Pittsburgh Panthers

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Pitt safety Jordan Whitehead declares for NFL Draft

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After three seasons in a Pitt football uniform, safety Jordan Whitehead is ready to turn pro. Whitehead announced his intention to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft on Monday morning with a brief statement.

“After much thought and discussion with my family, I have decided to begin preparing for the next step in my career and enter the 2018 NFL Draft,” Whitehead said in a released statement, via Twitter. “It has been an honor and a privilege to play for this university, Coach [Pat Narduzzi], and this coaching staff for the past three years. I would like to thank them for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime, but feel I am ready to take the next step in achieving my dreams.”

The former ACC Rookie of the Year and three-time All-ACC player will be one of the top underclassmen at the safety position on the NFL Draft board in the spring. He is the second Pitt player to declare for the NFL a year early, joining wide receiver Quadree Henderson in doing so.

Whitehead had one interception and 60 tackles in nine games this season. Whitehead also picked up some assignments in the running game and special teams, showcasing his ability to contribute in a variety of ways for the Panthers, and that could be used to improve his draft outlook moving forward.

Want some awards dessert? Take a bite of the Piesman Trophy

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Thursday night, the Home Depot College Football Awards show served s a heaping helping of trophy appetizers.  Saturday night, the main course, Baker Mayfield’s official coronation the Heisman Trophy, will be served.  In between, dinner etiquette will be contravened as dessert is on the menu later today.

SBNation‘s Piesman Trophy is an award that originated in 2015 that honors, well, fat guys at any level of college football.  Specifically, fat guys, i.e. offensive or defensive linemen, who do something with a football in their hands, whether it be run with it or catch it or throw it.

The 2017 version of the Fatty will be announced Friday night, and you can watch it live on SBNation‘s YouTube channel.  There are three finalists for this year’s award — St. Francis’ Louie Gartner, Wyoming’s Carl Granderson (pictured, No. 91) and Heidelberg’s Brock Riggs.

For those interested, you can see the plays that earned that hefty trio a spot amongst the finalists, as well as others who were considered, by clicking HERE.

Incidentally, last year’s winner was Pitt’s Brian O’Neill.

Pitt, Pat Narduzzi agree on new seven-year deal

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Despite the worst of his three seasons with the ACC program, Pat Narduzzi has been rewarded for the work he’s done in Pittsburgh.

The head coach, Pitt confirmed late Wednesday morning, has signed a new seven-year deal with the university.  Narduzzi’s old deal left him signed through the 2021 season; he’s now signed through the 2024 season.

There is no word yet on what type of financial bump there was for Narduzzi, who made just north of $1.8 million in 2017 according to the USA Today coaches salary database.  That number was 11th amongst ACC head coaches.

“We’re thrilled Pat Narduzzi is our head football coach,” a statement from athletic director Heather Lyke began. “We are deeply committed to helping him, his staff and his student-athletes achieve at the highest levels in the ACC and nationally. Coach Narduzzi is a tireless worker, dynamic leader and passionate about building outstanding relationships with our student-athletes and everyone connected to our Pitt family. He and his staff are fully dedicated to building a national-caliber program the right way, on and off the field.”

Narduzzi has gone 21-17 in his three seasons at Pitt.  According to the school, those 21 wins are the most victories by a Pitt coach in his first three years since Jackie Sherrill (28 wins from 1977-79).

Two of Narduzzi’s wins have come against the No. 2 team in the country, with Miami being the most recent victim.

After going 8-5 the first two years, the Panthers slipped to 5-7 in 2017.

“I am tremendously blessed to work with such great leadership at the University of Pittsburgh in Athletic Director Heather Lyke and Chancellor Patrick Gallagher,” Narduzzi said. “When I initially accepted the head coaching position at Pitt three years ago this month, I said we could achieve great things if we were all moving in the same direction. Thanks to Chancellor Gallagher and Heather, we are all definitely moving in the same direction with a shared vision for excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community.

“It is a tremendous honor to be the head football coach at Pitt. My family and I are extremely appreciative of the opportunity to be part of this great university and city.”

Pitt loses wide receiver to NFL, running back to dismissal

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A little over a week after its bowl-less 2017 season came to an end, Pitt has seen its 2018 offensive playmaking depth depleted.

On his personal Twitter account Monday, Quadree Henderson announced that he has “reached the decision to forego my final year at the University of Pittsburgh to pursue my dream and enter the 2018 NFL draft.” The wide receiver and return specialist made the decision after consulting with his parents.

This season, Henderson caught 17 passes for 186 yards and ran for another 251, not scoring a touchdown in either phase of the game that way.  In 2016, he accounted for 917 yards from scrimmage (631 receiving, 286 rushing).  He also had five rushing touchdowns and one receiving last season.

With another two punt returns for touchdowns this season, Henderson finished with seven such scores in his career.  That’s two off the FBS all-time record of nine set by Washington’s Dante Pettis earlier this year.

In addition to Pettis, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also reported that running back Chawntez Moss has been dismissed from the football program.  In early October, Moss was suspended for and didn’t travel to the Syracuse game.

One year after rushing for 227 yards, Moss ran for 116 in 2017.

Pitt stuns No. 2 Miami, ends Hurricanes’ perfect season

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Pitt’s done gone and done it again.

On Dec. 1, 2007, a 4-7 Pitt team stunned second-ranked West Virginia in a 13-9 upset in Morgantown, costing the Mountaineers a spot in the BCS title game.  Just a week shy of the 10th anniversary of that upset, 4-7 Pitt played host to second-ranked Miami — and the Panthers did it again, jumping out to a 10-7 halftime lead before holding on away for a 24-14 win.  The loss ends the Hurricanes’ nation’s-best winning streak at 16 games in a row.

Thanks in very large part to Pitt’s defense, Miami’s offense could muster next to nothing on the day, churning out just 176 yards of offense while the game was still within reach (they finished with 234).  True freshman quarterback Kenny Pickett, however, seemingly put the game out of reach when, on a fourth-and-five, scampered nearly untouched on a naked bootleg for a 22-yard touchdown that made it a three-score game with just under three minutes remaining.

However, a U touchdown less a minute later made it a 10-point deficit with 2:16 left in the fourth, with the Hurricanes recovering an onsides kick on the ensuing kickoff to give them a flicker of hope; a Malik Rosier fumble on that next possession snuffed out said flicker.

This is actually the third time in a decade the Panthers have knocked off the No. 2 team in the country, including last year’s dumping of Clemson — a fact that head coach Pat Narduzzi used in calling his shot to his team at halftime.

For The U, it’s a potentially crippling loss.  Or, it could mean almost nothing.

Playing with fire for most of the season — they trailed at the half in five of their 11 games, including today — the Hurricanes finally got burned; whether it’s a first-, second- or third-degree burn remains to be seen.  The good news for The U is they will still face No. 3 Clemson in the ACC championship game next weekend, with the winner likely (maybe) (possibly) earning a spot in the College Football Playoff.  This loss, though, erases any margin of error the Hurricanes had heading into that game as they won’t make the playoffs as a two-loss at-large team.