by J.T. Toth
Photo courtesy of ESPN.
The Pitt Panthers are ready to kick off their 2023 schedule this Saturday, welcoming the Wofford Terriers to Acrisure Stadium. Wofford is led by Head Coach Shawn Watson who was the Panthers' offensive coordinator during the 2017-2018 season. Pitt’s Head Coach Pat Narduzzi said that Watson is a great friend and when asked if it is concerning that Watson may know what Pitt wants to do, Narduzzi stated, “He knows what we like to do, but he still has to stop it.” Watson took over as the interim head coach last season and led the Terriers to a 3-3 record before being named the full-time head coach. Pitt enters this game on a 5-game winning streak and are 20-1 all-time against FCS opponents.
The Panthers and fans alike are excited to see the debut of local quarterback Phil Jurkovec who transferred from Boston College after this past season and is paired up once again with his offensive coordinator from BC, Frank Cignetti Jr. Jurkovec knows Cignetti’s offense and it will be interesting to see if the squad is able to hit on all cylinders right away, understanding their history with one another.
Pitt’s offense has talent spread throughout, featuring running back Rodney Hammond Jr., wide receiver Bub Means, and tight end Gavin Bartholomew. Coming into camp, Pitt was considered thin at the wide receiver position but the freshman class of receivers led by Kenny Johnson are poised to make an instant impact on the offense. On the offensive line, the Panthers will be without Ryan Jacoby for the season, but Narduzzi feels comfortable with the depth they have at the position, led by upperclassman Jason Collier. Team captain Matt Goncalves will be the anchor of the offensive line at left tackle.
Draft 412 believes the Panthers' defense will once again be a game changer with sacks and turnovers. Led by a talented and experienced secondary of M.J. Devonshire, Marques Williams and A.J. Woods, the Panthers should be ready for the elite quarterbacks they will face in 2023. Pitt has supplied the NFL with exceptional defensive linemen for the past decade and David Green and DeAndre Jules may be the next in line. Jules has become faster and leaner and Green is coming off a solid season in 2022 and will now be the leader on the d-line. Do not sleep on the Pitt linebackers either, as 6-year linebacker Shayne Simon brings experience to a talented group that consists of Bangally Kamara and Solomon DeShields.
The Panthers have won 20 games combined over the past two seasons and look to continue their success. “Nobody cares what you did the past two years. 20 wins don’t win you a game this year,” said Narduzzi.
Saturday starts the latest chapter for Pitt Football. Buckle up.