Jahvante Royal arrived as a four-star defensive back out of powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas in 2020, but he hasn’t been able to see the field much during his three seasons at Pitt.
As Pitt’s wide receiver depth took a hit following the 2022 season, Royal — who stands at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds — was moved over to the offensive side of the ball to test his ability on the other side of the line of scrimmage and to provide some depth at a thin position.
But after the continued growth by the four freshman wide receivers since the spring, it’s led to Royal without a place in the offense. So, Narduzzi and the coaching staff have moved him back to defense.
“We moved Jahvante Royal, who’s had a lot of experience at corner,” Pat Narduzzi said before Wednesday’s practice. “We thought maybe he could help us on offense, but with those young guys emerging, they kind of just got on top of him. Jahvante’s gonna give us more depth at corner as well. He had a nice pick the other day. I think all the kids were happy for him. He had an interception on defense. It might have been his first ever. So, coach Tiquan Underwood taught him how to catch, so he’s a better DB.”
Royal played in four games last season, taking just five defensive snaps — all against Rhode Island — as he served primarily as a special teamer. And that’s likely what his role will be going forward.
Narduzzi said that Royal could be a scout team receiver at this point in time, or he could move back to defense and compete for a reserve cornerback spot while playing on a regular basis on special teams. Obviously, he’ll receive more tackling reps on defense.
It’s a tough decision to make a player to different positions on the roster, but everything Narduzzi does is about ensuring Pitt is in the best position possible.
“Yeah, I worry about the coaches getting discouraged in him,” Narduzzi said. “It’s his shot again, and I do worry about it, but we have to do what’s best for the team.”
M.J. Devonshire and Marquis Williams are entrenched as the starting cornerback duo entering the 2023 season, with each harboring All-ACC aspirations, but there’s a deep stable behind them. A.J. Woods, Ryland Gandy, Noah Biglow, Tamarion Crumpley and Rashad Battle — when healthy — are all competing for playing time.
That group once again includes Royal, who is entering his fourth season at Pitt.