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Pitt notebook: QB Max Browne out for season after shoulder surgery

Jerry DiPaola
| Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, 1:51 p.m.
Pitt quarterback Max Browne walks out of the locker room after leaving the game with an injury during the second half against Syracuse on Saturday at the Carrier Dome.
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Pitt quarterback Max Browne walks out of the locker room after leaving the game with an injury during the second half against Syracuse on Saturday at the Carrier Dome.
Pitt quarterback Max Browne scrambles against Georgia Tech linebacker Victor Alexander during the second half Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Atlanta.
Pitt quarterback Max Browne scrambles against Georgia Tech linebacker Victor Alexander during the second half Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Atlanta.

Max Browne's only season at Pitt is over.

Coach Pat Narduzzi on Thursday said Browne, a fifth-year senior quarterback, had shoulder surgery Wednesday and will be out for the season.

Browne was injured in the third quarter Saturday at Syracuse when he was sacked by Orange defensive end Alton Robinson.

Browne transferred from USC after last season, with the intent of salvaging a career that started full of promise when he was the No. 1-ranked high school quarterback in the nation in 2012.

He made only three starts at USC — all last season — before he was benched in favor of Sam Darnold.

At Pitt, he started all but one of the first six games, completing 96 of 135 passes for 997 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions.

“It's difficult for anybody,” Narduzzi said. “I don't care if it's a senior who transferred in or a freshman. It's difficult anytime you lose a guy for the year.

“It's something he's worked hard for. The entire year goes into that. To end it with a surgery is not the way you want it planned out.

“My heart goes out to him and his family.”

Narduzzi estimated Browne might be able to resume throwing in seven or eight weeks.

DiNucci still learning

Narduzzi said Browne's replacement, sophomore Ben DiNucci, has prepared well over the past four days, but added, “He's still a baby.”

DiNucci made his only collegiate start Sept. 23 at Georgia Tech.

“That's a key position to lose an experienced guy,” Narduzzi said, “but even Max was a young guy when you think about his experience as a starting quarterback.

“But he was an older, more mature person who studied the game and really prepared like a pro.”

A ‘plan' for Pickett

There is a plan to work freshman Kenny Pickett into the mix, but Narduzzi was cryptic about it.

When he was asked how he would get Pickett into a game if DiNucci is playing well, Narduzzi said, “We have to (get him in the game).”

“That's kind of our thoughts going in, telling Ben this is what we're going to try to do and try to stick with that plan. Sometimes, you have a plan going in and sometimes the plans change.”

Of DiNucci, he said, “He knows he's the guy, and he knows Kenny Pickett is also a good football player.”

This is how it's done

Narduzzi said he expects the regular running backs to be motivated by safety Jordan Whitehead's success running the ball.

“If I was a tailback and I was watching No. 9 go in there and run like he does, I'd be saying, ‘You don't need to put him in there. I can do the same thing.'

“I'd take it as a challenge. It would get my motor going.”

Keeping count

Coaches will continue to count Whitehead's plays to make sure he's not worn out in the fourth quarter.

If Whitehead needs a break from defense, some combination of Bricen Garner, Damar Hamlin and Dennis Briggs will man the free and strong safety positions.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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