Consistency in the Wide Receivers Room Needed to Achieve Long-Term Goals
If there’s been one constant on Pitt’s offense so far this season, it’s Jared Wayne.
The Kenny Pickett to Jordan Addison connection — for good reason — stole national headlines last season. Jared Wanye’s quietly stellar season sometimes slipped through the cracks. If teams slept on him last season, that was on them. But it won’t be possible this season.
It’s been Wayne’s blend of on-field production, veteran leadership and consistency across every phase that’s allowed for his “breakout” senior season — if last year’s wasn’t already.
“He’s such an unbelievable young man, I’ll tell you,” Pat Narduzzi said Monday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “He’s a man. He’s probably not even young anymore. He’s an old man.
“But he is a leader. He’s the leader of that room, and we need him to even lead more. We’ve got to get those other young guys, those new guys to come — they’ve got to mature a little bit faster than they are right now. We need those other guys to make plays if we’re going to put them on the field.”
Wayne has hauled in 10 of his 15 targets for 171 yards and a touchdown — a game-tying fourth quarter touchdown against Tennessee. His 62-yard catch and run against West Virginia also set up a touchdown.
Wayne hasn’t exactly been afforded the opportunity to stretch the field this season, and he’s not exactly the fastest wide receiver in the world, but he’s big, strong and sure handed. With an average depth of target of just 10.5 yards, he’s been able to make the most of his chances with the ball in his hands (85 yards after catch, 8.5 yards per reception) and maximized his routes with an average of 2.14 yards per route run.
But most importantly, he hasn’t dropped a single pass this season. He’s caught all three of his contested targets, made four tacklers miss and picked up seven first downs.
Wayne has played very well. He’s the leader of the unit, and it was expected that he’d lead on and off the field. However, the play behind him — a wide receiving corps with very high expectations and legitimate talent — has been nothing if not inconsistent.
“The other guys have had opportunities,” Narduzzi said. “We obviously played a lot more three wideouts in the game Saturday afternoon, and we’ve got to step up. We’ve got to make more plays.”
Konata Mumpfield and Bub Means arrived from Akron and Louisiana Tech, respectively, and quickly turned heads. The quick-twitch Mumpfield boasts a route running smoothness that is tough to find, and Means is a big, strong, fast wideout with a physical profile that should create mismatches.
However, while Mumpfield had a strong debut, it was tough sledding against Tennessee. He hauled in four of his 13 targets for minimal gain, failing to convert upon rather tough but catchable balls for a player of his caliber.
Means had a rough debut, fumbling the football without being touched and dropping a deep ball from Slovis, and he wasn’t a whole lot better against Tennessee. A pass that bounced off his hands led to a Tennessee interception. With six receptions on 12 targets, he’s racked up 67 yards through two games.
The interception off Means’ hands was an issue, but it also came on a play in which Slovis believed Pitt had a free play because of a flag thrown on a potential defensive holding.
“Take into account we think there’s a flag because someone gets wrapped around the waist across the middle,” Narduzzi said. “They throw the flag, they pick it up. We think there’s a flag, so we’ve got a free play. We throw it down the field, hits the receiver in the hands, and it gets dropped. Someone from over there — comes down and scoops it up.”
There’s no doubt that penalties can impact a game, and did so Saturday at times, but it cannot be an excuse. And Narduzzi spoke last week about how some of the issues from the WVU game for Slovis, which appeared to be Slovis holding onto the football for too long, were actually wide receivers running the wrong routes.
“We’re better with our revolutions, our route running,” Narduzzi said. “We were better with the depth of our routes. Now, I shouldn’t say all of them. All of a sudden, we’ve got a tailback, maybe one, it’s the skinny stuff or the hard post or skinny post, some of those still.
“I think that’s part of a new offense, second game. Again, it’s learning situations for our kids. They’re going to continue to learn how we want to do it and how it has to be done, and there’s no wiggle room for it to be done any other way.”
With Wayne in place as the leader of the room, a strong leading wide receiver, there shouldn’t be too much worry going forward. Mumpfield has all the tools to emerge as a star wide receiver, Means needs to find the consistency to fill his role in the offense and Jaylon Barden and Jaden Bradley have the tools to emerge as the season wears on.
It was a trial by fire for Pitt’s offense over the first two weeks of the season, and it won’t be easy to build chemistry with both Slovis and Patti dinged up, but a stretch of games against Western Michigan and Rhode Island before starting ACC play gives the offense an opportunity to correct what’s needed.
But Pitt’s wide receiving corps, as a whole, needs to find that consistency. It needs to be better.
WRs? Red herrring. Take the five UTK big defensive plays and it seals their victory. (1.) sack on 4th and 3 with Slovis in the game, (2.) interception in the Red Zone on the said play above, (3.) sack on Slovis at end of 1st Half, (4.) sack on Patti on 4th and 3, (5.) sack on Patti 3rd down in Over-time. They had great outcomes on deep balls to Tillman and McCoy, we had great outcomes on big plays from Israel and Gavin. The counter argument is that the big turnovers and plays for PITT on the blocked Punt,… Read more »
The OL play has been a driving in the Pitt performance. However, the WRs are not playing at a high standard as a group. It stands out that one WR has caught more than 75% of targets, and the others are not at 50% of targets. Plus this was a deep room supposedly, maybe more should be seen from that room such as Barden?
Yes, time to try some of the other receivers sparing used so far. Means, and is it Mansfield(?), need to concentrate on catching the “BALL”. Slovis needs to learn to throw quicker. The second QB needs “quality” first team reps. I would love to have Whipple back. Cignetti’s offense will take a couple of years before these kids are comfortable.