Sunday Morning QB and Podcast

I invited readers to send in their impressions of the Spring Game and Eric Wassel took advantage.  This is his take…

RMonday-Morning-QBeed is a stats guy. Regular readers of the Pitt POV know this. I sometimes think that statistics do not lie, while at other times I believe that they can be misleading.

For example, one of the most statistically successful QBs in Pitt football history is TS (it pains me to say the name). Yet I am not alone in my belief that he was nothing more than a mediocre QB who was a Wanny favorite. We all know that he NEVER in three years led us to a come from behind victory. So in his case, the stats are both misleading and deceiving.

I happen to believe that statistics from a spring game, (particularly one where the first, second and third team players are spread out evenly across the two teams) are mostly meaningless. I mean, when your purported first string QB (Browne) is being protected by third string linemen and throwing to second string receivers (no disrespect meant to Tre Tipton, who is going to contribute this year), it’s dangerous to take too much from a game like this. So yes, stats can be misleading.

But the eye test does not lie. I’ll be passing along what my eyes saw today from the 40 yard line. I’ll be interested to hear the comments of others in attendance that share or disagree with the views which I express. Here’s what I saw…..

Arriving before kickoff, I wanted to watch warm-ups to see the QBs. Let’s face it; much focus has been paid to the quarterbacks this spring, by the POV as well as the mainstream media. After watching warm-ups, I came away with one primary thought: we are well positioned at QB and have better depth behind center than we have in awhile. Specifically, I’d say that all of our QBs appear have the arm strength to make the throws necessary to move the ball down the field.

One thing did stick out to me in warm-ups. While all four QBs had good zip on their passes, one guy stood out as the strongest and sharpest: Kenny Pickett.

As I mentioned, kind of hard to grade the QBs given the nature of the way the game was organized. But for fun, let’s say that I had never seen a Pitt football game before in my life and did not know the names or pedigree of any of the QBs. And let’s also say that Pitt was playing another game next week and I was the sole decision maker on who would be the starter for that game. 

Looking at the stats, one would likely lean towards DiNucci. And arguably he would be my choice. He looked poised, threw several nice passes and appears to have smoothed out his delivery.

But I wouldn’t sleep on Kenny Pickett either. He did not look like a freshman. His pocket awareness was exceptional. He made some excellent throws AND some quick decisions under pressure. He made several first downs with his legs.

I don’t know how else to say it, but Max Browne did not look good today. Setting aside that he was not playing with a full deck so to speak, he nonetheless made a lot of poor throws. He could have easily thrown one or two picks. Underthrown, overthrew, you name it. He had a couple of nice throws on the last possession, but for me I was hoping for more from him. That said it was one performance in the spring game, so I don’t put too much stock in it.

As for Thomas MacVittie, it’s really not fair to grade him at all. He wasn’t afforded the same opportunities as the other quarterbacks. While DiNucci and Pickett essentially split time equally for the Gold squad, the same was not true for the Blue team. As you can see from the stat sheet, Browne threw far more passes than anyone else.

Reed pointed out that MacVittie was sacked twice, but I did not see either as being his fault. He did lead the Blue on a TD drive and scored himself on a 12 yard run. But because he threw only one pass, we really learned nothing about his passing ability today.

Regarding the running backs, by far the best day was had by Chawntez Moss. He had a couple of nice runs on the Blue’s first TD drive to set up the MacVittie score. One was a 15 yard sweep and the other a 20 plus yard fake reverse. Qadree Ollison did not have very good blocking in front of him today, so I’m reluctant to be too negative about his performance. But his stats tell you that he didn’t do much. I think that his longest run was about 5 yards.

We have a very nice group of receivers. I thought that despite a few dropped passes, this looks like a team strength. Weah, Henderson, Mathews and Tipton are going to give whoever plays QB lots of options. Plus Ffrench, Lopes and Flowers each had moments today also. Flowers had a drop and a fumble (his fault, wasn’t protecting the ball).

