Football

University of Pittsburgh Utilizes Transfer Portal to Fill Key Positions

Tagged under: District 7, News, Pennsylvania Colleges

Ryan Thielet | January 13, 2024

Pitt Football joyfully introduced 19 new signees on National Signing Day. Furthermore, they have successfully recruited the talents of 10 notable transfers, including a standout quarterback from the previous year’s high school class. Kade Bell, the new offensive coordinator, has now found the pieces he needed to tailor his fast-paced offense.

Pitt kicks off the defensive reinforcements by welcoming former Kansas State linebacker and three-star recruit Nate Matlack. Standing at an impressive 6’5″ and weighing 250 pounds, Matlack boasts experience from playing in 39 games. In the previous year, he recorded impressive stats with 39 tackles, 16 for loss, and 9.5 sacks while serving as a rotational player for Kansas State. This acquisition is a significant boost for Pitt, addressing concerns in their defense, particularly in stopping the run and applying pressure on the QB.

Continuing the defensive upgrades, Pitt secures its next transfer from the University of Ohio in the form of Keye Thompson. Standing at 6-1 and weighing 239 pounds, Thompson, a former two-star player from high school, has proven that star ratings don’t define his performance. In the previous year, he showcased his prowess with an impressive total of 94 tackles, including 42 solo tackles, 52 assists, and 1.5 sacks. Thompson emerges as a valuable asset for Pitt, bringing his skills as a tackling machine and demonstrating excellence against the run.

Pitt’s upcoming transfer hails from within their conference, as David Ojiegbe makes the move from Clemson to join the Panthers. Ojiegbe, a former 4-star talent, stands tall at 6’3″ and weighs 240 pounds. Although he has yet to play a college game, being a sophomore upon arrival at Pitt, this presents a promising opportunity for the team. The Panthers can shape and develop this star player to seamlessly align with their style of play.

Pittsburgh’s next addition from the transfer portal is a familiar name to the coaching staff – Nick James, a former 3-star defensive tackle from the University of Indiana Hoosiers. Interestingly, James was initially recruited by Pitt but ultimately chose Indiana. Standing at 6-2 and weighing 282 pounds, he did not see playing time as a freshman last year. However, now at Pitt, he has an opportunity to contribute to a defensive line in need of reinforcement. This will be the last defensive player to come to Pitt from the portal.

Starting with the offensive additions, Pitt brings in running back Desmond Reid from Western Carolina, the same school where the new offensive coordinator, Kade Bell, originated. Reid, a former three-star talent, maybe compact at 5-8 and 170 pounds, but his on-field performance in Coach Bell’s system speaks volumes. He carried the ball 131 times for an impressive 897 yards, averaging 6.8 yards per carry, and scored 13 touchdowns. Reid’s versatility shines through with 21 receptions for 283 yards, averaging 13.1 yards per reception. This strategic acquisition not only bolsters Pitt’s running back room but also brings in a player familiar with Kade Bell’s system, adding another valuable weapon to the offensive arsenal.

Continuing with the offensive, Pitt introduces wide receiver Raphael Williams Jr., formerly of the San Diego Aztecs. Williams, a three-star talent from high school, initially played under Kade Bell at Western Carolina before making the move to San Diego State. While at Western Carolina, he showcased his skills with 47 receptions for 658 total yards, averaging 14 yards per reception, and scoring 6 touchdowns. Despite not playing at San Diego due to NCAA regulations, Williams brings a proven track record and becomes another weapon for an overhauled offense looking to bounce back from a subpar performance in the previous year.

Adding to the offensive roster, Pitt welcomes wide receiver CJ Lee from Western Carolina. Lee, a former three-star talent, stands at 5’11 and weighs 170 pounds. Notably, he is another player who previously played under Kade Bell and committed to Pitt upon Bell’s acceptance of the offensive coordinator position. In the past year under Coach Bell’s guidance, Lee showcased his skills with 46 receptions for an impressive 792 yards, boasting an average of 17.2 yards per catch and scoring 8 touchdowns. His arrival strengthens the Panthers’ offense and reunites him with two former teammates, contributing to the overall offensive prowess.

Pittsburgh secures another ACC athlete in the form of Lyndon Cooper, a former NC State Wolf Pack offensive lineman. Cooper brings crucial support to the interior offensive line, standing at an impressive 6’5 and weighing 315 pounds. Despite limited playtime last year due to injury, where he participated in just 14 snaps towards the end of the season, his substantial size adds valuable depth to the Panthers’ offensive line.

Pittsburgh strengthens its tight end room with the addition of Jake Overman, a 6’4, 244-pound blocking tight end from Oregon State. As a fifth-year player, Overman brings experience and a specialized skill set in blocking to the Panthers. This strategic acquisition enhances Pitt’s versatility and provides valuable support in the blocking game.

Pittsburgh continues its trend of utilizing the transfer portal for quarterbacks, with the latest addition being former Alabama quarterback Eli Holstein. In 2022, they brought in Kedon Slovis, and in 2023, it was Phil Jurkovec and Christen Veilleux. These quarterbacks did not play to Coach Narduzzi’s expectations. Coach Narduzzi expresses the hope that this trend will change with Holstein.

Hailing from Louisiana, Holstein was a top recruit. While he didn’t play in his freshman year at Alabama, his senior season in high school showcased his talent. He threw for an impressive 65% completion rate, completing 159 of 244 passes for 2,153 yards with 22 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Adding to his versatility, he ran 64 times for 505 total yards and nine touchdowns.

Holstein arrives at Pitt as a sophomore, ready to compete for the QB1 role alongside Nate Yarnell and Christen Veilleux. Coach Narduzzi is optimistic about Holstein’s potential to meet and exceed expectations for the Panthers.

Indeed, the University of Pittsburgh has strategically utilized the transfer portal to address key positions where they faced challenges in the previous year. The additions span various positions, enhancing both the offensive and defensive sides of the team.

Offensively, the acquisition of former players under Coach Kade Bell demonstrates a deliberate effort to align the roster with Bell’s new offensive playstyle. This not only adds talent but also players familiar with the system, promoting cohesion and efficiency.

Defensively, the emphasis on key roles to stop the run addresses a significant challenge faced by the team in the past. These targeted additions aim to fortify the defense and provide solutions to areas that need improvement.

Overall, the use of the transfer portal reflects a comprehensive strategy by the University of Pittsburgh to strengthen its team, creating a well-rounded and competitive roster for the upcoming season.

For more University of Pittsburgh Football news follow @gingeryinzer09 on Twitter.

Follow PA Football News on Twitter @PaFootballNews

 

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