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Kedon Slovis, Nick Patti Battle Continues After 2022 Spring Game Performances

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As Daniel Carter stood at a podium in the bowels of Heinz Field, a door along the side wall opened and Kedon Slovis inched inside. The quarterback, now dressed in street clothes, settled into a spot beside E.J. Borghetti and watched as Carter answered questions from the media.

Carter starred for both the Blue and Gold teams Saturday, scoring a touchdown for each, and as Carter joked about how he handled playing with both sides, Slovis’s face slowly broke into a grin as he watched.

A few minutes later as Slovis took his own turn at the podium, while he admitted that Pitt’s deep cast of offensive contributors was a key factor in luring him from USC, Carter wasn’t exactly one of the names that caught his eye. That’s all changed now, after all, Slovis’s first completion was to Carter.

“I didn’t know a whole lot about DC and shoot, obviously he wins the award,” Slovis said. “He’s been super impressive and he’s, again like he said when he was up here he’s, he’s picked up so much. We can put him anywhere we feel like we can put him out like an F position, a fullback in the backfield, he’s a good pass catcher, great after the catch, you saw it today, and after contact.”

Slovis and Nick Patti’s quarterback battle was the headliner on Saturday, but Carter’s performance ended up stealing the show. However, that doesn’t mean that the quarterbacks didn’t get a chance to compete.

It wasn’t a banner day for either quarterback, although, Patti’s 4-for-9, 108-yard day looks a lot better than Slovis’s 64 yards and an interception on 10-of-21 passing attempts. But, each player’s day goes far deeper than the stats on the sheet.

In working with new coaches and personnel across the board, a complete 180 from much of the work put in this spring, Slovis said that the reads and progressions he worked through Saturday were the easy part. Everything else provided the challenges on a cold, rainy day.

For the Blue team, working with assistant quarterbacks coach Jon DiBiaso as a stand-in offensive coordinator, Slovis said it was more figuring out what plays to run with the mix-matched personnel on the field.

“This isn’t going to work with the guys that we have, but with this personnel, maybe we should run this,” Slovis said. “I think that was more of the battle of the day. We have a lot of great plays in our playbook. But when you kind of cut the teams in half, you have to find the strengths of your team and what you can and can’t run out so that was probably the biggest difficulty.’

Slovis’s stat line especially doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, but it was what he was able to do that was negated by drops and poor offensive line play — and plays blown dead — that point to his potential.

After the Gold team jumped out to a 3-0 lead, the Blue team wasn’t able to build any momentum until their third drive of the game. And with a 1st-and-10 from the 19, a beautifully thrown ball to Jaylon Barden resulted in a drop in the back of the end zone. A play later, Solomon DeShields was credited with a pass breakup, but Gavin Bartholomew dropped a dart across the middle that would’ve resulted in a touchdown.

Sam Scarton would miss a 37-yard field goal to conclude the drive, but that was a sign of how Slovis’s day would go Saturday. And a large part of that came from Pitt’s defense demolishing the Blue team’s offensive line all day.

“We see it every day in practice,” Slovis said. “It’s legit. Great depth here. Our two d-line is just as good as, I think, a lot of school’s number one d-line. It’s really impressive to see what coaches built. It’s good to go against that practice. Because, if you feel like you’re going it’s one of the best d-lines in the country, when you go out on the game days, there only so many of those d-lines out there.”

Without Jordan Addison, who didn’t play Saturday, Slovis’s corps of Barden and Jaden Bradley wasn’t able to meet expectations. Bradley pulled in five balls for 25 yards, but Barden dropped a couple of balls in hauling in just three of six targets for 12 yards.

Patti, who while he hit on a couple of deep balls, put together a 2-of-7 for 10 yards day otherwise. However, the deep balls he connected upon and the process of leading the Gold team to put points on the board — without any pre-snap penalties — showed his progression over the last few years.

“I thought it went well,” Patti said. “It was definitely a learning experience for all of us. Coming up with a new offense, we have a lot of talent, but it was learning a lot of new staff that coach Cig wanted to do, and I think we did a good job just meshing it with what we have and making the transition easy on us.”

Patti was the better quarterback at Heinz Field Saturday, and while he wanted Narduzzi to take his red, no-contact jersey off because Narduzzi was ‘too quick to call some sacks,’ he said it was just nice to be back out on the field in a competitive setting for the first time since his Peach Bowl injury.

“I didn’t really think much about it,” Patti said about competing with a new quarterback. “I’m a competitor and the more competition for me, the better. I like to have competition, and I think it just makes me better as a player and a person. I think when you get complacent and you don’t have someone pushing you, then that’s when you don’t succeed as well. That was something that I did for Kenny last year, push him every day and ask him questions and give him my input on stuff.”

Even in the early days of Slovis’s time at Pitt, just a couple of months in Pitt’s system after his transfer from USC, he’s already seen how the competitive friendship between Pitt quarterbacks has advanced not just individuals but the room as a whole. But competition has only bred familial bonds across the room.

“I think, for me, at least in my mindset, it’s just to get to be the best player you can be,” Slovis said. “You can’t control how well other people in competition do. So again, my mindset has always been compete with yourself and be the best player you can be and control what you can. In terms of the relationship, I think that’s the most impressive thing out here is, all the guys have been so great. It’s been awesome. It feels like we’re a bunch of friends out there playing football. In some rooms, that’s definitely not the case. So it’s a really good room. Nick’s great. Joey’s great.”

With the spring game in the books, a healthy spring in the books, the offseason of work begins now. Both Slovis and Patti will work to build those bonds across the offense, and without the heavy presence of coaches, it falls upon the leaders — the quarterbacks — to further the progression.

The end goal in 2022 for both Slovis and Patti is another ACC championship, so you can bet that both guys will continue to strive for improvement.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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