Recapping Pitt football’s transfer portal acquisitions during the offseason

By Mason Carter, Staff Writer

Just a few days after the NCAA’s first transfer portal window closed on Jan. 18, Pitt fans can already see glimpses of the potential roster for next season.

The Panthers had a total of 14 transfers in the window — 10 were outgoing transfers, while four were incoming. Here’s a first look at the four newest Panthers.

Phil Jurkovec: Quarterback, Boston College

Given circumstances surrounding former Boston College quarterback Phil Jurcovec’s career, his move to Pitt isn’t surprising. 

The redshirt senior played in eight games last season, completing about 60% of his passes. After an injury-filled 2021 season, Jurkovec finished his 2022 campaign with 1,711 yards while throwing 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His numbers took a slight drop from his career-best season in 2020, during which he threw 2,258 yards for 17 touchdowns and five interceptions on a 61% completion percentage.

With former quarterback Kedon Slovis’ departure in the offseason, Pitt looked for an experienced quarterback who could start for the team in week one. Jurkovec committed to Notre Dame out of high school as the No. 2 ranked player in Pennsylvania before transferring to Boston College after two seasons. 

Not only does the Pine-Richland graduate have a connection with Pittsburgh, he’s also familiar with second-year coach Frank Cignetti Jr. The former Eagles offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach guided Jurkovec to his most successful years as a signal caller while the two were both at Boston College. 

Pitt fans hope that the two can find that magic combination again in 2023, possibly springing Jurkovic back into the realm of NFL draft-ready quarterbacks. 

Donovan McMillon: Safety, Florida

Throughout this list, there’s a common theme — Pitt’s new players originally growing up and playing high school ball in Pittsburgh and its surrounding suburbs. 

McMillon is a former four-star player who ranked No. 8 in the state when he made his commitment to the University of Florida out of high school. Back then, the Panthers weren’t listed as one of his top-targets. 

This time, McMillon — who graduated from Peters Township — took just 12 days making his decision and elected on returning home to Pittsburgh. The sophomore safety turned down offers from Miami, Nebraska, Minnesota, West Virginia and several other Power Five schools. 

In his time with the Gators, he didn’t play many defensive snaps, but was an important contributor on special teams. As a gunner on kick and punt returns, he totaled 30 tackles, 18 of which were solo tackles. Known as a run stuffer, his impressive 6-foot 1-inch, 205-pound frame allows him to clog passing lanes and bat balls down in coverage. 

With both former Pitt starting safeties Erick Hallett II and Brandon Hill declaring for the draft, the starting safety positions should have strong competition next season. 

Christian Veilleux: Quarterback, Penn State

Former in-state rival quarterback Christian Veilleux made the shortest journey of any Pitt transfer. With the loss of now Notre Dame commit Kenny Minchey, Slovis’ departure and Nick Patti entering the portal, Pitt’s QB room looked thin. 

After recruiting Jurkovec and now Veilleux, the Panthers are flush with potential talent for both now and the future. At Penn State, first-year quarterback Drew Allar earned the No. 2 spot on the team’s depth chart during the season, forcing Veilleux to find a more promising opportunity with three years left of eligibility. 

The Ottawa, Canada-born quarterback showed solid ability when he replaced an injured Sean Clifford against Rutgers in 2021. He posted a stat line of 16/26 passing for 238 yards and three touchdowns. With a strong showing next year, he should have strong starting quarterback consideration for 2024. 

Unlike the other Pittsburgh-area raised transfers, Veilleux played high school ball in Potomac, Maryland, where he was ranked as the No. 16 player in the state and a three-star recruit. Before committing to Penn State, Veilleux had offers from Pitt, Michigan, West Virginia, Clemson, Tennessee and other top programs. 

Derrick Davis Jr: Running Back/Safety, LSU

Listed as an “athlete” in college, sophomore Derrick Davis Jr. started out at safety at LSU until switching over to running back late in the season to help with depth issues. He posted 29 yards and one touchdown in the fourth quarter during LSU’s bowl-game rout against Purdue. 

A graduate of Gateway High School in Monroeville, Davis Jr. was rated as a four-star safety and the No. 65 ranked player in the nation. Despite his high rating, Davis Jr. saw limited playing time at safety at LSU finishing with six tackles in two seasons. 

In high school, Davis Jr. received offers from Georgia, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Alabama and other schools before landing at LSU. The 6-foot 2-inch, 210-pound safety will compete for the starting safety positions along with Donovan McMillon, Phillip O’Brien Jr. and Javon McIntyre. He still has three years of eligibility remaining.