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Standout players emerge in Pitt’s Blue Gold Game

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Dontez Ford is tackled by the gold team after making a catch.  Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

Dontez Ford is tackled by the gold team after making a catch. Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

Dontez Ford is tackled by the gold team after making a catch. Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

By Jeremy Tepper / Senior Staff Writer

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As a sloppy, defense-oriented contest, Saturday’s Blue-Gold spring scrimmage wasn’t much to watch.

But there was a silver lining in Pitt football’s disappointing season premier at Heinz Field. Three players emerged as standouts, some of whom made surprising comebacks from last season.

Jester Weah, Wide Receiver

Three catches, 102 yards

Jester Weah catches a pass during warmups for the Blue/Gold game. Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

Jester Weah catches a pass during warmups for the Blue Gold Game. Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi talked up three-star recruit Weah at the onset of last season, based on his strong performance in practices. Narduzzi’s hype and Weah’s blend of size, speed and strength, generated excitement that flatlined on the field last year. Despite his inconsistent playing time through five games last season, Weah didn’t record a catch.

But in Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage,Weah finally flashed his abilities in front of a crowd. With receptions of 42 and 47 yards, Weah displayed his ability as a vertical threat that Narduzzi said his team lacked last season.

“It was good to see Jester Weah on offense,” Narduzzi said. “He showed you guys what he’s shown us over the first 14 [practices] with two long catches.”

The primary source of Weah’s in-game troubles, according to the 6-foot-3, 205-pound receiver himself, is his lack of confidence. Saturday’s performance may have returned some of Weah’s lost mojo, quarterback Nathan Peterman said.

“I thought it was good to come to Heinz Field and do that again, especially for him, mentally,” Peterman said. “Now, in the season, he can come back with this mentally and be like, ‘I made plays here, I’ve done it before.’”

Elijah Zeise, Linebacker

Eight Tackles

Elijah Zeise practices during Spring drills at Heinz Field. Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

Elijah Zeise practices during Spring drills at Heinz Field. Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

In need of depth at outside linebacker, Narduzzi moved Zeise from receiver to the “star” linebacker spot this spring. The redshirt sophomore made a quick transition, competing with Oluwaseun Idowu for first team reps.

On Saturday, Zeise exhibited the instincts and athletic ability that qualified him for the transition.

Though Zeise will face more competition for the spot when Bam Bradley returns from an injury that sidelined him this spring, his performance Saturday may have helped separate him from Idowu.

“[You got to watch] Elijah Zeise fly around and make some plays,” Narduzzi said.

Quadree Henderson, Wide Receiver

Four rushes, 107 yards

Quadree Henderson returns a punt at the Blue/Gold game. Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

Quadree Henderson returns a punt at the Blue Gold Game. Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

The loss of Pitt’s star wide receiver, Tyler Boyd, to the NFL Draft left a hole in the team’s offense. Pitt is in need of a receiver with the ability to contribute to the run game and to catch short passes. Henderson could be that guy.

Though Henderson isn’t tall — only 5-foot-8 — he has top-end quickness and the ability to avoid defenders. On his 64-yard touchdown run Saturday, the sophomore made a swift move on safety and ACC Rookie of the Year Jordan Whitehead and raced past the rest of the defenders.

Narduzzi said he plans to continue using Henderson in end arounds and reverses in the run game. Having closed out last season with a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown in the Military Bowl, Henderson picked up where he left off Saturday.

“Quadree Henderson finished up spring ball where he left off last season with his ability to make plays — maybe out of nothing,” Narduzzi said.

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Standout players emerge in Pitt’s Blue Gold Game