It’s not as if Jaden Bradley wasn’t growing into his role as a key wide receiver.
After Bradley started the season with snap counts of 13, 25 and 15 (all good for the fourth most of Pitt wide receivers), his snap counts spiked as his opportunity grew.
Bradley peaked with 54 snaps against Rhode Island, the highest of all wide receivers, and he took the field for 104 snaps against ACC opponents in Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. It wasn’t always good, but it wasn’t always bad either. It was a young player taking the snaps needed to grow into his role.
It appears now that Bradley’s snaps at Pitt will be used as experience at a new school as he entered the transfer portal Monday night.
Bradley will finish the academic semester at Pitt before transferring ahead of next season. It’s an unfortunate situation as a talented, young wide receiver will not be able to grow into himself at Pitt, but that’s the nature of college football these days. Bradley will move on, and Pitt will do the same.
Bradley’s departure does leave questions in the present and future of Pitt. There has been a four-man rotation at wide receiver this season, and Bradley’s loss doesn’t have a clear answer.
In looking at the big picture, Bradley will be a loss. He accounted for just about 20% of Pitt’s total offensive snaps and passing down snaps this season at wide receiver. And Bradley accounted for 11% of Pitt’s receiving yards and 50% of receiving touchdowns among wide receivers.
Bradley wasn’t able to crack the big three of Wayne, Mumpfield and Means. But outside of Wayne, it’s been a wide receiving corps that hasn’t exactly been inspiring.
It began with receivers not running the right concepts, continued with receivers — including Bradley — dropping crucial catches and has extended into a unit filled with instability.
Wayne is the No. 1. He’s been the most reliable target for Kedon Slovis, Nick Patti and Nate Yarnell this season. Aside from a couple of drops upon his return to the lineup from injury, he’s a big, sure-handed target that has been the only receiver who has stretched the field on a somewhat consistent basis.
Mumpfield was perhaps the unfair victim of heavy preseason expectations, and he hasn’t been able to deliver yet. However, it’s not as if he has been bad. He’s also a true sophomore. He’s the same age as Bradley and shouldering sky-high expectations. He’ll be okay.
Now, Means is a different story. He’s big, strong and physically imposing outside receiver, but he’s been disappointing. For a player with his level of talent, his drops have been detrimental. The ability is there, but he will need to string together consistent performances going forward.
Wayne will likely be leaving for the NFL after the season. That leaves Mumpfield and Means as Pitt’s receiving corps going forward. And there’s still a ton of potential to unlock with Mumpfield, especially as plays downfield are unlocked, but that’s just two players.
It’s hard to determine what Pitt plans to do with Barden. He’s a speedster with very few opportunities this season. He dealt with a collarbone injury last season, ending his season, but he was expected to emerge this season. And that can still be the case.
Mumpfield has lined up about evenly outside and in the slot this season, but he lined up outside two-thirds of the time during his freshman season at Akron. He’s a versatile talent to be used across the lineup — which opens up opportunities for Barden in the slot.
The perplexing usage of Barden is a concern. But with Bradley out of the equation, Pitt needs to use Barden now. There aren’t many options otherwise.
But even after Baden, there’s a steep drop-off. Only Alston and Thomson have taken snaps this season outside of Pitt’s Top-5 wide receiving options. Thomson has one catch and Alston has none.
And outside of Alston and Thompson, Pitt features true freshmen in Che Nwabuko and Addison Copeland III, neither of whom will likely see the field this season.
There’s a large incoming wide receiving corps infusion that features Kenny Johnson, Zion Fowler, Lamar Seymore and Daidren Zipperer, and there appears to be a solid collection of talent entering the program. But that doesn’t mean anything when it comes to the production of receivers this season.
As of now, Pitt’s wide receiving corps looks like:
Outside — Jared Wayne – Myles Alston
Slot — Konata Mumpfield – Jaylon Barden
Outside — Bub Means – Gavin Thomson
Pitt is a run-first offense that features Israel Abanikanda and Rodney Hammond Jr., so it isn’t as if Pitt is desperately relying upon the passing attack — nor would it be able to — but Pitt’s passing attack also isn’t currently able to support the offensive workload.
If Wayne is able to step healthy, which wasn’t an issue last season, there’s a No. 1 wide receiver. If Mumpfield is able to get healthy and get back into the lineup, he’s the X-Factor. Means and Barden should hold steady presences in the offense. And there’s the opportunity for Alston or Thomson to step forward into a steady role too.
If there’s a reason for optimism, it’s Mumpfield. He hasn’t been a superstar at Pitt yet, but he has all the tools. He’s still very young and capable, and Pitt now needs him more than ever.