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The Pitt News

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Chris Matthews poses for a photo at the Global Hub in Posvar Hall.
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Takeaways | Pitt football prepares for 2023 campaign at summer training camp

As the college football season quickly approaches, programs across the country are gearing up at summer training camps. Sports editor Brian Sherry gives his takeaways from Pitt football’s 2023 training camp.
Redshirt+senior+linebacker+Shayne+Simon+%2832%29+practices+tackling+at+Pitt+football+training+camp+on+Aug.+4%0A%0A
Pamela Smith | Contributing Editor
Redshirt senior linebacker Shayne Simon (32) practices tackling at Pitt football training camp on Aug. 4

As the dog days of summer slowly fade into early autumn, one thing is on the minds of sports fans across the country — the return of college football. But while the start of the season is still on the horizon, sports fans are still getting a taste of their favorite teams with the start of summer training camps.

Pitt football commenced its training camp on Aug. 1 at its UPMC Rooney Sports Complex training facility in Southside. The Panthers are still brushing off the cobwebs from summer, but the team is already starting to take shape and find its identity. 

Here are my takeaways from the Panthers’ 2023 training camp.

Redshirt freshman wide receiver Caden Smith (47) runs with the ball at Pitt football training camp on Aug. 4.
(Pamela Smith | Contributing Editor)

Pitt’s team-wide NIL is bringing energy to training camp

Earlier this month, Alliance 412 — a Pitt-based NIL collective — announced a deal with the football program to provide every player on the team with an equal NIL payment. The reportedly seven-figure deal is one of the few team-wide NIL deals in college football, and its presence is already being felt across the program. 

“I’m very grateful,” redshirt sophomore wide receiver Daejon Reynolds said about the new NIL deal in a training camp press conference. “I’ve seen [former Pitt running back] LeSean McCoy talking about [NIL]. I’m very grateful for the new NIL we’re getting.”

The deal will surely give players more financial security and may even play a role in recruiting in the future. Even head coach Pat Narduzzi — a known critic of NIL — expressed content with the equal distribution the new deal will bring. 

I tell our guys all the time you earn what you get, ” Narduzzi said at a training camp press conference. “You put it out there on the field there every day. That’s why we put our helmets on and you go out there and you try to make the team better, the university better and make your bank account better.”

Pitt has some serious depth at quarterback

Redshirt senior quarterback Phil Jurkovec (5) throws a pass at Pitt football training camp on Aug. 4.
(Pamela Smith | Contributing Editor)

While it is clear that redshirt senior quarterback Phil Jurkovec will start game one for the Panthers, that doesn’t mean fans can’t get excited about the other signal callers on the roster. Redshirt sophomores Christian Veilleux and Nate Yarnell are showing serious promise in their battle for the second string spot. 

Right now, it appears that Veilleux will take the backup role. Standing at six foot four inches, Veilleux has proven himself as an accurate pocket passer while also possessing high confidence when pressured out of the pocket. Prior to his tenure at Pitt, Veilleux flashed potential as a backup at Penn State, playing in five games in his two years with the Nittany Lions.

But now with Pitt, the Canadian quarterback has shown even greater potential, which garnered significant praise from the Panther coaching staff throughout training camp. 

“Christian, you love the way he throws it,” Narduzzi said at a training camp press conference. “He’s a competitor. I just see him leading out on the field a little bit more. I see him a little bit more comfortable.”

And while Veilleux is leading the way in the hunt for the backup spot, that doesn’t mean Yarnell isn’t impressing coaches too. Narduzzi also commented on Yarnell’s training camp performance. 

“Nate Yarnell is a guy that’s tough and he’s a gamer,” Narduzzi said. “He continues to get better.”

All in all, even if Jurkovec doesn’t pan out, the Panthers have two other great options to lead them in 2023. 

The new-look Panther defense will lead the way in 2023

Last season, the Panthers were primarily led by their aggressive pass-rushing defense. From defensive lineman Calijah Kancey to linebacker SirVocea Dennis, the Panthers’ pass rush and defense as a whole were the main contributing factor in many Pitt victories last season. 

But many of the Panthers’ key defensive players departed in the offseason, leaving many unanswered questions as to who would step up this season. And while the Panther defense is still finding its groove in training camp, it’s clear that the unit is set for another big year in 2023. 

On the defensive line, the Panthers will look to redshirt seniors David Green, Devin Danielson and Tyler Bentley to replace key losses in the pass rush. Throughout training camp, Narduzzi has specifically identified those three players as key leaders heading into the season.

“There’s a few of them, but it really starts inside really,” Narduzzi said about which players are leading the defensive line. “I would say David Green and Devin Danielson are two of the guys. And really Tyler Bentley stepped up. He’s really, really grown up through the years. Those would be the three guys I look at right now. Those are the three guys inside that are really the leaders of that.”

On top of Pitt’s new-look pass rush, it also has redshirt senior defensive back M.J. Devonshire returning to lead the Panther secondary. Devonshire is already on several major award watchlists and is arguably Pitt’s best NFL prospect.

Ultimately, the Panther defense will continue its dominance with their new leaders in 2023. 

About the Contributor
Brian Sherry, Sports Editor