LOCAL 3 OFFSEASON REPORT
The 2021 College Football Season has come and gone and while the three local schools finished the season with a loss, they each are going into the offseason with some optimism. Below are reports for each team with some pros and cons to what they are facing going into Spring Practice.
2021 Season: 11-3. Lost Peach Bowl to Michigan State
Losses: Kenny Pickett (draft) Mark Whipple (Nebraska) Cam Bright (Transfer Portal) Shocky Jacques-Louis (Transfer Portal) Todd Sibley (Transfer Portal) Wendell Davis (Transfer Portal)
Additions: Kedon Slovis QB; Konata Mumpfield WR; Shayne Simon LB
247 Sports Recruiting Ranking: #71; 12 players signed, 1-4 Star
Pitt’s recruiting ranking is deceiving because they could only sign 12 players, not the max of 25. Because of the extra season awarded to players due to the Covid-19 Pandemic Pitt’s roster is full of scholarship players. As of this writing, Pitt has 89 scholarship players and must trim that by 4 to get to the NCAA maximum of 85. With their success this season if Pitt had more scholarships to offer, I am sure their recruiting ranking would have been much better. A major loss for the Panthers is 6th year quarterback Kenny Pickett. It will be difficult to replace someone who placed 3rd in the Heisman voting. Pitt’s rostered quarterbacks do not have much playing experience so Head Coach Pat Narduzzi went to the Transfer Portal and lured former USC quarterback Kedon Slovis to Pitt. Slovis will have two years of eligibility remaining and a new Offensive Coordinator in Frank Cignetti, Jr. Former OC Mark Whipple left the program to take the same position at Nebraska. Cignetti runs a much more run oriented offense than Whipple, which is why he was so appealing to Pat Narduzzi. Bringing in a quarterback like Slovis to throw to the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner, WR Jordan Addison, was a huge get for Pitt. However, with the style of offense Cignetti runs Slovis’ yardage will not be what it was at USC and Addison’s numbers will not have him in contention for the Biletnikoff again. I do not understand the change as Pitt won the ACC with a pass heavy attack but chose an OC who will try to establish the run more. I cannot see Slovis coming to Pitt to hand the ball off 45 times per game. The loss of Jacques-Louis is offset by the addition of Konata Mumpfield, who was a Freshman All American at Akron. Pitt also returns Jared Wayne and Taysir Mack, two veteran WR’s who will add to the options for Slovis. The entire starting five from the offensive line has also returned, taking advantage of the additional year the NCAA added on due to the Pandemic.
The Defense took a hit when team captain Cam Bright entered the transfer portal. However, Pitt’s front seven is in exceptionally decent shape. They are returning their top tackler, LB SirVocea Dennis as well as the top three in sacks, DL Habakkuk Baldonado (9), DL Calijah Kancey (7) and DL John Morgan, III (5.5).
Pitt’s schedule next season starts out tough with home games against West Virginia and Tennessee. After that it is a chance to avenge one of their three losses when the Panthers travel to Western Michigan. The ACC schedule is not daunting as the Panthers will not play Clemson or North Carolina State, but they do get a road trip to Louisville which can be tough. Having to face two Power 5 schools out of the gate will be tough to get a new quarterback and offensive coordinator acclimated to each other. The defense should be solid so I can see Pitt getting to 9 wins this season.
2021 Season: Finished 6-7. Lost to Minnesota in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl
Losses: Jarret Doege (Transfer Portal) Leddie Brown (NFL) Jackie Matthews (Transfer Portal) Winston Wright, Jr. (Transfer Portal) 27 Mountaineers have entered the Transfer Portal since the summer prior to the 2021 season.
Additions; Marcus Floyd CB; Nicco Marchiol QB; Lyn-J Dixon RB.
