Pitt Panthers: Can They Repeat as ACC Coastal Champions in 2019?
A season ago the Pitt Panther faithful were treated to an ACC Coastal Championship. This was the first since they joined the ACC. However, Pitt went on to get blown out by Clemson in the ACC Championship game. Can the Pitt Panthers repeat this season? Let’s take a look.
Fifth-year Head Coach Pat Narduzzi’s team aims for their second championship and it won’t be an easy feat. The Panthers lost 19 players from their roster a season ago. Including running backs Darrin Hall and Qadree Ollison, and offensive linemen Alex Bookser, Connor Dintino, Stefano Millin, and Mike Herndon.
The two most noticeable losses come in Darrin Hall and Qadree Ollison. Both Ollison and Hall rushed for 1000 yards just a season ago and earned All-ACC second and third team respectively. Ollison went on to drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the fifth round. Darrin Hall, on the other hand, went undrafted. Hall signed in Cleveland before being waived and getting claimed by the Bengals.
However, the Pitt Panthers had 19 total commitments for the 2019 season. Overall it was a successful recruiting season for Coach Narduzzi with a solid 2019 class. Davis Beville a 4-star recruit headlines the 2019 class. Beville won’t have too much of an effect on the 2019 season but should be the quarterback of the future. On top of that Pitt added about 15 other 3-star recruits and a few 2-star recruits.
Looking ahead to the starting roster Junior Quarterback Kenny Pickett will need to have a big season if the Panthers want to repeat. Pickett got his first taste as a starter last season. He looks poised to have a huge year and for good reason. Head Coach Narduzzi lured Mark Whipple out of retirement to be the offensive coordinator and the move looks to have already paid off. Narduzzi seems to be very fond of Pickett and has complimented how he looked in the Spring game earlier this year. Telling ESPN that the ball is coming out of his hand quicker, and is releasing the ball before the receivers are out of their break.
In the long run, this could make A.J. Davis’ job that much easier. The Junior running back steps into the starting role after the departure of Ollison and Hall and looks ready to be the every-down back this season. Of course, this will be a big step for Davis as he’s yet to handle that kind of workload.
The Panthers went 6-2 last season against other ACC teams but finished just 7-7 overall. In order for the Pitt Panthers to repeat this season, they will need to not only continue to be good against ACC foes but play better against out of conference teams. This years out of conference games consists of three home games against Ohio, UCF, and Deleware and a trip to Happy Valley to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions. Penn State will be the toughest out of conference opponent.
If the Pitt Panthers want to repeat as ACC Coastal champions, all they need to do is play their game. They need Kenny Pickett to play within his means and use Coach Whipple’s experience to his advantage. They need A.J. Davis to prove his worth, as he has yet to get more than 32 carries in a season. Needless to say, the Panthers will be an exciting team to watch and may surprise some people and win the ACC Coastal once again.
How do you feel about the 2019 version of the Pitt Panthers? leave a comment below.
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