Tuesday’s opening day is not the most anticipated of the few big college football seasons’ opening days.
It’s not as significant as the beginning of preseason practice or, for sure, the opening day of a season.
But this unusually chilly Tuesday morning at the indoor venue of the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex was unique because it marked the first occasion the 2023 Pitt Panthers came together for an official on-field workout.
Whatever happens with Pitt’s season, the first spring exercise signaled the start of play.
Jake Kradel, an offensive lineman who graduated from Butler and will be joining the team for a sixth season, said, “I enjoy it. “This (his first spring practice) is just as much joy as Day 1,” he said.
Kradel isn’t the only Pitt athlete or teacher who was excited to take the field for the first of the authorized practices scheduled from Tuesday until the yearly Blue-Gold Game on April 15.
It’s thrilling whenever you get to play your first spring game, according to senior offensive tackle Matt Goncalves. The best moment of your life is when you’re getting ready to grind with your brothers out here.
I adore it.
Twelve newcomers, including five transfers, were formally greeted to a practice environment by the returning players. No newcomer is more well-known than sixth-year quarterback Phil Jurkovec, a standout at Pine-Richland High School who transferred to Pitt from Boston College and Notre Dame (where he spent two seasons) (24 starts over the past three years).
He joins true freshmen Ty Dieffenbach and Christian Veilleux, a former Penn State quarterback, as newbies to a position group that also includes Nate Yarnell, a scholarship holdover. But Jurkovec is the overwhelming choice to replace the subsequently transferred Kedon Slovis as Pitt’s starter.
Jurkovec made throws and practiced footwork during the first part of the session that was available to the media. Even though there are still dozens of on-field practices to complete before joining the squad, Jurkovec isn’t having too much trouble adjusting to a new offense. Frank Cignetti Jr., who is currently the offensive coordinator for the Panthers, served as Jurkovec’s offensive assistant for his first two years at Boston College.
Therefore, compared to the majority of the rest of his new offensive partners, Jurkovec has twice as much experience playing in a Cignetti offense. Cignetti had only been around the athletes for a few weeks last year when spring practice started.
On Tuesday, their degree of comfort with one another was already well-established.
It’s fantastic. Now, we are aware of the inquiries, Kradel said. “We’re not speculating. We are moving forward at the top pace and not pausing to ask, “Oh, is it this or that?” No, we are just moving forward quickly.
While 11 starters are returning on offense and defense, high-profile holes need to be filled. The candidates for first-team positions had their first official, on-field auditions on Tuesday.
How do we locate him? Randy Bates, the defensive coach, responded to a direct question about finding the next Dennis by saying, Yeah, he’s going to be here. I can assure you. We’ve located them. We’ll track down another one. We’ll shuffle the men around and discover who that is. Five years ago, did you people know who Calijah Kancey was?
Bates argued that Pitt’s future nucleus could be found among the younger players and/or newcomers on the field on Tuesday. Moments earlier, he had stressed it once more.
“Let me say it this way: (All-Americans) The year after Patrick Jones and Rashad Weaver finished (in 2020), we had the most sacks in the nation.
“Therefore, we anticipate “the next man up.”
Senior cornerback M.J. Devonshire explained the purpose of the 15 practices: “To see what those (new starters and contributors) like, what makes them happy, and how we can play together well.”