Airing It Out: Don’t Expect the Same Pitt Offense During the 2023 Season
There wasn’t any point in Daejon Reynolds making a big announcement.
He didn’t come to Pittsburgh for any sort of publicity. He came to work, and as he was hitting the books in the classroom and throwing with the quarterbacks and wide receivers, not many people knew he was in Pittsburgh.
An official announcement came over a week after he arrived on campus, just to let everyone know he officially made the jump from Florida to Pitt, but it’s always been about the work. He saw the appeal in Phil Jurkovec and Christian Veilleux before he arrived, and the early returns have only reinforced his belief.
Even as Reynolds was fielding interest from Miami, West Virginia and Mississippi State in the transfer portal, he saw how Pitt brought in Jurkovec and Veilleux. He’s already built a level of trust with the offensive staff, and what’s he excited about now?
“The fact that we’re going to throw the ball, especially from the two guys that we brought in,” Reynolds said last week at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “I just feel like that’s the big thing.”
He isn’t alone in looking toward the future of a Pitt offense that will operate with more balance than it did in 2022 with now-BYU quarterback Kedon Slovis under center.
“Last year,” Lamar Seymore said last week at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, “it was a run-heavy team, and now they want to spread the ball, so that’s better for me as a receiver.
“It was a new system that they just put in, and they had a good running back last year, so it was only right to run the ball.”
Obviously, neither Reynolds nor Seymore was around last season. Reynolds was a sparingly used wideout at Florida while Seymore was a leading receiver at Miami Central High. But both wideouts have lofty goals entering the offseason.
Reynolds was never truly given a chance to shine at Florida, with just 16 targets during his redshirt freshman campaign in 2022, but he produced when given the opportunity. He hauled in 12 receptions for 239 yards (19.9 yards per catch) and two touchdowns over two limited seasons at Florida, and he’s already working to take the next step.
“(Cignetti) was talking to me a lot about what Jared Wayne did here,” Reynolds said. “He almost went for 1,100 yards, and he’s in the draft this year. He feels like I can duplicate kind of what he did … exploit our passing game a lot more.”
Reynolds put together his best performance of the season against Vanderbilt, which he likes to remind people is still an SEC opponent, as he hauled in eight receptions for 165 yards (20.2 yards per catch) and two touchdowns.
He feels like the Vanderbilt game was the only game he had last season where he had the chance to actually showcase his abilities. In his eyes, he’s a playmaker, someone who can play inside and outside and still go out and serve as a lead blocker.
Reynolds looks to Philadelphia Eagles’ star A.J. Brown for inspiration in his game. When he goes up to make a catch, it’s his ball or no one else’s. And with a similar 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame, there’s potential for an emerging contested catch artist.
Reynolds is a bit stockier than Seymore at this point, as Seymore stands at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, but Seymore holds himself to a similar standard. He’s a wideout who gets open and scores touchdowns — even as a true freshman, he expects to make an impact on the field as an impact wideout.
“I work hard,” Reynolds said. “I’m competitive, too. If we do one-on-ones, I wouldn’t let a DB try to lock me up.”
It’s a wide receiver’s room that will need to replace its No. 1 target in 2022, who was also the vocal leader in the room, and Konata Mumpfield and Bub Means are the only returners with significant experience. It’s a largely inexperienced unit.
Myles Alston, Che Nwabuko and Addison Copeland each boast a different skillset, but none have recorded a catch at the college level. Israel Polk, Kenny Johnson and Zion Fowler are all entering the system for their first collegiate seasons.
It’s not just the wide receivers in flux either, as Slovis and Israel Abanikanda will also be elsewhere in 2023. It’s a chance for Cignetti’s offense to reset, to get a fresh start with the personnel at its disposal now. There are two new quarterbacks, a couple of talented running backs and a young, unproven wide receivers corps.
Veilleux, who will be competing with Jurkovec for the starting spot at quarterback throughout the offseason, sees the potential. He’s seen Cignetti’s scheme — the vision that Cignetti has for how he wants the offense to operate. And he believes in what could be.
“We’re definitely going to air the ball out, have a strong run game and we’re gonna get people open,” Veilleux said last week at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “That’s Cignetti’s big thing, getting people open. So, we have the potential to do a lot of damage this year.
“Just watching the film that he puts on of NFL teams running this stuff, what he did at (Boston College), there’s a lot of potential. Just because last year they ran a lot of run plays doesn’t mean that this year’s going to be the same.”
