2019 Pittsburgh Football Season Preview
The Pittsburgh Panthers looked like a legitimate ACC threat at times last season, then the next week would lose to a bottom-feeder–will 2019 bring more consistency to the program?
2018 Record: 7-7 overall, 6-2 in ACC
Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi, 5th year, 28-24
The Panthers were inconsistent but solid at times last season. Incumbent starter at quarterback, Kenny Pickett, returns–and while he was not flashy, he got the job done. If he can improve upon his numbers (1,969 yards, 12 TDs, 6 INTs, 58% completion) and start to take some chances down the field, that will open up the offense.
They offense needs to be opened up because the two workhorse backs are gone. Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall both were 1,000 yard runners and were able to move the chains often when the passing game could not last year. True freshmen Daniel Carter and Vincent Davis will be in the mix right away, but junior AJ Davis is No. 1 man going into fall camp behind a line that has to replace four starters and was not very good last season.
Part of the passing game’s inconsistency last year was in part, due to the receivers–but they return four of their top five targets and look to improve under first year offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. Maurice French and Taysir Mack are the names to watch.
You may not know it, but Pitt was solid defensively last season–finishing fifth in the ACC and they return six starters from that unit. However, the team will need to replace four of their top five tacklers.
The defensive line is decent for ACC standards with Rashad Weaver and Patrick Jones at the rush end positions and Amir Watts and Jaylen Twyman on the inside. If they all reach their potential–it can be a great unit.
Most of the linebacking unit is gone, but they do get back junior Elias Reynolds who accumulated 49-tackles last season. Other than that it will be a new-look core.
The secondary also lost some starters but do have one of the better corners in the conference in junior Dane Jackson–some would call him a lockdown-type of guy. Damar Hamlin is a stud safety who had 90-tackles last year—plain and simple, he’s a football player who is always around the football.
I love the hire of former UMass head coach Mark Whipple as offensive coordinator and despite losing their top two running backs, this Pitt offense should be the same if not better than a season ago.
The defense returns a lot, but success will be dependent on that defensive front. The potential is there, the production is not. Can they hit that this season? That will be the question as to whether or not the team returns to the ACC championship–I’d say it’s unlikely but a bowl appearance should be the goal.