The University of Pittsburgh has a storied history in football that dates back to 1890. The Pitt Panthers are 9-Time National Champions and many of the greatest players in the history of football are proud to call Pitt their alma mater.
Pitt has 97 First Team All-Americans, 25 members in the College Football Hall of Fame and nine Panthers have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
NGSC Sports brings you the ultimate Pitt Panthers Training Camp Report, where true Panther fans come to find out about Pitt and the upcoming 2022 season. Mike Drakulich (@PghSportsNation) provides the ultimate Pitt Game Day Previews for every game on the Panthers schedule.
Narduzzi confident heading into 2022 season
It was a cooler than normal Summer day to begin the Pitt Panther’s first day at training camp. As the pads popped, and coaches shouted out instructions to their players, there was a sense of confidence in the air that you could sense from this group as they prepare for the 2022 season.
Last season was special, as Pitt won the ACC Coastal Division, then demoralized Wake Forest in the ACC Championship Game 45-21.
The defending ACC Champions are well aware of the expectations heaped upon them, and even the naysayers that still expect Pitt to fall backwards this year.
Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi looked calm and confident as he delivered his first press conference of the season, and he expects his team to be even better in 2022.
“There’s no target on our back and we are not really defending any because it’s not going anywhere,” said Narduzzi when asked if Pitt begins the season with a mark on their backs as ACC Champions. “It’s there. That trophy is not going to leave that area out there in front of the building. If the trophy is here, we are champions, 2021 and it’s over.”
“So we are just starting a new one. And going after that trophy and going after the championship. Again, we are not going to — we are going to be on the offensive. We are not going to be the hunted. We are going hunting ourselves. We are not going to sit back and go, ‘Oh, gosh. People are coming after them.’ No, we are going after them and we are going after them harder than we did a year ago, and we are going to go after them in a different way. It will be a different attack offensively, defensively, and there will be a different attack on special teams.”
“I think it will be fun to watch but we are not going to sit back and do the same thing we did last year and think it’s just going to happen again.”
Narduzzi was still none to happy about the off-season exploits surrounding the transfer of wide receiver Jordan Addison, who ended up at USC with an extra $3.5 million dollars in his bank account, courtesy of the new NIL deals, that despite never being in the transfer portal to begin with.
“You tell me,” responded Narduzzi, when asked if his program was violated in any way by name, image and likeness this off-season. “I would say, probably. We all, you know, talk about the elephant in the room. But I don’t think there’s any question, at least, you know, tempted with it one way or the other.”
“But there’s no question about it. It’s not a good thing, and hopefully they get it under control. But we’re moving on and working on the next.”
Narduzzi, in regards to the quarterback battle between Kedon Slovis and Nick Patti:
“They have to go out and execute. They have to show what they did over the summer is something that has pushed them ahead of the other guy. It will be interesting. Most interesting thing, I think the Steelers got one of those (quarterback competition) going on. We got one of them going on. Pittsburgh is a quarterback hotspot as far as competition going on.
But what I love, it’s going to come down to what they are doing and really, I want the whole team to know who that guy is.
I always say this: I don’t care what position it is; if I have to make the decision, then we got issues, okay. Everybody should know and when we make that decision, it’s not like everybody is going, ‘Oh, man, I thought it was the other guy.’
I don’t want controversy. I want everybody to know, that’s the guy. So I’m hoping something comes fast. But we’ll see how it goes. It’s a day-by-day process.”
On Pitt’s considerable depth at running back:
“We do have some guys back there that will be interesting to watch how they progress but we are looking for the consistent guy. I think when you say you’ve got three guys, and then C’Bo Flemister comes in, you’ve got four, you want to look and see who is the guy that’s going to be most consistent. I think at times those guys have been like a yo-yo where that guy had a great day, and the next guy, the other guy, has a great day.
I’ll go back to last year, okay, 2021 spring, I came out and said Vince Davis was our starter, okay. Going into spring ball. Coming out of spring ball Izzy (Israel Abanikanda) is our starter. It’s like, what the heck happened? Like, Vince, what did you do? Izzy stepped it up.
So it’s back and forth, and I want to see a consistent guy. I mean, I didn’t say that when James Conner was back there. Didn’t say that when Qadree Ollison was back there. We are looking for that guy that’s going to take that position over and it could be any four of those guys. Just looking for consistency, the guy that you can count on for all times, and then we’ll see how that whole thing goes.”
On the Panther’s quality at wide receiver:
“I feel good about the depth. We have weapons out there. Jared Wayne has been that leader this summer. He’s been that guy and he’s one of our eagles in our leadership council. He’s taken over that leadership role with those guys, and I feel good with the leader there. I feel good, obviously the main leader is Coach (Tiquan) Underwood.
I feel good with the leadership. We’ll find out how that depth goes. Got some new guys out there. Konata (Mumpfield) is one of them. Went through spring ball, not as seasoned as the rest of them. But Bub Means is in camp and did some nice things today. Big, athletic guy and he’s had a great summer and doing things the way he’s supposed to do. We’re excited about him. And watching to see if Jaden Bradley can come through and make a ton of plays and grow up and be mature and do things the way we want it to be done. All those things are stuff that we are looking toward to.”
