Colbert: Michael Pittman Among USC's Greatest Wide Receivers
Maybe it’s their record. Maybe it’s his slow start. Maybe it’s the loaded receiving corps.
Whatever the case, Michael Pittman is quietly having one of the best seasons for a wide receiver in USC history.
On Monday, he was named a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award. Pittman is currently third in the FBS in catches (82) and receiving yards (1,118) through 11 games (though many players still have two regular season games remaining). He’s also tied for 13th nationally with nine TD grabs.
In the past four games alone, Pittman has 39 receptions for 519 yards and four touchdowns. He eclipsed the century mark for the season Saturday after catching 11 passes for 180 yards versus Cal.
“He’s one of the elite kids that are out there,” Coach Clay Helton said.
Pittman’s 2019 campaign is putting him in even more select company among Trojans.
He’s already 10th in yards and 12th in receptions on USC’s single-season lists. With the Trojans guaranteed two more games, Pittman is on pace to finish sixth in yards and fifth in receptions. Only Marqise Lee and Keyshawn Johnson have recorded more catches and yards in the same season than what Pittman is projected for (96, 1,321).
Pittman came into the season determined to etch his place among the school's all-time greats at wide receiver. Mission accomplished.
“After the year he’s had, he has to be in those conversations,” wide receivers coach Keary Colbert said. “… I think people are going to remember this season that he’s having and they’re going to remember him for a long time.”
It’s the type of year Pittman and many others envisioned when he decided to return last winter. It just wasn’t assured. The senior captain came into Year 4 with just 70 catches for 1,244 yards and eight touchdowns over his first three years combined.
His final one has been prolific if not consistent. He has four games with 140 yards, including three of them in the past four weeks. The magic number as it concerns USC is 65. The Trojans are 6-1 when Pittman has 65 yards receiving, and 1-3 when he doesn’t. It’s a reflection of the constant double teams he’s faced this year, as well as the inconsistency of USC’s offense.
What’s held true throughout Pittman’s career is his big-play ability. He has at least one 30-yard reception in seven games in 2019 and one such catch in 18 of his past 26 games. His 15.5 yards per catch is sixth all-time among the program’s 25 leading receivers. Pittman is currently 14th in career receptions and receiving yards.
“He’s big, he’s fast, he’s strong, he’s physical,” Colbert said. “I think he’s one of the better guys to come through.”
-- Adam Maya is a USC graduate and has been covering the Trojans since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @AdamJMaya.