First of all, and most importantly, Pitt sort-of announced that it is (maybe) going to be going to throwback uni’s full time next season, and the unveil is apparently set for April 7th.  This P-G article will tell you everything you need to know.

Secondly, Yesterday we covered the Offensive Line and the Quarterback.  Today we’ll cover the rest of the offense.  Tomorrow will be the first day of spring practice, and I’m sure there will be a lot to talk about after that.

The Running Backs

Projected Starter:

  • AJ Davis – RB – Jr or Todd Sibley – RB – rSo

Projected Backups:

  • AJ Davis – RB – Jr or Todd Sibley – RB – rSo
  • Mychale Salahuddin – RB – rFr
  • Daniel Carter – RB – Fr

Age of Projected Starters (Avg):  21, 20 (21).  Fun fact: AJ Davis’ and Todd Sibley’s birthdays are one year and one day apart, with Davis being the older of the two.

Age of Projected Backups (Avg): 20, 19, 18

Player we can Least Afford to Lose:  Probably AJ Davis, but could be any of them.

Potential Breakouts:  Davis, Sibley, Salahuddin

Wildcard:  Daniel Carter

Michaelangelo’s Take:  For the first time in more than half a decade Pitt’s running game won’t feature a guy named Connor, Ollison or Hall.  Considering that all three of them will likely end up in the NFL, that is a source of concern.  The good news is that we’ve got four-star talent stashed away on the depth chart and some additional help on the way.  AJ Davis, Todd Sibley and Mychale Salahuddin were all four-star recruits in one way or another, and incoming freshman Daniel Carter was a highly-rated three star and rated top-20 in the country by Rivals.

The other good news is that running back is one of the positions where a talented youngster can come in and contribute right away.  Pitt’s football history is littered with examples from Dorsett, to McCoy all the way up to Conner and Ollison.  The question is, which of our current guys has the talent, and will the coaching staff trust a younger player enough to put them on the field?  I believe that any one of the four backs could emerge, but it’s probably the player with the best all-around skill set that will see the most time even if they aren’t the top runner, especially if it comes to pass blocking.  You have to think the Whipple will find a way to get his playmakers the ball through, and so running back will be a good position to watch this spring.

For those who haven’t seen it, here are a few of Daniel Carter’s high school highlights.  (Sorry you may have to sit through a short advertisement.  The good news is that proceeds probably benefit Pitt.)

Also, rumor has it that Whipple’s offense doesn’t make use of a fullback, so fan favorite and all-ACC fullback George Aston technically won’t have to be replaced.  However, if Whipple decides to keep some of the run concepts from last season (which could very well happen), then he’ll have to find someone to plug into that spot.  Odds are that former walk-on Jim Medure would slot into that role, given his versatility and physical style of play.

The Wide Receivers

Projected Starters:

  • Maurice Ffrench – WR – Sr
  • Taysir Mack – WR – rJr
  • Aaron Matthews – WR – Sr

Projected Backups:

  • Tre Tipton – WR – rSr
  • Shocky Jacques-Louis – WR – So
  • Dontavious Butler-Jenkins – WR – rSo

Age of Projected Starters (Avg):  21, 20, 21 (21).  Fun Fact:  Maurice Ffrench’s birthday is on New Year’s day.

Age of Projected Backups (Avg): 23, 20, 19 (21)

Player we can Least Afford to Lose:  Maurice Ffrench or Taysir Mack

Potential Breakouts:  Aaron Matthews, Shocky Jacques-Louis, Dontavious Butler-Jenkins

Wildcard: V’Lique Carter

Michaelangelo’s Take:  Pitt’s two top returning playmakers are wide receivers.  Given new OC Mark Whipple’s penchant for the passing game, that is a very good thing.  Ffrench had 515 yds receiving and 1200+all purpose yards on the season.  Mack had 557 Yds receiving, and a 23.1 Avg.  As long as they stay healthy, and QB Kenny Pickett is average or better, these two stand to have very good seasons.  They are the clear cut starters and I think the only real question is who gets the nod at #3 (and #4 in 4WR sets) and who backs them up.

My guess for #3 is Matthews, partly because he’s got length, partly because he can block and partly because he’s been around forever.  Assuming he can catch the ball consistently, I see no reason why Matthews wouldn’t see the field.  I’ve frankly always felt that Matthews has been a little underutilized in the passing game, after all 6’5″ receivers don’t grow on trees, and short defensive backs certainly do.  Redshirt Senior Tre Tipton is also on the roster, but one has to wonder if he still has his speed and quickness after the 2017 knee injury.  He’s a heck of a guy off the field though, and that would make it all that much easier to root for him if he can contribute.

