Kenny Pickett probably deserves the Heisman Trophy at this point, if you’re evaluating off criteria that include being a consistent difference-maker within an offense and a player elevating a team and himself in a meteoric way.
Pickett is currently on the outside looking in for the trophy as far as the odds go, with big names in front of him like Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, Matt Corral of Ole Miss, and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud—and let’s face it, some of this stuff comes down to the helmet anyway. Put a different sticker on Pickett’s and maybe we’d have a bit of a different conversation going on at this point in the year.
So far this season, Pickett has had seven games in which he’s passed for more than 300 yards, and in the ones he didn’t do so, barring that 28-7 win over Virginia Tech in which he passed for 203 yards, he’s been knocking on the door of 300 yards and still put up stellar performances. Pickett also has three showings this year in which he’s passed for at least 400 yards—including a high of 519 yards in a painfully close 38-34 loss to the Miami Hurricanes on Oct. 30.
Looking at this season’s current list of passers with the most yardage in the FBS, Pickett sits at fifth overall, as he’s completed more than 67% of his passes for 3,517 yards with 32 touchdowns and four interceptions—he’s the only signal-caller in the top-five who doesn’t play in the Air Raid offense or some variation of that scheme.
Pickett also leads or is ranked highly in a number of more specific statistical categories, including overall grade against the blitz this season. That 92.9 overall grade per Pro Football Focus is the highest among all college quarterbacks this year, so it’s evident this isn’t a quarterback who is going to get frantic and make bad decisions if a defense brings the house on him—another thing that can be seen on tape.
So, where exactly are these video game numbers coming from? It’s clear that his coaches have all the trust in the world for him throwing the ball considering he’s averaged 38.5 passing attempts per game this season.
He’s doing it within a pro-style offense. Looking at the film, it’s clear to see these yards aren’t coming from him purely benefiting off of a supporting cast that just makes him look good (though the increased talent level Pitt has is certainly enough to give the Panthers the ability to fully utilize their playbook) or from dumping off short passes to receivers.
This is all Pickett and the people around him simply doing their jobs. And looking at Pickett alone, he checks all the boxes you want in a quarterback—good mechanics, timing, release, placement, arm strength, confidence, composure, and he has enough mobility to work the pocket well and to make plays outside of it when called upon.
With just two games remaining on schedule with Pitt set to take on UVA and Syracuse to close out the season, we’ve seen the majority of the Kenny Pickett show. But there’s so much more to come after the regular season, in the showcases, and at the NFL level from a quarterback who has garnered a lot of attention but perhaps not the same level of respect compared to players he’s just as good as or better than.