What a weekend. It all started on Friday when Pitt announced that Aaron Donald was giving a seven-figure donation to the program. Then, for the first time in a long time, the spring game actually produced some offense. Paris Ford culminated the afternoon with an INT and then Pat Narduzzi anointed him the starter. To top it all off Pitt got their second commit of 2020, an offensive tackle no less. And to top that all off, Tiger Woods won the Masters.
But we are here to talk about football, and what is immediately clear from the spring game is that the rumors about Mark Whipple were not exaggerated. He likes to throw the ball, and he’s good at it. To wit, Blue and Gold teams combined for 425 yards through the air on Saturday. Compare that to 286 last year and 244 in 2017.
Both Kenny Pickett and Davis Beville had good days and similar stat lines. Pickett’s line was 10-14-125 2TD (8.9 YPA) and Beville’s was 13-17-157-1 (9.2 YPA). Perhaps even more notably Beville’s TD was caught by a Tight End (Will Gragg hauled it in). Local favorite WR Tre Tipton caught two TD’s as well.
Looking at the receiving box score here’s what jumps out at me
- Taysir Mack led all receivers with four catches but that was on nine targets (perhaps his mind was on other things…) Pickett only missed four passes all day so you have to assume some of those drops/misses came from Jeff George. Maurice Ffrench fared only slightly better catching 7 of 13, albeit for just 31 yards. Maybe he should have picked Paris Ford.
- Shocky Jacques-Louis might be a breakout candidate this year. He caught 3 of 4 for 51 and had a 39 yarder.
- Aaron Matthews caught 1 for 38, Cam O’Neill caught 1 for 37. Feels like they might use Matthews on some deep fades this year which absolutely makes sense given his mammoth size.
- Tight ends caught four passes, if you count Jim Medure. Notably Grant Carrigan caught a 38 yard pass.
The running game on the other hand, was not sharp.
Todd Sibley was the “leading rusher” posting a 4 att, 8 yard stat line. V’Lique Carter rushed 6 times for 7 yards. AJ Davis toted the ball 9 times for 10. More interesting was the playcall balance, even though it wasn’t Whipple making the calls. Blue (Pickett / Sibley / Carter) ran the ball 16 times and passed 17. Gold (Beville / Davis): ran the ball 16 times and passed 19. That’s 47% run / 57% pass across both teams, which is similar to what Whipple has done in the past.
If news reports are to be believed the offensive line had a tough day of it, and this was widely expected. The only way to really tell how they looked was to be there in person, but looking at the stats, I see that the Blue team gave up only two sacks. This could be because of Pickett and George’s scrambling ability and veteran savvy, or it could be that the Offensive line of by Houey – Hargrove – Drexel – Wheeler – Drake was actually serviceable, at least when it came to pass blocking. I’d guess that the former is more likely than the latter, but the optimist in me wants to believe there was some blocking going on.
On Defense, Safety Paris Ford was the story of the day with his seven tackles and one INT. It’s also reported that MLB/OLB Chase Pine Played well at Mike (Middle) Linebacker. He registered six tackles, a sack and two TFL. He also broke up two passes. Cam Bright registered six tackles for the Gold team, and had one TFL .
On the “guys you never heard of watch” rsSo DE Deslin Alexandre had a sack and a TFL, and rsFr CB Erik Hallet had sack and a TFL as well.
Ed Conway Award Winners were Paris Ford and Phil Campbell on Defense. Tre Tipton and Carter Warren on Offense. There is about a 50% chance that these guys deliver results during the season, but good to see that at least one OL at least developed over the offseason.
Last but not least, I received some really great pictures from the fan base. Thanks John (Major Majors) and Joe (Joe L)!
Hail to Pitt!