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Julian Dugger Aims to Become Next Hometown Great QB for Pitt Football



Pitt. Julian Dugger

PITTSBURGH — The pressure of becoming the next hometown great may cause players to leave and find other opportunities elsewhere. For Pitt football incoming freshman quarterback Julian Dugger, it’s precisely what drives him day-in and day-out with the sport.

Dugger excelled at nearby Penn Hills the past few seasons, throwing for almost 5,000 yards and rushing for almost 2,000 yards in his high school career. He had a fantastic senior season in 2023, completing 101-of-192 pass attempts (53%) for 1,646 yards and 20 touchdowns — adding 126 carries for 776 yards (6.2 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns, helping Penn Hills reach the WPIAL Class 5A Semifinals.

He committed to Pitt this summer, over offers from some MAC programs. His work during a summer camp impressed the coaches enough to earn an offer and Dugger committed soon afterwards.

Instead of sticking around for the rest of his spring semester in high school, Dugger signed with Pitt at the early signing period in late December and enrolled in January as an early enrollee.

“Everything has been smooth so far, due to the help of all the coaching staff,” Julian Dugger said Wednesday at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the Southside. “They got everybody helping us, like the academic advisors, counselors. Everybody’s helping me have a smooth transition and making it easy.”

While some WPIAL players recently have chosen to leave the region for schools elsewhere, staying home is what Dugger not only wanted to do, but comes as a massive benefit to him, on and off the field. He has the familiarity with the area, but is also close to those he loves and cherishes the most.

“I feel like I’m home,” Dugger said on choosing to play for Pitt. “Everything’s here, like all my resources. My dad, he’s a big role in everything that I do, so he’s always here to help me, and my family, that’s another big thing, that’s my main thing. My family, and they’re here so.”

The history of WPIAL quarterbacks that play at Pitt is strong, with Tyler Palko (2002-06) from West Allegheny, Bill Stull (2005-09) from Seton LaSalle and both Tino Sunseri (2008-12) and Dan Marino (1979-82) from Pittsburgh Central Catholic. Rod Rutherford, who starred for Perry in the City League, also had a solid college career at Pitt, teaming up with Larry Fitzgerald in 2002 and 2003.

Pitt football has had two Pine-Richland quarterbacks most recently start for the program, with Ben DiNucci in 2017 and then Phil Jurkovec last season.

Dugger has worked through these two months to improve his game, adjusting to the speed of the game compared to high school and an entirely new playbook. He is patient with his development, but he has the confidence that not only will he excel at Pitt, but his play will make a big difference in keeping the best in the region in town.

“I feel like, me coming here, I could definitely get a couple more WPIAL guys to come here,” Julian Dugger said. “I feel like that could be a big influence and the start of a new thing for WPIAL guys to come here and yeah.”

New offensive coordinator Kade Bell is implementing a system that will come as a challenge to those who played under a much slower pace in previous offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr.

This system will benefit a fantastic athlete like Duggar, who is able to use his legs and make quick decisions with the ball when needed.

“I feel like it’s a great system, Dugger said. “It’s fast…I feel like it’s great for me spreading the defense out could work to some of my strengths, like throwing the ball, using my athletic ability.”

One big benefit for Dugger playing in Bell’s scheme, is that he is left-handed, just like Bell is. Palko and Rutherford both threw left-handed, but no quarterback for Pitt since has done so.

“Yeah definitely and for him, he says he doesn’t have anything against lefties, so that’s a good thing about him being left-handed,” Dugger said. “A lot of offensive coordinators wouldn’t really look into a lefty, so I’m happy that he’s here and we have something in common so that it doesn’t affect me and how he looks at me.”

Dugger is one of 10 mid-year enrollees at Pitt. He joins defensive linemen in Sincere Edwards, Francis Brewu and Zachary Crothers, defensive back Nigel Maynard, linebacker Jeremiah Marcelin, offensive lineman Moritz Schmoranzer, running back Juelz Goff and wide receiver Cameron Monteiro.

While he and the other nine mid-year enrollees are missing that final semester of high school, they’re right at the place they want to be and where they’ll develop into the next generation of Pitt football greats.

“Everybody’s tight,” Julian Dugger said. “All the other early enrollees and everybody around the facility, you could just see anybody talking to anybody. Like, I’m cool with a lot of the older guys, like, just walking around the facility, I speak to anybody. Everybody speaks to everybody. It’s just like a tight family around here.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Jim Garland
Jim Garland
3 months ago

You forgot to include Dave Havern (class of ’71) from Montour HS who led the Panthers to arguably their greatest comeback victory ever, 36-35 over WVU after trailing 35-8 at the half.

3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Garland

Jim, Dave was a fraternity brother of mine. I was at that game. They put Dave in and he was magic. It was a shitty day but those of us who stayed for the 2nd half were treated to an electric performance. He was on fire and wouldn’t be denied. That was one of the greatest college games I’ve ever seen and I was so proud of my friend Dave.

LuAnn Bair
LuAnn Bair
3 months ago

I’m really looking forward to Julian. I think he has the skill and the desire to be really really good. I for one love hometown heros and thank Julian for sticking with Pitt and hope his dream come true turns out great for the team Pitt and him.
3 months ago

A significant advantage is that Dugger has time to develop. The q.b. room is as deep as it has been for a very long time. I do believe Julian will be playing soon enough.

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