Shocky Jacques-Louis is the trendy underclassman pick to make an impact.  Mostly because he’s fast, and he’s from Florida, and he played last year.  From what I recall it seemed like he dropped a fair amount of balls, and I wasn’t impressed by his route running on his high school tape, but those are two correctable things, and it will be interesting to see how Jacques-Louis plays this spring.  Dontavious Butler-Jenkins is a guy that we kept hearing the staff talk about last fall, and he did appear in 13 games last year, but he caught only four balls.  Lastly, I added the now-infamous V’Lique Carter as the wildcard because I don’t believe he’s going to be polished enough as a receiver to be on the field every down, but I do believe that Whipple will find a way to get him the ball.

And since we are talking receivers and Wildcards…

The Tight Ends

And that’s all I have to say about that.

But since I can’t let you go into spring on a downer, here is a very special video version of my special teams preview.  Hail to Pitt!

Michaelangelo Monteleone


62 thoughts on “Pitt Football 2019 Spring Preview: The Offense – Part 2

  1. But first a PSA … Pitt baseball home opener vs YSU today has been canceled. ACC opener is this weekend at NC State


    1. Well he’s not but his twitter handle is ‘the villian’ or something like that so I put that in in case he’s reading it


      1. Correction, the “villian” is actually one Vincent Davis. Recruit. But I do like referring to V’lique as slightly sinister because he can terrorize opposing defenses


  2. Thanks again Michaelangelo, well done per usual.

    Question on “the villain” I realize this kid is quick, fast and looks to have a little swagger but I wonder what he could do on defense if given a longer look? I know he’s only 5’9″ and a buck 70 and would interested in seeing if he’s grown any since arriving in Pittsburgh. There’s nothing like a CB who can run.

    Predicting PITT’s offense to be substantially better than last year, this opinion is based on a new OC, Whipple, and a more experienced QB in Pickett. All I heard last year was that the O-Line would be horrible and they played above the line imo. So will this unit at the end of the day or season.


  3. Another good article MM.

    I am banking on Davis and Sibley as the backs this year. I think they will be much more dynamic than Ollison and Hall.


  4. Really good depth but no apparent star power. Hopefully a couple guys separate from the pack.


  5. Thanks Mike. I think the RB’s are plug and play with Pitt over the last 15 years as previously mentioned. Our run blocking is above average against the other teams base run pass option and spread defenses. As such, I continue to see the running game as a positive against a “box safety/linebacker”. We will continue to see defenses with 5 and 6 DB’s or 5 DB’s and a hybrid DB/LB. The base OL should control the line of scrimmage. The problem occurs when Pitt is 3rd and 3 or less against a stacked box. I like our RB’s.

    WR’s are another issue. I am not enamored with any of our WR’s. I like Ffrench on special teams and am warming up to him as a wr. I think Mathews should be an above average WR, however, I cannot tell if it has been the ineptness of the OL in pass blocking or our qb with running as his first and mostly only option that has held the WR’s down. Look, at some point a WR is going to not run each route at 100% if he feels the qb will pull the ball down and run too early. It becomes frustrating for the route runner. Regardless, the WR’s need to be mature and realize that their job is to run the route at 100% each time, for the benefit of the team. So, I guess I am a push at WR because of the unknowns.

    As far as TE’s, we shouldn’t have 3 or 7 leave the program within 6 weeks. That’s a positive.

    Just heard on a radio station in ohio that Pitt is going back to marino/dorsett era colors. Not sure what is happening but the announcers were happy that Pitt finally made a good decision regarding the brand. Wonder what took so long!


  6. Do any of you remember Ffrench being named a mid-season all-American at kick returner? Can’t recall the publication but it was based on his 2 KO returns for TDs.

    I think he, Mack and Carter will benefit the most from the new OC who has the reputation of getting the ball in the hands of the playmakers … kinda like what Canada did in 2016. The difference being that this year’s OL doesn’t match up to that OL … so quick and medium range passing may come into play.

    The RB situation is similar to the OL situation in that we really don’t know who the starter will be. My dark horse at RB is Salahuddin because I believe he is the fastest of the RBs (provided of course he heals from his late season surgery)


  7. PSN reports Pitt is getting a visit from a 2020 OL from the now famous Peddie School in NJ where we just got a LB in the latest class. …“I’ve always liked Pitt a lot,” said Mayo. “They’re a really good ACC school and they seem to always give the best teams a run for their money. People always seem to sleep on Pitt and a lot of times, they find a way to come up big. Pitt as a school is very interesting to me in general because they have a long history of producing great running backs, lineman and players in general.”