“Q” Henderson was the best player on the field today by the way. He had a couple of pretty electric plays, including the first touchdown where he faked Jay Stocker out of his jock. He almost scored a second time on a play where he weaved himself through traffic for 54 yards and was hauled down just short of the goal line by Dane Jackson.

I thought that the secondary played a pretty sound game. No blown coverages, solid tackling for the most part. There were a few hard hits. If I had to point out anyone in particular, I’d say that Avonte Maddox played the best back there. He had tight coverage most of the day and put a big hit on Tre Tipton. Jay Stocker made several good tackles.

A few other observations of mine….

  1. George Aston did not touch the ball once all day. That was disappointing.
  2. Kam Carter (JUCO transfer who previously kicked out of the Dairy College) was not listed on either roster and may be in some sort of hot water. Edit: I didn’t see anything about Carter being injured so we are wondering why he wasn’t on a roster.
  3. We are fine at Punter and Kicker as long as the starters don’t get hurt. Winslow boomed a few punts, while Kessman has plenty of leg and connected on three field goals. The backups did not look good.
  4. We have a lot of quality depth on the defensive line. I think we will be good there. Four sacks on the day, two from Rori Blair.
  5. None of the linebackers did anything to distinguish themselves. Not that they did anything poorly either, but it’s still unclear to me who will emerge.
  6. Tough to tell for sure, but the crowd seemed to be decent. The whole one side of the lower bowl was pretty full. Note: attendance was listed at 7,076
  7. Pitt had a lot of prominent football alumni at the game. They should have figured out a way to do some sort of autograph session for the fans in attendance with the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Tyler Palko, Tyler Boyd, etc. That’s how you get people to connect with the program. Fans relate to those former players. It was good to see that these players clearly care about the program.
  8. No major injuries from the game are apparent, although Brian O’Neill may have suffered an injury to his wrist, arm or shoulder in the second half.

I’m interested in knowing the thoughts of other POVers who were in attendance.

(Folks – that is a solid 1,266 word article by one of our readers… which is what is great about this blog – reader participation in both comments and main article writing. Thanks Eric!)

Here is a senior highlights film of Kenny Pickett – you fans who want a dual-threat QB?  You have one now…

Here is another more professionally done video on Pickett found on HUDL.com.

 

130 thoughts on “Sunday Morning QB and Podcast

  1. Very nice article Eric—If I were coach, I’d have a hard time Redshirting Pickett this year. His legs make him a very exciting and as a result a very dangerous man to defend behind center. I almost hate to say it but in viewing his highlights he reminds me a little like a taller version of Doug Flutie.

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  2. Thanks MissingWlat for your article. I hope you got Walt Harris’ autograph since you have missed him for so long.

    BTW, not sure, but is Damonte Carter even on campus yet? Pretty sure that that JC transfer is coming in during the Summer with the rest of his recruiting class.

    I also agree about the defense, they played competently and Avonte Maddox was flying around all over the field. Wish he was six feet tall!

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  3. Very good write up. HCPN is getting better and better in putting together his team. Nw if he could find another QH, we would get 10+ wins. An NFL career is his next stop.

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  4. That was a fine article Eric. I’m not sure how I feel about the spring game format. I like the draft and the players really seem to get into it, while it gets them totally involved. Another point I like is, that it keeps the actual meaning of a spring game in perspective. It’s football practice in the spring. It’s for the players as much as the coaches.

    Narduzzi has made it ultra clear that he is just not letting any of his top secret espionage/CIA/FBI leak out to the enemy. He’s a little kooky about all that. Translation = we can take very little from the QB’s warming up on the sidelines and what happened on the field yesterday. Although I still love to break it down.

    Watched the film on Pickett. I’m impressed with his speed and quick decision making. Like I’ve been saying. If he can beat out the other QB’s, Gaad bless him and PITT. Although that depends on how he would win the job. By default will not be a good thing at all. If he blows the competition out of the water, hooray. PITT has a QB for years to come.

