PITTSBURGH — Thursday’s practice was a light affair, the spider pads will be on Friday and Pitt will hit the field Saturday for perhaps the most important practice of the offseason.
There’s a really good scrimmage being prepared for Saturday, the first real scrimmage of the summer, and head coach Pat Narduzzi is looking forward to seeing exactly how his team has progressed not just since the spring game in April but since the end of the 2021 season. A loss to Michigan State in the Peach Bowl was the last showing, and with a practice, practice, practice schedule has him itching for legitimate play.
“I feel like we’ve been in camp forever,” Narduzzi said Thursday. “And we haven’t had a scrimmage yet, just the way the days lie. Like to do it, you know, on a Saturday like game day, make it like a game day. But it’s important because it’s a chance to go out there and do it live and really get it going. So looking forward to it, wish we had one probably three days ago, to be honest with you.”
With position battles across the battles and spots to be won offensively and defensively, Saturday’s scrimmage will certainly serve as a keystone. There has been a lot, a loooot, installed this offseason, and Nardzzi feelsl like it’s likely the biggest install Pitt has had since he arrived. Defensively, it’s the biggest playbook he’s ever had. And the offense has combined Boston College’s offense with Pitt’s previous offense. It’s a work in progress, but offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. is apparently very good at tweaking, not outright changing.
According to Narduzzi, there’s a different flavor every day. And he’s very proud of the way his players have learned and adapted every step of the way. When it comes to actually installing the new offense that Cignetti has been pushing, he’d actually say that his team is in a good place — despite the size of it.
“We are ahead of schedule install-wise,” Narduzzi said. “We probably are on schedule as far as where we are. We’ll find out a lot Saturday, if you go out there at Heinz Field — Acrisure Stadium, old Heinz Field — and don’t do it the right way and choke up, then it’s a different thing. But right now I feel good with where we are in practice and our thud live sessions that we have.”
Narduzzi praised his squad’s effort, the compete level on the football field and in the film room, but it hasn’t come without serious dedication on the field. Before Thursday’s practice, Narduzzi said that the offense left the indoor facility for actual practice, coming directly off a walkthrough.
Stop Diving, Konata
Konata Mumpfield, while it may be taboo to say, is the extension of Jordan Addison. He’s a smooth route runner who will find himself wide open because of such elusive runs, but he’s shown he’s an elite contested catcher. So much so that Narduzzi has had to tell him to turn it down.
“He needs to stop diving for passes, that’s the first thing,” Narduzzi said. “He’s a football player. You know he’s going to make plays. I grabbed him a couple of days ago and said, ‘Listen, you’ve gotta stop doing that.’
“I don’t want to see him getting hurt in practice. Yeah, in the game, and again, you see him don’t do it a couple of times, like, ‘Okay, go make those contested catches now.’ Slow down. Okay, you you’ve made the point; let’s get to Saturday.”
Mumpfield, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound freshman All-American wide receiver from Akron, has integrated nearly seamlessly into Pitt’s offense. It’d be unfair to compare him to last season’s Biletnikoff Award winner, but that’s what I see. He’s such a smooth athlete, an effortless route runner, that I can’t help but see it. Addison was able to use his route running to create wide open plays. I can see the same for Mumpfield in Pitt’s offense. I don’t see a ceiling for Mumpfield. I don’t want to fawn over a player, but if there’s a player destined for success, it’s him.
As long as, of course, he can stop diving. Which, if you can keep with PSN, you’ll see that he’s see been able to work with Narduzzi’s requests.
Using Transfers to the Max
Kedon Slovis and Mumpfield are obvious transfer additions, but the transfer portal has been a way for Pitt to continue to add to the roster — even with Jordan Addison using the portal to exit for USC. But Pitt has added across the board this offseason.
“Throw in Karter Johnson and that whole mix,” Narduzzi said. “Shayne Simon. Don’t forget about those guys. So, there are a few of them. You know, Tylar Wiltz, same thing. I think all those guys are going to make an impact on who we are as a team this year. So, I think we’ve done a great job of selecting those guys who, and we’ll continue to see where that goes. We’ll find out Sept. 1, and find out a little bit more Saturday afternoon.”
Slovis and Mumpfield are the obvious contributors in 2022, the quarterback and wide receiver duo, but Johnson is a slept-on contributor. He’s a big (6-foot-2, 255 pound), strong factor who has flashed his athleticism as a pass-catching option — and he’s continued to work as a blocker. Wiltz arrived from Missouri State and already expects to factor into the linebacking corps.
That aspect of veteran leadership and proven production has been a key factor in Pitt’s decision to target the transfer portal this offseason.
“You’re evaluating talent, but you’re also saying, ‘Okay, he’s done it before.’ So, you feel like he’s got the maturity to come in on the transfer,” Narduzzi said. “So, it’s not like we’re taking this freshman that didn’t like it over here. And it’s gonna come into here and see if he likes it. And he hasn’t proven anything yet. So it’s guys that have played football, that we were looking forward to getting the right guys that we feel can fit what we need.”
With the depth of Pitt’s transfers since the end of last season, it’s certainly not a problem to be looking at.
The Offensive Line Growth
The offensive line of Carter Warren, Marcus Minor, Owen Drexel, Jake Kradel and Gabe Houy all returned following last season, and it’s been a boost in Pitt’s offensive line room, but it’s also served as motivation for the backups to continue to grow.
If there’s one area of strength on Pitt’s roster, Narduzzi would say it’s at offensive line. It’s a deep, talented unit after all.
“The stating unit has done a great job,” Narduzzi said. “You look at the backups right now, Branson (Taylor) and Ryan Baer and (Ryan) Jacoby and (Blake) Zubovic and Kradel have kinda been rotating with the ones. It’s all a solid unit. Terrence Moore has been doing a heckuva job at center. That wasn’t the case in the spring game.
Matt Goncalves, who is capable to play both tackle positions, has been focusing on right tackle, and Narduzzi has seen his growth every single day.