Pitt has an off day Wednesday, after practicing Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and it’s a good time to recap a bit of what Pat Narduzzi has discussed through the first half of Week 2 practices.
It’s still early, just halfway through Week 2 of Pitt’s four weeks of summer camp, but there have been some interesting developments and position battles unfolding across the roster. The youth on the 2023 roster will play a big part in team success, and that youth has been on display throughout the first six practices.
So, let’s look in on a bit of what Narduzzi has talked about this week.
How the linebacking corps is shaking out
Narduzzi said that Shayne Simon and Bangally Kamara look good. They look how Narduzzi would expect them to look at this point in the summer.
“But with those guys, we expect more details,” Narduzzi said before practice Tuesday. “It’s just, we want you to be better than you were in the spring. There’s constant progression there, and if you’re not getting better, you’re staying the same, and that’s not good.”
We’ve heard all about how Kamara is taking that next step, flashing in practices throughout the spring and continuing to thrive this summer, and I think everyone expects him to make the leap Pitt needs out of him. I do. Pencil him in at Star. And pencil Simon in at Mike. He’s a steady, comforting presence in the middle of the defense.
Brandon George is moving around better than ever, playing at 245 pounds this summer, which is down 15 pounds from last fall, and he’s competing with Solomon DeShields for that Money spot. I’d expect DeShields at Money, and George at backup Mike/Money.
Braylan Lovelace was the only true freshman linebacker in town for spring ball, and he was — easily — Narduzzi’s top defensive early enrollee of the spring, but now we’re getting to see a little bit of what Jordan Bass and Rasheem Biles are up to.
“The young guys are still learning,” Narduzzi said. “Jordan Bass is still learning, but you can watch him burst and run, and you’re like, ‘Holy cow, he’s going to be really good.’ Rasheem Biles, he got in some scraps yesterday. He’s a little scrappy. So, I’m sure there’s going to be some talk out there when that No. 3 group gets out there and gets rolling.”
I like Bass’ game a lot. He’s currently learning all three linebacker spots, and I like his chances of an immediate impact on special teams, with an impact on the defense coming as he acclimates. Biles’ athleticism points to early special teams work, too.
The freshman impact isn’t just wide receivers
There’s a deep running backs room ahead of T.J. Harvison and Montravius Lloyd, but both have impressed since arriving. Lloyd, who arrived over the summer, has impressed during camp already.
“But I’ll tell you, Montravius Lloyd showed up yesterday,” Narduzzi said. “It was kinda like, ‘Oh!’ He looked like he’s got a little motor on him, so it was interesting as well.”
Biles and Bass were once again mentioned when Narduzzi was asked about the young guys that are impressing so far this summer. And Cruce Brookins, who Narduzzi mentioned last week, had his name come up again.
“Rasheem Biles is interesting,” Narduzzi said. “And Jordan Bass — both interesting guys because of their athletic ability. So, those guys are always intriguing. We just have to keep going in the right direction. In the secondary, Cruce Brookins is a guy that you have to keep an eye on. He’s smart, and it’s just a process for some of those guys. But you have to keep an eye on him as far as special teams go.”
Narduzzi said there weren’t any young impressing on the offensive or defensive lines, but he did say that Tai Ray is doing a nice job since he arrived this summer. Of course, the true freshmen wide receivers continue to be mentioned, too.
“I mentioned Montravius (Lloyd), and then those four freshman receivers,” Narduzzi said. “I think I’ve mentioned those guys every day, with Zion and Lamar and (Izzy Polk and Lamar Seymore).”
More on them below.
Unlocking a deep ball?
It’s no secret that Pitt was unable to unlock the deep ball last season. For whatever reason, be it personnel or play-calling, it didn’t work.
But ever since January, since Phil Jurkovec and Daejon Reynolds and Lamar Seymore and whoever else arrived, the deep ball has been talked about more and more. The passing game as a whole has been talked about a lot more.
It’s just summer camp, and as Narduzzi said Monday before practice, the rust is still being shaken off offensively and defensively, but he’s liked what he’s seen.
“I think it’s a daily thing, but the rust is definitely loosening up,” Narduzzi said. “We got the WD-40 sprayed and got it all lubricated and ready to go, but the offense had a really good day yesterday. Phil and Christian connected on some deep, deep throws yesterday and the receivers definitely were not as rusty yesterday for us. The DBs you could say were rusty or lacked technique, but it was a good day for the receiving corps and running backs.”
The usual guys, Konata Mumpfield and Bub Means, were making plays, but it was the freshmen again, too. And not just the true freshmen either.
Kenny Johnson had a couple of them, I think,” Narduzzi said. “I’m probably missing somebody. Che had a great one. It was kind of a short one, and he just took off and went. He has shown some really good things here this fall so far.”
True freshmen WRs making plays 👀
— Pitt Football (@Pitt_FB) August 9, 2023
It’s good to see Nwabuko getting some hype. Him and Addison Copeland III have sort of been lost amongst the true freshmen hype, but he’s an intriguing guy to follow.
When he spoke to the media after Tuesday’s practice, he said that he ran a 4.30 40-yard dash inside the facility. I believe it, too. He already has some of the fastest indoor times in Pitt track & field history. It’s about utilizing that speed in an effective way now.