I was surfing old Pitt articles in the Sports illustrated magazine this morning trying to get some push towards writing an article for this Monday lunchtime hour. I came across a few articles about Pitt quarterbacks Dan Marino and Rick Trocano and started thinking about how back in the day players would be demoted or moved to other positions and you rarely heard a peep out of them. They would just suit up and carry on in a different job.
Very few players who had been recruited over in a specific position threw up their hands and transferred out back then. Yet we see that happen all the time now. Mark Myers, a big strong armed highly rated QB recruit by one recruiting service – not so much by the others – came to Pitt under Dave Wannstedt and never really bought into the energy and desire required to succeed at this level.
After muddling around and being not played by two different HCs he transferred to John Carroll college and had a blast in the less pressurized atmosphere where all he had to worry about was throwing the football around and dating different co-eds. He seemed to thrive at both and set school passing records there.
Just recently we watched ex-starting QB Chad Voytik leave the team because he lost his starting job. Fans looked at that and figured he wanted more starting playing time elsewhere, naturally assuming that if he dropped to a lower level of competition he’d be a starter again.
It didn’t work out that way for him. He went to Arkansas State as a graduate transfer (eligible to play right away) and ended up playing sparsely and on the bench mostly in the letter half of the year. Boy – we could have used him in the 2nd half of the Pinstripe bowl though. I don’t doubt he could have pulled a win out there.
Just lately we saw QB Adam Bertke leave Pitt when his prospects closed down in front of him.
So now with the 2016 season just ending it looks like we’ll have some more movement in the QB roster ranks before either Spring practices start or most certainly before the 2017 fall camp starts.
In the past Pitt has usually carried three scholarship QBs on roster with a walk-on or two added to the group. Here is what we had going into 2011:
|Anthony Gonzalez||QB||RS FR|
|Mark Myers||QB||RS FR|
|Tino Sunseri||QB||RS JR|
Before the fall camp dust settled Gonzalez was moved to LB where he did a nice job and we kept three scholarship QBs. That is about the norm.
However coming out of the 2016 season we have this at present and all are scholarship kids:
|Manny Stocker||6-2/215||QB||RS SR|
|Nathan Peterman||6-2/225||QB||RS SR|
|Ben DiNucci||6-2/215||QB||RS FR|
Delete Peterman and Stocker from the list due to graduation and add recruit Kenny Pickett and transfer Max Browne and we see this going into the April drills:
|Max Browne||6-5/220||QB||RS SR|
|Ben DiNucci||6-2/215||QB||RS FR|
Again, all five are on scholarship as we speak – that won’t hold. Even though we have heard reports of Bo Schneider leaving the program I can’t find any formal release stating that… but lets delete him because that sure will happen sooner or later. Unless Schneider wants to keep on the roster as a walk-on and get a Pitt degree; which is an excellent idea, he’ll probably move on to somewhere else.
Which will leave us with four scholarship QBs. One too many in the long run. But this is also where fan’s speculation can start to show some creativity.
I believe that fan’s expectations for 2015 recruit Thomas MacVitte is very high and I can’t either agree with it nor really understand it. At 6-5 and 225 he’s a big kid and he did go to a good football high school in Moeller of Cincinnati, but after that I wonder where the unbridled optimism comes from. Here is his recruiting offers page:
That’s it folks and that LSU offer consisted of a single late in the game ‘test the waters’ phone call just to see how committed he actually was. I’ve watch MacVitte in warm-ups and some drills and think he’s just about right as a three-star, not so highly recruited kid. He played only one year of starting ball in HS meaning he didn’t beat out the other starters before his SR year and he did OK in his singular year of play.
I list all of that because those are the reasons Pat Narduzzi and then-OC Matt Canada scrambled around to get not just one other transfer, but two QB transfers and a reporting-early 2017 recruited QB.
In addition to those personnel moves something happened in the Pinstripe bowl and the weeks that led up to it that made me scratch my head and sit up a bit.
When Nate Peterman went down with a concussion that day we didn’t see the player who had been taking the QB2 snaps all season long in Manny Stocker. Instead Narduzzi rotated Ben DiNucci into the QB2 position a week or so before the bowl game and had him taking the 2nd string snaps in bowl preparation.
Why is that interesting? Because Ben DiNucci doesn’t have all that great starting D1 QB prospects and that move surprised a lot of people at the game and up in the press box. You would have thought the more talented Stocker would have gone in relief to try for the win, instead we sent in a QB who was an afterthought all year-long and played like it that afternoon. It was basically a “What the hell?” moment in Pitt history.
So here is some big speculations and let’s understand that’s what this is. Speculation on my part.
Let’s start with why did Narduzzi and Canada do that with DiNucci? Why sit down the incumbent relief QB Stocker for someone who hadn’t taken a snap yet at all and then play him in the latter part of an important bowl game we were behind in?
One reason maybe that Stocker can’t be in the future plans and so they threw a bone to DiNucci to keep him on roster. DiNucci has a few years left if he decides to stay in the program. I say “if he decides to stay” in the program because DiNucci was both transferred-in over and recruited over in the two years he’s been on the roster. So they give him some snaps in a game that had loss written on it from the starting whistle almost.
MacVitte sure wasn’t going to have his redshirt burned for that one game at the expense of a full year of later eligibility if he does pan out for the future at Pitt. That BTW isn’t a given at all to happen. He could well drop down the depth chart as well as rise in it.
When Narduzzi went out and grabbed Max Browne for 2017 and then convinced Kenny Pickett to report early he sent a message to the other QBs. Nothing is etched in stone and we’ll play to win each season on its own. There won’t be any season long on-the-job learning with this HC. Every QB he has played so far has at least a years experience as a D1 QB.
Incoming recruit Pickett is an interesting guy as he had a lot more scholarship offers than MacVitte did coming out of HS. I think we need to take his early presence at Pitt as serious competition for the future. If not, the program wouldn’t have enticed him to get into the Southside facilities so soon (it costs $$$ to bring kids in early folks). Here are Pickett’s offers:
So skipping over what we all believe will be Max Browne’s starting season in ’17 and going into 2018 we’ll have DiNucci as a rsJR, MacVitte as a rsSO and Pickett as a rsFR – assuming that Bo Schneider has by then gone onto greener pastures.
What will be the very interesting situation to watch is which QB not named Browne rises to that QB2 position and takes the practice snaps during the latter part of this year’s fall camp and into the 2017 regular season. My thoughts about DiNucci not being up to the task may be off base if he gets constant and regular practice time and catches the eye of a new OC. Give any kid a year of solid practices and show your staff’s faith in his abilities and anything could happen.
I don’t believe that will be the case but who knows? I didn’t think DiNucci would get playing time in the bowl game either.
But I’m not 100% convinced it will be Thomas MacVitte at the helm in 2018 either. DiNucci has already gotten playing time; Pickett may be just as capable (in my eyes) of starting as a rsFR as anyone else on the roster and, as stated above, a new OC may well come in and change the offense around so that any of those three QBs could grab that starting slot in a year from now.
What may happen also is that either DiNucci or MacVitte may cut their losses and look elsewhere for solid playing time. We saw that with Myers and Voytik and we may well see it again sometime down the road.
Narduzzi has already brought in a total of three transfer QBs in his short two years at Pitt and who’s to say he won’t do the same thing after the 2017 season? He’s not one to care about anyone’s feeling when planning for the future, that’s for sure.