It’s tough to look at anything as winners or losers of a spring game, but Pitt’s 2022 Blue-Gold Spring Game established some winners and losers — no matter how slight — across the lineup.
With the spring game featuring mix-matched rosters and two-hand touch rules for a majority of the game, it would be unfair to judge a player solely off their spring game showing, but it is a measuring stick for spring progression.
A majority of Pitt’s roster stood still after Saturday’s showing, but those players in position battles made changes — whether for better or worse.
Winner: Konata Mumpfield
Konata Mumpfield’s first catch as a Pitt player went for 55 yards, the first play of the 2022 Spring Game. Mumpfield ran a flawless route on starting safety Erick Hallett, creating so much space that he had to slightly slow up to catch Nick Patti’s pass across the top.
With two catches for 59 yards, Mumpfield was the most prolific wide receiver on either team Saturday, and he could’ve been even better.
A Gold team play was blown dead as the Blue team pass rush circled around Nick Patti, but right as the whistle blew, Patti hit Mumpfield — in stride — 40 yards down the field. There was a lot of green grass ahead of Mumpfield, but ultimately, the play didn’t count. So, while he was stuck with just two catches, his ability shined through.
With a blend of elite route running, speed and body control, in a 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame, Mumpfield is the present and future of Pitt’s wide receivers room.
Loser: Jaylon Barden
Jaylon Barden was selected as the No. 2 wide receiver in the spring game draft by the Blue team, but he didn’t live up to his standing.
Barden hauled in three balls, on six targets, for 12 yards. But his most noticeable plays came in the balls he didn’t haul in, especially a ball from Slovis in the back of the end zone in the second quarter.
With Jordan Addison and Mumpfield ahead of him on the depth as inside receivers, Barden is already facing an uphill battle to increased playing time, and his drops Saturday didn’t help.
Barden has so much potential, with blazing speed from the inside, but his performance Saturday wasn’t particularly inspiring.
Winner: John Morgan
Pitt’s entire defensive line, on both sides, stood out Saturday. With seven total sacks and 12 total tackles for loss, along with two interceptions and a fumble recovery, Pitt’s defense stood out.
John Morgan, a redshirt senior defensive end, made his impact Saturday. With five tackles (four solo), 2.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and three QB hits, he made his presence felt on every drive before the end of the first half. Morgan, along with Habakkuk Baldonado, Deslin Alexandre and Dayon Hayes, is a part of Pitt’s two-deep at defensive end.
But Saturday’s performance was a strong “remember me?” kind of day for the 6-foot-2, 265-pound defensive end out of DeMatha Catholic in Maryland. Morgan, who recorded 6.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2021, appears primed for an ever better concluding campaign at Pitt.
Loser: Backup Linebackers
Bangally Kamara and Shayne Simon were impressive on Saturday. Simon hauled in an impressive interception off of Kedon Slovis, along with a team-high five tackles, while Kamara racked up 1.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks while standing out in coverage.
With SirVocea Dennis already holding a spot in Pitt’s linebacking corps, Kamara and Simon did well to increase their stock. And DeShields, after a very, very impressive 14 spring practices, is right there with Kamara and Simon.
It was a day in which guys like Aydin Hennigham, Nick Lapi, Jackson Henry and Dylan Bennett didn’t stand out. With Brandon George, racking up five tackles (four solo) as he competes for the Mike linebacker spot, Pitt’s depth linebackers didn’t make much noise.
Of course, Buddy Mack and Marquan Pope didn’t play Saturday, and if both are able to take the field by the fall, they’ll factor into the Star linebacker battle, but it’s a shallow unit right now. And the unknowns coming into Saturday remained unknown.
Winner: Daniel Carter
If there was one big winner from the 2022 Spring Game, it was Daniel Carter. The 2022 Ed Conway Award winner as the most improved player this spring, Carter showcased his development as a whole Saturday.
With 72 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, and nine yards through the air, Carter was a majority of the offense Saturday. Especially as he played for both sides. With 37 yards and a touchdown on four carries for the Gold team and 35 yards and a touchdown on six carries for the Blue team, he was the only source of offense for both teams.
It was a big change from his role as a lead blocker over his first two seasons at Pitt, completing his first two touchdown game since his senior season at St. Thomas Aquinas in 2018, but with his spring performance — capped by his spring game performance — Carter has almost certainly earned increased playing time.
Despite Israel Abanikanda, Rodney Hammond Jr. and Vincent Davis on the depth chart, Carter has pushed all three for carries.
Loser: Jake Renda
The most prolific tight end on Saturday was Kaymar Mimes, who hauled in three receptions for 39 yards on Pitt’s last drive of the spring game.
Gavin Bartholomew hauled in one of his two targets for nine yards Saturday, but he’s locked in. Jake Renda had a chance to come out and establish himself as Pitt’s No. 2, but he dropped his only target on the day.
Renda, who has added 40 pounds to his frame over the last year, put together a strong spring, but that wasn’t able to carry over Saturday. With a 6-foot-4, 250-pound frame, he’s certainly big enough, but he’ll need to show more of himself throughout the summer and fall to build that credibility.
Renda has been pointed to as Pitt’s No. 2 tight end this spring, but that wasn’t shown on Saturday.
Winner: Nick Patti
In the midst of a quarterback battle, there can only be one winner. And Nick Patti was better than Kedon Slovis on Saturday.
Of course, with a limited offense and shoddy offenses, it’s not like either quarterback was set up for success Saturday. But Patti made the most of his chances, and he established himself as a quarterback who could succeed with Pitt this season.
With 108 yards on 4-of-9 passing Saturday, Patti’s day would have been 2-of-7 for 10 yards if not for two big throws. But, of course, both of those throws connected. Patti hit Mumpfield on a 55 yarder on the game’s first offensive snap, and he hit Jared Wayne on a 43-yard strike just before the end of the half.
Patti would’ve connected with Mumpfield on another potential deep ball touchdown strike if the whistle hadn’t blown for a forced pressure sack.
Patti wasn’t perfect Saturday, but he led the Gold team to a win and he showed he’s a quarterback who can make big-time throws. It’s still Kedon Slovis’s job to lose, but Patti was the best quarterback at Heinz Field Saturday.
Loser: Kedon Slovis
If there’s a winner, there’s also a loser. And with Patti playing better Saturday, Kedon Slovis — by default — was a loser.
With 64 yards and an interception on 10-of-21 passing attempts, Slovis’s official debut was not good. And it would’ve looked even worse if M.J. Devonshire had hauled in a bad pass thrown his way in the second — almost a gifted pick-six.
Slovis’s number would’ve looked better if his offensive line could’ve provided any protection against the Gold team’s pass rush and if his targets could’ve caught the football. Barden and Gavin Bartholomew dropped back-to-back touchdowns in the second quarter, with catchable balls from Slovis bouncing off their hands.
Slovis is a capable, if not above-average Power Five quarterback, but his spring game was rough. He made some nice throws, but they didn’t count on the stat sheet or they were dropped. It’s a quarterback battle, and he’ll need to continue to compete. And that’s not a bad thing for Pitt.