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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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A portrait of Chancellor Joan Gabel.
Senate Council holds final meeting of semester, recaps recent events
By Anna Kuntz, Senior Staff Writer • May 14, 2024
Column | A thank you to student journalists
By Betul Tuncer, Editor-in-Chief • April 27, 2024

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A portrait of Chancellor Joan Gabel.
Senate Council holds final meeting of semester, recaps recent events
By Anna Kuntz, Senior Staff Writer • May 14, 2024
Column | A thank you to student journalists
By Betul Tuncer, Editor-in-Chief • April 27, 2024

Things to look for in the Blue-Gold spring football game

Redshirt+senior+M.J.+Devonshire+%2812%29+and+junior+Phillip+OBrien+Jr.+%285%29+celebrate+in+front+of+the+Panther+Pitt+during+a+game+against+Louisville+at+Acrisure+Stadium+on+Oct.+14%2C+2023.
TPN File Photo
Redshirt senior M.J. Devonshire (12) and junior Phillip O’Brien Jr. (5) celebrate in front of the Panther Pitt during a game against Louisville at Acrisure Stadium on Oct. 14, 2023.

The upcoming Blue-Gold spring football game brings a lot of intrigue for Pitt football fans. After a disastrous 3-9 campaign in the 2023 season, the Panthers had a flurry of coaching and roster moves to right the ship and get back to bowl season. Here are some of the biggest things to look for in the Blue-Gold game.

New look offense

The Panthers’ biggest culprit of their dismal 2023 season was poor offensive play. To remedy this, head coach Pat Narduzzi fired offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti and replaced him with Western Carolina offensive coordinator Kade Bell. 

During Bell’s tenure at WCU, the Catamounts routinely finished near the top of the FCS offensively, including a division-best 501 yards per game and a fourth-best 37 points per game last season. 

Bell said during his introductory presser that his offense “plays fast and scores even faster.” The Panthers’ new offense looks to bring flash and excitement to the North Shore this season, and the spring game provides Pitt fans their first chance to see it live. 

In addition to a new system, the Panthers added plenty of skill position players to fill pieces that left in the offseason. Pitt added Raphael “Poppi” Williams at wide receiver and Desmond Reid at running back. Both players had previously played under Kade Bell at WCU, and both had received conference and national awards for their performances.

With new and returning pieces for Bell to work with this season, the game should make for an interesting first look at the team and provide some clarity for fans anxiously waiting to see the Panthers play this fall.

Quarterback competition

Another ingredient to the Panthers’ struggles in 2023 was inconsistency at quarterback. Narduzzi benched fifth-year senior Phil Jurkovec after a string of abysmal performances to begin the season.

The starting job then went to Penn State transfer Christian Veilleux, and while he was a key piece in the stunning upset over No. 13 Louisville, Veilleux underwhelmed in the following contests. Following Veilleux’s injury in the Notre Dame loss, the reins went to Nate Yarnell, who impressed in his starts against Boston College and Duke. 

Yarnell was given starting duties heading into spring camp and will likely take starting reps during the spring game. Most of the discussion will be surrounding the QB2 competition between Veilleux and Alabama transfer Eli Holstein. 

As a 4-star recruit coming out of high school, Holstein was one of the most sought-after prospects in the country. While he did not see any game action for the Crimson Tide, his talent and experience under the Nick Saban system should serve him well and provide an interesting competition during the spring game and the summer ahead. 

While Yarnell looks like he could have the starting role, impressive performances from either Veilleux or Holstein could muddy the waters and lead to a change once Aug. 31 rolls around. 

Revamped defense

The Panthers’ defense saw a lot of departures at all three levels this offseason. Narduzzi and his staff had to make a great deal of changes to prepare for the season. Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge will not roam the sidelines for the first time since 2016. A defense that already had a shaky 2023 season will need massive production from its returning veterans and off-season pickups to improve. 

In the transfer portal, the Panthers picked up talented players who could make an impact. Linebacker Keye Thompson from Ohio, defensive back Tamon Lynum from Nebraska, defensive linemen Nate Matlack, Lyndon Cooper and Nick James could prove themselves as solid replacements.

While it is rare to see first-years make an immediate impact in college football, Francis Brewu, Sincere Edwards, Jahsear Whittington and Cameron Lindsey are the headliners of a solid defensive recruiting class.

Overall, this year’s spring game is of great importance to the program. Fans have a chance to see how the team looks following a down year. Coaches get the chance to make the right moves and get the team back in a winning position.

New players get their chance to shine and establish their place in the depth chart. With all the intrigue and talent on display, the Blue-Gold game should provide some exciting moments for all involved.