247 Sports Recruiting Ranking: #35; 21 players signed, 2-4 Stars
West Virginia heads into this offseason with the least momentum of the 3 local schools. Expectations were high coming into the 2021 season, but they were not met. Many of the WVU faithful point to transferring QB Jarret Doege and Head Coach Neal Brown as the culprits. Doege is gone but there is no experienced option to replace him. Doege is a good passing quarterback but in the Neal Brown offense you need to be able to understand and execute the read-pass option. Doege is not a mobile quarterback which showed during the season. Running back Leddie Brown handled the bulk of the carries for the Mountaineers but the offense struggled under Doege’s limitations. The defense was hot and cold throughout the season. In the Virginia Tech game, the defense held Virginia Tech to no points on three drives inside the WVU 10-yard line. They also played lights out at Oklahoma and almost upset the Sooners. But in the opening game against Maryland, they gave up 496 yards of offense and against Baylor they gave up 525 yards of offense. Losing 27 players to the transfer portal will cause major problems for the Mountaineers’ depth. That is not a hit most teams can take and still be successful. The quarterback position will be an issue as the most experienced returner is Sophomore Graham Greene who had playing time in 10 of the 12 WVU games but had more rushing yards (297) than passing yards (147). 4 Star recruit Nicco Marchiol is the prize of the 2022 recruiting class but it is unreasonable to expect a true freshman to step in and win the starting job. If Marchiol is the starter when WVU opens the season at Pitt it may be a testament of how good Marchiol really is, but it will also be an indictment on Neal Brown for not being able to recruit and develop a quarterback in his time at WVU. This may be a make-or-break season for Brown, but his hefty $16 million buyout may buy him at least one more season after 2022. If the Mountaineers come out of Pitt with a win that will go a long way to keeping Brown in Morgantown. But if the Mountaineers lose at Pitt and the season takes a dive early on you may see a change, no matter what the buyout is.
As stated, WVU opens at Pitt and while Pitt is losing Kenny Pickett they have not lost much more. And they did what WVU didn’t/could not, they got an experienced quarterback from the transfer portal. If Marchiol is the opening game starter Pitt’s front 7 will wreak havoc on the true freshman. After Pitt, WVU hosts Kansas and Towson before two road games with Virginia Tech and Texas. The remaining games are all Big 12 Conference games. With two Power 5 opponents out of three out of conference games it is looking more like WVU will again have six or seven wins this season. Will that be enough for Neal Brown to keep his job, or will there be new blood in Morgantown come 2023?
2021 Season: finished 7-6 lost to Arkansas in the Outback Bowl
Losses: Jahan Dotson (NFL) Brandon Smith (NFL) Jaquan Brisker (NFL) Noah Cain (Transfer Portal) Ta’Quan Roberson (Transfer Portal) Arnold Ebiketie (NFL)
Additions: Mitchell Tinsley WR; Nicholas Singleton RB; Drew Allar QB; Manny Diaz DC
Penn State, as usual, had lofty expectations coming into the 2021 season. The Nittany Lions started off on a good roll, defeating Wisconsin on the road and Auburn at home. However, they entered a week six game at Iowa 5-0 but lost a close one to the Hawkeyes, which started three game losing streak. Losing starting quarterback Sean Clifford in the Iowa game did not help but he did not miss considerable time during the season. The senior signal caller announced that he is coming back for a sixth season at Penn State which is a boost for Head Coach James Franklin’s squad. Losing Dotson is a major blow to Penn State’s passing game, but Mitchell Tinsley is a good get transferring in from Western Kentucky. Penn State’s defense was stacked in 2021 and while they have lost some key pieces to the NFL draft the defense should be solid in 2022. Former Miami head coach Manny Diaz steps in as the Penn State Defensive Coordinator. While his head coaching career has been up and down there’s no questioning Diaz’s abilities as a DC. A portion of Penn State fans blame the down year on the rumors that Head Coach James Franklin was going to be offered and accept the USC head coach job. That never happened and Franklin signed a mega deal to stay with Penn State. Those rumors should be silenced this season as Franklin’s buyout is astronomical.
Thanks to a scheduling change by the Big Ten Conference week 1 opponents are conference games now and not lower division cupcakes. Penn State opens the 2022 season at Purdue then comes home to face Ohio University. The Nittany Lions head south for a road tilt with Auburn before coming home to face Central Michigan and Northwestern. A bye week comes before a gauntlet of Big Ten games and how the Nittany Lions fare prior to the bye may determine how this season goes. Winning at Auburn will be difficult but doable so I can see Penn State going into the bye at either 4-1 or 5-0. However, if Penn State falters in the first five games their road to bowl eligibility rests on a three-game set at Indiana, Maryland at home and at Rutgers. But bowl eligibility is not the standard in Happy Valley. With Clifford coming back for his sixth season and Diaz leading the defense I can see the Nittany Lions getting 8 or 9 wins in 2022.