Christmas Comes Early for New Pitt QB and Pitt Football Fans

Photo obtained from Pitt Football's Twitter account

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When the 2021 Pitt Football season started, there were three offensive position groups that caused concern: the kickers, tight ends, and offensive line.  Sam Scarton quickly put the kicker concerns to rest after making 43 of his first 44 kicks to start the 2021 season.  Transfer tight end, Lucas Krull, and freshman tight end Gavin Bartholomew also quieted any doubters in regards to their position group.  However, the most impressive group of the three was the Pitt Panther offensive line.

Carter Warren, Marcus Minor, Owen Drexel, Gabe Houy, and Jake Kradel.  Those are the unsung heroes of the Pitt offense this season.  Typically, the line gets very little recognition, especially among a Heisman candidate at quarterback and a Biletnikoff winner at wide receiver.  However, this group performed so well in 2021, they are actually becoming household names among the Panther faithful. 

Then yesterday’s news broke.  The entire starting offensive line, four of whom are listed as redshirt seniors, will return for the 2022 season.  Each of Warren, Minor, Drexel, and Houy are eligible for an additional season due to a rule put in place for the Covid-shortened 2020 season.  The same rule is what allowed quarterback Kenny Pickett to return this season for a fifth year.  Instead of moving on, the four will stay with junior right guard, Jake Kradel, for one more season as Pitt Panthers. 

This unit was so in question to begin the season, many were disappointed when sophomore tackle Matt Gonclaves didn’t crack the starting lineup.  More than half of the starting line from 2020 was returning, which many questioned as a good or bad thing.  The struggles were evident two seasons ago, and, despite Pickett returning, a quarterback is only as good as the line that protects him.  With that holding true, Pickett’s stats prove just how much improvement the offensive line showed in 2021.

Christmas Gift for New QB

Yesterday's announcement from the O-line is coming fresh off the news of who they will be protecting next season.  20 year-old quarterback, Kedon Slovis, announced on Tuesday that he will be transferring to Pitt after entering the transfer portal from USC.  Covid and injuries have affected Slovis’ last two seasons and he had lost his starting job after a very impressive freshman year.  As a freshman, Slovis threw for 3502 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions.

What’s a better Christmas gift for a transfer quarterback than knowing your protection will be coming from one of the best overall units in college football?  If dreams of following up Pickett’s Heisman candidacy were not already dancing like sugar plums in Slovis’ head, then they certainly are now. 

A quarterback truly is only as good as the line protecting him and the receivers around him.  Plus, it doesn’t hurt having two extremely talented running backs returning to take some pressure off your receivers.  With WR Jordan Addison, TE Gavin Bartholomew, RB Izzy Abanikanda, and RB Rodney Hammond all set to return as well, there is no reason this offense can’t keep pace with Slovis at the helm.

This is also why those crying over the most recent Pitt recruiting class need to realize the system is flawed.  The rankings are purely based on a quantitative counting of stars and not really an assessment on the quality of a class.  In this case, Pitt had such few scholarships to hand out because they are returning All-American type players at nearly every position.  There wasn’t room for any more 3 or 4-star players because most of the starting ACC Champion roster is returning. 

With the news from the O-line coming just in time for Christmas, and a decent home schedule in 2022, it shouldn’t be hard to find that last minute gift for Panther faithful.  2022 season tickets are on sale and any Pitt football fan would be lucky to find theirs under the tree this year.