Column | Pitt football needs to seriously consider starting Christian Veilleux or Nate Yarnell at quarterback in 2023


Jonathan Guo | Staff Photographer

Pitt football helmets.

By Brian Sherry, Assistant Sports Editor

Last offseason, Pitt football found itself in the midst of a quarterback battle. 

Senior Kedon Slovis, who transferred to Pitt from USC, was the clear favorite and was a near-lock to gain the starting job. But redshirt senior Nick Patti, who played with the Panthers since 2018, did everything to prove himself capable of the role. The Panthers ultimately picked Slovis, which, at the time, seemed like the right move.

But everyone knows how that panned out.

Slovis was mediocre at best, throwing for 2,397 yards and 10 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Patti bided his time, working in the background for his moment to shine. At the end of the regular season, Slovis entered the transfer portal, allowing Patti to take the reins for the Sun Bowl. In the bowl game, Patti stepped up, leading Pitt to a 37-35 victory over UCLA and becoming a hero in the process. 

It’s clear that Patti deserved the starting spot last year, as the writing was on the wall for months leading up to the 2022 season. Patti outplayed Slovis in the 2022 Spring Game and looked solid throughout summer practices. 

Now, nearly a year later, Pitt finds itself in another quarterback battle. Former Boston College redshirt senior quarterback Phil Jurkovec transferred to Pitt this offseason as the presumed starter for 2023. But there is another transfer quarterback that is turning heads in Pitt’s spring practices — former Penn State redshirt sophomore Christian Veilleux. To make matters even more complicated, Pitt also has returning redshirt sophomore Nate Yarnell competing for the starting job as well.

Jurkovec is the clear favorite to earn the starting job, as head coach Pat Narduzzi has recently hinted that the former Boston College student is at the top of the depth chart. But just because Jurkovec is the favorite does not mean he deserves to take the field in 2023. 

Instead, the Panthers should go with Veilleux or Yarnell to lead the team next season.

Both are young and capable of leading the team for years to come. Jurkovec, on the other hand, only has one year of eligibility remaining. In college football, stability is at a premium, as rosters change on a yearly basis. By choosing Veilleux or Yarnell over Jurkovec, the program can build around their young quarterback and possibly have success for years to come. 

And don’t think that Veilleux and Yarnell have not proven themselves capable of leading a team. Veilleux has a proven resume of performing well in a starting role. The former Penn State quarterback helped lead the Nittany Lions to a 28-0 route against Rutgers in his first collegiate game back in 2021. In the game, Veilleux threw for 235 yards and three touchdowns. 

Veilleux saw limited playing time with the Nittany Lions in 2022, but made the most of his opportunities when they came up. In a game against Ohio, Veilleux went 6-7 on pass attempts and threw for 37 yards. 

Penn State transfer quarterbacks also have a proven record of success with other teams. Former Kentucky quarterback Will Levis transferred from Penn State in 2021 and is now one of the top quarterbacks in the 2023 draft class. There is no telling whether Veilleux will end up like Levis, but the comparison is there. 

With all the talk of Jurkovec and Veilleux taking the starting job, it’s easy to forget that Yarnell is still an option. The redshirt sophomore is completely capable of leading the Panthers to success in 2023. Last season, after Slovis and Patti were both injured, Yarnell stepped up against Western Michigan, throwing for 179 yards in one touchdown in a 34-13 beatdown of the Broncos. 

Yarnell is also the only quarterback on Pitt’s roster returning from 2022. Jurkovec and Veilleux, who are both new transfers, will need to build rapport with teammates and adjust to campus. Yarnell, on the other hand, is already well accustomed to Pitt and will look to build on his experiences in 2022. 

In all likelihood, the Panthers will select Jurkovec as their starting quarterback in 2023. The former Boston College quarterback came to Pitt as the presumed starter in 2023 and is showing no signs of losing his front-runner status. With Jurkovec’s skill and experience, he will probably do well in the Blue and Gold.

But, if Jurkovec slips up — either in the offseason or during the regular season — the Panthers should not hesitate to replace him with one of their younger options. It’s time that Pitt stops looking for transfer quarterbacks every offseason instead of developing a starter over the years. 

The Blue-Gold spring game on April 15 will give fans an opportunity to judge the quarterbacks themselves. If Veilleux or Yarnell outperforms Jurkovec — like Patti outperformed Slovis last year — then Pitt will have a much harder time choosing a quarterback for next season.