Column | No need to worry about Pitt’s wide receiver group


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Pitt junior wide receiver Jaylon Barden (10) catches the ball in the Pitt endzone during a game against Miami in 2021.

By Brian Sherry, Staff Writer

Replacing a starting wide receiver is a difficult task — but replacing a Biletnikoff award winner is a nearly impossible duty for any head coach. Pitt football Head Coach Pat Narduzzi found himself in this exact situation when former Panther wideout junior Jordan Addison transferred to USC. 

Through use of the transfer portal and development of existing players, Narduzzi tried his best to fill the hole Addison left. In fact, Narduzzi’s offseason improvements of the wide receiver group may have elevated them above last season’s Addison-led squad. 

The transfer portal played a pivotal role in Pitt’s rebuilding effort. The Panthers landed sophomore Konata Mumpfield from Akron prior to Addison’s departure. Mumpfield dominated last season for the Zips, earning Freshman All-American. 

The former Akron receiver’s campaign included a commanding performance against Western Michigan, racking up 122 yards and two touchdown receptions. Addison posted only slightly better numbers against Western Michigan, receiving for 124 yards and three touchdowns. Mumpfield may become Pitt’s lead receiver in the post-Addison season, but he won’t be the only one vying for that spot. 

Senior Jared Wayne will also look to shine next season. Wayne finished second in receiving yards for the Panthers last season with 658 yards. Addison’s presence last season may have even stunted Wayne’s ability to step up as a big-time wideout, as Wayne received less than half the number of catches as Addison. With another year of development and experience under his wing, Wayne will put up big numbers this season.

Pitt senior wide receiver Jared Wayne (5) catches the ball in the endzone during a game against UNC in 2021.
(Patrick Cavanagh | Senior Staff Photographer)

Of course, no wide receiver group is complete without a supporting cast, and several players will look to step into that role. Junior Jaylon Barden put up impressive numbers last season despite limited playing time. Barden averaged the most yards per catch on Pitt’s roster with 19.3 yards per reception.

Meanwhile, Louisiana Tech transfer redshirt sophomore Bub Means recently gained eligibility to play next season, giving Pitt another experienced transfer receiver in the depth chart. Means began his career at Tennessee as a defensive back before transferring to Louisiana Tech to focus on playing wide receiver. Means led the Bulldogs in yards per catch with 19.6 while also hauling in two touchdown receptions. 

Pitt also boasts several first-year prospects who could make an impact in the 2022 campaign. 

First-year Che Nwabuko might be the most dynamic player on the Panthers’ roster this season. Nwabuko possesses elite speed, winning the 100m Texas track and field state championship with a blistering time of 10.17. The first year from Texas could prove valuable as a slot receiver, filling in a crucial gap Addison left.

First-year Addison Copeland will likely get playing time as well. Copeland ranked as the top receiver recruit out of the state of New York. The future of the Panther receiving group looks bright with Copeland and Nwabuko. 

But the Panther’s offense won’t have to rely on the wide receiver group to haul in all of the passes. Pitt also possesses several offensive skill players to take the receiving load off the wideouts. Sophomore tight end Gavin Bartholomew will look to take a more active role in catching the ball after his successful first-year campaign. The sophomore tight end racked up 326 yards and four touchdowns last season. 

The running back group will also take some responsibility in catching the ball. Junior Israel Abanikanda led the Panther running backs in receptions last season, hauling in the ball for 197 yards. The running back group looks especially deep this year, with senior Vincent Davis and sophomore Rodney Hammond Jr. both looking to make a difference on the ground and in the air. 

Ultimately, the receivers will only be as good as the quarterback throwing them the ball. Redshirt junior USC transfer Kedon Slovis will replace former Pitt Heisman candidate Kenny Pickett. But after a lackluster spring game performance from Slovis, redshirt senior Nick Patti could take the starting job before the end of the season. 

Pitt’s 2022 receiving class has the potential to be better than last year’s group. Between the solid depth and intriguing newcomers, the Panther wideouts have the ability to fill in the gaps. 

But some doubt still lingers over the entire offense. Who will step up to be the number one receiver? Who will be the go-to slot receiver? The Panthers will need to find these answers before their Sept. 1 showdown against West Virginia in the renewed Backyard Brawl.