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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
Column | Former Villanova fanatic watches “Nova Knicks” take down Sixers in NBA Playoffs
By Aidan Kasner, Sports Editor • May 23, 2024
Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

‘Breath of fresh air’: Pitt football sees new faces shine

Sixth-year+running+back+Daniel+Carter+%284%29+runs+into+the+endzone+during+Pitt+football%E2%80%99s+Blue-Gold+Game+on+Saturday+afternoon+at+Acrisure+Stadium.
Kaylee Uribe | Senior Staff Photographer
Sixth-year running back Daniel Carter (4) runs into the endzone during Pitt football’s Blue-Gold Game on Saturday afternoon at Acrisure Stadium.

Pitt football had tons of change in the offseason. After its disastrous 3-9 season in 2023, change is necessary. The Panthers’ offensive change was imminent after they finished the 2023 season ranked 118 in points per game out of the 134 FBS teams.

To Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi, the new offense run by offensive coordinator Kade Bell is a breath of fresh air, and not just because it’s a playbook he likes — it’s a system the players enjoy as well.

“Breath of fresh air, no doubt about it,” Narduzzi said. “Our kids feel that too, that’s why I am so excited. When your kids are excited about doing it, then I get excited as a coach.”

At the start of the Blue-Gold spring game, neither Panthers offense brought much excitement. Gold team redshirt first-year quarterback Eli Holstein started the game out brutally for his team, going 4-11 for 40 yards and an interception. Holstein’s offense only tallied three points during his early struggles.

Blue team redshirt junior quarterback Nate Yarnell, who is the projected starting quarterback, was efficient in starting things out for his team. The redshirt junior completed his first seven passes and didn’t have an incompletion until there was 2:52 left in the first half. But his seven completions were all for naught, as his team could only muster three points in the first half.

But Yarnell believes that the offense will improve from this rough showing in the spring game.

“We have a lot of improvement to be made in the next four months,” Yarnell said. “And it is going to be made. We have a lot of potential in the offense and a lot of work to still do.”

Holstein improved throughout the game on Sunday. On the Gold team’s last drive of the first half, the former Alabama quarterback conducted a 12-play, 80-yard drive that finished with him finding sixth-year running back Daniel Carter for a six-yard touchdown pass with 19 seconds left in regulation.

Senior defensive back Donovan McMillon believes Holstein hardly tapped into his potential on Saturday.

“You guys got to see the [surface],” McMillon said. “I feel like if he gets the opportunity, he will do his thing. But we were just excited to see everyone play, and I feel like all of the quarterbacks played well today.” 

The quarterbacks weren’t perfect on Sunday for either team, but they both finished with a solid stat sheet. Holstein finished 10 of 23 for 128 yards with a touchdown and interception. Yarnell, however, didn’t turn the ball over and finished his afternoon 12 of 16 for 108 yards and a touchdown. 

But on Saturday, sophomore linebacker Rasheem Biles was the closest thing to perfect for either team over the weekend. Biles was everywhere, and it felt like he made an impact every time he was on the field.

The Columbus, Ohio, native finished his night with seven total tackles, two of those as a tackle for a loss and another as a three-yard sack. Biles also interrupted the passer when rushing as he added a pass breakup to his already-loaded stat sheet.

The Blue team head coach and special teams coach/tight ends coach Jacob Bronowski, is used to seeing Biles’ hard work day in and day out.

“Biles is everywhere, every single day,” Bronowski said. “It’s awesome that the fans and [the media] get to see it today. And that’s what is so awesome about the spring game … For him, that’s what he’s been every single day.” 

Redshirt first-year defensive back Cruce Brookins and sophomore offensive lineman BJ Williams showed their impressive work ethic throughout the 14 practices during spring practices, earning them the Ed Conway Award for most improved players of spring practices.

Brookins credits the veteran players on the roster for helping him have everything “click” during this offseason for him to win the defensive Conway Award. 

“I just got a lot more film in with the older guys,” Brookins said. “And just learning from them and learning from their past mistakes.”

Williams believes he earned the offensive Conway Award because he trusted in himself in 2024 more than he did during the 2023 campaign.

“It was a lot last year, but this year I’m more confident,” Wiliams said. “I know my assignments, just lock in, it’s been a lot easier to process for me.” 

With all of these changes and breakout players, Pitt football hopes to find the same confidence as Williams so it can return to the success it had during the 2021 and 2022 campaigns.

But Pitt fans will have to wait and see if that success returns for the 2024 season or if they will continue their 3-9 ways with an altered coaching staff.

About the Contributor
Matthew Scabilloni, Senior Staff Writer