From 2013 to 2015, Pitt was one of the youngest teams in the country. In 2014, Pitt even touted itself as the youngest team in Division I.
Head coach Pat Narduzzi revealed his team’s two-deep roster on Monday before his week one press conference, and the roster showed anything but a youth movement.
Pitt enters the season with 61 upperclassmen who are entering their third through sixth years in the program, paving a narrow route for true freshmen to toe the field. Not one true freshman is listed as a starter, and only four true freshmen are listed as backups.
Twelve of Pitt’s 22 listed starters on offense and defense are seniors, redshirt seniors or sixth-year guys. Nineteen of those 22 are in their third year or greater.
The overwhelming point here is that Pitt has experience, depth and legitimate depth.
Wide Receiver (slot)
James Folston Jr.
- Some notable decisions by Narduzzi:
- True freshman wide receiver Aaron Mathews is listed as first backup to Jester Weah at the wide receiver position that's opposite senior leader Dontez Ford. This is not only notable because Mathews was lightly recruited as a wide receiver, but because Weah, a redshirt junior, enters the season with as many career catches as Mathews: zero. Mathews has the clearest path to the field for any freshman.
- Not listed on the two-deep is Zach Challingsworth, who caught more passes (12) than anyone not named Tyler Boyd or Ford last year.
- It’s interesting, albeit not crazy, that Jaryd Jones-Smith is listed behind Brian O'Neill at the right tackle position. Jones-Smith, a right tackle who stands at 6-7 and weighs in at 325 pounds, is widely-regarded as an NFL prospect, and he has a year on O’Neill, who is a redshirt sophomore and another NFL prospect.
- Manny Stocker beat out Ben DiNucci for the Panthers’ backup quarterback slot. Stocker has never really had a consistent position in college, but he has three years of tenure over DiNucci, who is a redshirt freshman.
- Pitt’s running back situation is, in a good way for Pitt fans, insane. James Conner leads the way, but true freshman and early enrollee Chawntez Moss will directly back up Conner, with sophomore Darrin Hall behind Moss. Fourth on the depth chart is the returning ACC Offensive Rookie Of The Year Qadree Ollison, a redshirt sophomore. Not even listed because of a physical lack of room on the chart is Rachid Ibrahim, who will most certainly get reps but has what it takes to be a special teams hero this season on punt and kickoff coverage.
- Narduzzi listed highly-touted freshmen Amir Watts and Keyshon Camp as Shakir Soto’s backup at defensive tackle, with Watts first. Both were late additions to the 2015 recruiting class, and here Narduzzi is with two game-ready linemen at a position of need.
- Narduzzi said that there has been a healthy and ongoing competition between former North Allegheny High School teammates Oluwaseun Idowu and Elijah Zeise for the star linebacker but that Idowu will start Saturday against Villanova. Narduzzi reiterated that the two players are feeding off one another and that Zeise will undoubtedly play.
- The same situation exists at free safety, where Terrish Webb has been given the starting nod over Reggie Mitchell. Both players’ eligibility will expire after this season.
- Redshirt freshman Dane Jackson is listed as Avonte Maddox’ backup at cornerback for now, as Phillipie Motley backs up Ryan Lewis. Freshman Damar Hamlin would have likely been listed somewhere had he remained healthy throughout the duration of fall camp. More information will come later in the week as to Hamlin's availability against Villanova.
- To the contrary of camp rumors, Jordan Whitehead and/or Conner will not be returning kicks or punts. Pitt has two players, Henderson and Maddox, who instead have return-game experience.
- Pitt even has depth at kicker. Alex Kessman, a walk-on freshman, got rave reviews coming out of fall camp for his ability to put the ball through the uprights. He will back up senior Chris Blewitt.