If there’s one position where Pitt football is deep, it’s wide receiver.
The Panthers have seven returning players at the position, six of whom have starting experience; they added two promising freshmen and a transfer from Hawaii, and sophomore Jordan Addison has all the tools to become the program’s next star receiver.
Addison burst onto the scene in 2020 as a true freshman and quickly made an impact for the Panthers. Addison led Pitt with 60 receptions, 666 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games last season. His efforts earned him the runner-up spot for ACC Rookie of the Year.
The spark Addison provided was much needed as Taysir Mack struggled last season. Mack led Pitt in receiving yards in 2018, with 557 yards on just 25 catches (22.3 yards avg.). In 2019, he ranked second on the team with 736 yards on 63 receptions. Last year was a different story as Mack posted just 305 yards as injuries caught up to him, forcing him to undergo two surgeries.
“Obviously, I didn’t perform the way I wanted to, where my talents showed the previous year,” Mack said this spring.
In addition to Addison and Mack, Shocky Jacques-Louis returns. The senior started 16 games over the past two seasons, averaging 13.8 yards per reception during that stretch.
Junior Jared Wayne has started seven games for the Panthers over the past two seasons. In 2020, he caught 21 balls for 326 yards and a touchdown.
Tight EndsThe Panthers have gotten little production from the tight end spot in recent years. In 2019, Pickett had as many touchdown receptions as the entire tight end group. Last year, five tight ends combined for a total of 100 yards and one touchdown on 10 catches.
Lucas Krull was expected to turn the tide for Pitt tight ends in 2020, but he played in just one game before a season-ending injury. In the spring game, the 6-foot-6, 260-pound Florida transfer caught two passes for 40 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown.
Krull thinks the group has a chance to be special.
“I think we’re going to be extremely explosive with (Pickett) back there controlling the game,” Krull said following the spring game.
Sophomore Kyi Wright also played well in the spring game, catching two balls for 57 yards. Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi was pleased with Wright’s performance throughout spring.
Another player expected to improve the play at tight end is freshman Gavin Bartholomew, who earned praise from Pickett for his work ethic in the spring.
“I think he’s a guy who has potential to make an impact early,” Pickett said at the time.
Those sentiments were shared by Narduzzi, who also believes Bartholomew could contribute this fall.
“At this point, it looks like there’s three guys that can really go out and play some really quality football for us, so we’re excited about what that tight end can do,” Narduzzi said after the spring game.
The tight end room will return Daniel Moraga, Kaymar Mimes, Grant Carrigan and Jake Zilinskas and add a second freshman in Jake Renda.
While increased production in the receiving game would be welcomed, Narduzzi is also hoping better play at tight end will lead to an improvement in the run game.
“You have to have tight ends in the run game. It’s hard to run the football without it,” Narduzzi said. “So if we can get out there and in some two-tight end (sets) on offense, and even one good tight end out there at a time, it changes things for a defense and it gives you an opportunity to run the ball better.”