When Marquis Williams lines up across the line from Konata Mumpfield in practice, he recognizes that it’ll be one of his toughest tests all season. He takes notice of Mumpfield. He has to, considering Mumpfield is his toughest matchup on a daily basis.
“He’s different,” Williams said Tuesday. “After each rep me and him go, whether he wins or I win, we’re asking each other, ‘What did I do wrong here?’ or ‘How can I fix this?’ You know, 14 vs. 14. He’s a great player; he’s a dominant receiver. That’s the best first step receiver I’ve seen in my college career.”
Mumpfield, who transferred from Akron following his freshman All-American campaign in 2021, is young. Very young. This will be just his second college season, but he’s already emerged as potentially the next guy at Pitt. If watching Mumpfield play reminds you of former Pitt star Jordan Addison, you’re not alone. However, Williams sees two different players.
“They’re different type of players,” Williams said. “So, Jordan left, and Konata stepped up to that role. Like coach (Narduzzi) preaches, next man mentality, Mumpfield is ready for the next man mentality.”
If the pressure to follow the Biletnikoff Award winner is too much, Mumpfield hides it well — considering he thinks of the opportunity a blessing in disguise. “Pressure is a privilege,” he said, and he’s watched how Addison played at Pitt. Mumpfield knows he has a big role to play this season, but he said the unit as a whole doesn’t expect a big drop-off from last season.
It comes in Mumpfield’s release off the line, that first step is killer, but it’s much deeper than that. Williams said Mumpfield gives 110% effort on every play, whether it’s a pass play or not, and he’s a more than capable blocker. He finds himself open on nearly every play. He’s a football player, and he’s not the only freshman All-American either.
Gavin Bartholomew is rocking a mustache this summer, an effort that he hoped would pick up across the team and sadly did not, but he isn’t rocking that freshman All-American status alone. He forms that duo with Mumpfield, combining to secure honors from the Maxwell Football Club, Pro Football Network and The Athletic.
Mumpfield racked up 751 yards and eight touchdowns on 63 receptions last season, leading a bad Akron squad as a true freshman, and Bartholomew caught 28 balls for 326 yards and four touchdowns as Lucas Krull’s backup. It’s a young, relatively inexperienced duo, but it’s also one that has flashed potential and leadership this summer. Even if it’s coming for the first time.
“It’s new, it’s interesting,” Bartholomew said last Thursday. “I watched Lucas, can’t say a long time, but I watched him very diligently, everything he did, everything he taught me and all the tight ends. Just trying to transfer that to the guys we have now.”
Bartholomew, who has bulked up to 260 pounds this season in an effort to lead on and off the field, tries to bring a positive attitude every day. That positive energy can be infectious, and that’s all he wants to bring to the team as a whole.
It’s just part of what Bartholomew learned from Krull. If he can be that positive influence, be the difference day in and day out, that’s a leader. That’s someone who can lead a room. And he’s still learning. Krull may have left, but the entire offensive line serves as a teacher — being taken under the wing of Dave Borbely and the offensive line means a lot.
It would be great if he and Mumpfield can emerge as leaders of the team in the years to come, but Bartholomew said that there’s an overdose of leadership on the roster right now. But by all accounts, it’s been Mumpfield who has made his voice heard in the wide receiver’s room behind Wayne.
It’s a duo that’s expected to take an even greater step this season, coming off of freshman All-American honors, but that hasn’t stopped Mumpfield’s pursuit of perfection, and it won’t stop Bartholomew either.
“It feels good to be able to have that (freshman All-American honor), but it doesn’t really change anything for me,” Bartholomew said. “Just like last year, I’m working to try to get the starting spot here, so yeah, nothing really changes.”
Bartholomew has not only emerged as a tight end who will actually spend a majority of his snaps at tight end this season, after playing across the board as a freshman, but he’s a threat to stretch the field. Mumpfield, whose first catch in Pitt’s 2022 Spring Game was a 55-yard deep shot from Nick Patti, will stretch the field. Narduzzi will make sure of that.
Mumpfield earned a reputation as a player who made diving catches throughout the early days of training camp, and Narduzzi made it a point to tell him to go ahead and stop doing that. He wants Mumpfield to stay healthy.
“It was just one of those things where you just come out with a new team in fall camp and feel like you have to prove yourself,” Mumpfield said. “But I made a couple of those, so now I’m just kind of relaxing.
“I think one play I could’ve got it, I had to come back,” Mumpfield said. “I was like, ‘You see, I ain’t do it this time.’ (Narduzzi) was like, ‘Yeah, it was a good job.’ Naturally, you tend to do it because, ‘see ball, get ball.'”
Mumpfield will certainly see the ball this season, Bartholomew will too, and with the receivers and tight ends lost since the end of last season, Bartholomew feels like Pitt didn’t have to restart — just reload. And one of the biggest reloads is Mumpfield after all.
“He’s just shifty,” Bartholomew said about Mumpfield. “He’s so fast, and he reads defense very well. The game just seems so much slower for him, so he’s able to pick up on that.”
When it comes to replacing Addison, that’s not a consideration. Mumpfield isn’t Addison nor will he attempt to be. He’s just going to be himself, and if it comes to him and Bartholomew being the leaders down the line, he won’t be surprised. But there are a lot of players right now who are capable of being leaders, and while he’s made an impact already, that isn’t the focus.
Bartholomew’s impact, his style of play, is well known amongst Pitt players already after a strong true freshman season. And while Mumpfield hasn’t yet played a game at Pitt, his impact isn’t a secret. There’s no doubt he’ll be an impact player this season and beyond.
“Some of our longest passes have gone to (Mumpfield),” Matt Goncalves said. “Every time the ball is up to him, I have extreme confidence it’s going to go into his hands.”
If Mumpfield at wide receiver and Bartholomew at tight end provide the foundation of Pitt’s offense going forward, it would be tough to find a better duo.