Earlier this week, Pittsburgh received unfortunate news: redshirt sophomore wide receiver Tre Tipton suffered a non-football knee injury, and will miss the entire 2017 season.
This is a significant blow for the Panthers. Pitt returns several dynamic perimeter playmakers — Jester Weah and Quadree Henderson. But with the departures of tight end Scott Ornoff and receiver Dontez Ford, there was a serious opportunity for Tipton to emerge.
Unfortunately for Tipton, this is the third injury of his career at Pitt. He played in four games as a freshman, before an injury in practice cost him the remainder of the season. In 2016, Tipton appeared in the first nine games, but in the road loss to Miami, he was once again injury. Tipton missed the final four games, including the win at Clemson.
Now, new quarterback Max Browne will have to locate another third target.
Efficiency through the air
Pitt was a power run offense in 2016; that’s what you do when James Conner is on your roster. The Panthers averaged 41.7 run play per game; on the flip side, Pitt attempted 24.9 passes per game.
Tipton averaged 12.1 yards per target, too, which was second best on the team — behind on Weah, the ACC’s leader in yards per reception in 2016.
Nine of Tipton’s 12 receptions (75%) went for first downs, per cfbstats.com.
Versatility: A key component
As we’ve discussed in this space before, end-arounds, reverses and jet sweeps are an important function of Pitt’s offense. The Panthers like to hammer you up the middle with power, then crack explosive plays on the perimeter.
Henderson is the prime candidate when it comes to this; the return specialist carried the ball 60 times for 631 yards (10.5 per carry) and five touchdowns last season.
Tipton was involved here, too, though. And he likely would’ve seen more carries this season. In 2016, Tipton ran 11 times (1.22 per game) for 61 yards. He posted a long carry of 21 yards; three of his runs went for first downs, too.