Pitt football notebook: Jeff George Jr. named backup QB
When Jeff George Jr. threw an incomplete pass during a fake punt attempt against Notre Dame, it didn’t hurt his standing in Pitt’s quarterback pecking order.
Coach Pat Narduzzi said Monday that George, who didn’t join the team until after training camp and wasn’t listed on the depth chart until prior to the third game, has ascended to the backup quarterback job.
“Right now, Jeff would be the guy,” Narduzzi said when asked who would step in for Kenny Pickett, if a change became necessary. “Jeff’s come in and really picked stuff up well.”
Junior college transfer Ricky Town, the former No. 1 backup who enrolled in January, is third on the depth chart.
“We have confidence in Ricky, as well,” Narduzzi said.
George, a redshirt junior, began his collegiate career at Illinois, where he spent three seasons (2015-17). He started five games last season before transferring to Michigan earlier this year. He left Michigan at the end of training camp to enroll at Pitt.
George (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) completed 132 of 275 pass attempts for 1,743 yards, 11 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in two seasons at Illinois. He is the son of Jeff George, the 1990 No. 1 overall draft choice who played 12 seasons in the NFL for five teams.
In his only action this season, George was part of what could have been the turning point in the 19-14 loss to Notre Dame on Oct. 13.
He put a No. 96 jersey over his regular No. 3 and entered the game on fourth down with 3 minutesm 34 seconds left and Pitt trying to drive for a lead-changing touchdown. He lined up in punt formation, rolled out, but threw incomplete when no one was open.
Pitt was trying to fool the Irish, giving George a number similar to regular punter Kirk Christodoulou’s 98.
“If we ran (No. 8) Kenny Pickett out there, I think they would known maybe it’s a fake,” Narduzzi said. “It’s a similar number most people don’t check.
“We thought we had a good play. We didn’t execute like we need to. Obviously, we did a poor job as coaches making sure we got it done the right way.
Narduzzi said George had the option to punt.
“The part that really disappoints you is it was a run-pass option,” he said. “He should have just punted the ball down the field. That’s our fault as coaches. If he’s not doing it, it’s because we didn’t make him do it.”
Narduzzi used a similar play in 2015 to beat Syracuse, with regular punter Ryan Winslow completing a pass in a tie game to set up the game-winning field goal.
Van Lynn at tight end?
Tight ends have not only disappeared from the Pitt offense, they’ve been scratched from the roster, too.
Since the spring, Chris Clark, Charles Reeves Jr. and Tyler Sear have left the team, leaving redshirt freshman Grant Carrigan (Pine-Richland) atop the depth chart, followed by Will Gragg, a junior transfer from Arkansas. Together, Carrigan and Gragg have four catches for 28 yards this season (all by Gragg).
Backup left offensive tackle Carson Van Lynn, a redshirt freshman, is a candidate to help ease the manpower shortage at tight end, Narduzzi said, but he won’t quantify his chances.
“Only time will tell,” he said. “He’s a big, athletic guy (6-5, 290) who is really a backup left tackle. We’re just trying to get our best 11 players on the field. Carson becomes one of those best 11 at times, based on personnel groupings, based on what we want to try to do, based on down and distance and field position.
“He can catch. He’s a good athlete.”
If Pitt plans to devote more of the gameplan to Carrigan, Van Lynn and/or Gragg, Narduzzi isn’t saying.
“I wish I could tell you, but I’m not,” he said.
Senior safety Dennis Briggs is that rare college player who has a big job off the field, too – he’s married (Loren).
Narduzzi said there’s nothing different about coaching a married player.
“As a matter of fact, it’s pretty nice,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about him going out at night.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at [email protected] or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.