Athlon published their preseason all-ACC selections yesterday, and Pitt cracked double digits.
There are four ways to make this team, mind you – first team, second team, third team and honorable mention. The conventional wisdom is that anything third team and honorable mention or a little bit more like participation trophies, and exist so that all the ACC members can have some kind of representation. Still, top-four in a sixteen team league means you are better than 75% of your competition, and I suppose that’s better than being average.
There are a few ways to slice Pitt’s 10-player haul. The first and most obvious is that THIS IS THE PRESEASON and really none of this amounts to a hill of beans. But if you are talking about actual analysis (because it’s June and we are bored as hell) then first and most obvious is to look at Pitt’s total number of selections vs other ACC teams. Only Clemson and Virginia Tech had more players named than Pitt (Clemson had 14 and the Hokies had 13). The much-hated UNC Tarheels were nipping at Pitt’s um…heels with nine selections.
The second way to slice this is to look within the tiers. For example if Pitt landed two first teamers and eight honorable mentions…well, that looks a lot like the 2018 team that went 7-7 and (barely) won the Coastal. It’s worth noting that the Tarheels had four second-team offense selections and one first-team defense. That’s a total of five in the first and second teams. Same total as Pitt but ours are the exact opposite. We had one first team offense, two first team defense and two second team defense. I guess that technically means we are better, but lets see us actually win in Chapel Hill before we start giving each other high-fives.
This year’s breakdown:
First Team – 3
- Center – Jimmy Morrissey – Not bad for a walk-on.
- DL – Jaylen Twyman – Given that he made Walter Camp preseason All-American he damn well better be first team.
- S – Paris Ford – Finally getting the respect he deserves
Second Team – 2
- DL – Patrick Jones – He’s behind Miami’s Greg Rousseau and Wake’s Carlos Basham. Both are bona-fide studs, but so is Jones.
- S – Damar Hamlin – Was completely snubbed last year and didn’t even make honorable mention after the season. Here’s to hoping that put a big ‘ol chip on his shoulder.
Third Team – 3
- OL – Bryce Hargrove – I’m pleasantly surprised to see an offensive lineman besides Morrissey on this list, even if he is a Guard and he’s all the way down on the third team.
- DL – Rashad Weaver – Didn’t even play last year and made third-team preseason. This says as much about Charlie Partridge as it does about Weaver.
- CB – Damarri Mathis – Kind of a sleeper pick here, although 11 Passes Defended is nothing to sneeze at. Needs to develop consistently to live up to this third-team billing.
Honorable Mention – 2
- WR – Taysir Mack – Any Pitt fan will tell you that Mack is one of the best pass catchers in the ACC when he’s healthy, and his contested catch ability is something not seen in the ‘Burgh since Larry Fitzgerald. But he’s been in a walking boot by midseason two years in a row. If Whipple and company can figure out to keep him healthy honorable mention is probably a sandbag. If they can’t then it’s probably too high. I’ll also add that he only caught three touchdowns last year (to go with 736 yards on 63 receipts). He needs to at least double that total this season.
- LB – Phil Campbell – Interesting choice here because Cam Bright is typically more of the media darling due to his scoop-and-return in last year’s Georgia Tech game. Their stats were nearly identical though. I first I thought maybe they were throwing a bone to the senior, but upon closer inspection Campbell’s 5.5 sacks gives him the statistical edge. Given that Campbell and Bright platooned at Star last year there is a possibility that one or both of them could break into 100 tackle territory if things go right this season. (Bright: 62 tackles, 9 TFL and 0.5 sacks. Campbell: 56 / 8 / 5.5. I’ll also throw in Kylan Johnson for comparison, because he’s been the most productive Money linebacker that Narduzzi’s had so far. 55 / 11 / 7 + 2 FF)
The third way to slice this is to compare to Athlon’s preseason list from seasons past. When’s the last time Pitt had 10 preseason All-ACC players? Actually it was not too long ago. Pitt had ten preseason selections in 2017 and the promptly went out and posted their worst season in recent memory.
Pitt all-ACC preseason 2014-2020 (click the links to go to that year’s Athlon All-ACC preseason page):
- 2020: Ten (TBD)
- 2019: Six (8-5, W Motor City)
- 2018: Four (7-7, Won ACC Coastal, L Sun)
- 2017: Ten (5- 7, Quadree Henderson was listed three Times – All-Purpose offense, PR and KR. So technically this could be eight.)
- 2016: Eight (8-5, L Pinstripe)
- 2015: Six (8-5, L Military)
- 2014: Four (6-7, L Armed Forces)
The last way to slice this is offense versus defense / by position. And I don’t think there are going to be any surprises here.
Pitt has any many guys listed on offense as they do on their defensive line (3) an in their secondary (also 3). Great for the defense, but pretty scary when it comes to moving the ball. And if you think about it, who else on offense could even be in consideration. Kenny Pickett? His QB rating has been treading water for two straight seasons. AJ Davis? C’mon you’ve seen him run. Jared Wayne? Vincent Davis? Maybe, but Wayne could be a flash in the pan and Davis will break if you use him for more than 10-12 plays per game. God forbid we even dare to suggest an offensive tackle (Oh but we’d dare to dream). Meanwhile I can probably think of three or four more guys on defense who have a legit shot at being on this list at the end of the season.
So what can we take away from all of this analysis? Nothing really. Pitt is shaping up to have a great defense. Pitt has tons of question marks on offense. Southern ACC Sportswriters are probably not going to give Pitt players the credit they deserve. Move along folks, nothing to see here.
Hail to Pitt