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May 14, 2015
by Jerry DiPaola


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Awaiting Commissioner Swofford on final day of ACC spring meetings

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AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — Nothing against Florida and its fabulous weather, but it’s time to go home.
Thursday is the last day of the ACC spring meetings for another year. Should be an early one, too. Word is Commissioner John Swofford’s news conference will be early enough for him — and me — to catch our flights home.
Looks like I’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep before a 10 a.m. appearance Friday on Trib Live Radio’s “Sports Reporters” with Ken Laird, Guy Junker and Josh Taylor. Sorry I missed you guys Tuesday.
You have to have your running shoes on here to catch up with all the coaches and athletic directors moving in and out of meeting rooms. And many of them have better things to do than talk to reporters. If you can imagine that.
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi has been a popular chatting partner with the assembled ACC media. He’s smart, open, insightful and likes to gab about football.
Before he left the meetings Wednesday, he expressed his support for wireless communications between players and coaches in college football.
“There’s some signal-stealing going on out there,” he said in a rare example of candor by a college football coach.
The NCAA has said it plans to experiment with the technology this year and, possibly, make it part of the game by 2016.
“Now, like the NFL does, a recorder where I can talk to my middle linebacker, that needs to be done,” Narduzzi said. “They can’t steal our signals as much.”

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May 13, 2015
by Jerry DiPaola


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Speaking of Pat Narduzzi, Dan Radakovich and Condoleeza Rice

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Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi isn’t fond of the fifth-year transfer rule that allows graduates to leave their school with eligibility remaining.
“They get to go play somewhere else and wear another color jersey,” he said. “It’s not a good landscape.”
He cited a hypothetical example of wide receiver Tyler Boyd – or any high-profile player — graduating and deciding after signing day to transfer.
“What does that do for Pitt?” Narduzzi said. “You could have used that scholarship on a kid.”
In reality, Narduzzi was a victim of the transfer rule in 2011 when Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson, who came from North Carolina State for one season, threw three touchdown passes in a 42-39 Big Ten Championship game victory against Michigan State.
“If Russell Wilson is not on that Wisconsin football team, we win another Big Ten championship,” said Narduzzi, who matched wits that day with Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst.
There was plenty of talk this week at the ACC Spring meetings about altering the rule. Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes suggested fifth-year transfers could sit out their first year at a new school.

Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich spent several minutes with reporters talking about his first year on the College Football Playoff committee.
He called fellow committee member and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice “the most fascinating women I had ever met.”
“She lent a lot of really great information and understanding about the sport,” he said. “She took this task to hand. She is a very smart individual. She came prepared, she understood and really moved the process forward.”
Radakovich was struck by Rice’s popularity when committee members went to dinner in Washington D.C.
“She couldn’t move 2 or 3 feet (without someone stopping her). People who were seated to the wait staff to everyone. They would just come up and speak to her. She is so gracious with her time.”

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May 12, 2015
by Jerry DiPaola


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ACC spring meetings offer more than sun and palm trees

