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Nate Yarnell Striving to Meet High Expectations Set by Kade Bell



Pitt quarterback Nate Yarnell.

Nate Yarnell may have a good grasp of the new offensive scheme, but he doesn’t know exactly what offensive coordinator Kade Bell wants yet. To be fair, no one does. He’s not alone in that regard, nor is he alone in the progress made this spring.

Bell admitted Thursday that nobody knows exactly what he wants out of his starting quarterback this season, but that’s only because running an offense is so fluid. Bell asks a lot of his quarterback, and that’s something that Yarnell appreciates. There’s a shared expectation that the connection will continue to grow through the offseason.

“The culture’s been great,” Yarnell said Thursday after practice. “The guys are positive; they’re working hard. We’re all on the same page. We’re all trying to get better. Coach Bell has a high standard, and we’re all here to meet it. Sometimes we don’t, and he’s honest and that’s great because we gotta get better.”

Yarnell has been leading the quarterbacks room this spring and is pretty firmly entrenched as the No. 1 quarterback. He ended the season as the starter after Pitt shuffled through Phil Jurkovec and Christian Veilleux through the first 10 games last season, and he knows what he still has to do before the season kicks off. But Bell is still impressed with his growth on and off the field over the last month.

“The thing about Nate is he’s a pro,” Bell said Thursday after practice. “He’s in here — I go home to my wife and daughter pretty late, and he’s walking into the building to watch film, two or three hours a night until about 9 o’clock. He’s just one of those guys that is a true leader at quarterback. He loves football. He wants to be great. He doesn’t just want to be average. He doesn’t just want to win six or seven games, he wants to go to the ACC championship. That’s his goal.

“The one thing I love about Nate at practice is it’s never anyone else’s fault. I think that’s what great quarterbacks are, they take responsibility. ‘It’s on me, I have to get it fixed.’ I think the kids see that. When you have a guy back there that, everything’s on his shoulders and he’s willing to take responsibility, it makes everybody else play with more confidence because they know that he’s the leader out there, and he’s going to be the guy that everybody wants to follow.”

Yarnell feels like he’s leaps and bounds ahead of where he was on the first day of spring, with eight practices and a scrimmage coming and going in that time, and he’s grown not only as a leader (primarily by example) and a quarterback but a student of the game. He’s confident in his processing, his ability to dissect a defense with his eyes, but he still wants to make sure that he knows exactly what Bell wants out of him.

Pitt has worked through four installs already, with a fifth install before Tuesday’s practice, and there are still three more to go. The more film that Yarnell watches, the better he feels about each one.

“The more time I spend watching film, the more I can see exactly what he wants,” Yarnell said. “I don’t want it to take any time to process when he calls a play, I want to know exactly what he wants, where I’m going so I can focus on the defense. When you learn a new offense, it kinda takes a while to get there so I’m trying to spend as much time as I can.”

There’s a lot of RPO action in the new offense. It’s an up-tempo scheme that relies upon quick reads and a bit of athleticism. Yarnell knows he can’t force it, that it’s sometimes better to trust in the run game, but that’s easier said than done.

The same can be said about knowing when to push the pace and when to slow it down. Bell has set the offense up so there are plays when Yarnell knows he has to get to the line as quickly as possible and snap the football and others when he knows to use his cadence to slow it down and break down the opposing defense. Yarnell is working on that comfortability in doing both — knowing the right time to do either.

Pitt quarterback Nate Yarnell.

Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Nate Yarnell (19) November 16, 2023 David Hague/PSN

“He wants me to see parts of the field, not even just what coverage it is but what a guy’s doing,” Yarnell said. “When they’re rolling, what a guy’s doing on this side of the field. So reading off of that, where I’m going. I can cancel some things based on what they’re doing, and that’s something that I’ve got to get better at and something I’ve improved since we began.”

If there’s one thing that Yarnell would like to improve, something that immediately popped into his mind when thinking about his growth this spring (and where he still needs to improve), it’s taking what the defense gives him. Yarnell is going to have a lot of opportunities to throw the football. He doesn’t need to hone in on the big play and miss out on the gains to be had underneath.

Yarnell — a 6-foot-6, 215-pound quarterback from Austin, Tx. — made two starts last season. And in those two starts, against Boston College and Duke, he completed 36-of-54 pass attempts (66.7%) for 472 yards with four touchdowns (one rushing) and one interception. Bell sees potential, and he knows what to do to put Yarnell in the best position to succeed.

“To me, the reason we’re putting everything on Nate and putting everything on the quarterbacks is because, by the first game, I’m going to know what Nate’s good at,” Bell said. “With all the tips he’s had already in the first half of the spring, shoot, I’m gonna know who Nate is as a quarterback and I’m going to know what his strengths are, what his weaknesses are and then it’s my job after fall camp — Hey, this is what Nate does well, let’s put him in a position to be successful.”

Bell prides himself on his ability to scheme wide receivers open. Yarnell will have an opportunity to succeed if he can put his trust in Bell and continue to reach for the standard that Bell demands from his quarterbacks.

“Coach Bell is asking a lot of me and that’s exactly what I want,” Yarnell said. “He’s expecting me to be able to process exactly what he wants, the way he wants it and we’re gonna get it done.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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20 days ago

Glad they’re finally giving him a shot; he could’ve been the next Flacco. Of course, he also could be the next Kevan Smith, in terms of football.

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