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Opinion

Vukovcan: Slovis Return Best Hope for Pitt in 2023

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To say that the fortunes of the Pitt quarterback position has changed significantly in a year’s time could be the understatement of the century.

One year ago, Kenny Pickett and his Heisman Trophy campaign was the talk of Pittsburgh as he became the posterchild for the Pitt football program, putting it back on the national map.

The widespread optimism surrounding the Panthers quarterback position has vanished and is now filled with mostly uncertainty.

That feeling was certainly magnified this week with the de-commitment of four-star quarterback Kenny Minchey, who despite not throwing a single college pass, was being looked at as the next great quarterback at Pitt.

Minchey de-committing became more of an issue because of what’s happened with the quarterback position this season.

Despite losing Pickett to graduation, things were calm over the offseason because of the Panthers beating out a number of top-level Power 5 programs to land highly sought-after USC transfer Kedon Slovis. With his experience, accomplishments at USC and returning players on offense, it was assumed that Pitt’s offense wouldn’t miss a beat.

Obviously, that hasn’t happened, and the struggles of the offense have frankly prevented Pitt from having a chance to repeat as ACC Champions.

With the 2022 season winding down, the million-dollar question is who will run out of the tunnel as Pitt’s starting quarterback in 2023?

Many different things are being mentioned by the fan base with the top two suggestions being bring in another quarterback through the transfer portal or give Nate Yarnell a chance.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion but neither of those are what’s best for Pitt in 2023.

For Pitt to have any chance of having a successful season next year, Pat Narduzzi and Frank Cignetti Jr. need Slovis to return.

I’m sure the comments will start flying in now after that last sentence but it’s the truth.

I’m not going to try and make a case that Slovis had a good first season at Pitt because he didn’t. But as I’ve repeatedly written throughout the season, the failures of the offense have been a team effort and not all because of Slovis. Yes, the quarterback is the most important position on the field, but plenty of others can share the blame.

For portions of the season especially at the beginning of the year, the offensive line underperformed which obviously impacted Slovis as did the inconsistency with the wide receivers. All of this no doubt impacted the way Cignetti called plays and honestly the faith he likely had in calling plays for Slovis. Cignetti isn’t without blame either as his play calling at times has been questionable, including the non-usage of tight end Gavin Bartholomew. That is worthy of a column itself, but we’ll have plenty of time this offseason for that.

Here’s one other point that I want to make and a big reason I have this opinion.

How do these statistics look for a starting quarterback? Sophomore season: 3,098 yards, 13 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Junior season (9 games): 2,408 yards, 13 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.

Pretty average right?

Those were the season statistics for Kenny Pickett before having a career changing senior season when he threw for 4,319 yards, 42 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.

Let me be very clear about this. NO, I’M NOT SAYING SLOVIS WILL TURN INTO PICKETT IF HE RETURNS TO PITT.

My only point about this and reason I’m going to fall on my sword for Slovis is because I think way too many people have made a final evaluation of him as a player.

If Pickett and his family would’ve listened to most of the same critics, he wouldn’t be in the position he is now as the starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I remember the comments about Pickett from fans and a lot of people in the media that I totally respect throughout his sophomore and junior seasons. The critiques and criticisms were a lot of what’s being said about Slovis right now. He can’t throw the deep ball, never throws over the middle and just throws 5 yard passes east and west, he waits for his receivers to get open before throwing it, he locks onto a receiver and doesn’t scan the field, etc.

At this point of his career, Slovis could very well be struggling with some of these things but it’s too early to give up on him.

It’s this way in life with a lot of things but too many people want instant gratification and aren’t willing to have patience and let an athlete fully develop.

I’m the opposite and maybe I stick with someone a bit too long, but I’d rather do that than give up on someone too early.

I see a lot of things to like about Slovis and with another year in Cignetti’s offense, he’ll improve and so will the team.

