 2021 David Hague/PSN

Tight Ends

Blue – Gavin Bartholomew

Gold – Jake Renda

Blue – Cole Mitchell

Gold – Trevor Faulkner

Blue – Kyi Wright

Gavin Bartholomew and Jake Renda are No. 1 and 2 tight ends entering 2022 thus far, and they went No. 1 and 2 at the position Wednesday. That speaks for itself.

Cole Mitchell (Blue) and Trevor Faulkner (Gold) are intriguing redshirt freshman options this season. It could come down to Mitchell and Faulkner playing quite a bit Saturday — along with Wright and Mimes on the Blue team.

Jaden Bradley (81) – September 25, 2021 David Hague/PSN

Wide Receivers

Gold – Konata Mumpfield

Blue – Jaden Bradley

Gold – Gavin Thomson

Blue – Jaylon Barden

Gold – Myles Alston

Blue – Josh Junko

Gold – Jake McConnachie

Blue – Addison Copeland

Gold – Luke DelGaudio

Blue – Jordan Addison

Gold – Peter Vardzel

Blue – Isaiah Stewart

Jordan Addison was the third to last wide receiver selected Wednesday, so it appears that he’s officially washed. Or, maybe, he just won’t play too much Saturday. Maybe we’ll never know.

Konata Mumpfield (Gold) and Jaden Bradley (Blue) going at No. 1 and 2 is telling. Mumpfield inside and Bradley outside will play a lot in 2022, and the seniors noted that during the draft. Plus, as Mumpfield is a sophomore and Bradley is a redshirt freshman, the position room is in excellent hands.

The Gold team loaded up on guys who haven’t played much but could play more Saturday (Gavin Thomson, Myles Alston, Jake McConnachie, Luke DelGaudio and Peter Vardzel) while the Blue team nabbed high-upside guys in Jaylon Barden and Addison Copeland.

Even with Addison, Wayne and Mumpfield not playing much Saturday, the Blue team’s roster of Bradley, Barden and Copeland is very strong.

Courtesy Rashad Battle

Cornerbacks

Blue – Rashad Battle

Gold – M.J. Devonshire

Blue – Ryland Gandy

Gold – Jehvonn Lewis

Blue – Noah Biglow

Gold – Tamarion Crumpley

Blue – Ak’Bar Shabazz

Rashad Battle coming off the board as the top cornerback, after moving back to cornerback from safety this spring, shows how he’s grown into role as a super-sized corner in Pitt’s system. He may not start in 2022, but he’s a big-time player. The Blue team snagged another sleeper in early enrollee Ryland Gandy, who has impressed the coaching staff as he’s adapted to college football.

However, the best cornerback available went to the Gold team in M.J. Devonshire. And Jehvonn Lewis and Tamarion Crumpley is solid depth.

Woods and Battle for the Blue team and Williams and Devonshire for the Gold team feature Pitt’s top four cornerbacks entering 2022, and Gandy’s play Saturday could be the difference-maker.

Kenny Pickett (8) and Matt Goncalves (76) – November 11, 2021 David Hague/PSN

Guards

Gold – Ryan Jacoby

Blue – Terrence Enos

Blue – Matt Goncalves

Gold – Ryan Baer

Blue – Jason Collier

Gold – George French

Blue – Trey Andersen

With some injuries forcing three offensive line starters out of the Spring Game, the guards unit is an interesting one. Ryan Jacoby, who started Pitt’s final three games in 2021, was the first player selected. Matt Goncalves, who started five games at right tackle, was a strong second pick by the Blue team.

Terrence Enos, a redshirt freshman who didn’t play in a game last season, coming off the board as the Blue team’s first pick, however, may point toward Enos emerging as a legitimate reserve option in 2022. Ryan Baer, an early enrollee who is already emerging as the top left tackle reserve, was the Gold team’s second pick.

With Minor and Jacoby as the Gold team’s guards, those two could step out as Day 1 starters. Cortes, Peters and Enos can’t quite say the same.

Dayon Hayes (50) – September 25, 2021 David Hague/PSN

Defensive Ends

Gold – Bam Brima

Blue – Dayon Hayes

Gold – Nate Temple

Blue – Nahki Johnson

Gold – Sammy Okunlola

Blue – Sam Williams

Bam Brima (Gold) going at No. 1 and Dayon Hayes (Blue) going at No. 2 may be a bit of surprise, but both players will feature heavily in Pitt’s defensive line rotation in 2022. Brima, who has earned praise from the coaching staff as an inside, outside player, is a versatile player who will play a lot Saturday.

