The Pitt offense showed a new wrinkle on Saturday: the ability to throw the ball to the tight end. After inconsistent play in 2019, and almost a non-existent source of offense in 2020, the tight ends showed up on Saturday and contributed to Pitt’s 51-7 win over UMass.
Lucas Krull caught five passes for 58 yards and scored the first touchdown of the season for Pitt on offense. He provided a nice option over the middle, and came up with some big plays in the red zone, including that first quarter touchdown.
“I’ve been preaching for Lucas this whole time,” Pickett told reporters after Pitt’s 51-7 win on Saturday. “He’s a difference maker over the middle. He made a lot of catches over the middle and he was great in the red zone…It’s just something we haven’t had my time here and it’s really nice to have and he’s just got to continue to stay healthy and we’ll continue to put more and more stuff in for him as we get comfortable.”
It was a big day in Krull’s career. He was expected to be a difference maker in 2020, but an early injury ended his season. The offense suffered because of it. Pitt tight ends combined for just ten catches in 2020, leaving a void on offense throughout the season.
Saturday culminated a long road back for the Florida transfer. He said experiencing the Panther Walk into Heinz Field and running out of the tunnel gave him a needed jolt after a long road back from an injury. Of course, scoring the first touchdown of the season in front of the student section was also a moment he said he won’t forget.
“It was definitely special,” the Pitt tight end said of his first quarter touchdown. “I score the touchdown and I’m right there in our student section and everyone was going crazy, that really gets you going. It gets the team off to a great momentum shift and getting us rolling on offense. It was great.”
Pitt spread the ball out to 11 different pass catchers on Saturday. The receivers, running backs, and tight ends all made plays in the passing game. The presence of Krull, and freshman Gavin Bartholomew (3 catches) added another set of options for Pickett in the passing game.
“He didn’t start off that good a year ago, but he’s rolling,” Narduzzi said of Krull. “Right where he needs to be. He’s excited, and I think confidence is good for everybody.”
Jordan Addison, Pitt’s leading receiver from a year ago, also noted that having Krull as a factor can help his position group as it forces the defense to account for more people.
“It makes it a tough job for the defense, having a big guy in the middle that can make those contested catches and help loosen the stress off of us,” he said of Krull’s impact.
The Pickett to Krull connection is something that has a chance to be there all season. The two have a strong relationship on and off the field, and Pickett believes the offense will only add more as the season progresses.
Krull trusts Pickett, and noted that he was one of the main reasons he came to Pitt in the first place when he was looking for a new home after leaving Florida.
“I think our relationship has been built really since my visit here,” Krull said. “He hosted me and I knew he was special from when I got here on the visit. I knew that he would be a fantastic quarterback to be a part of with the whole team. Everyday I have been here it has grown on and off the field and he’s one of my best friends here. Even last year when I was hurt, that chemistry was right there.”
Pitt only needs two more catches to tie the total output from the tight ends from a year ago. Given how Saturday’s game against UMass played out, it looks like the tight ends will continue to be a significant part of the game plan moving forward.