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It’s Not Quite a Youth Movement, but the Pitt Offense Will Receive a Boost

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Pitt wide receiver Kenny Johnson.

It appears, if the recent depth chart is any indication (and it isn’t always), Pitt is going to embrace some youth offensively.

Christian Veilleux and Kenny Johnson, at quarterback and wide receiver, are now listed as starters on the Louisville Week two-deep depth chart. But the move to Veilleux at quarterback — and Johnson being listed as a starter — isn’t about looking ahead, at least not to Pat Narduzzi.

“No, it’s about right now,” Narduzzi said Monday at his weekly news conference. “The future is next Saturday at 6:30 on the CW Network. That’s the future. We’re not worried about next year. We’ve got plenty of time to worry about next year.”

Pitt is 1-4 (0-2 ACC) and staring down the worst start in nearly two decades with a loss to No. 14 Louisville this weekend. And if Pitt wants to knock off the undefeated Cards, it will likely to some timely play from Veilleux.

It’s not exactly a youth movement on the offensive side of the ball, more of an injection of youth.

Veilleux isn’t Phil Jurkovec. He isn’t trying to be Jurkovec or even replace him in the offense. He just wants to be himself and bring his own style to the offense.

“I don’t want to answer that question by making it sound like I can do things better than what Phil was doing, I think I just bring my own personality and my own leadership style to the offense, whether that’s beneficial or not, we’ll find out, but I definitely think I can help this team as being the starting quarterback,” Veilleux said Wednesday after practice.

In his eyes, leadership isn’t a cut-and-dry formula. It’s different for everyone. His own leadership style is building relationships and understanding how to best function as a leader. It cannot be the same approach for, say, Gavin Bartholomew as it is for Blake Zubovic. Or Johnson as it is for Daniel Carter.

Veilleux knows he has to serve as a functional leader for each player on the offense. And that work has been ongoing since he arrived back in January. The work over the last week and a half has centered around building rapport on the field with his receivers.

He’s completed 12-of-27 pass attempts (44.4%) this season, for 145 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, but the bulk of that work came in a tough situation against UNC last month. Narduzzi — and many around the Pitt facility — are excited to see what he can do in a better situation.

And Veilleux, who said that his best attribute is being able to get the ball out of his hand quickly, has worked diligently in the film room to be able to understand the Pitt offense and its opponents.

“I take notes on my iPad, so right now I have a big folder of about 24 pages just listing coverage percentages, every coverage look, every statistical coverage based off formation, third down and distances, red zone, yardage so I have screenshots of formations and coverages and I tie that into watching film,” Veilleux said. “And I take our ready kist and I just read that off and I just match it based on my notes.”

While Veilleux worked with the second team during practice over the summer, and during the first few weeks of the season, he spent a lot of time throwing with the likes of Johnson, Zion Fowler-El, Izzy Polk and Lamar Seymore.

Veilleux will need to continue to build rapport with players like Reynolds, Konata Mumpfield and Bub Means, but it’s clear that Johnson is earning a big role in the offense.

Johnson has seen his snap count rise from three against West Virginia to 20 against North Carolina to 37 against Virginia Tech. He’s only been targeted seven times this season, with two catches for 17 yards, but he’s run the ball three times for 20 yards and is currently one of the top kick returners in college football.

Johnson, obviously, is a young wide receiver who is barely four months into his collegiate career. He arrived, adapted and thrived. And that hard work and dedication is starting to shine on the football field now, too. He wants to show that he’s ready.

“It’s the little stuff, like staying off lists, just not being in trouble, being seen not heard,” Johnson said last month. “Making those plays instead of being one of those guys you have to worry about. I want my coaches to say, ‘Throw him out there, he’s okay,’ not, ‘Oh, let’s make sure he’s doing the right thing.’”

It was hard to adapt on the field, battling the likes of Marquis Williams and M.J. Devonshire on the practice field, but it wasn’t hard to adapt off the field. If there was a meeting, Johnson was there. If there was a chance for extra work outside of practice or more film study, he was there. He’s taken any chance available to get better — and that’s only shown his dedication.

“I just wanna find my place in the offense,” Johnson said.

The Pitt offense is still looking for itself, for an identity, and Veilleux and Johnson appear to have an opportunity to define both themselves and the Pitt offense not just this season but over the next couple of seasons. And it starts this weekend against Louisville.

Potential Lineup 

QB — R-So. Christian Veilleux

RB — Jr. Rodney Hammond Jr.

WR — Jr. Konata Mumpfield

WR — Fr. Kenny Johnson

WR — R-Sr. Bub Means

TE — Jr. Gavin Bartholomew

LT — R-Jr. Branson Taylor

LG — Sixth Blake Zubovic

C — R-So. Terrence Moore

RG — Sixth Blake Zubovic

RT — R-Fr. Ryan Baer

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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srs28704
srs28704
8 months ago

Blake, He is Him. Playing both left and right guard instead of Kradel, Collier. Jesus Shuttleshworth stuff of lore.

John Smith
John Smith
8 months ago

These guys say anything for a story. Tell some truth stop feeding us this false information and propaganda.

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