The University of Pittsburg Panthers missed out on a bowl for the first time since 2007, ending their season 5-7. That record doesn’t tell the whole story, however. Pitt lost three games by six points or less. A bounce-back post season seems obtainable. Quarterback Kenny Pickett is coming off his first, full season as a starter, including a win over Miami. Darrin Hall and Qadree Ollison lead the backfield after this duo combined for 1,026 yards last year. But, can they hold up with a new offensive line?
The biggest issue for the team is their offensive line. The loss of left tackle Brian O’Neill, guard Alex Officer and Jaryd Jones-Smith will particularly impact the running game. On the defensive side, Pitt has never finished higher than ninth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in defense. But now, head coach Pat Narduzzi’s players are entering their junior and senior years, so the unit should take a step forward in 2018.
Pitt’s non-conference schedule is among one of the toughest in the nation with games against Penn State, UCF and Notre Dame on tap. After back-to-back 8-5 records in the Steel City, Narduzzi’s third year resulted in a 5-7 mark. Narduzzi is 21-17 overall and 14-10 in ACC play since becoming the leading man of the Pitt Panthers. Narduzzi came in with a wealth of experience. From 2007-2014, he worked under Mark Dantonio at Michigan State and was regarded as one of college football’s top defensive coordinators.
Turning to the recruiting circuit, Pitt cast their net wide and far on Father’s Day. Landing a couple of commitments on one day is impressive, but somehow, Pittsburgh did the unthinkable by landing nine, 2019 prospects in one day.
“They slept on us for months,” Narduzzi Tweeted on the accomplishment. “Well I’m going to have trouble sleeping tonight…TOO MANY LIGHTS ON!”
They slept on us for months. Well I’m going to have trouble sleeping tonight… TOO MANY LIGHTS ON! #HAIL2PITT
— Pat Narduzzi (@CoachDuzzPittFB) June 17, 2018
Pitt’s commitments came from all over the country; Florida, South Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey and Alabama were all represented. While not four and five stars recruits, the Panthers still landed nine, solid prospects. Defensive end Brandon Mack; safety Brandon Hill; pro-style quarterback Davis Beville; defensive end Bryce Nelms; defensive tackle Calijah Kancey; defensive end DeAndre Jules; safety Khadry Jackson; running back Vincent Davis and outside linebacker Brandon George will all be suiting up for Pitt on Saturdays. Some programs have trouble landing ten to 15 recruits before National Signing Day, but the Panthers have landed 11 since June 10. Pitt has an incredible amount of promise coming into the season. With a win over Miami last year and several games coming down to the wire they could’ve won, it appears Pitt is on track to return to the postseason and fans are ready for game day.