Our Miami Hurricanes travel to Heinz Field to take on the Pitt Panthers on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Pittsburgh comes into 2017 ranked 33 in the pre-season S&P+ while Miami starts off 18th. Both squads will have to replace QB’s and top playmakers. For Pitt, James Conner is now with the Steelers. Conner had an amazing story where he overcame cancer to be one of the most prolific running backs in the ACC. But they’ll also have to replace QB Nate Peterman and Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada who left Pat Narduzzi’s staff for LSU.
I think we know quite a bit about Narduzzi’s defense from his Michigan State and Pitt days. The focus here will be on the new OC and QB.
Heading into 2017- gone are Matt Canada’s crazy motions and other pre-snap movements, and we hope the shovel pass that inflicted damage as well. In comes Shawn Watson, a veteran play caller around the NCAA ranks. Watson is well traveled having coached all over the country and served as an OC at Colorado, Nebraska, Louisville, Texas (served as assistant head coach but had control on the offense), and now Pitt. Watson was fired by Charlie Strong and immediately scooped up by Kevin Wilson at Indiana in an analyst role, and then promoted to QB coach after Wilson’s abrupt firing. What can we expect from Watson? Well first of all he’s used a shotgun offense since Bo Pelini and Watson worked together in Nebraska.
QB Max Browne is a grad transfer from USC where he was granted the pleasure of being slapped around by Alabama before Sam Darnold stepped in and led the Trojans to a Rose Bowl victory over Penn State. Browne was a 5* pro style QB when he committed to USC, but through head coaching changes, etc he never matured into the potential he had coming out of Seattle. Browne isn’t going to give Pitt a running option at QB but he can extend plays with his athleticism. Browne will fit more of a Teddy Bridgewater mold, who Watson also coached at Louisville.
Below- watch Browne against the Tide in 2016:
It’s hard to gain much knowledge from this spring game footage I could dig up, but one thing you can see is an offense similar to what Watson was running at Louisville with Bridgewater. Deep shots from the QB, mobile but not running QB play, and shotgun and pistol looks.
What did Watson do at Louisville? Here’s a look at Teddy Bridgewater’s highlights there and the offense they ran with the Cardinals.
Expect to see Pitt running zone lead, split zone, outside zone, a lot of play action, and trying to let Browne air out some fade routes. That’s what you can presume from watching old Nebraska film from Watson/Bo, Louisville film, a little bit of Texas, and what he must have learned at Indiana from Wilson.