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.