Nahki Johnson could be the Blue team’s breakout pass rusher on Saturday while the same could be said for Samuel Okunlola on the Gold team. There’s a lot of potential in all six guys selected from the defensive ends room.

Adding Hayes and Johnson to Baldonado almost feels like overkill, but Alexandre, Morgan, Brima, Temple and Okunlola gives the Gold team a strong mix of experience and potential.

Running Backs

Blue – Daniel Carter

Gold – Israel Abanikanda

Blue – Angelo Priore

Gold – Justin Cullins

The Blue team picking Daniel Carter first shows they’ll use him early and often on Saturday, and with a strong spring (lauded as Pitt’s biggest and smartest running back), it could pay off. However, Israel Abanikanda is Pitt’s best back, and if he plays, he’ll run very well.

Abanikanda and Davis, with Hammond on the injury list, give the Gold team all three of Pitt’s top running backs. Carter may be playing well, but there’s no competition there.

Elliot Donald (94) Devin Danielson (95) – September 25, 2021 David Hague/PSN

Defensive Tackle

Gold – Deandre Jules

Blue – Calijah Kancey

Gold – Elliot Donald

Blue – Sean FitzSimmons

Gold – Dorien Ford

Blue – Will King

Gold – JoJo Belgrave

The Blue team continued the quality of quantity approach, selecting Calijah Kancey with the No. 2 pick among the group. Kancey is one of the best defensive tackles in the ACC, if not all of college football, so it’s likely that he won’t play much. Sean FitzSimmons, an impressive early enrollee, wil play a lot though.

Deandre Jules, Elliot Donald, Dorien Ford and JoJo Belgrave give the Gold team a strong unit to go along with Green upfront. Donald and Ford, specifically, could really showcase why they were top prospects out of high school in 2020.

Green, Jules, Donald and Ford give Pitt a mix of veteran leadership and youthful production, it’s a strong unit. And with Kancey unlikely to play much, Danielson and FitzSimmons can’t quite matchup.

Center

Blue – Matt Altsman

Gold – Matt Metrosky

It’s a thin unit with both Drexel and Terrence Moore out, but Matt Altsman and Matt Metrosky will have excellent opportunities to play a lot on Saturday and impress the coaching staff.

Long Snapper

Gold – Byron Floyd

Blue – James Fineran

Former long snapper Cal Adomitis said at the NFL Combine last month that Byron Floyd is the heir apparent at the position, and as the first selected long snapper, that checks out.

Kicker

Blue – Sam Scarton

Gold – Ben Sauls

Blue – Caleb Junko

As Pitt’s All-ACC third team kicker in 2021, Sam Scarton was the first kicker off the board. Ben Sauls (Gold) will have the chance to kick by himself while Caleb Junko (Blue) will share with Scarton.

Punter

Gold – Sam Vander Haar

Blue – Cam Guess

Blue – Dylan Bennett (MLB)

Early enrollee Sam Vander Haar has impressed so far this spring as he’s adapted to American football, having arrived from Australia this winter, and he was the first punter off the board. Cam Guess was the Blue team selection, and Dylan Bennett was added to the Blue team roster as a middle linebacker.

Injury

Gold – Rodney Hammond Jr.

Blue – Branson Taylor

Blue – Taelen Brooks

Gold – Terrence Moore

Blue – Buddy Mack

Gold – Marquan Pope

Blue – Jahvante Royal

Gold – Stephon Hall

Gold – Nate Yarnell

Narduzzi said that Rodney Hammond Jr. has the chance to play Saturday, as he was selected by the Gold team with the first injury round selection, but the rest of the team will not see the field. It’s particulary disappointing for Marquan Pope, Buddy Mack, Stephon Hall and Nate Yarnell.

Oct 24, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Joey Yellen (16) scrambles with the ball against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterbacks

Gold – Joey Yellen

Blue – Eli Kosanovich

Gold – Jake Frantl

Joey Yellen, the first non-starting quarterback selected, should play a lot for the Gold team Saturday, and Eli Kosanovich will have a big chance to play as the sole quarterback with Slovis on the Blue team. Jake Frantl will also join Yellen on the Gold team.

It remains to be seen how much Slovis and Patti play, but Yellen, Kosanovich and Frantl could get some serious playing time as the Spring Game winds on.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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