Spring Game Optimism
You know it only takes a few months away from Pitt football for that old optimism to come creeping back in. And all through spring camp I’ve been observing things from the casual fan’s perspective, which I’ll admit has been pretty damn nice, compared to the day-in-and-day-out grind of running the POV. It all culminated yesterday when I found myself listening to Chris Peak’s “What did we learn from the spring game” podcast, because hey, I wanted to learn what he learned from the spring game. (Link to Podcast here – worth a listen, even if the content is a tad bit optimistic).
Peak spends most of his time talking about the offense. Because lets admit it, that’s what we all care about. (And lets also admit that’s where Pitt’s problems have been.) And then he gets into the quarterbacks, Patti 7-for-10 and a couple of TD’s. Beville 6-for-6 and a TD strike. Yellen and The New Guy…well, not so good.
And it got me to thinking, hey the two backup QB’s who have spent two years (plus a spring) in Whipple’s system played pretty damn well. The two guys who have spent a year or less played pretty damn poorly. And it got me to thinking, maybe it just takes a few years for a QB to really learn Whip’s offense.
And so, the analyst in me decided to look at UMass to see if I could ferret out a trend.
Oh the optimism…
Here’s what Sports-Reference.com had to say about all the UMass QB’s who played under Whipple (2014 – 2018).
First, Marshall transfer Blake Frohnapfel:
So….transfer QB comes in with limited snaps at his prior stop, and his QB rating goes down significantly. Sound familiar?
Now, here are Pitt’s Joey Yellen’s stats:
Now Yellen played against two of Pitt’s tougher opponents last year (Miami and Notre Dame), so there is that. But…the spring game. He’s slow of foot, and his arm doesn’t seem all that strong. He’s also just one year into Whipple’s system. What does he look like after two? After three? Time shall tell. Frohnapfel only had two years, so who knows what he could have done.
Meanwhile, Andrew Ford was a Whipple recruit who clearly progressed in year three. Here are his stats while at UMASS:
Case in point – Ford posted a very Kenny Pickett-esque 138 rating in 2016 (his second year under Whipple as a Sophomore). In his third year? Well that rating jumped up to 151. It looks like Ford got hurt in year four, and his numbers regressed a bit, so maybe the theory doesn’t exactly hold. Or does it? Was Ford playing hurt before he went out after game 7?
Ford’s replacement was Senior Ross Comis, who incidentally was in his fourth year under Whipple, and looked to be in time share situation with Ford throughout the season, based on number of games played. Comis’ 2018 QB rating? A gaudy 161.5.
So look, there are a LOT of factors that go into QB rating. Receivers and Tight Ends catching the ball is a big one. Andrew Ford and Ross Comis enjoyed the services of ex-PSU Tight End Adam Breneman and 4th round NFL draft pick, WR Andy Isabella. Kenny Pickett and company enjoy the services of no Tight End in particular and a ragtag bunch of three-star WR’s, the best of whom was a true freshman last season. Perhaps that will change this year. (Optimism?)
Offensive line is another factor. I corresponded with a UMASS sports journalist back when Whipple was hired, and the word on the street was that Whipple never had a good O Line. Well guess what? Until we see evidence to the contrary, neither does Pitt. And as we all know, it all starts with those Big Palookas Up front. So, here’s to optimism around that too. May your summer be filled with visions of upright Pitt quarterbacks completing passes. Preferably in the endzone. At least until Reed writes his next article.
Hail to Pitt