    He is a 4-star OL so of course we won’t get him … but you got to appreciate the “old college try”


  8. On top of that wwb, Paris Johnson, 5 star OL for 2020 and a verbal to OSU, has decided to now take his official visits. Can Pitt get one since his dad is on our staff? I would team up Johnson and Mayo for the same weekend and sell, sell, sell. It would be even better if we could get 3 four stars and the 5 star on campus the same week and sell, sell, sell, that these guys will bring Pitt back!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The prolific MM strikes again! I’m referring to the writing…

    I know we have 4-star guys and we just had two 1000-yard rushers, and this will make no sense, but I continue to be disappointed in our RB recruiting. Too spoiled, I guess, by guys with quick lateral moves like Dion, Ray, and Shady…

    These RBs look pretty much completely interchangeable — I guess we’re consistent.

    Go Pitt.


  10. Great graphic on the TE dumpster fire.
    So appropriate. And now the Reeves sequel!

    Won’t be long til we get a verbal from a 3-star TE, then in another few months he will de-commit and go to a top-twenty type school…. Seen this movie…

    Maybe K. Mimes will surprise us all! He appears to have the body for it…

    Go Pitt.


  11. Another great writeup MM.—By the way you forgot to mention one freshman RB Vincent Davis 5’8″ 165 out of Ft lauderdale. Even though he’s only a freshman we may have another V Carter clone type play maker in Davis.


    1. I left him out on purpose because I feel like he’s too small. But hey that’s why they have practice, maybe I’ll be proven wrong


  12. Wow Huff, where did you see P Johnson opened up his recruiting? Daddy still in town Paris. I give PITT half a chance??

    I agree on Aaron Matthews possibly become a surprise senior breakout player. He’s tough as nail, comes from a tough as nails neighborhood and is a proven winner. Go Aaron!!


  13. Happiest bunch on the team has to be the WRs. They must be fired up over Whips and the new WR Coach. Very frustrating to run routes and get virtually nothing in return. I’m talking about guys like Mathews, Tipton and Shocky.

    I’m optimistic for the WRs. I remember Erie Express calling Mack a player last spring, when he looked okay, but like nothing special to me… Go Erie!

    Go Pitt.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Didn’t completely re-open recruitment. What he did, was come out and say he is now going to take his official visits after Urb……retired! This is a departure from his previous stance of being committed 100% to OSU and not taking any visits. I know a couple people here and there, but mostly there.

    Not sure if his dad is still on our staff. If so, Pitt should be all over any potential opening. Get him to campus with another four star or three and you might develop a bond amongst the hogs. He would see the field early for sure at Pitt but maybe not so much at OSU.


  15. BTW, Reeves was listed as 6’5” and 280 as a freshman at Pitt. Too heavy for a TE, at least a pass-catching one, IMHO.

    For some reason we’ve become obsessed with massive tight ends! (Did that sentence work okay?)

    Why don’t we look for some guys who can run down the field. TEs in the pros now are mostly big WRs… Guys like Kelce and Jessie James don’t block anybody…. But they get mis-matches on smaller players. We haven’t had a one-on-one mis-match in our favor since Oh Canada… 🤔

    Go Pitt.


  16. That size is a mismatch anywhere. Defenders can’t reach around him if he sticks his big booty out there which is an asset. I saw him block a field goal or two, so he is athletic for sure. A blazer, nope, but definitely a weapon and a space eater. I like him at Tight End. He isn’t obese and carries the weight real well in my opinion. If he commits to getting in shape, we may have something!

    If I remember correctly, our coaching staff went to his home after he left the team and tried to get him back. That tells me they know he is a talent because that typically doesn’t happen.


    1. A good to great TE can think on his feet. Give me a thinking athletic TE that can get on the same page with the QB. Of course that requires a thinking QB that can get on the same page as the TE. I’m not sure we have that in Pickett or with any of our current TE’s. Note the Rutgers transfer TE doesn’t transfer in to Pitt until after he graduates in May.


      1. Reeves was supposedly a pretty good basketball player in HS, extremely athletic for his size. FWIW, Brian O’Neill played on the state championship BB team (albeit Delaware) .. but of course, he had to put on 20 or 30 pounds to play tackle.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. jrnpitt, I can make the case that Pickett thought too much, that may have been his problem


  17. wwb, I believe the same thing. KP was way over-coached. He was so interested in his drop back, steps and form he couldn’t see downfield. Whipple needs to make him more of a gunslinger.


  18. Perhaps the game slows down for our signal caller this year. I mentioned to Reed in game 1 last year that the qb seemed to take-off early, not allowing the routes to develop and he was relying on his legs way too early in the play sequence. In addition, he was very late on decisioning when someone was breaking open. He was just off by a half count with his patience. He panicked and ran just as a receiver was coming open. That was never corrected all year.

    I really hope it all slows down for him but my sense is that the game would not be slowed down if i was behind center with a bunch of 270 pound dudes wanting to take my head off as I dropped back and had no protection.

