North Carolina Tar Heels @ Pittsburgh Panthers
Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, PA
North Carolina Tar Heels (34) – Pittsburgh Panthers (31)
Premiere names had slow starts
UNC nickel MJ Stewart. Pitt OT Brian O’Neill. Pitt WR/KR Quadree Henderson. Safety Jordan Whitehead. These were the top priorities entering the game. And each one, in some fashion, disappointed. Stewart missed some early tackles before settling in during the second half. O’Neill, who has the movement skills to grab eyeballs as a pass protector, was unable to get his hands clean on defenders. And Quadree Henderson fumbled a ball inches short of the goal line within a minute of halftime, a mistake that cost the Panthers 7 points and netted the Tar Heels 3, a deciding ten point swing.
The one who left me wanting the most was Whitehead, who has received fanfare from media and members of our staff here at NDT Scouting. He looks the part. He moves the part. But Whitehead looked crossed up defending the middle of the field and gave up a big play down the field by failing to play the hands of his man.
I don’t feel any more clear about the premiere prospects from this showcase than I did before kickoff.
Unheralded players LB Elijah Zeise and WR Anthony Ratliff were standouts
Pitt’s Zeise, listed at 6’3, 230 lbs, was a physical presence between the hashes and was a reliable tackler in the open field. His confidence to stay at home and not flush from his area too quickly came in handily on a number of occasions, as the Pitt D withstood long drives on a number of occasions to bend, but not break.
Zeise is only a junior, but he flashed for the right reasons.
On the other side, the Tar Heels found something that worked in the passing game with WR Anthony Ratliff-Williams, who led the team with 5 catches for 75 yards. He bullied defensive backs on multiple occasions, showing great fight, motor and quickness after the catch. Ratliff-Williams is just a sophomore, so this is a name to put on the back burner.
A punter steals the show
It’s not often that a specialist raises my eyebrows at a live viewing. But Pitt punter Ryan Winslow had the look of an NFL punter in this contest. Winslow was able to stem the tide in the first half, as the Tar Heels jumped out to a 14-3 lead. After Pitt’s successive 3 and out after the second touchdown, Winslow pinned a deep 45 yard sky high punt inside the UNC 20 yard line near the end of the first quarter.
The Tar Heels failed to move the chains and the Panthers took over on the UNC 49 after a poor punt the other way. Winslow’s drops are clean and he was consistent manipulated the football off of his foot to get spin and get desired hang time on the ball.
Currently averaging a career high in yards per punt, Winslow will be a name to watch for teams looking for fresh blood (and a cheap price) from a specialist.
Pitt WR Jester Weah will be a better pro than college player
This passing offense in Pittsburgh isn’t catered very well to capitalizing on what Weah is most successful at this season. Weah is a big bodied long strider with some good straight line speed, but his quarterback isn’t especially comfortable looking deep and he threw promptly to any uncovered intermediate targets or receivers in the middle of the field.
A promising sign for Weah? He caught the ball well on limited targets. But in studying him over the summer, there’s a clear discrepancy between his physical abilities and what he has put on display this season.