    So happy to hear that BigB’s (not sure if its his mom or gram) is feeling better and ditto to Mrs Kholberger. Pretty sure that’s his wife? I also want to thank the Mrs Reed for saying my voice is not bad at all. I hate it my voice.

    Again about the spring game. Glad to see as many people show up as they did. Really like the spirit of the players and moving forward how this will translate over to the off season workouts.

    We All We Got
    We All We Need
    H2P! ………..ike

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    1. I thought that the Blue D line was pretty stout. The two starting QBs were untouchable with red jerseys, so it’s hard to tell how many sacks truly would have occurred. Overall, the Defensive line was stronger than the offensive line. Candidly, not knowing all of the uniform numbers of the younger players, it made it difficult to evaluate the line play. I will say that we have some talent and size there.

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  5. Thanks WLAT… good article! Find the comment about Cam the man Carter intriguing…

    Gram as we her (my mom is back home) Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers..You POVerts rock…

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  6. good article indeed. i like the eye test myself and how players respond to the player. stats can lie like in tinos case…except for the number of sacks per attempt. a pitt record.

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  7. Sorry for the false alarm fellow POVerts…. Cam Carter won’t arrive on campus until the summer. I could swear I read a report that he was participating in spring drills.

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  8. Nice article Eric! Enjoyed your perspective. Getting pumped for summer. Pickett sounds like a real good prospect. Feeling like there is more and more capable depth on the team, perhaps not like the big programs yet but more than our recent history.

    HTP!

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  9. I’m starting to get the Pickett hype and all but again, his stats read 6-13 for 36 yards and a QB rating of 69.4 I do get that the players were not put into their best position to excel but those numbers are nothing to get excited about.

    My question is, beside him warming up before the game spinning the ball and making some nice runs when the pocket broke down. What did he really do in the game that inspires all the confidence?

    Like I said previously, I was very impressed with his highlight video.

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  10. Stats for a game, especially a pick-up game, can indeed be very misleading. They do have credence, however, when measured over an extended period.

    The most important stat yesterday was 0 …. as in injuries

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    1. Absolutely wwb. I wasn’t at the game and I do take Eric’s and everyone’s word that were there. Just playing the devil’s advocate here. What if another backup PITT QB had those same numbers? I get the feeling someone would have a field day with those stats?? Which proves my point about statistics. The liar’s.

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  11. Not to put a damper on anything/one but QH had better solve his ball security issue. He looks incredible and will be a YUGE game momentum changer often….just need it to be in our direction every time.

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  12. Ike: Like I said at the outset of the article, it’s what my eyes saw. Forget the stats. In Pickett, I saw a guy who threw several real nice passes. Threaded the needle on one. Weah dropped one, and I believe at least one other was dropped. One great completion was negated by penalty. I recall him throwing one poor pass. Several times he “made something out of nothing”‘ escaping pressure and either throwing a completion or running for a first down. He anticipated the pressure several times and got away from it. Can he throw the ball 40 yards downfield on the money? I don’t know. He only attempted one deep pass that I can recall, and it was incomplete.

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  13. Very nice writeup on the game IMO by Jim Hammett at CardiacHill.—Since Pickett has been mentioned quite a bit I thought I’d post Hammett’s comment here “I came away impressed with Pickett. He’s much faster than i anticipated and actually has some running skills, and looks comfortable extending plays and throwing on the run. Just didn’t expect that from a true freshman, that he impressed.”—–Extending the plays is what I saw also in his highlight films. And IMO may be more impressive on broken plays than on the play call in the huddle. Getting Q Henderson the ball on broken passing plays may be much more practical and effective than trying to get him the ball on called plays. And getting him the ball anyway they can should always be on Narduzzi’s and Watson minds.

