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He’s Got Moxie: Phil Jurkovec Has Impressed With His Approach to Leadership



If there’s one thing offensive linemen like to see from their quarterbacks, aside from a clean jersey at the end of a game, it’s when they do their jobs.

If the offensive line is mauling defensive linemen upfront, it’s one thing. If the offensive line is dropping back into pass protection, they obviously don’t want to allow a quarterback hit, but if their quarterback stands in the pocket and takes a hit to make a throw, it only leads to a new level of respect.

It’s a bit of give and take. The offensive line and quarterback work in tandem.

There are a few new quarterbacks at Pitt this offseason, including Phil Jurkovec, Christian Veilleux and Ty Dieffenbach, and Blake Zubovic has spent most of his time around Jurkovec so far this spring. He’s seen a quarterback who is not only a great guy but someone who is fitting in perfectly with the team — and the offense.

“He’ll go out there and make a play, and I think a lot of guys on this team really respect that, kinda really respect a guy with moxie,” Zubovic said Thursday. “He’s a team guy, he’s down to earth and a lot of us knew him in high school. So, it’s not the first time we’ve met him. He’s gonna be a good fit in this team, I already know it.”

If there was one word used to describe Kenny Pickett at Pitt, in the midst of a Heisman Trophy finalist campaign and ACC championship season, it was moxie.

“A quarterback when they have heart, especially in college football, I think that’s the most important thing,” Zubovic said. “Because I think you get the whole team behind you. I do see those similarities in terms of moxie.”

You never want to be the guy to follow up the guy, you know? The Kedon Slovis-Kenny Pickett comparisons were unfair, and it would be unfair to compare Jurkovec to Pickett at this point, but he is drawing his fair share of praise already.

“He’s a big dude, he’s real big,” Ryan Jacoby said Thursday. “He’s really taken control of the offense, and he understands it very well already. And he’s really good.”

It doesn’t hurt that the 2023 season will, technically, be Jurkovec’s third season in Frank Cignetti Jr.’s offense either. It’s been a couple of years since the pair were together at Boston College, but it’s a relationship that picked up right where it left off. And Cignetti has certainly seen how Jurkovec has grown since then.

“I can just see that he has played in (my system), he knows the calls, he knows what to do, he’s made very good decisions,” Cignetti said last week. “He’s been decisive with the ball. Obviously, his athleticism shows up whether it’s in the run game or the scramble phase. And I’ve seen a growth of maturity from him in terms of leadership.”

Cignetti said that while Jurkovec has always been the ultimate competitor, but he’s seen an added level of maturity — and that’s not just Jurkovec but all the quarterbacks in the room, too. Narduzzi said earlier this week that Jurkovec isn’t afraid to lead with his words.

It’s a quarterback room that Pat Narduzzi lauded earlier this week, pointing to the strength of depth amongst the four scholarship quarterbacks, and there are three quarterbacks competing for the starting spot in Jurkovec, Veilleux and Yarnell.

Despite integrating a new starting quarterback into the offense for the second season in a row, part of the reason why Jurkovec came to Pitt in the first place was that he’s seen the success — even if last season wasn’t where Pitt wanted to be.

“There are a lot of hard-working people and winners on this team,” Jurkovec said in January. “They won a couple of years ago, and this past year they had success, nine wins, but that’s not where they wanna be.

“I really like that attitude that they’re not happy with nine wins, but they still had a lot of success this past year.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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