Pitt’s offense scheme under Frank Cignetti, Jr. has been a topic of much conversation since he replaced Mark Whipple in January.
How much would Pitt’s play calling change under Cignetti and more to the point, how would the passing game change?
One thing was certain and that was that Pitt wouldn’t be passing the ball as much as they did under Whipple. Aside from having a different philosophy, Cignetti also didn’t have the luxury of having Kenny Pickett under center, which is obviously a pretty big factor.
With the regular season coming to a close last night in Miami, here was the comparison in terms of passing attempts from 2021 and 2022.
Kenny Pickett in 2021 attempted 497 passes.
Pitt quarterbacks in 2022 attempted 347 passes.
While the difference of 150 passes between years is large, that can also be justified by the fact that Pitt possessed one of the best running backs in college football. Junior Israel Abanikanda finished the season rushing for 1,439 yards (6 yards per carry). When you compare his stats, he nearly doubled his workload from a year ago.
Abanikanda in 2021: 123 carries for 651 yards, 7 rushing touchdowns.
Abanikanda in 2022: 239 carries for 1,431 yards, 20 rushing touchdowns.
Izzy wasn’t the only Panther running back that was productive this season, in fact, all of them were. Despite being sidelined for much of the season, Rodney Hammond rushed for 366 yards on 84 carries (4.4 yards per carry), Vincent Davis collected 247 yards on 45 carries (5.5 yards per carry) and transfer C’Bo Flemister came on late and rushed 40 times for 221 yards (5.5 yards per carry).
The obvious conclusion when comparing last year to this year is that Kenny Pickett was the face of the offense and was replaced by Abanikanda.
One thing that has to get pointed out because it’s something that many fans won’t realize.
When your offense is so efficient on the ground, that means a wide receiver won’t have a chance to shine or put-up major statistics, right? Wrong.
Jared Wayne ended the season and possibly his Pitt career on a high note by having a career night with 11 catches for 199 yards and three touchdowns.
That performance capped off a solid, under-the-radar effort by Wayne. How good was he? He compares favorably to former Pitt great Jordan Addison, who left to play in Lincoln Riley’s offense and with a quarterback in Caleb Williams, who’s a serious Heisman Trophy candidate.
Jared Wayne in 2022: 55 catches for 1,006 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Jordan Addison in 2022: 54 catches for 810 yards and 8 touchdowns.