Slovis announced on Tuesday that he hasn’t made up his mind yet and will do so right after the season. With a challenging 2023 schedule that includes West Virginia, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, at Wake Forest, at Virginia Tech, Florida State, Louisville and North Carolina, Pitt will need their quarterback to lead and, in my opinion, like it or not, Slovis is the best player to do that.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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TJ
TJ
21 days ago

i agree and would like to see him back unless we can land a “proven-can’t miss” transfer. something isn’t right with Kedon, or better said, several things aren’t right. could be the system but I always find it hard to blame that unless you are taking an option QB and putting him in a pro-style passing offense (or vice versa). he has played football for many years and Pitt’s offense, while different from USC, shouldn’t be a significant change. perhaps the concussion is having more of an impact. i guess we will find out soon enough. either way, best wishes… Read more »

Pittband
Pittband
21 days ago

I know PSN doesn’t want to hear this but playing WV is a huge mistake. Playing 2 Power 5 teams before conference decimated reserves. Think we lose to Tennessee if Deslin Alexander and Hammond were available? I think not. No other Power 5 team with title aspirations does this. Scott Barnes can roast in h***.

On Campus Stadium Please
On Campus Stadium Please
21 days ago

Just curious, what do you see that you like?

RonDon
RonDon
21 days ago
Reply to  Mike Vukovcan

I agree with you Mike, unfortunately. I said the same things along the lines of what you mentioned. There just isn’t a good alternative at this point and that’s reality. I also agree that it’s mental. He looked like a different player after WVU and Tenn. I don’t know if he’s playing scared or what, but something isn’t right. Obviously, that might not change either, but I don’t think someone else is walking through the door that will have higher upside. I was also bashed for my comments. I’m not going to be delusional about Pitt’s chances of landing a… Read more »

Last edited 21 days ago by RonDon
The Real Deal
The Real Deal
21 days ago
Reply to  Mike Vukovcan

I agree that he has the necessary physical tools. But he lacks good football instincts and I’m not sure that will ever change.

Randy Joseck
Randy Joseck
21 days ago

KS will return to Pitt. It takes time to aclimate to a new offense and this was complicated by all of the new receivers. His injury set him back a lot, both in execution and confidence. The RI gameplan was a mess and didn’t help KS get ready for the ACC schedule.
I commend PN and FC staying with KS. KS looked good/really good vs UVA. Hopefully this continues with Duke, the U, and the bowl game.

Joe
Joe
21 days ago

In the beginning of the year I expressed caution about Pitt’s chances due to needing time to adjust for a new QB and new OC. The next few games we will see if UVa was the new norm or an aberration. The offense only put 23 pts in the board. With the style of PITT’s offense, whether Slovis comes back or not won’t matter. More passing is needed to put more points on the board. And the coaching mindset is not there for that.⁰

Dixon
Dixon
21 days ago

Great article MK, agree with everything you wrote. Nothing to really add, except to say that I was one of those Kenny doubters…thought that he would be a good, but certianly not great, QB for the Panthers.

FJB
FJB
21 days ago

Does Timo Sunseri have any eligibility left? Or perhaps he has a son that can play??

SRS
SRS
21 days ago

Best “Hope” in 2023? We need a QB1 not an OB1.
Have R2D2 holograph Narduzzi the plans, maybe he still uses an “old school” projector to watch game film.

Shawn
Shawn
19 days ago

Agree with everything you wrote but still think he isn’t the answer. The issue with him is mental and he has zero confidence. When Pickett was in his younger years the team was changing into a completely different offense but he had confidence as he learned. With how Slovis has collapsed after the Tennessee game I’m not so sure he finds that confidence. One last point. He is horrible under pressure. How many starting OL men leave after this season? I like the guy but I just don’t know if he develops into the player everyone expected. I do hope… Read more »

Rooster
Rooster
10 days ago

I agree. Slovis should come back not only fir Pitt but for himself to improve his chances of furthering his football ambitions.

Dukes

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