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AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — You might think the best things about covering the ACC spring meetings here would be waking up next to the sun-drenched Atlantic Ocean, temperatures in the low 80s or perhaps the fresh-caught seafood served in the Ritz-Carlton.
Forget it.
I’m staying off-site in Jacksonville (the Ritz has rooms for $499 a night and doesn’t offer Marriott points), and I drive by the beaches but otherwise I might as well be in Alaska.
So, the best thing is getting to meet and interview some of the ACC power brokers, including one of college sports’ biggest — Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick.
A few of the dozen or so reporters here (every newspaper from an ACC city doesn’t send a rep, so kudos to the Trib) cornered Swarbrick on Monday, and one of the topics was Notre Dame’s departing quarterback Everett Golson.
Golson is taking advantage of the NCAA’s fifth-year transfer rule in which he can transfer to another school because he has graduated. Pitt football and basketball are currently taking advantage of that rule.
“I’m not in favor of eliminating it,” Swarbrick said, and he gave a good reason why.
“If our primary mission is education and we certify that a young man or woman has earned a degree from our university,” he said, “I am certifying they are OK to work for Price Waterhouse or a bank or go into a grad program at another school. I’m certifying they can do stuff elsewhere. I don’t think I ought to be limiting that in an athletic sphere.”
Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes doesn’t want to eliminate fifth-year transfer, but he advocates change.
“What has happened is a loophole that has been in place for years has developed a culture of free agency,” he said
“That might just simply be a year in residence. If you transfer, you have to wait a year. That could cause an individual who is supposed to transfer to get a graduate degree to actually have a chance to get a graduate degree (which can take up to two years or longer).
“If you’re going to track those individuals, very few are getting graduate degrees. That’s the loophole that needs to be closed in my mind.
“Have them transfer. Have them sit out a year. Have them really work on getting that degree and then have that year to play.”
Asked how coaches feel about the subject, Barnes said, “There is a lot of debate right now.”

Irish not blocking Golson
There were reports that Notre Dame would block Golson from transferring to Texas because the Longhorns are on the Irish’s schedule this year.
Swarbrick said that was untrue.
“We have not denied a single school that Everett Golson identified as one he has an interest in going to.”
My counter question: “Would you (for any reason)?”
“I’m not going to answer hypotheticals,” he said.
Just a guess, but Texas, Virginia, Georgia Tech, UMass, Clemson, Navy, USC, Temple, Wake Forest, Boston College, Stanford and, yes, Pitt are probably not on Golson’s list. But they are on Notre Dame’s schedule. So, Swarbrick hasn’t had to deny Golson from transferring to one of those schools.
Florida State, Alabama, South Carolina and Florida appear to be candidates, but an SEC bylaw may work against the Crimson Tide’s, Gamecocks’ and Gators’ chances. The SEC requires graduate transfers to have not been “subject to official university athletics department disciplinary action at any time during enrollment at any previous collegiate institution.”
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher created a minor stir at the ACC meetings Tuesday when he said his school is “negotiating” with Golson, technically an NCAA violation. It was a rare admission by a college coach that would give Pitt compliance officer Dan Bartholomae a strong headache if one of his coaches admitted as much.
Golson was suspended by Notre Dame for the 2013 season for academic reasons. That was a year after he led the Irish to the college football championship game. Earlier in 2012, Golson threw an interception and was briefly benched in the triple-overtime victory against Pitt. Later, he threw for the tying touchdown in regulation, totaled 74 yards rushing and scored the game-winner on a 1-yard plunge.
Yet, Golson is leaving Notre Dame because he likely would be Malik Zaire’s backup this season if he stayed.

Remember him?
The name Zaire brought back memories of former Pitt quarterback Tra’Von Chapman, who was dismissed from school in 2013 after spending time in jail on an assault charge against a former girlfriend. That happened after he enrolled early at Pitt, had attended spring practice and looked like a candidate to become the team’s quarterback of the future.
Chapman, now at Akron, was the No. 2-rated quarterback in Ohio coming out of Kent Roosevelt High School. Zaire was No. 1.

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May 10, 2015
by Jerry DiPaola


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Pitt gets a JC wide receiver

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Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi got more than a visit Saturday from junior college wide receiver Rafael Araujo-Lopes. He got a verbal commitment.
Araujo-Lopes, 5-foot-9, 193 pounds, told me on Twitter that he committed to Narduzzi during his visit to the Pitt campus. He played last season at Reedley (Calif.) College, compiling some incredible statistics (74 receptions, 1,229 yards and 17 touchdowns).
He also returned kicks, boosting his all-purpose yardage total to 1,732.
Pitt needs a complement to junior wide receiver Tyler Boyd, both on the other side of the field and in the slot. Araujo-Lopes could be an answer, and he will be eligible immediately.
Narduzzi has shown a willingness to find players from various sources. Lopes and defensive end Allen Edwards of Dean (Mass.) Junior College come from JCs. Former Michigan State defensive tackle Mark Scarpinato and defensive end Dewayne Hendrix and quarterback Nathan Peterman, the latter two from Tennessee, come from Power 5 schools. Only Hendrix must sit out the 2015 season.
Clearly, Narduzzi isn’t sitting back and hoping players will develop. He is building a stable of depth to prepare for all possibilities. Araujo-Lopes is one of four wide receivers in the recruiting class of 2015.