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  14. with the likes of Henderson, Weah and Ffrench (offensively), Pitt may be destined again to be a Big12-like team especially if the OL plays up to its potential. This means that, once again, our scoring drives will not be that time-consuming … and putting our defense on the field more than normal. This is not a bad thing; scoring TDs never is. It just provides more opportunities for the opposing offense.

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  15. Ike – I factor some conversations (and overheard conversations, interviews with staff, etc… into what I think about the QBs.

    Just like when everyone but me seemed to 100% believe Peterman was brought in only for depth to support the starter Voytik.

    But I had watched Voytik in many Chryst practices, talked with Pat Bostick about Peterman and have even talked to some offensive players on the sidelines, informally at media day, etc…, asking about who threw the ball better, etc…

    All that went into 1) my belief back in 2014 that Voytik was going to not be the star QB everyone thought he was and then 2) Peterman was brought in to be the starter. The readers on the Blather gave me continued hell for that.

    Now – you seem to think all I do is throw out stats and maybe watch 25 minutes of the QB/WR drills and that’s it. But I still read everything I can get my eyes on. I call up past bloggers in the HS area sometimes, I talk with guys who attended way more practices and interviews that I do – some of them associated with Pitt.

    THAT is what goes into my opinions on here. Not just 6-13 for 39 yards – but also taking Eric’s word, and others’ also, that Pickett didn’t look “like a freshman out there” and that he has the makings of a fine starter due to his pocket awareness (the hardest thing for a transiting HS-College QB has to handle), his inherent knowledge when to tuck and run and his quick & accurate arm.

    Just the pocket awareness issue alone makes me sit up and take notice – that usually takes a full season or more for these young QBs to master – Pickett has seemingly done it in 14 practices…

    He also has great size for a college QB at 6’2 / 210 – and he’s a true 6’2″ (I stood next to him at practice) not a midget out there like Voytik who couldn’t have cracked 6′ if he was wearing high heels. I stood next to him on Walnut Street in civvies and had to look almost straight down at him to make eye contact.

    I think Pickett’s a true dual threat QB and one who can do very good things for us in the future. Just as I think MacVitte is going to keep being recruited over by this staff.

    Fans have to remember this is a business to these coaches – just because MacVitte might have been the 1st Narduzzi 3* QB recruited out of HS doesn’t make him the favorite son or anything – that’s why every staff keeps recruiting QBs every year.

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  16. Here’s the deal with Pickett for me. I’m getting ready to jump on his bandwagon. I took a good look at his highlight video and was really impressed with his speed #1, quickness #2, his arm looks alive and he could bring a new and different type of offense for PITT that would fit into the ACC style very nicely.

    If you take a closer look at my comments, you’ll notice I say “playing the devils advocate” when mentioning his stat’s. I also mentioned that we couldn’t really take much out of the spring game do to format and a dumb-ed down game-plan.

    Reed, I know the work you put into your thoughts and they certainly are not willy-nilly. More to my point though. You are a stat guy 99% of the time. If another QB put up those same numbers they could used against the player. Am I right? I’m also a fan, who more than not, uses the eye test. We all know how that works. How many times I’ve watch a game with other fans and by games end, we didn’t see the same things. The eye test is just as subjective as stats can be at times.

    I do think it’s highly unlikely we will see KP duty this coming season. If he’s playing, PITT has not played very well leading up to that scenario.

    One last point and don’t crucify me on it. You did come clean on (maybe) missing out of Dinucci’s ability a little. Now BD being the second team QB could be for lots of different reasons. Other players not stepping up like the coaches were hoping etc… These are the questions that inquiring minds want to know. You don’t get answers if you don’t ask questions. That’s where I’m coming from…

    We All We Got
    We All We Need

    H2P! .ike

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  17. So to summarize my last comment.

    If we want to use statistics to prove our points, that fine by me. Pickett’s stats were very bad.

    If you want to use the eye test? Some of us missed out on Dinucci. I thought he played ok in the bowl game but never thought he would be #2 QB this spring.

