Kenny Pickett calls it an offense with “different wrinkles.”
“That’s really all I’ll say. You’ll see,” Pitt’s rising junior quarterback said Wednesday at the end of the first day of spring football drills.
Pat Narduzzi was equally secretive.
“You’ll see it in the spring game,” the coach said of changes in his offense.
Pitt’s offense will undoubtedly change under Mark Whipple, who is Narduzzi’s fourth coordinator in five seasons. But the results probably will be aimed at improvement over intrigue. Nothing fancy, but scoring more through the air would be a good place to start.
Pickett averaged less than one touchdown pass per game in 2018 (12 total) when he was troubled by spotty protection (especially late in the season), inexperienced wide receivers and his own mistakes.
Like many Pitt quarterbacks before him, Pickett is dealing with change.
Whipple is Pickett’s third coordinator since Pitt started recruiting him, following Matt Canada and Shawn Watson. Pickett said adjusting has not been a problem.
“It’s smooth,” he said. “Everyone has their different ways of calling things, but it’s all relatively the same. Everyone has their own style, but at the end of the day, if you get it to the right points and you throw it right, everyone ends up in the same spot.
“I like learning from different people.”
Pickett already has sat down in the video room with his new coordinator and studied the offense Whipple ran as head coach at UMass.
“Really intelligent guy, a lot of experience,” said Pickett, who remembers Whipple from when he was recruiting one of his teammates at Ocean Township (N.J.) High School. “He has a ton of knowledge I want to learn from.”
Whipple is in the early stages of evaluating his available talent and how it fits with his playbook. Wednesday was the first day he’s seen his quarterbacks holding a football, other than on a video screen.
He’s just figuring out now, what’s our strength, what’s our weakness,” Pickett said.
He said some of the wrinkles Whipple might add to Pitt’s playbook aren’t totally foreign to him.
“But we just haven’t run them. New philosophies, new techniques on certain things,” he said.
Whipple said he hasn’t seen enough of last year’s team to judge how his offense will differ, but one fact won’t change.
“(Kenny’s) the starter,” he said.
Narduzzi said Whipple has “free rein, period. It’s his offense.”
“There are a lot of things we can fix in all three phases of the game,” the head coach said. “That’s what we do in the off-season. We got books this thick detailing out what we did on every single play. Now, we’re out here to fix those things.”
No details, of course, but Narduzzi said there will be some similarities.
“I’m not going to talk structurally. We’re going to do what we did well a year ago and we’re going to fix what we didn’t do well. That simple.
“If you’re not throwing the ball, change and revamp that and let’s throw it the right way.”
Sounds simple enough, but Pitt must do it this season with a rebuilt offensive line and backfield, which lost a total of six big contributors.
“You wish they are walking through the door, but they’re not,” Pickett said. “So, it’s time for new guys to step up. Our guys are going to do that.”
Pickett realizes he and his offense have much to prove.
“There’s always a chip on your shoulder,” he said. “We have a lot of doubters out there. That’s OK. We’re just working on ourselves.”