Pitt's 2023 Football Team Became Significantly Better on Monday

Photo Credit: Paul Rutherford/USA Today

Two major things happened to the Pitt Football roster on Monday.  2022 Pitt quarterback, Kedon Slovis, announced that he would enter the transfer portal.  Then almost immediately after that, former Notre Dame and Boston College quarterback, Phil Jurkovec, announced he would be returning home to Pittsburgh, also as a transfer.  

With these two moves alone, the 2023 Pitt Football roster immediately improved.  Pitt finished the 2022 regular season with an 8-4 record.  Additionally, they finished the season on a 4-game win streak that included three wins by 10 or more points.  The final game featured a beatdown of the Miami Hurricanes to the tune of 42-16.  Overall, when put in perspective, it was a good season for the Panthers.

Pitt had losses to two ranked teams in North Carolina and Tennessee and a team that was at one point ranked in Louisville.  The loss to Georgia Tech was terrible no matter which way you slice it.  So certainly not a great season, especially compared to the ACC Championship season last year, but a good one.

It could have been a great year.  More than one thing was holding the Panthers back from a great year, but the main thing was the quarterback.  Kedon Slovis did not come close to the expectations he had when he transferred to Pitt last offseason.  I believe he can be blamed for the Georgia Tech loss almost entirely, and played a part in the other three losses. 

So now we get to see life after Slovis.  It comes in the form of another transfer quarterback who hasn't quite lived up to expectations in Jurkovec.  However, I do believe Jurkovec fits this offense better.  

The first reason I believe this is simple.  He is reuniting with offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr.  Slovis and Cignetti didn't seem to mesh very well.  There was never anything seen nor reported that they didn't like each other.  It was just clear from watching the Pitt offense that their playing and coaching styles didn't work very well together.  So the familiarity between Cignetti and Jurkovec should show immediate improvement.

Plus, Jurkovec coming here nearly guarantees Cignetti is going to be the OC next season.  While this may not be great news for some fans, it is to Israel Abanikanda.  He is much more likely to want to stick around in an offense where he's featured like he was this season.  In fact, Abanikanda should have been in the Heisman conversation had Pitt played better early on in the season.  Why wouldn't Izzy want that again?

Also, from the eyeball test, Jurkovec is more mobile than Slovis.  Mobility of a quarterback at both the college and professional level is increasing in importance year after year.  Defensive lines are simply too good anymore for teams to have success with a true pocket passer.  Offensive holding is also called at a higher rate, so offensive lineman cannot stop defensive linemen, but just hope to contain them as long as they can.  

Slovis' lack of mobility also exposed the returning Pitt offensive linemen.  We were very high on this group coming into the season because of how well they blocked for Kenny Pickett.  However, I think we all saw this year how Pickett had way more of an impact on the offensive line than the offensive line had on Pickett.  Once we saw a less talented and less mobile quarterback behind them, they were not quite as good at pass blocking as we thought they were in 2021.  For these reasons, a more mobile Jurkovec is another immediate improvement.

It was also not a guarantee that once Slovis entered the portal that Pitt would get another experienced quarterback like Jurkovec.  Because we immediately did, this should encourage guys like Konata Mumpfield and Gavin Bartholomew to stick around.  In today's college football world, that is never a guarantee.  But the idea of receiving passes from who was at one time a highly recruited quarterback should keep them happy.  Additionally, it may lure even more transfer receivers to Pitt.  

This may not have been the case had Pitt committed to Nate Yarnell or a lesser known commodity than Jurkovec.  While Slovis transferring here did not keep Jordan Addison around, I do think a guy like Jurkovec will help keep Mumpfield and Bartholomew.  We'll see as players continue to flood the transfer portal this offseason.

For all of these reasons, I do think the trade off of losing Kedon Slovis but immediately getting Phil Jurkovec is a win for Pitt.  He has a relationship with Frank Cignetti, is more mobile than Slovis, and is much more respected than other options that could have been the 2023 Pitt QB.  Pitt's 2023 team became significantly better on Monday.