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May 3, 2015
by Jerry DiPaola


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Clemmings owes Hueber for helping him become a pro

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T.J. Clemmings will have several things to do when he arrives in Minnesota to become a Viking: Find a place to live, get his mail forwarded, learn the playbook.
But also on the list is taking his Pitt offensive line coach to dinner. Clemmings said Saturday after the Vikings picked him in the fourth round of the NFL Draft that he owes a lot to Jim Hueber, who spent the past three seasons on the Pitt staff.
Hueber, a former Vikings assistant coach, lives in Eden Praire, Minn., 10 minutes from the team’s practice facility. Clemmings said he plans to invite Hueber to dinner after he arrives in the Twin Cities.
Clemmings, an offensive lineman only since 2013, credits Hueber with showing him the proper techniques and pushing the right buttons.
Hueber, a veteran of four decades of uninterrupted service in college football and the NFL, was the right man at the right time for Clemmings.
“When he came over (from defense), I was very blunt with him,” Hueber said. “I told him it was going to be a deal where he had to jump in with both feet.
“I wasn’t going to back down. I wasn’t going to baby him. I didn’t feel it would do him any good, and he responded.
“We’re not kidding anybody; there were struggles, but I think he prepared himself well.”
In the end, Clemmings became the symbol for the steady improvement along Pitt’s offensive line over the past three years. And that includes the good work Hueber did as a recruiter. Finally, Pitt has some depth on its blocking unit.
I appreciated Hueber for his candor when talking about his players; his players appreciated him for pushing them beyond their perceived potential.
Hueber, 67, isn’t coaching at the moment, but he said he would welcome the right opportunity.
Somewhere, there’s a young offensive lineman who could use his help.
Couple other things:
* I spoke to Ray Vinopal on Sunday morning about his “stressful” day Saturday. After the draft, he said he received several calls from NFL teams, including the Steelers, who were only offering a tryout.
The Cowboys offered a free-agent contract, so Vinopal will be in Dallas this weekend with a pro contract in his pocket and a dream in his heart.
* Pitt quarterback commit Thomas MacVittie opened some eyes at the Elite 11 Regional Camp in Chicago on Sunday, including two that belong to former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer.
Dilfer called MacVittie a “beautiful piece of clay,” and “the most naturally gifted kid here,” according to a Tweet from Steve Wiltfong, recruiting analyst at 247 Sports.
MacVittie, who will be a senior at Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati this year, has been clocked in the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds. He stands 6-5, 210.
Moeller games might be worth a peek this season.

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May 2, 2015
by Jerry DiPaola


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Pitt’s Rotheram joins the Packers

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Pitt guard Matt Rotheram wasn’t drafted, but he agreed to terms Saturday night on a free agent contract with the Green Bay Packers.
Rotheram, a starter at Pitt since his redshirt freshman season, said the deal was finalized quickly.
“About 30 seconds after the draft,” he said, noting he received offers from more than 15 teams, including the Steelers.
“I stopped answering the phone after a little bit.”
Rotheram, 6-foot-6, 335 pounds, said he visited the Packers before the draft and developed a relationship with their coaches.
“I liked the coaches and I liked the situation with the depth (on the offensive line),” he said.
Also, Pitt safety Ray Vinopal has agreed to terms with the Dallas Cowboys. Tight end Manasseh Garner went to the Kansas City Chiefs and linebacker Todd Thomas to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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May 2, 2015
by Jerry DiPaola