On new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti and the install progress of his offense:
“We had install in the spring, we had install this summer, and really we’re going through the third time.
I look at what we are doing day one compared to what we did day one in spring ball, and it’s night and day as far as the concepts we have, the personnel we have in. Our kids have come a long way in the summer to get where we are today.
Yeah, I feel good. Do you like the continuity? Yes. But there’s change, and change needed to be done. I like where we are. Just like three years ago, we needed to have change.
Right now, we needed change based on who we are as a football team right now compared to who we were a year ago.”
How it’s looking at cornerback:
“A.J. Woods had a great spring. You have Marquis Williams. (M.J.) Devonshire has been outstanding. The three guys at the starting position right now would be M.J., Marquis and A.J. Woods.
But then Rashad Battle is coming back. You have Jahvante Royal, this Ryland Gandy, he’s been sharp. Looked good in the spring, and we’ll find out if he hits the August wall, but he’s really sharp and trustworthy. Got Noah Biglow. We have got DBs that have athletic ability. The light turns on, and we have some corners out there that can cover people and they are big and athletic.”
On the upcoming Backyard Brawl vs West Virginia to kickoff the 2022 NCAA season on September 1st at 7:00 pm:
“Yeah, I think there’s a lot of excitement. It’s a little bit different than opening up with somebody like New Hampshire or whatever it may be. There’s excitement in Pittsburgh, the fans. Every time a see a Pitt fan, that’s all they talk about is that opener.
So it’s going to be electric. GameDay will be there. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and our kids feel it. They feel you, they feel the fans. I am sure if I’m hearing it, they are hearing it wherever they go when they are going out to dinner. So they are feeling it.
I think it’s exciting. It’s college football and again, the Backyard Brawl, whether it’s in September or if it’s in November, doesn’t matter when that game is, it’s a big game and we are looking forward to embracing that rivalry and putting in a good game plan and getting our boys ready to go.”
Training Camp Notes
Media Day also afforded opportunities to meet with several assistant head coaches and players from both the offense and defense.
Here are some of the takeaways learned from one on one conversations regarding the upcoming season.
Defensive Coordinator Randy Bates
Bates expects his team to lead the nation in Havoc plays, which are a team’s total tackles for loss, passes defensed and forced fumbles, divided by total plays. Last year the Panther’s were #2, and Bates felt that if they had been #1, they would’ve been playing in the College Football Playoff as a result.
Offensive Coordinator Frank Cignetti
Cignetti will have a more balanced offense, and will utilize every weapon he has offensively. When asked what’s more fun, an all out passing game, or demoralizing your opponent via a dominant run game, he didn’t hesitate when saying, “Dominating run game.”
Senior running back Vincent Davis
Davis is ready to step up his game to another level and is proud, despite his smaller build, his ability to take hits and move forward. Knows the depth at running back is deep, but acknowledges that this is a team game, and whomever is playing the best will play, and in the end, winning is all that matters.
Senior wide receiver Jared Wayne and junior wide receiver Jaylon Barden
Both Wayne and Barden are excited to become major weapons in the passing game. As with running back, there is lots of depth and quality at wide out, and everyone in the room has a friendly competition going to see who will have the best numbers.
Senior offensive lineman Owen Drexel and senior offensive lineman Marcus Minor
Both lineman are pumped up to be known as the best offensive line in all of college football, and they are ready to take both the running and passing game to new heights.
Senior defensive lineman David Green and senior cornerback M.J. Devonshire
Green (Pittsburgh Central Catholic) and Devonshire (Aliquippa) come from winning high school programs, and do their best to expect and teach a winning culture among teammates. Devonshire is particularly excited for the opportunity to return punts this year, a position where, in his senior season at Aliquippa, he had eight kickoff or punt return touchdowns, one short of the national high school record, and would’ve had five more if not for penalties.
The Backyard Brawl vs West Virginia
Know one thing… everyone, when asked about the upcoming Backyard Brawl between Pitt and West Virginia, perked up and had a look of excitement when talking about the season opener. All know what is at stake and even though none of the players have ever experienced the Brawl, they have been briefed daily by fellow students and fans from all over.
Scouting the Pitt Panthers
Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi
- 8th Season with Pitt
- Lifetime Record: 53-37
- ACC Division Titles: 2
- ACC Championships: 1
Season Opening Game
The Backyard Brawl
#13 Pitt Panthers vs West Virginia Mountaineers
- Vegas Line: Pitt -7.5
Game-time: Thursday, September 1st, 7:00 PM.
Venue: Acrisure Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA.