There is a lot of work to be done between now and Sept. 2, when Wofford comes to town for the season opener, but Reynolds still wishes he could travel ahead to the opening kickoff against Wofford right now.
There’s no doubt that the trio of Rodney Hammond Jr., Derrick Davis Jr. and C’Bo Flemister will be a key component of the offense in 2023, but it won’t be an offense that will be hamstrung by its quarterback play either.
It will be intriguing to follow the offensive growth throughout the spring and into training camp over the summer.
More and more I keep reading about Pitt, the more I’m starting to believe the coaching staff felt hamstrung by Slovis. I think they believed they were getting a certain QB and ended up with a different one. By all accounts Slovis was a good guy but sounds like his abilities hindered what Pitt could do. Also makes me feel like Narduzzi stayed too committed and should’ve give Patti a chance.
Yeah, during the season I thought just the opposite, that Cignetti’s play calling was hindering Slovis, but now I think you’re right…Slovis was just not as good as advertised. The offense should be much improved now that Cignetti and Phil have been reunited.
Slovis showed he didn’t have the right stuff from the very beginning start against WVU. Maybe Cignetti felt too new to make a fuss and push for Patti. I’m disgusted with how Narduzzi handled Nick Patti. This was Nick’s last year to show his stuff. Ironically It was Slovis who gave Patti his last chance. Even Slovis realized he wasn’t good enough. Narduzzi looks like an idiot. Patti had a moment as fleeting as it was.
“Reynolds put together his best performance of the season against Vanderbilt, which he likes to remind people is still an SEC opponent”
Vandy had a woman kicker. Still SEC enough for you?
All kidding aside, I’m looking forward to seeing what Reynolds can do. Unfortunately, Cignetti is a guy that lost a ton of credibility last season with his love affair with Slovis.
Duzz’ loyalty not FG love.
Did Cignetti love Slovis or was it Narduzzi telling him which guy to play? Cignetti didn’t have any trouble getting Patti ready for the Sun Bowl.
I am excited for what is ahead for Pitt. I think Pat Narduzzi’s strength is also his downfall. He personally recruited Slovis and made him a promise. That was before he hired Cignetti. Slovis is not what Narduzzi thought he was going to be. Remember before Narduzzi forced Whipple out, Whipple was looking at two different QB’s with neither being Slovis. It is my opinion that Narduzzi wanted to show his choice was right, when it was not. To his and the teams demise, Pat got what he wanted (to support the old saying be careful what you wish for).… Read more »
Duzz had Abandakanda, Hammond and others. Discovered why Riley let Slovis go. Good kid but not Pickett.
Remember Duzz came from the run heavy Big 10 and was never comfortable with Whipple’s Air Mail offense. More balanced last year which is what he wanted. Could you see Slovis with Whipple’s offense? Ugh.
Good points. Again, I think as a new head coach it has taken Pat some time to build exactly what he wants. From day 1 you could never doubt the type of defense he was going to incorporate. His finger print has been all over this defense. I think he has gone through multiple offensive coordinators while trying to find what fits his personality and style best. I think he is more run oriented but realizes he will not win a championship with all run and minimal pass. Again, just my opinion but Cignetti more aligns with what Pat Narduzzi… Read more »
For months now, most of the people that comment on this thread complained about Pitt not having any receivers and how poor the passing game will be in 2023. Now, all the hypocrites are changing their tunes,( comments). Reading these comments is like reading the comics.
Katsura, have to agree with some of your comments. Slovis leaving got the guys above excited. When did Narduzzi push Whipple out? Whipple left for bigger money. What two QB’s did Whipple want? Never heard that before. The one QB he brought in, Yellen, was as big of a bust as Slovis and he knew it. I remember Whipple even stating he tried to get some of the QB stable to leave! There was no playing time for them. I don’t understand what PITT moxie is? The shortcomings of last year are all on Narduzzi . Patti was sitting there… Read more »
For some reason I feel the need to respond. Do you seriously not remember the events around the time Slovis came to Pitt? Zach Calzada from Texas Tech was one of the names linked to Pitt. The other name was one that was close to coming to Pitt. That was Chubba Purdy from Florida State. Whipple was recruiting Purdy hard on behalf of Pitt. Whipple and Purdy were joined. Whereas Slovis was being recruited hard by Narduzzi. Narduzzi the head coach obviously won and it was Slovis over the other two. Please feel free to check my memory. Purdy actually… Read more »