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Pitt Football

Pitt Football Makes Changes to Starting Lineup, Outside of QB



Pitt offensive lineman Ryan Baer listens to his coaches as the Panthers play Virginia Tech on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023 in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Mitchell Northam / Pittsburgh Sports Now.)

Pitt football is currently 1-4 in 2023, their worst start to a season since 2005. That start, unsurprisingly, has led to many changes to the depth chart that the coaching staff believe will change their season around.

The biggest change that Pitt football head coach Pat Narduzzi confirmed today is redshirt senior quarterback Phil Jurkovec is no longer the starter. Redshirt sophomore and Penn State transfer Christian Veilleux is now the signal caller for Pitt going forward, with Jurkovec as backup and redshirt sophomore Nate Yarnell as No. 3.

Veilleux will start his first ever collegiate game against No. 14 Louisville at home on Saturday at Acrisure Stadium. He came in for Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford in a game against Rutgers in 2021 and had a solid performance, completing 15 of 24 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns in a win.

He has served as the backup for Pitt football in 2023 coming in two games. He played in the fourth quarter in the victory over FCS opponent Wofford in the season opener, completing five of his nine pass attempts for 60 yards and a touchdown.

Veilleux also played the second half against then ranked No. 17 North Carolina on Sept. 23 at home, when Jurkovec suffered an injury and had to leave the game. He completed just seven of his 18 passes for 85 yards, threw two interceptions and fumbled a hand off in the 41-24 loss.

Veilleux now has a new starting wide receiver, as well, in freshman Kenny Johnson. Johnson is a starter along with redshirt sophomore and Florida transfer Daejon Reynolds, as Pitt listed them with an “OR” on the depth chart.

Johnson has just two catches on the season for 17 yards, which came against Wofford. He is one of four freshman wide receivers, along with Lamar Seymore, Israel Polk and Zion Fowler-El, who the coaching staff have praised for their talent, but he has managed to clearly separate himself from them this season.

He has featured mostly in kickoff return, with a 100-yard touchdown return against UNC the highlight of his 2023 season so far.

The Panthers tight end position remains mostly the same, but there is one change, as there is no “OR” next to redshirt sophomore Jake Renda’s name. This means that he is now the No. 4 tight end on the team, with junior Gavin Bartholomew as the starter and redshirt sophomores Karter Johnson and Malcolm Epps, as No. 2 and No. 3, but with an “OR” next to both of their names.

Pitt made the most changes to their offensive line from last week, due to season-ending injuries and also on performance.

Redshirt junior Branson Taylor is now the starter at left tackle, moving from right tackle, which he started the first four games of the season. He started at left tackle, as redshirt senior Matt Goncavles, the usual starter, is out for the season with an injury. 

Backing up Taylor is redshirt freshman and Cal transfer Jackson Brown. Brown made two appearances for Cal as a reserve guard in 2022, preserving his redshirt, and has only seen the field once this season for Pitt against Wofford.

Redshirt senior Jason Collier Jr. is the sole starter at right guard, with freshman BJ Williams as the backup and redshirt freshman Isaiah Montgomery as No. 3. Pitt listed Williams and Collier as starters at the right guard the past two games against Virginia Tech and UNC, and Williams started against West Virginia as well.

This is the first time that Pitt listed Collier as a starter on the offensive line since the first two games of the season, which he started at left guard, with the season-ending injury to redshirt senior Ryan Jacoby.

Collier is still the backup behind redshirt senior Blake Zubovic at left guard. So, if Zubovic goes down with injury, expect Collier to fill that role at right guard and for Williams to play left guard.

Redshirt freshman Ryan Baer is now the starter at right tackle for the first time this season. He did start at right tackle in the loss to the Hokies, but Goncalves out for the rest of 2023 at left tackle, Taylor is now there filling in and Baer takes his spot.

There are only two changes on defense for Pitt football, but two important changes, nonetheless.

Redshirt senior Bam Brima is now the starter at defensive end and redshirt senior Nate Temple is the backup. Brima has 16 total tackles, nine solo, along with 3.0 sacks, three quarterback hits and two forced fumbles, compared to Temple having 13 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks and two quarterback hits.

Redshirt senior Marquis Williams is back to the No. 1 starter at cornerback, for the first time since the Cincinnati game. He and redshirt senior A.J. Woods are both starters ahead of Louisville, with the “OR” listed between the two of them, but Williams is ahead of Woods.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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1 month ago

Collier is starting? Unless he has made tremendous improvement, I feel bad for CV and the inside running game.

Collier hasn’t shown D1 ability so far this season with blown assignments, missed blocks, and being consistently outmatched. I hope he made tremendous improvement and will prove me wrong

1 month ago
Reply to  BooBooTheFool

I doubt that he will prove you wrong. Although there’s not much difference between Williams and Collier right now, personally I would start the freshman over a redshirt senior because at this point, they might as well begin prepping for next season.

1 month ago

This staff is killing this program. Narduzzi’s past couple hires have been horrible to say the least .
I understand with the injuries that the o-line has experienced, but the backups have shown absolutely nothing. That has a lot to do with the recruiting and coaching.

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