Pitt Panthers Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Pitt season with what you need to know and keys to the season.
Pitt Panthers Preview
Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi, 53-37, 8th year at Pitt
2021 Preview: Overall: 11-3 Conference: 7-1
Keys To The Season
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Pitt Top 10 Players | Pitt Schedule & Analysis
Pitt Panthers Preview 2022
Well that took a turn for the better in a big hurry.
Pitt was fine under Pat Narduzzi.
It was entertaining, it managed to get to bowl games, and it had several nice moments over the first six seasons, but it was just 42-34 with the lone bowl victory over an overmatched Eastern Michigan in way too much of a fight in your 2019 Quick Lane Bowl.
And then came the explosion, the passing game was amazing, and the program caught a break that it was Clemson’s down year.
2021 was the chance for everyone in the ACC to rise up and be the league’s star, and Pitt – not North Carolina, not Florida State, not Miami, not NC State – was able to do it.
Now Pitt can be a part of the explosive three-team club along with Clemson and Florida State that won an ACC Championship since 2010.
Even more, it’s been in two of the last four ACC title games. It’s been able to prove it belongs.
This year’s team might not be quite as wild, but it should be rock-solid with all the returning talent, the schedule works out, and there’s no Clemson to deal with …
Until the ACC Championship.
Pitt Panthers Preview 2022: Offense
Nothing stops. The Panthers might have lost Heisman finalist QB Kenny Pickett, and star WR Jordan Addison is off living his best life at USC, but new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti will keep the passing fun going with former OC Mark Whipple off to bring his brand of fun to Nebraska.
The Panther offense finished last year eighth in the country overall and in passing, was third in scoring, and was able to bomb away in game after game up until the bowl loss to Michigan State when Pickett was sitting out. The stars might need to be replaced, but …
Shhhhhhhhhh, no one will say it out loud, but USC transfer QB Kedon Slovis might be a more talented player than Pickett. That’s not to say he’ll come up with the same production – Pickett grew into a fantastic decision-maker and big play passer – but it’s been lost in the narrative that last year was a massive fifth season jump.
That’s not to dog Pickett in any way – he really is/was great – but he didn’t throw more than 13 touchdown passes in any of his first four years, and then he bombed away for 42 scores.
Slovis threw 30 touchdown passes as a freshman, threw 17 touchdown passes in six games in 2020, and blow off the mess that was USC last year. The quarterback situation will be more than fine. Nick Patti is a more-than-capable backup and will push for time this fall camp.
Losing the 100 catches and 17 touchdowns of Addison stinks, but Jared Wayne is a big play target who caught 47 passes for 658 yards and six scores. On the way is Konata Mumpfield, a fantastic get from Akron who caught 63 passes with eight scores last year. Getting back pass catching TE Gavin Bartholomew is a big help, too.
The passing game will work with everyone getting time to do their thing because …
The offensive line should be outstanding. All five starters are expected back with three all-stars and a few pro prospects to work around. Carter Warren at left tackle is the best of the bunch, but the entire line should jell into now one of the team’s biggest strengths.
The depth is there at running back. The trio of Israel Abanikanda, Vincent Davis, and Rodney Hammond should combine for well over 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns again.
Pitt Panthers Preview 2022: Defense
It’s the Pitt defense. The pass rush will be dominant with a line that lives in the backfield, the secondary will give up a bazillion yards as the corners are left to sink or swim, and somehow it’ll all workout just fine. It all gets going around that pass rush and …
The defensive line is once again going to be a terror after finishing second in the nation in sacks and fifth in tackles for loss. Second Team All-ACC end Habakkuk Baldonado led the team with nine sacks, First Team All-ACC tackle Calijah Kancey was second on the team with seven sacks – those two combined for 25 tackles for loss – and everyone else up front will feed off them.
The linebackers are disruptive, too, but there’s work to be done. Leading tacklers SirVocea Dennis is an all-around playmaker, but he’s flanked by new starters and Notre Dame transfer Shayne Simon filling in the gaps.
The secondary allowed 264 yards per game, and it’ll get ripped up at times again, but the big plays will be there, too, for a defense that picked off 16 passes.
Brandon Hill was second on the team with 79 tackles. He’s back at one safety spot along with Erick Hallett, who came up with 72 tackles with three picks and nine broken up passes. Marquis Williams and AJ Woods are veteran corners.