The last time a Pittsburgh quarterback was selected in the first round of an NFL Draft was back in 1983, when the Miami Dolphins took Dan Marino with the 27th overall pick. And since then, only three skill position players from the school have heard their names called on opening night.
But the number should increase to four next spring. Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett is shooting up reputable draft boards, currently viewed as the top prospect at his position. And Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi has high hopes for Pickett at the pro level.
"He's a leader. He's the best leader we have on our football team, and I think every NFL franchise wants a guy who's going to be a leader," Narduzzi told The Zach Gelb Show on Thursday night. "You can have a good player who just doesn't have those other intangibles. So, he's got the 'it' factor off the field. When the play's not being run, he's going to be a guy who not only helps you win games, but he's going to make everybody else around you better...
"He runs a pro-style offense, and I think that's so important when you think about these NFL quarterbacks and who's running your team. He's played in a pro offense for really five years. He's done it all... I think there's no question he's a first-rounder. The question is, is he the first quarterback taken. But I definitely think he's a first-rounder. That's what he's done this season."
Pickett, a fifth-year senior, has certainly made the most of his extra year of eligibility. Through seven games, he's completed a career-high 68.9-percent of his passes, and ranks fourth in the country in touchdown passes (23) and ninth in passing yards (2,236). Pickett has also thrown just one interception.
Last Saturday, Pickett proved that he belonged in the Heisman conversation, completing 25 of 39 passes for 302 yards and two scores in a 27-17 home win over Clemson at Heinz Field. According to the William Hill Sportsbook, the 23-year-old currently owns the fourth-best Heisman odds.
No. 17 Pittsburgh (6-1) will host Miami (3-4) in a Week 9 matchup on Saturday afternoon. According to ESPN's new Playoff Predictor, the Panthers have a 70-percent chance to reach the College Football Playoff if they win out and claim the ACC championship.
The entire Pittsburgh football conversation between Narduzzi and Gelb can be accessed in the audio player above.