PITTSBURGH — Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight blasted over the PA system as Pitt warmed up Thursday morning, the day after the official 2022 Blue-Gold Spring Game draft, and the culmination of Pitt’s spring season was palpable.
With spring practice No. 14 down at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex coming indoors, the next time Pitt will take the field will be outdoors at Heinz Field on Saturday afternoon.
Pitt ran through play calls, of all different varieties including field goals, punts and light offensive schemes, but Thursday’s portion of drills available to the media was a light run through.
Pitt’s offensive line and defensive line did square off with quick-hitting one-on-one reps that showed off speed and explosion — Nahki Johnson flashing his quickness off the edge, especially — from the defensive linemen and quick feet from the offensive linemen. The battle up front between the Blue and Gold teams will be something to watch during the game.
With Kedon Slovis leading the Blue team and Nick Patti leading the Gold team, the two will square off head-to-head publicly for the first time since Slovis arrived from USC last winter. While it isn’t the deciding factor based on who plays well in the Spring Game and who doesn’t, a strong performance could go a long way.
The starters won’t play a whole lot Saturday, with Jordan Addison, Israel Abanikanda, etc. likely not getting much playing time (and Rodney Hammond Jr. out), it’ll be the first look at how Pitt’s new-look offense could function. And younger players like Jaden Bradley, Jaylon Barden and Addison Copeland and Daniel Carter will get extended looks on offense.
Bangally Kamara, Solomon DeShields and Shayne Simon should all play a lot on Saturday, with Simon possibly even getting some work at Mike linebacker, as the linebacking corps begins to take shape. With Buddy Mack and Marquan Pope missing, it’s a thin unit, so all of the linebackers should get some serious playing time.
Similarly, along the defensive line, younger guys like Johnson, Elliot Donald and Dorien Ford have the opportunity to see a lot of playing time as starters like Calijah Kancey and Habakkuk Baldonado won’t play a whole bunch. And on the back end, Ryland Gandy, Khalil Anderson and Rashad Battle have earned praise this spring, and all three should have a chance to make an impact.
The Spring Game can sometimes be overhyped, but it is a chance to see how younger players — with an extended look in a competitive setting — will be able to parlay potential playing time in the fall.