Pitt Offense (Pro Style)
Projected Offensive Line
LT: Carter Warren | LG: Marcus Minor | C: Owen Drexel | RG: Jake Kradel | RT: Gabe Houy
Projected Starter: Kedon Slovis
Slovis, a transfer from USC, takes over for Kenny Pickett and looks to keep the Panther offense rolling again. Slovis was a preseason Heisman Candidate before his injury last season with the Trojans. The former Pac-12 Freshman of the Year completed 68 percent of his passes for 7,576 yards and 58 TDs in his three seasons at USC. His first year Slovis threw for 3,502 yards and 30 TDs.
Back-up: Nick Patti
Patti played in nine games last season, making one start, that against Michigan State in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. For the season, he completed 14-of-19 passes for 161 yards and rushed four times for 36 yards and two touchdowns.
Projected Starter: Israel Abanikanda
Abanikanda led Pitt last season with 651 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns on 123 carries. He was the Panthers’ top receiver out of the backfield with 24 catches for 197 yards (8.2 avg.) and a TD.
In 2021, Hammond rushed for 504 yards and five touchdowns on 102 carries, also had eight catches for 57 yards and two scores.
Davis rushed for 593 yards last year, with touchdowns and added 23 receptions for 125 yards.
Carter had eight carries for 29 yards and one touchdown on the year, with two catches for 13 yards.
Joins Pitt as a graduate transfer from Notre Dame. Flemister played in 25 career games for the Irish, racking up 471 yards and 10 touchdowns on 110 carries and had three receptions for 49 yards. Good power runner between the tackles.
Mumpfield, a Freshman All-American last season with Akron, caught 61 receptions for 751 yards and eight TDs. Could become the #1 go to in Pitt’s passing game.
Wayne, a 6’3″ senior who had 47 receptions, 658 yards and six TDs last season, looks to become a top target for Kedon Slovis.
Barden battled through injuries last year and is ready to make his mark now that he is healthy. He had nine catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns, and had nine punt returns for 90 yards (10.0 avg.) and six kickoff returns for 117 yards.
Bradley, who had had nine catches for 129 yards, is eager to prove he can be a major contributor in his sophomore season.
Means joins Pitt as a transfer from Louisiana Tech with immediate eligibility. Last year he caught 22 receptions for 430 yards (team-high 19.6 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. He is definitely a guy to keep an eye on.
From Austin, Texas, the freshman is already opening eyes with his play and dynamic abilities.
A John Mackey Award (Best Tight End) candidate, Bartholomew had 28 catches for 326 yards (11.6 avg.) and four touchdowns in 2021.
The red-shirt freshman is expected to contribute in the passing game and eventually become a trusted target when called upon. Renda added 40 pounds of muscle in the off-season and is now a stout 250 lbs.
The junior is a a transfer from Georgia Tech. Nice size at 6’6.
The junior converted 17-of-21 field goals last year and 69-of-72 extra points.
Pitt Defense (Base 4-3)
Projected Defensive Starters
DE: Habakkuk Baldanado | DT: Calijah Kancey | DT: David Green | DE: Deslin Alexandre
Baldonado and Kancey, were both All-ACC players last season and return for a Pitt pass rush that led the ACC with 54 sacks in 2021. Kancey is on the Walter Camp Player of the Year watch list, and is a candidate for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (top defensive player), Outland Trophy (best interior lineman), Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player in college football) and the Lott IMPACT Trophy (most impactful defensive player). Baldonado was also recognized by the Bednarik as a candidate.
Money: Solomon DeShields | MIKE: SirVocea Dennis | STAR: Shayne Simon
Dennis is on the list for the Rotary Lombardi Award (Best Lineman or Linebacker).
CB: Marquis Williams | SS: Brandon Hill | FS: Erick Hallett II | CB: M.J. Devonshire
Brandon Hill was named to the Paycom Jim Thorpe Award watch list as a 2022 preseason candidate for college football defensive back of the year.
Pitt Special Teams
Averaged a team-best 29.4 yards per attempt last year with a touchdown.
As a senior at Aliquippa High School, Devonshire had eight kickoff or punt return touchdowns, one short of the national high school record, and would’ve had five more if not for penalties.
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.
There's nowhere on earth that is more dedicated to its sports teams like Western Pennsylvania and the city of Pittsburgh. The passion and pride of Pittsburgh's fan base is second to no one. From the NFL, NHL, MLB, NCAA football and basketball, to W.P.I.A.L. high school sports, "The City of Champions" has it all!
As Editor of Pittsburgh SportsNation, Mike Drakulich provides top notch opinions and coverage of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pitt Panthers football & basketball, Robert Morris Colonials basketball, and Duquesne Dukes basketball, as well as all sports teams that represent Western Pennsylvania, including WPIAL High School Football.
For a refreshing view of sports, mixed with humor and uncensored opinions, check out Pittsburgh SportsNation today on Facebook, Twitter @PghSportsNation and videos with over 1,000,000 views on YouTube!
- NFL2023.02.11Against All Odds: Super Bowl LVII
- NFL2023.01.27Against All Odds: NCAA/NFL Picks
- NFL2023.01.19Against All Odds: NCAA/NFL Picks
- NFL2023.01.12Against All Odds: NCAA/NFL Picks