    If he struggles, I would want Bellville to take some snaps in his respective four games if for nothing else, getting used to game speed. Bellville will thus keep his redshirt. Same with Patti. I just don’t think the team can suffer through another inept year in the passing game without making changes. Again, i hope Mr. Whipple squeezes the charmin and gets our qb’s feeling comfortable, especially if they are faced with a crapstorm again from the opponents DL.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Huff — I hope you’re correct about Reeves being worth bringing back.

      On KP, while he had many poor games last season, I find myself going back to the WF game – a game Pitt had to win. We were able to handle Wake’s pass rush that day and KP had, by far, his best passing game.

      30 attempts
      23 completions
      316 yards
      3 Touchdowns

      Now all we need is Coach Whips to consistently get games like this out of the offense. 😊

      Go Pitt.


  19. Good points Huff the third which brings us all the way back 360 degrees or is that 180, 90 or 45 degrees? Never really good at drafting. But anyways, I will always defer to coaches and the understanding they know just a little bit more than me about the goings on with their jobs. I do believe it’s best to run the ball effectively enough to help the passing game and pass the ball well enough to run the ball effectively. Which makes the PITT running game last year really incredible without much of a passing threat.

    KP beat Miami with a devil may care attitude a couple years ago and that needs to be re-instilled in him. There should be nothing left on the table at the end of each game this coming season. Go for every play and every game, nothing less!


  20. Huff3… I don’t know what speed the game is played out in Kenny’s brain but he could learn a valuable fundamental from any red- blooded Pennsylvania deer hunter “ GO to the RANGE and get SIGHTED- IN!!!”

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Whipple’s Offense does not utilize a Fullback per se. That said, it calls on the Running Back to be hand on the Ball and get yards when they are there to be gotten.

    I think incoming Freshman Carter might have what it takes to do what’s required. But don’t expect the HOME-RUNS we saw with Ollison, Hall and Conner before them.


  22. PoD… that’s one of the beauties of college ball…kids move on and a new chapter begins even though we seem stuck in the gridiron version of Ground hog Day….and so the experts flock to the POV and expound….once and awhile we get it right and just as often wrong….. either way we have fun..
    We need UPitt back on here.. need a little fire to get the juices flowing…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. UPitt is a Good Dude.

      Remember him inviting everyone to hang out before the INFAMOUS Armed Forces Bowl in Ft. Worth. He was totally sincere with the invitation.

      Too bad it took so long for some to appreciate him.


  23. makes me wonder why Pitt and 70% of other schools even bother sometimes


  24. Nice article Michaelangelo – I’m bullish on the WR’s and RB’s –

    Pulled this from PSN –

    “Coach Harley and I have talked,” said (Aliquippa DE/LB @ 6’3” 230 lb Zuriah) Fisher. “He just says that they’re going to recruit me hard. I plan on going to Pitt for their Spring Game. An offer from Pitt would be very big to me because it’s hometown. I kind of want to stay home so an offer from them would be big.”

    Fisher has offers from Cuse, Minnesota and others. The young man wants to “stay home”!

    What is Pitt waiting for in regards to an offer?


    1. Bingo. Need to wrap up good players as we can. Not doing so, leaves options open for others to cherrypick. Either he is good enough or he is not. This isn’t a difficult process, or are we holding out for all the 4 and 5 stars first! Good grief! Offer the kid and get the pipeline activated. This angers me like the TE that was offered later than others, Beatty and now this young man. Offer them and close them. We have ZERO commits for next year….again! Look, if they start to stink next year, you just don’t call them and check on them as often. Simple.


      1. We typically sign a lot of our recruits in June. I have little reason to think this will change


  25. The BEST news I’ve heard in a LONG time… Pitt Admin reportedly going back to the Brown Mustard Gold and Blue of the early 80s.

    If true, that’s as good as Pitt gets with TRADITION!


  26. Love your work Michelangelo. These articles are awesome. Thanks for the football material during this dark and maddening stretch of awful pitt basketball.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the compliment PittMan. Much appreciated


  27. Mack and Mathews will have good first seasons under Whipple’s system. Both will play at the next level.

    Ffrench will be Pitt’s go to all-purpose guy. KR, WR and a few carries ala J.Whitehead.

    The RB position will be filled by three decent backs with Davis, Sibley and Houdini sharing the carries. Each will have hot handed games that Whipple will ride until the next back gets warmed up.

    I see a fun season ahead as long as a QB emerges to distribute the rock. Whipple, the QB whisperer should be able to find one on Duzz’s roster.



  28. Just saw on Pitt Fan Fanatics that Tyler Sear also posted a pro-Pitt tweet. What the heck is going on???


    1. Clearly he is being influenced by the fine journalism and user comments on the Pitt POV

      Liked by 1 person

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