Pitt’s Taysir Mack and Maurice Ffrench cook up saucy passing attack
Two years ago, Pitt wide receiver Taysir Mack knew he wanted to transfer from Indiana. He didn’t know where he might end up, but he was willing to take a chance because he liked his odds.
After all, he was betting on himself.
“When I transferred, I felt like I took a gamble on myself,” he said. “I wasn’t too sure where I was going to go. I knew God had a plan, and I felt like it was my job to follow.”
So, one day, he was in Pat Narduzzi’s office, still unsure of his next school.
“Me and Duzz sat in his office, and he asked me, ‘What do you want?’ ”
Pitt’s coach wasn’t talking about lunch.
“I picked up (a replica of the Biletnikoff Trophy),” Mack said, “and he allowed me to take a picture with it.”
Decision made. Next stop: Pitt.
Mack took the picture, mounted it on a poster and put it prominently in his room on what his mom calls his Vision Board. Next to it are quotes from Martin Luther King, Barack Obama and Usain Bolt.
“Everything I idolize, that means a lot to me, goes up on the Vision Board,” Mack said, “in terms of faith, in terms of family, dreams I have, places I want to be in life, type of person I want to be.”
It’s only fitting the Biletnikoff photo is part of the board, now that Mack has been added to the award’s watch list.
You might ask what took so long.
In Pitt’s first six games, he has ascended among the top pass catchers in college football, with 41 receptions for 511 yards and two touchdowns. Mack joins teammate Maurice Ffrench (50/396/2) to create what they call “Big Mac and French Fries” and the most prolific pass-catching duo in the FBS (91/907/4).
“We make each other’s jobs easier,” Mack said. “You can’t think about one without thinking about the other.”
When Mack shows up for practice, he sees a picture of former Pitt wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald with the 2003 Biletnikoff Trophy.
“I tell myself, I’m coming for this,” Mack said.
Mack has plenty of competition for the award, including last year’s winner, Jerry Jeudy of Alabama, but it’s not his only goal.
He proudly described a big block he threw at a Duke defender last week that sprung Ffrench after one of his 10 receptions.
“You should have seen it,” he said. “Seen the dude, cracked him. Stood up, yeah. It was a cool play.
“I didn’t come here and say, ‘All right, cool, I’m here, now, throw me the ball.’ ”
He said he was proud to block for Pitt’s two 1,000-yard running backs last season and is willing to share the acclaim with Ffrench now.
Together, they are on pace to gain 1,800 yards through the air. At the moment, Pitt leads the nation in pass attempts (265), even though Washington State will re-claim first place Saturday after the Panthers take the weekend off.
Pitt (4-2) has played one more game than nine ACC teams, but its total of 1,660 aerial yards leads the conference and is 12th in the nation.
Pitt wide receivers coach Chris Beatty said the players are buying into offensive coordinator Mark Whipple’s system.
“They see the system has given them opportunities they might not have had in the past,” Beatty said. “Those guys, they want to do well. They study. They work at it. It’s important to them. Every little detail they try to write down and take notes.”
Meanwhile, with the week off, Beatty has taken the news of Pitt’s successful passing game and spread the word on the recruiting trail.
“At the end of the day, everybody wants touches,” he said, “and that’s what you sell people on … being able to get guys in so they can touch the ball and have opportunities to be Larry Fitzgerald or Antonio Bryant (Pitt’s two Biletnikoff winners).
“I hope they notice that. I definitely bring it up.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .