Pitt football: Kenny Pickett set to make big jump

After leading Pitt football to an upset win over No. 2 Miami on Thanksgiving of 2017, fans thought they had found their quarterback of the future in Kenny Pickett. Pickett threw for 193 yards and one touchdown and rushed for another two in his first start at Pitt while knocking off the undefeated Hurricanes. This was far more than any fan could have expected from the then-freshman quarterback and had Panthers fans expecting great things from Pickett in the years to come.

Many were hoping that with the emergence of Pickett the Pitt offense would look a bit more balanced going into 2018, but it quickly became clear that would not be the case. Pitt stayed with the ground and pound style that they worked with the year before and Pickett didn’t get much of a shot to show off his arm. The team rushed 571 times for 3,191 yards and threw the ball only 316 times for 1,985 yards. Pickett wrapped up his first season as a starter completing 58.1% of his passes and averaging 6.4 yards per attempt.

Last season the junior quarterback was finally given the chance to sling the ball around under new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. Pickett threw for 3,098 yards, a big climb from the season prior. He threw the ball 469 times, showing the emphasis that Whipple put on the passing game and saw both his yards per attempt and his completion percentage rise to 6.6 and 61.6 respectively. These numbers were hurt by the large number of drops that Pitt receivers had, meaning that Pickett’s performance was better than the numbers may reflect.

Going into his second year under Whipple, it can be expected that Pickett will feel more comfortable with the offense and will make a significant jump this season. The offensive line was mediocre at best last year and should be improved and more cohesive this season. This will not only give Pickett more time in the pocket but also will open up the run game allowing the offense to not be so one dimensional.

There also are several new additions to the offense that should give Pickett some more weapons. Freshman running back Israel Abanikanda could have an impact in the running game and freshman receivers Jordan Addison and Aydin Henningham will likely provide some new threats in the passing game.

Perhaps the biggest addition is redshirt senior Lucas Krull. Krull transferred to Pitt this season after spending the two previous seasons playing for Florida. He will provide a huge target for Pickett and will likely be targeted often as Whipple loves to utilize the tight end on offense. Pitt has been in need of a great pass-catching tight end for a few years and Krull seems to be just the guy they’ve been looking for.

With an added level of comfort in the offense and the addition of new weapons joining the guys that Pickett already had he should be set to make the biggest jump of his career this season. Pickett has shown growth in his game every year so far and this season he will make one last jump to become a top quarterback in the ACC.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Cutshall/The Pitt News