Column | Players come and go but Pitt football’s culture stands tall


TPN File Photo

Pitt junior wide receiver Jordan Addison (3) during a game against North Carolina State in Oct. 2020.

By Frankie Richetti, Senior Staff Writer

With star rising-junior wide receiver Jordan Addison entering the transfer portal, outsiders don’t view Pitt as one of the nation’s elite teams heading into the season. 

Don’t tell the players in the Panthers locker room that, though. 

Addison decided to test the transfer portal — a system created to simplify the process of transferring for players dissatisfied with their current school — two weeks ago. Outlets have reported the 2021 Biletnikoff winner wants a change of scenery for developmental reasons, rather than to profit off a NIL deal as many have speculated. 

Oddsmakers listed Pitt as the team with the third best odds to repeat as ACC Champions, but Pitt has its sights set higher. Head coach Pat Narduzzi laid a culture that led to numerous starters returning for 2022 and was the main attraction in adding several transfers through the portal. With or without Addison, the Panthers will continue to take after Narduzzi and maintain a team-first mentality that they believe will take them to the next level. 

After hearing the news of Addison’s decision to hit the transfer portal, some of Pitt’s players took to Twitter to express their feelings. One of which came from transfer quarterback senior Kedon Slovis, who fired up Panther fans with a very Narduzzi-esque response.

“Culture wins,” Slovis said

Slovis has already cited that the identity that Narduzzi and his staff has created is what instantly drew him to the program, but Narduzzi said Slovis went to the portal for the right reasons. 

“He wasn’t looking for a payday,” Narduzzi said. “He was looking for the right place to be with a great culture and he wanted people — he wanted a team that was going to be [tight]. So that’s what Kedon got, and he’s been special ever since he got here.” 

It’s safe to say that Narduzzi isn’t buying the reasoning for Addison’s transfer. With that said, it’s clear that he believes in what he has built. And he should.

Pamela Smith | Contributing Editor

Pitt returns an offensive line that has registered over 130 career starts. Every Panther defensive lineman who recorded a sack last season is back aside from Keyshon Camp, who used up all of his eligibility. There’s quality depth up and down the roster, and Narduzzi added high-impact transfers. These things don’t happen without an established identity. 

Anytime you lose a player of Addison’s caliber, it hurts. There’s no getting around that. But Pitt has more than enough talent and depth in the wide receiver room to patch up the wound. 

Slovis will still have plenty of weapons at his disposal. Senior wide receiver Jared Wayne returns after making the most of his opportunities last year, racking up six touchdowns and 658 receiving yards. Wayne began the 2021 campaign backing up Taysir Mack — now with the 49ers after signing as an undrafted free agent — who played in eight games before a season ending injury took him out of action. In his absence, Wayne totaled four touchdowns in his final six games of the season. 

It’s this type of leap that will be expected out of the Panthers receiving corps without Addison. Akron transfer Konata Mumpfield has excited members within the program after spring camp and seems to be in line for a big year after making the move to Pitt. Mumpfield received freshman All-American honors last season and created the second highest separation rate against single coverage last season — trailing only Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba. 

Pitt fans saw a sneak peak of this during the spring game as he hauled in a 55-yard pass from senior quarterback Nick Patti — creating over four yards of separation on the completion. 

Wayne and Mumpfield will form one of the best duos at the receiver position in the ACC, but it doesn’t stop there. Sophomore tight-end Gavin Bartholomew also earned freshman All-American honors and is just scratching the surface of his potential. Bartholomew tallied 326 yards and four touchdowns last season, but it shouldn’t shock anybody if those numbers double in 2022. 

From there, opportunity knocks for junior receiver Jaylon Barden and sophomore receiver Jaden Bradley. Barden and Bradley have had to wait their turn, but this season Narduzzi will reward the two for their patience, and they’ll have every chance to earn more playing time with the departure of Addison. Even when Addison was in the fold, both kept their heads down and continued to work, knowing their time would come. That’s a testament to the program’s culture. 

Mumpfield said the receivers were very close before the Addison transfer news occurred.

“It’s a blessing,” Mumpfield said. “You can see the growth in the room and the brotherhood. We go to watch film and we all help each other with what we need to fix. The goal is to be the best core in the nation.”

That goal has not changed. That’s the standard that they hold themselves to and that is what is expected of them. 

In college football, now more than ever, players come and go. But the Panthers’ culture under Narduzzi is built to withstand the test of time. He has his team laser-focused on one goal, and that is winning championships. After tasting ACC Championship gold for the first time last season, the Panthers have their sights set higher. 

Senior defensive lineman John Morgan made those aspirations crystal clear. 

“I want every Pitt Fan across America to know this,” Morgan said. “The team that walks out of that tunnel on September 1st to ThunderStruck will be a team that brings back another ACC Championship and a National Championship. I can promise you that. I want to go down in history.” 

While some scoffed at this tweet, Morgan believes it. Every word of it. In the Panther locker room, they are surrounded by all that they need. They have each other and that’s all that matters.