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Clemmings’ draft freefall has many roots

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Quick thoughts on what must have been a frustrating two days for Pitt offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings, who was not picked through the first 99 picks and three rounds of the NFL Draft on Thursday and Friday.
Seems like NFL teams were scared by several things, not the least of which was the freefall itself. As a draft progresses, coaches, general managers and scouts see their rivals repeatedly ignore a player, and they figure, “I can get him later.” Or, they say, “Something must be wrong with this guy, and I don’t want to be the one to find out what it is.”
In Clemmings’ case, the stress fracture in his foot, an injury that didn’t keep him from starting 26 consecutive games at Pitt, was another big factor. Even though he never complained of pain and never went through rehab, according to his agent Mike McCartney.
Clemmings’ uneven play at the Senior Bowl in January, when he moved to left tackle after two years at right tackle, also didn’t help.
So, he enters the fourth round of the draft Saturday, looking like great value for some team. Teams are more apt to overlook what bothered them in earlier rounds when all that’s at stake is a fourth- or fifth-round pick.
Clemmings is a superior athlete, who will work hard, stay out of trouble and compete for playing time as a rookie. He would have done that no matter where he was chosen.
The only problem: Falling out of the first three rounds costs money.
ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell tweeted Friday night that Nebraska linebacker Randy Gregory’s fall from 13th overall — where some had projected he might go — to 60th to the Cowboys cost him $8.5 million in guaranteed money.
Clemmings will get a chance to earn back much of what he lost by having a long, productive NFL career.
To put Clemmings’ situation in its proper perspective, though, it should be noted that he never played offensive tackle in a game until September, 2013, and he spent the better part of that season merely learning the position. He never played football until his junior year of high school.
NFL teams had a hard time overlooking Clemmings’ inexperience.
Less than 2 1/2 years ago, Clemmings was a little-used Pitt defensive lineman whose draft prospects didn’t exist. Saturday, some NFL team will pick him and pay him more money than some college graduates will earn in their first job.
The NFL Draft of 2015 won’t matter because by that time, Clemmings’ destiny will be back where it belongs — in his own hands.

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April 22, 2015
by Jerry DiPaola


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Pitt’s Narduzzi grew up with the Backyard Brawl

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Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi was part of the ACC football coaches spring conference call Wednesday, and he was asked about his view on renewing the series with West Virginia.
The Backyard Brawl — dormant since 2011 — is in the news again after West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons said last week he plans to talk to Pitt officials about scheduling future games.
Narduzzi, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, said he grew up with the Backyard Brawl. His father Bill was a Pitt assistant in the 1960s.
Without getting specific, he said: “West Virginia is a great team in a great conference and we want to play the best. We are always going to schedule the best opponents we can and really embrace future and past rivalries.”
But he also didn’t want to put words in the mouth of his new boss. Pitt is on the brink of hiring an athletic director to replace Steve Pederson, who was fired Dec. 17.
“That’s something the new AD will have to answer,” Narduzzi said. “We will have those conversations when he gets here and with Chancellor (Patrick) Gallagher, as well.”
Gallagher told reporters in January that he supports bringing back the game.
“I would love to see the rivalry be a serious consideration when we put together our non-conference schedule,” he said.
The problem is that West Virginia, which can play only three non-conference games per season after its nine Big 12 dates, doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room. The Mountaineers have two non-conference games booked against FBS opponents through 2021. That leaves little room for another Power 5 game because most schools want to schedule at least one easier opponent.
Pitt operates under the same concept, but its overall situation is different. The ACC commands its teams to play only eight conference games.
“It’s not going to be two years from now,” Lyons told MetroNews in Morgantown, W.Va. “We’re probably looking at 2022 and ’23 to do a home-and-away (with Pitt), but I would love that.”
Pitt has been aggressive in its non-conference scheduling since joining the ACC.
The list of foes includes Penn State (2016-19), Oklahoma State (’16 and ’17), Marshall (’16 and ’20) and Tennessee (’21 and ’22). Plus, the Panthers will play Notre Dame through the Irish’s partnership with the ACC in 2018, 2023 and 2025.
Here are West Virginia’s non-conference opponents for the next 10 years:
2015 – Georgia Southern, Maryland
2016 – Missouri, BYU (in Washington, D.C.)
2017 – Virginia Tech (in Washington D.C.), East Carolina
2018 – Tennessee (in Charlotte), at North Carolina State
2019 – at Missouri, N.C. State
2020 – Maryland, at East Carolina
2021 – at Maryland, Virginia Tech
2022 – at Virginia Tech
2023 – at Penn State
2024 – Penn State
Bottom line is the Backyard Brawl will be back. But the players who will participate are still in grammar school.

