We’re two days from the start of Pitt’s first official fall camp, which signals the real start of football season.
The most asked question that I’m getting now is, “How good will Pitt be this season?”
The perception both nationally and locally seems to be mixed, with some expecting the Panthers to finish in the bottom half of the ACC, while others see them finishing anywhere from fourth through seventh place.
The biggest reason for the uncertainty is because of a number of questions on the offensive side of the ball.
- Can anyone come close to matching the production of Israel Abanikanda?
- Does Pitt have any true playmaking wide receivers?
- Will tight end Gavin Bartholomew resemble the player we saw during his freshman season?
- And of course, the biggest and most important question of all is what will Pitt get from quarterback Phil Jurkovec?
As far as the first three questions, Bartholomew is the one I have the least concerns about. Simply put, I believe Frank Cignetti Jr. will try and utilize him more in 2023, and he’ll have a quarterback that will want to get him the ball.
Will Pitt’s running game be as good as it was last year? No, but that’s not a knock on this year’s group, it’s just a reality that no one in that depth chart will be as good as Izzy was last year. Every time he touched the ball, he had the ability to make it to the endzone.
I think Rodney Hammond is really good, but the only concern that I have with him is, can he stay healthy? When he’s in the lineup, Hammond is really good. Having C’Bo Flemister and Derrick Davis Jr. behind him gives Pitt tremendous depth and players with talent.
As far as Tiquan Underwood’s group, I’ll be honest, I don’t have an opinion because I really don’t know what they have. A year ago, I was really high on this group, and I was terribly wrong. I won’t make the same mistake twice and will take a wait-and-see approach. I believe there’s potential with Mumpfield, Means and Reynolds but potential just means that you haven’t done it yet.
The reason this group has a better chance of succeeding this year is because of the guy under center.
Jurkovec was one looked at as a surefire NFL Draft pick but that stock has since tumbled.
Rarely do you see a successful quarterback that plays behind a bad offensive line and is sparsely surrounded by playmakers. Unfortunately, that was what Jurkovec was dealing with last season, the biggest problem being his offensive line.
Life with Pitt will be a lot better and so will Phil.
Jurkovec has talent, is a leader and has won before and because of these traits, he’ll make the Pitt offense and the passing game, in particular, a threat — something Pitt couldn’t do last season.
Jurkovec’s presence will help make Cignetti a better play caller and allow him to be more creative in his usage of the entire playbook.
There’s a reason the quarterback is considered the most important position on the field, and Pitt fans will be reminded of that this season.
Two years ago, Pitt was fortunate enough to have Kenny Pickett and come December, this program will feel the same way about Jurkovec deciding to come home for his last season.