Pitt Names Kedon Slovis Starting QB: USC Transfer To Lead Panthers Against West Virginia In Backyard Brawl

USC transfer Kedon Slovis has been named Pitt’s starting quarterback for the Panthers’ Week 1 rivalry game against West Virginia on Sept. 1, coach Pat Narduzzi announced Wednesday. Slovis beat out veteran backup Nick Patti to win the job, with Narduzzi noting that Slovis’ accuracy set him apart in the race.

Although the Panthers lost star quarterback Kenny Pickett and Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison at receiver from last season’s ACC championship team, expectations remain high for the program, which is ranked No. 17 in the AP Preseason Top 25.

With a veteran offensive line, a proven running back in Israel Abanikanda and some talent in the back room, Slovis should have the tools around him to orchestrate one of the ACC’s best offenses. Slovis threw for 7,576 yards and 58 touchdowns in three seasons with the Trojans before announcing in December his plan to join the Pitt program. His decision to leave USC coincided with the program’s coaching transition from Clay Helton to Lincoln Riley and the subsequent addition of former Oklahoma star quarterback Caleb Williams through the transfer portal.

The Panthers also face a big game in Week 2 as they host Tennessee. Pittsburgh then faces a Week 3 road test against a Western Michigan program that was one of only two teams to hand the Panthers a regular-season loss in 2021.

An injury-plagued journey

Injuries have, in many ways, defined Slovis’ college career. The former three-star prospect looked like a possible redshirt candidate as a true freshman in 2019 until then-linebacker JT Daniels, now at West Virginia, went down midway through the season opener against Fresno State with a hamstring injury. the knee Slovis entered and finished the year ranked seventh nationally in passing efficiency while earning Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year honors.

Then, as a junior in 2021, it was an injury to Slovis in the third game of the season against Washington State that led to an opportunity for another true freshman, Jaxson Dart. Although Slovis returned the following week, he and Dart both played over the next few weeks before Dart took over the starting job permanently in mid-November. If Slovis can recapture the form he showed as a freshman in 2019, the Panthers will be in great shape at the position.

Strong targets remain

While it’s true that five of Pittsburgh’s top seven receivers from last season are gone, including Addison, there are some talented targets on the roster. The Panthers landed Akron transfer Konata Mumpfield, who caught 63 passes for 751 yards and eight touchdowns for the Zips last season.

Last year’s second-leading receiver, Jared Wayne, also returns after catching 47 passes for 658 yards and six touchdowns. The 6-foot-3 target could be in line for an All-ACC type of season as he gets some of Addison’s targets. Sophomore tight end Gavin Bartholomew is also a weapon after catching 28 passes for 326 yards and four touchdowns as a true freshman.

Running another system

Pitt will likely rely on the ground game more than last year, and that’s a departure from the offense Slovis operated at USC as well. With last year’s offensive lineman Mark Whipple leaving for Nebraska, Frank Cignetti Jr. is now calling the plays for the Panthers after spending the past two seasons as the offensive coordinator and running backs coach at Boston College.

BC only ran the football 40.3% of the time last season, though some of that can be attributed to injury issues with star quarterback Phil Jurkovec. However, that mark stands in stark contrast to Pittsburgh’s 53.3% pass rate last season and the 56.5% mark USC posted last season, the latter of which ranked 8th nationally.

Narduzzi made it clear in a live appearance with a Pittsburgh car dealership that driving the ball will be more of a priority this season.

“Our old offensive coordinator didn’t want to run the ball,” Narduzzi said. “Everybody knew that. He was stubborn. I mean, Wake Forest, 118th in run defense and we threw the ball every down.

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