The other bit of news from the Narduzzi conference call concerns senior offensive lineman Artie Rowell, who missed spring drills while rehabilitating a knee injury. Narduzzi said he expects Rowell to be “full go” when the coach-less summer conditioning program begins May 10.
Narduzzi said Rowell will compete for playing time at center, where he started 15 consecutive games before his injury Sept. 5 at Boston College, and guard.
“We are going to find a way to get him in there,” Narduzzi said. “Artie, one way or another, competition-wise, is going to find himself somewhere in that guard/center position.”
Rowell’s recovery sets up interesting position battles in August.
Will Rowell, perhaps the smartest lineman on the team, displace center Alex Officer, one of the guards (Dorian Johnson or Alex Bookser) or become a valuable reserve?
In any case, it’s nice to have a little depth.

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April 20, 2015
by Jerry DiPaola


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Voytik’s next project: Organizing spring/summer drills at Pitt

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A college football quarterback’s work is never done, not even in the spring when everyone else is making vacation plans or taking a deep breath from eight months of almost non-stop football and academics.
Such is the case with Pitt’s Chad Voytik, who said his next project is to organize the team for its spring/summer workouts. Per NCAA regulations, coaches aren’t permitted to join the players for these off-season sessions (if a football is in use).
Spring/summer workouts at Pitt will start soon after the end of the winter/spring semester. Commencement is scheduled for Sunday, and you can expect Voytik to organize the troops not long after that.
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has put Voytik in charge.
“Within coach Chaney’s offense, he expects the quarterback to organize things and get things rolling,” Voytik said.
At some point this spring, transfer quarterback Nathan Peterman will join the group. Peterman was finishing classes and getting ready to graduate from Tennessee; so, hed did not participate in spring drills at Pitt.
But Chaney will have a near SRO quarterback room this season, with five guys crowding around the video machine. In addition to Voytik, Peterman, redshirt freshman Adam Bertke and sophomore walkon Nate Bossory , freshman Ben DiNucci will enroll after he graduates from Pine-Richland.
I still get the occasional question about whether Peterman can challenge Voytik for the starting job. My response is the same now as it was before spring drills: I doubt it very much.
Voytik is entrenched as the starter, not only based on his productive play in the second half of last season, but also how he goes about his business.
He’s in his playbook constantly and he takes time out of his busy academic schedule to watch video with Chaney on a regular basis. He did the same with Paul Chryst last season.
That fact is not lost on his teammates; in fact, James Conner mentioned it Saturday after the spring game.
Peterman is a talented quarterback with some experience in his background. He started two games at Tennessee last season. But Voytik would have to stumble dramatically in training camp (very unlikely) or get hurt for Peterman to play much this season. Peterman is there as veteran insurance, something Pitt didn’t have before he signed his letter of intent.

