A few years ago, Pitt was warned after having two No. 3 jerseys (one of which was Damar Hamlin) out on the field on back-to-back special teams plays.
The officials didn’t call anything in that game, but if it were to happen again, it would be a penalty in the next game. So, Pat Narduzzi moved some jerseys around and made sure it wouldn’t be an issue going forward.
And before Tuesday’s practice, the final week of summer camp, jersey changes were revealed across the roster. It was a bit of ensuring that Andre Powell wouldn’t be in a bind on the sideline during special teams’ sessions, but it also afforded some of the young Pitt players the chance to pick out more fitting jersey numbers.
And there certainly are special teams’ implications, the ability to use more young players on special teams sets, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence the changes occurred right after Saturday’s important scrimmage.
“I think we’ve got a pretty good idea right now who those guys will be, and we’ll announce that later,” Narduzzi before Tuesday’s practice. “We actually made some jersey changes as well just because of things are determined … We’re getting closer to finding out that core group of guys that will be playing for us.”
There were multiple coaches, including Charlie Partridge and Tiquan Underwood, who said that Saturday’s scrimmage would go a long way in determining the pecking order of their rooms. It’s a bit more clean-cut in the defensive line room, but there are a number of young wideouts aiming to crack the wide receiver’s rotation.
Daejon Reynolds said earlier this summer that he was looking forward to swapping his No. 81 for a new jersey — hoping that Israel Abanikanda’s No. 2 would fall to him. He got No. 3 instead. Kenny Johnson switched from No. 35 to No. 2. It could mean nothing, but I don’t think he gets handed No. 2 for no reason either.
Zion Fowler-El swapped from 23 to 12, Izzy Polk switched from 27 to 18 and Lamar Seymore stuck with his No. 83. I still think it’s Johnson and Fowler-El who see the field this season, but who knows for sure? Seymore and Polk have both impressed since arriving in the winter.
I don’t think there’s any explicit meaning behind Javon McIntyre taking SirVocea Dennis‘ vacated No. 7 jersey or P.J. O’Brien Jr. taking Deslin Alexandre’s No. 5 jersey, but I do expect the new single-digit safeties to start this season. Donovan McMillon didn’t move off his No. 3 jersey, but Stephon Hall swapped his No. 37 for No. 25.
Nate Temple and Deandre Jules, who is certainly in the running for the Pitt breakout star of the summer, both swapped to new jerseys. I expected Temple, who switched from No. 16 to No. 6, to be one of the key defensive ends this season — in terms of leadership and production. Jules, who is rocking the No. 0, which will look awesome on the defensive line, is someone who could have a much bigger impact than expected.
Samuel Okunlola is in the same boat for me as Johnson. Johnson is sliding into Abanikanda’s old number, and Okunlola — who earned praise last season from his number’s predecessor — is sliding from No. 17 to No. 8. Maybe nothing, maybe a passing of the torch. I don’t know if Okunlola will be quite ready to make a major impact this season or not.
Of course, there are special teams’ implications, as Narduzzi pointed out. Ryland Gandy switched from No. 18 to No. 10, which will give Izzy Polk, with his new No. 18, more special teams opportunities. The same goes for guys like Fowler-El, Jesse Anderson and Jordan Bass — if the Pitt coaching staff wants to give the young guys reps in a lower-stakes situation this season.
Narduzzi said that he would announce who will be playing at each position group later, which is also what he said for Pitt’s unannounced season-ending injury, but there is some room to read between the lines.
And if nothing is announced, there still will be a Week 1 Pitt depth chart that comes out next Monday.
Deandre Jules — 90 to 0
Kenny Johnson — 35 to 2
Daejon Reynolds — 81 to 3
P.J. O’Brien Jr. — 22 to 5
Nate Temple — 16 to 6
Malcolm Epps — 87 to 7
Javon McIntyre — 20 to 7
Samuel Okunlola — 17 to 8
Ryland Gandy — 18 to 10
Zion Fowler-El – 23 to 12
Tamarion Crumpley — 24 to 15
Montravius Lloyd — 28 to 15
Jesse Anderson — 36 to 16
Israel Polk — 27 to 18
Jordan Bass — 25 to 20
Steph Hall — 37 to 25