    In no way was I challenging anyone’s opinions. Imagine if Pickett lights up fall camp and PITT see’s no way to keep him off the field. Wouldn’t that be great.

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  18. Ike – I’m starting to wonder if it is a 50/50 type thing where DiNucci is playing OK and MacVitte is dropping down.

    But who really knows because Shawn Watson has his own ides in mind. But I’ll admit when I make a mistake. I might be off base with think Ollison is the featured back this season also.

    But even when he’s not doing well they gave him a bunch of carries for testing him… MacVitte made a short showing, threw and that was it.

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  19. To All – The Dark Night has just joined the list of ultra-generous donors with a PayPal gift to the POV. He is truly a guy who puts his money where his mouth is (under the hood he wears that is).

    Thanks Dark One…

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  20. Definitely on the side of Thomas MacVitte dropping as of this moment. Yet again, that spring game format was just one more way Narduzzi’s tries to disguise what’s going on down on the south-side.

    Narduzzi’s way of thinking “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” Joe Heller

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  21. I stand by my earlier position that Pickett will redshirt, Duzz is not going to waste a redshirt year. Browne will start because Duzz won’t admit he made a mistake with him. If he burns Pickett’s redshirt mid-year, then we are already in big trouble. DiNucci appears to be a career backup type, and MacVittie may end up changing positions. They need to bring in a QB to build behind Pickett for the future.

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  22. Question Reed, is the idea of an edit button completely off the table? I’m the world’s worst proof reader, for the simple fact. I just don’t do it.

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  23. Didn’t see the game but would agree with WLAT eye test of Kenny our version of ” the snake.” Watched his tape – he is going to be a really good QB or at least has potential.. good arm and wheels- hopefully with a computer/ gray matter to match..
    Hoping for and expecting a big improve this in our “D” this year… they need to keep us in games til the “gels” lots of new moving pieces on both sides.. Duzz’s year to show his Defensive genius ..
    Regarding our QB Brown, a friend of Dr Tom’s, who lives in California told me Brown is ” stationary. We shall see..should be an exciting year!

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  24. Darkie.. thanks.. been missing your posts… hope to unmask you at a POV event this year.. then that could ruin the fun… nothing better than “anticipation!!!”

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  25. Browne was beaten out by a Highschool True Freshman while Browne was 22 years old. That should never happen.He is 4 years older folks. Browne isn’t an answer and is no Peterman. Play the QB you will play in 2018 in 2017.

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  26. Up to this point I have been confident that Max Browne would replace Nate P. and step right in and do a good job.
    But now, after reading everyone’s observations from the spring game (and THANK YOU all for your input) I fear that MAYBE Max is another 5* recruit much like Chad was – OVERRATED, which is not good!!!
    I really hope this is not the case, but time will tell, a nervous time for us Pitt fans indeed!

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  27. I didn’t see the spring game and I’ve never seen Pickett play ball. But if he’s as good behind center as he is behind a mic then we’ve got a keeper. Just watched his post game interview and I was impressed with his poise and his communication skills. Seems very mature and confident for a true freshman.

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  28. Not true upitt.

    Browne won the starting job, was underwhelming but not terrible and then Darnold was tried out and never looked back.

    Lets also not act like that “Highschool True Freshman” is just anyone. The kid would probably be the number one pick if he could come out this year and is a heisman frontrunner for this year.

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  29. Good points Rhyno. I think some could be jumping the gun a little here. Browne did beat out the freshman initially and then rewarded by playing Alabama first game, then Stanford third game. In between Browne looked good against Utah State. In fact his stats were ok last year. Over-all his stats were not totally abysmal. Not sure if he played against Utah in their loss 31-27?

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  30. Ike, the only way to put an edit button in is to also make everyone register and keep their info in WordPress.

    I don’t want to do that as no one could post as anonymous and that’s not what we want here.

    All are welcome… as long as they agree with me.

    If a post is really screwed up I’ll edit it for clarity.

