Skip to main content

Three Takeaways: Pitt Puts Pads On

The Pitt Panthers closed their first week of spring ball with their first padded practice.

PITTSBURGH -- The Pitt Panthers closed the first week of spring ball with their first padded practice of 2024 and it brought out loads of pent-up energy from the players and coaches. 

In their first week, the Panthers learned a bit about their quarterback situation, the new offense and the state of its defensive backfield. 

Here are three takeaways from Day 3 of spring practice for Pitt. 

Pads Come On
It was a special day on the South Side of Pittsburgh because the Panthers put full pads on for the first time this spring. The energy was palpable and audible, as the crack of plastic shoulder pads filled the air around the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. This is a special, almost spiritual day for a football player, who's access to contact is regulated and contained mostly to real games to avoid injury. It's rare they get to really, truly hit some one and, even though this practice allowed only limited contact, it's a taste of the real thing. 

And you could tell the players were eager to start hitting people from the very beginning of practice. Newly minted special teams coordinator Jacob Bronowski held a drill that pitted a blocker and a returner against potential tackler, who had to engage the blocker and try to make a tackle. It led to some big hits that brought ohs and ahs from teammates watching. 

Jesse Anderson, Cruce Brookins, Juelz Goff, Derrick Davis, Jahvante Royal, Montravious Lloyd and Nigel Maynard stood out for strong, physical reps and Solomon DeShields was jumping around, hyping up his teammates after every successful hit. 

We're far from the real thing, but for at least a day, it felt like football was back. 

Quarterback Update
Pat Narduzzi made some interesting comments about the quarterbacks following practice when he spoke to the media. Nate Yarnell is playing well and still atop the depth chart as he demonstrates command of an offense that is making progress mastering the new scheme. But there are two other quarterbacks "challenging" Yarnell through spring ball - Christian Veilleux and Eli Holstein. 

That Christian Veilleux is right behind Yarnell isn't surprising - he's a veteran with starting experience - but Holstein's inclusion, seemingly in a tier above freshmen Ty Dieffenbach and Julian Dugger, is. He's brings a talented recruiting background with him from Alabama and the Panthers have clearly been impressed with 

Narduzzi added that Dugger and Dieffenbach are doing good things but, as freshmen, have a ways to go before they can enter the depth chart. But Holstein, who still hasn't played a snap of college football yet either, has separated himself from his classmates. 

Defensive Risers
The Panthers entered this spring without a cornerback who's started a college game yet and three safeties that split a season's-worth of starting duties. It's the inverse of last season, when all the experience lied at cornerback and safety was the realm of the unknown. 

Defensive coordinator Randy Bates sleeps well at night knowing his safety snaps are taken care of this year but he and the coaching staff are on the hunt for starting cornerbacks now. They believe they've found at least one in redshirt sophomore Ryland Gandy. 

“Ryland’s been outstanding," Narduzzi said. "I think if I asked most of the guys out there ‘Hey, who’s our starting corners?’ I think the first name that would come out of their mouths would be Ryland."

Okay, so one side is accounted for. But where will the second come from? Tamon Lynum played at Nebraska and brings a rangy 6'2 frame. Rashad Battle, back from injury, is another veteran with size. Outside of them it's a lot of unkowns - Tamarion Crumpley, Royal (switching back from receiver to defensive back) and a trio of freshmen. 

Given the way Pitt's defensive system is built, corner is an important position so these practices will be critical to the success of the 2024 team. 

Make sure you bookmark Inside the Panthers for the latest news, exclusive interviews, recruiting coverage, and more!

Pitt Finds First Starting CB

Nate Yarnell Facing Competition From Other Pitt QBs

Utah Loss Helps Pitt in NCAA Tournament Race

Pitt Lands Four on ESPN's All-Playoff Era Team

Rising Pitt DB Impressing Veterans in Spring Ball

Bills Roster Moves Open Opportunity for Pitt DBs