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April 19, 2015
by Jerry DiPaola


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Final thoughts and some numbers from Pitt’s spring game

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After several hours to think about Pitt’s Blue-Gold spring game Saturday — what occurred and what it means — here are my takes:
— I thought quarterback Chad Voytik threw the ball well. He completed only 11 of 24 passes for 177 yards, but receivers dropped at least two passes that would have pushed him over 200 yards. His balls had zip, and he played with confidence — even though he’s only had three months and 15 live sessions to learn the new offense.
— I think Voytik to Tyler Boyd will be one of the best pitch-and-catch combinations in the ACC this year.
James Conner has a sore shoulder and didn’t play past the midway point of the second quarter. Yet, when he was in there, he didn’t come off the field, blocking in pass protection and gaining 13 yards on a pass play when the defense seemed to have him cornered.
— Conner is as courageous and selfless as any Pitt player in the past five seasons. His shoulder needs rest. Summer is coming at the right time for him.
— Cornerback Avonte Maddox may have been the best cornerback this spring. At 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, he’s unafraid to mix it up with guys who stand over him and have him by about 30 pounds. Pitt has needed toughness on defense for a long time. Maddox could help bring it.
— Nose guard Tyrique Jarrett, an Allderdice grad, is an intimidating force at 6-3, 335 (his listed weight). He still needs to prove he can do it against ACC opponents, but he led the Gold team with six tackles, three for a loss. There is a short list of City League graduates who have made an impact at Pitt (Curtis Martin and Rod Rutherford come to mind and both were in Highmark Stadium on Saturday), and Jarrett may join them before the end of the season.
— Did anyone notice that tight ends J.P. Holtz and Scott Orndoff had no catches? At 6-5, 260, Orndoff is a nice target and Holtz has sure hands. Maybe I need to watch video with coaches to figure out why they were ignored, but I’m guessing offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has plans for both of them later this year.
— I was glad to hear coach Pat Narduzzi say he wants to bring the spring game back to Heinz Field. Highmark is a nice place, but the game belongs at Heinz where the Panthers play.
Here are a few numbers compiled by Pitt’s stat crew:
Gold rushing (carries/yards)
Rachid Ibrahim – 11/28
Chris James — 9/18
Blue rushing
Qadree Ollison – 20/54
James Conner – 5/11/1TD
Chad Voytik – 4/3
Comment: These numbers surprised me, but perhaps there really is something to Narduzzi saying he wants to stop the run.
Gold passing (Completions/attempts/interceptions/yards/sacks/TDs)
Adam Bertke – 14/30/1/162/1/1
Blue passing
Chad Voytik
– 11/25/0/177/1/1
Comment: Pitt still has a ways to go in trying to build quarterback depth.
Gold receiving – Catches/yards (Receptions/yards)
Zach Challingsworth – 4/79
Chris James — 3/34
Dontez Ford – 2/52
Rachid Ibrahim – 2/3
Blue receiving
Tyler Boyd – 6/112
Elijah Zeise – 1/26
Jaymar Parrish – 1/15
James Conner – 1/13
Jaquaun Davidson — 4 1/9
Comment: The wide receiver depth is better, but still not good enough.
Gold defense
Tyrique Jarrett – 6 tackles, 3 for a loss
Terrish Webb – 5 tackles, 1 for a loss
Bam Bradley – 4 tackles, 3 for a loss
Avonte Maddox – 4 tackles, 2 for a loss, 1 sack
Jevonte Pitts — 4 tackles
Phillipie Motley – 3 tackles
Nicholas Grigsby – 2 tackles, 1 for a loss
James Folston – 2 tackles
Malik Henderson – 2 tackles
Darryl Render – 2 tackles, 1 for a loss
Blue defense
Reggie Mitchell – 6 tackles, 1 forced fumble
Ejuan Price – 4 tackles, 2 for a loss, 1 sack, 2 hurries
Oluwaseun Idowu — 4 tackles
George Aston — 4 tackles
Ryan Lewis – 4 tackles, 2 pass breakups
Justin Moody — 3 tackles, 1 for a loss
Comment: Keep an eye on Bradley and Price. They could be the playmakers Pitt needs on defense.

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