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  31. Pittman, I wouldn’t say Browne is “overrated ” as much as the Pitt fans’ expectations might be too high based on recruit ratings from 4 years ago.

    I am very wary of 5 star recruits in the first place because Pitt has a sketchy history with them.

    Bostick, Shell,Dickerson and others didn’t play up to that.

    Granted some others did but I think 4 stars is less pressure and more realistic.

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  32. Ike all we know is that Browne started for USC last year and that may be the same reason he starts for Pitt this year. It’s hard to not start the QB that waited his turn over a QB just coming back from his Senior prom. Even when your eyes tell you otherwise the coach often goes with any competent QB over the freshman. Pickett coming to Pitt in January instead of August is not going to make the decision to not start him any easier for Narduzzi and Watson. The real question is do they have the guts to not play Browne even if they feel Pickett is the best option.—-It’s also hard for me to believe that DiNucci has expanded his game way above the level he showed in the bowl game. But anything is possible and my guess we will have to witness at least 3 losses in the first 4 games this year before Narduzzi and Watson hit the QB panic button.

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  33. I agree totally with jrnpitt. Depending on how bad Browne is, and what the W-L is mid-year, we could see DiNucci in a play-out-the-season role, or the beginning of the Pickett era. But Duzz won’t burn his redshirt easily.

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  34. I believe that’s how it’s going to work jrn. If Browne isn’t starting by the fourth or fifth game, bad news all the way around. =Browne is hurt or the PITT football season is in the crapper.

    Again, the one exception. If KP can blow everyone away with his fall performance and snatch the starting job away on merit not default. Well, then PITT will be in a great place for a few years.

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    1. Like I said Ike it’s going to take “guts” for Narduzzi to throw Browne to the dogs even if Pickett blows away everyone prior to the season starting. And frankly I can’t see that scenario taking place. If Browne ends up being the stature back there that PSU tees off on in game 2, I can here here the crys of anguish now from the Pitt faithful come this September.

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  35. Geez guys, even I don’t see Pickett being a true FR starter.

    I think Brown will be an average QB for us along the lines of Voytik’s 2014 season.

    2,230 yards, 16TDs and 7 INTs
    something along those lines.

    You know Narduzzi’s going heavy with the run again… because as much as he won’t admit it that is the Big 10 ball he loves.

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  36. It’s amazing how everyone yesterday decides to take the spring game with a grain of salt … then all of a sudden Browne is no good and Pickett may be the answer

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  37. I wasn’t intending to start a QB controversy….but maybe I have…. at least amongst readers of the POV. I’m pretty sure though that Pat Narduzzi is locked in to Max Browne as his starter and Ben DiNucci as the backup. I don’t think that a couple of quarters of a spring scrimmage will change that. What was encouraging to me is that I saw a commodity previously unknown to me (Pickett), show me 1) a strong arm, which was for the most part accurate, 2) great pocket awareness, 3) elusiveness, and 4) speed.. Also encouraging to me was that DiNucci looked like he can play at this level, even though it was a very small sample size. Am I down on Browne? Not at all. He just didn’t play well Saturday, although he did have a better second half and a nice final drive. The final TD pass to Tipton was a sweet throw. But that didn’t change what I saw throughout the first half. Little things too, like throwing behind the a running back in the flat, instead of leading him so that his momentum is heading up field. Will Max Brown play in the fall like a five star or like a two star? Who knows. I don’t think that 6 or 8 possessions in the spring game comes anywhere close to answering that question for us. It’s just nice to see that we may have some developing depth at the QB position, which we did not appear to have last year. I’m glad that we never had to find out.

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  38. Wbb, you know that speculation is the currency Pitt fans trade in.

    I do think the Spring game is good for one thing and that is to see how players handle themselves. Not so much for stats but as we say …”the eye test”.

    When you have an 18 year old QB with 14 practices being as apparently cool under fire as KP was then tongues will begin to wag.

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