Pitt had a rollercoaster of a season that saw many highs and many lows. The peak coming at the end of the season as the Panthers came away with a huge upset over a number two undefeated Miami team and the rock bottom coming just two weeks prior when the Panthers got upset by UNC and was UNC’s only win over a power five team. There are many takeaways that I take from this season, so let’s get started.
1.) Kenny Pickett Is The Quarterback Of The Future
Kenny Pickett showed what he has to offer in the last two weeks of the season and really set himself apart to show that he is most definitely the quarterback of the future for this Pitt Panthers program.
Pickett threw for 242 yards against Virginia Tech coming off the bench and it was a performance that made be named starting quarterback for the final game of the season that saw the upset of Miami. Obviously he was a crucial piece to the victory as he threw for 193 yards, ran for 62 yards and had two total touchdowns (one passing and one rushing).
I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Ben DiNucci transfer elsewhere because this is now Pickett’s team.
2.) The Panthers backfield became extremely strong at the end of the season.
The three Juniors Darrin Hall, Qadree Ollison and Quadree Henderson were the top three backs this season for the Panthers. Hall ran for the most yards out of the three as he compiled 628 yards on the ground and nine touchdowns on 128 carries. Ollison ran for 398 yards and five touchdowns on 90 carries. Henderson received the least carries out of the three as he only had 36 carries, however, he still managed to rush for 251 yards this season. Which places him with the highest average yards per carry out of all three halfbacks at 7.0 yards a carry.
With all that being said, it has me confused to why Henderson didn’t receive more carries this season and I believe he was very underutilized. If they can utilize him the way he should be utilized next season he is going to be very scary and absolutely destroy ACC defenses.
Henderson won’t be the only one destroying ACC defenses next year, however, Hall will be too. He had a rough last two weeks but looking at it in general he had an incredible second half of the season highlighted by multiple multi-touchdown games, the most impressive coming against UNC when he took it the house on four separate occasions.
Looking at Ollison, I think he is the third best out of these guys listed, however, that just speaks to how strong the Panthers backfield really is not his talent level. He is a very talented back, although, he went silent after having a strong first two games against Youngstown State and Penn State. In the last week in the upset of Miami he really showed what he was made of as he not only ran for 62 yards, however, had three receptions for 17 yards and a touchdown.
The backfield is going to be extremely strong next year with all three of these guys back there and I am really excited to watch them ball.
3.) The secondary and defense as a whole was impressive in the second half of the season
The defense really improved throughout this season. After giving up 59 points to Oklahoma State my thought was that this season was going to be extremely ugly on the defensive side, however, the defense really looked pretty good the second half of this year.
A guy who really jumped out to me throughout this season was senior Avonte Maddox, he played absolutely lock up coverage and at times had me wondering why the other teams were even attempting to throw on him. He had a huge pass breakup against Miami and then the next play proceeded to force a fumble that helped end the game and the Panthers pull off the upset. Pitt will certainly miss his play next year.
Jordan Whitehead was suspended the first three games and this certainly showed to hurt the Pitt defense. He came back and played very well after his suspension and showed that he was a lot of what this secondary had needed. Especially when he grabbed a huge interception in the Duke game.
Getting away from the secondary, the linebackers and the line did a good job at times getting in the backfield and creating havoc on opposing teams quarterbacks. A guy who really jumped out at me throughout the season was Junior linebacker Oluwaseun Idowu. Idowu finished the season with five sacks and created havoc in the backfield a lot throughout the year. I am excited to watch him play next year.
The defense looked a lot better this year than I think anyone expected and I’m excited to watch them get on the field next year because with a good defense I think this team could be scary to watch.
At the beginning of the year I projected Pitt to go 11-1 and I will be the first one to say that I was very, very far from being right. I will also say that with Pickett at quarterback all season this team could’ve been that type of team. Pickett just gave this team a totally different demeanor and look in the upset of Miami and the game where they almost upset Virginia Tech. Not to mention, every loss that the Panthers took this year was close besides for the Oklahoma State game. This really excites for me next year as the Panthers are returning a majority of their starting lineup and how much this young team really did improve this year.
Oh and just so everyone knows, I went 7-5 this year when picking Pitt games, I didn’t always pick them contrary to popular belief.