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Pitt Wide Receiving Corps Will Rely Upon a True Freshman or Two in 2023



Pitt football quarterback Phil Jurkovec.

It’s no secret that the Pitt wide receiving corps is a question mark in 2023.

If there was one consistent wide receiver in 2022, it was Jared Wayne. He’s currently trying to make the Houston Texans’ roster. That leaves Konata Mumpfield and Bub Means are wide receivers with experience in Pittsburgh last season. And that’s it.

Half of the wide receivers on Pitt’s roster were high schoolers at this time last year, and yet, there’s a good chance one — or two — will make a legitimate impact at Pitt this season. That can be interpreted a couple of ways.

Pitt brought in Florida transfer Daejon Reynolds over the winter, but the search for another receiver in the spring resulted in naught. I know Pitt wanted another receiver, but it didn’t work out. But that doesn’t mean Pitt doesn’t have some talented freshmen fighting for playing time right now.

I asked Underwood about Addison Copeland and Che Nwabuko, and he praised the progress made by the pair over their first year in the program (and Nwabuko was legitimately a track star in the winter), but I don’t think either is in line for a major increase in their respective roles. It’s the freshmen.

“I think we know who our top two are with Konata and Bub, but who’s going to be that third receiver, fourth receiver, fifth receiver?” Narduzzi said Wednesday. “We’ve got four true freshmen that are all talented. We saw Izzy in the spring, Lamar Seymore in the spring. All of a sudden, Kenny Johnson comes into town. Zion had a heck of a day today — he’s a football player — Fowler-El. So, you watch that, and you’re going, oof.

“One of those freshmen is going to play for us, maybe two. I don’t know which one it’s going to be, but they’re going to play this season for us. There’s that competition.”

That’s not surprising. It’s kind of what we expected. I pointed to Polk as a potential first-year contributor, and I’ve been high on Seymore since he arrived at Pitt over the winter. I thought both did well over the spring. And Underwood did, too.

“Going through spring ball was very beneficial for those guys, got a semester of school under their belt, so they’re now leading Kenny and Zion and those guys along,” Underwood said Wednesday. “But collectively, very talented group and excited to have ’em. They have a good cohesiveness.”

There’s Polk and Seymore, but Kenny Johnson and Zion Fowler-El both arrived this summer. And, apparently, they’ve both made strides in just one practice this summer.

Underwood is approaching it on a day-to-day basis. He knows what he has in Mumpfield and Means, and he knows Reynolds has that vaunted SEC experience, but he also knows that Pitt is looking for a No. 3, 4 and 5 wide receiver. And as he tells his receivers every day, each day is a chance to prove yourself.

Neither Mumpfield nor Reynolds did not take part in Pitt’s spring game in April, but both Polk and Seymore did. Polk hauled in two balls for 24 yards and Seymore caught both of his targets for nine yards — losing a couple of yards on the stat sheet as he was hit behind the line of scrimmage on a quick screen. But both clearly belonged.

I haven’t had the chance to watch Johnson and Fowler-El at Pitt to this point, with just one summer session in the books, but Mumpfield and Means have been able to watch — and mentor — all four since their arrivals in Pittsburgh.

“They’re already just naturally gifted, like all of them are just naturally gifted,” Mumpfield said Wednesday. “You can tell that they’ve had training and where they’re coming from. Coach (Underwood) did a good job recruiting. The speed of the game, that’s obviously going to be a little bit different, but they’ve transitioned seamlessly.”

“Picking up off what (Mumpfield) said, them boys good,” Means followed up. “They’re gonna get a chance to showcase their abilities, but them boys good. Transitioning from high school to college is never easy but them boys making it happen. It might be a little faster but when them boys get their feet set, the sky is the limit for them.”

It really helps to have that additional spring ball experience, especially early in the season, and Polk and Seymore both excelled. It would be hard to imagine Johnson or Fowler-El passing either off of just summer camp. Can it happen? Of course. Will it? Probably not. I think all four will likely play their way into the lineup over time, but that early experience is important.

And it’s not as if Johnson and Fowler-El were sitting at home. Johnson hauled in nine balls for 161 yards and a touchdown in an MVP performance in the Big 33 game earlier this summer, and Fowler-El actually spent time training with Kenny Pickett in New Jersey. I expect both to make an impact.

But as of right now, one day into the summer session, I’d expect Polk and Seymore to serve as the No. 4 and 5 wide receivers in Pitt’s offense to start the 2023 season. It doesn’t hurt to have Johnson and Fowler-El fighting for more either.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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1 month ago

I wondered what happened to Che. Never really hear anything about him. Presumably if he doesn’t get on the field this season, he would change positions or focus solely on track ?

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