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Pitt Panthers Named to Preseason All-ACC Squad

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A handful of Pitt Panthers have earned preseason praise from Athlon Sports.

Athlon Sports named Donovan McMillon to the first team, Rodney Hammond and Gavin Bartholomew to the third team and Konata Mumpfield, Branson Taylor, Nate Matlack and Javon McIntyre to the fourth team in its preseason All-ACC list.

Pitt had nine All-ACC honorees following the 2022 season, including four first-team All-ACC selections, and the Panthers had five honorees following last season — none of which were first-team selections.

M.J. Devonshire earned second-team All-ACC defensive back honors, following up All-ACC honors last season as a defensive back and punt returner. Gavin Bartholomew, Bub Means, Donovan McMillon and Kenny Johnson earned honorable mentions.

McMillon recorded 105 tackles (54 solo), 0.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one pass breakup last season as he stepped into the starting lineup in Week 3 against West Virginia.

He had a low missed tackle rate (8.1%, according to PFF) as one of the top run-stoppers on the roster. He tied for the team lead with 32 run stops. He was the first Pitt defender to hit the 100-tackle mark since Jordan Whitehead in 2015, and the only thing holding him back was his lack of “impact” plays.

Hammond is the Pitt X-factor. He was supposed to take that next step in 2023, but his usage was… confusing, to say the least. He led the Panthers with 118 carries for 547 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and four touchdowns, and he’s the most talented runner on the roster. At least, I believe he is.

And if new running backs coach Lindsey Lamar could pick one trait for his players to embody, it would be hard work. He doesn’t have to wish that Hammond worked hard. Hammond is once again showing that he works incredibly hard — with superior attention to detail and a professional mindset every single day.

Bartholomew recorded 18 receptions for 326 yards (18.1 yards per catch) with a touchdown in 2023 on the way to All-ACC honorable mention honors. He had the highest reception percentage (66.7%), and he made 3-of-4 contested catches with just a single drop.

In three seasons at Pitt, Bartholomew has recorded 67 receptions for 935 yards (14.0 yards per reception) and seven touchdowns — thriving despite a serious disconnect between Bartholomew and the assortment of quarterbacks throwing the ball his way.

Bartholomew is expected to take a major step forward in his senior season, with the expectation that he will be the first Panthers tight end to be selected in the NFL Draft since Nate Byham and Dorin Dickerson were selected in the sixth and seventh round, respectively, of the 2010 NFL Draft.

I thought Mumpfield was going to break out in 2023, but maybe with more consistent quarterback and a new, dynamic offense, I was just a year early in my prediction.

I don’t know if it’s subpar quarterback play or what, but Mumpfield hasn’t been able to tap into the full potential he’s flashed throughout his career. He’s slim, listed at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, but he’s always open. And if the spring season is any indication, Mumpfield is primed for a new role in the offense — lining up out wide.

He’s sure-handed (one drop in 74 targets in 2023) and consistently creates separation. It may be a case of simply having a quarterback who can get him the football. I’ve been high on Mumpfield since he arrived in Pittsburgh, and that’s not going to stop now.

Taylor is listed at the same size as now former teammate Matt Goncalves, who the Indianapolis Colts just drafted. He has optimal size himself when it comes to an NFL offensive tackle, and with the adoption of an up-tempo offense, he should leave Pitt as a plus athlete.

It wasn’t an easy season for the Pitt offensive line, and Taylor was forced to bounce around from right to left, but he was easily the best tackle on the roster. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed just 11 pressures, eight hurries and two sacks in 341 pass-blocking opportunities.

He’s played quite a bit over the last two seasons, well over 1,000 offensive snaps, and he still has two seasons of eligibility remaining. But if he’s able to provide a steady presence at either tackle spot this season, he should wind up as one of the better tackles in the ACC.

In 12 games last season, Matlack racked up 15 tackles (11 solo), 7.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and a pass breakup — asked primarily to fulfill other responsibilities outside of rushing the passer.

So, with just one season and a defensive scheme that he sought out in the transfer portal (and a perfect coach in Daoust who wants to utilize Matlack’s skill set), he’s coming into the program with a business-oriented mindset. It could be a huge season for Matlack in Pittsburgh.

McIntyre was good last season, recording 85 tackles (43 solo), 3.5 tackles for loss and seven pass breakups, but he left so much more on the field. He found himself in the right position, at the right time, but he wasn’t able to finish plays. The splash plays weren’t there. The chances were there, McIntyre had his hands on some footballs, but he wasn’t able to finish. He’s focusing on the little details now. 

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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