Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Small Senior Class Exits with Almost No Fanfare

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Small Senior Class Exits with Almost No Fanfare

Article excerpt

When Jordan Whitehead arrived at Pitt as a wide-eyed freshman in 2015, Avonte Maddox immediately became his go-to guy.

Sophomore Avonte Maddox, that is.

"He was still one of the young guys," Whitehead recalled Tuesday after practice, "but he was playing. So, I kind of had to follow him and ask him what to do to get out there on the field like how he did as a freshman."

As the only four-year contributor, Maddox perhaps is the face of Pitt's small senior class, one that - barring a major upset of No. 2-ranked Miami Friday on senior day - won't leave college football the way anyone would want. It's a 14-player group whittled down by transfers, injuries and early entry into the NFL, the same defections that factored into this season's 4-7 record with one game left.

For instance, Dorian Johnson could be in this class had he redshirted his freshman year. James Conner could be in it if he hadn't turned pro. And any current redshirt junior could be leaving, too, had they not sat out their initial seasons.

"I know the wins and losses haven't been there this year, but they've played a huge part in kind of stabilizing this program and showing guys what the culture is and what it needs to be in order for us to win and in order for this place to be successful," said redshirt junior left tackle Brian O'Neill, who came in with Maddox in the 2014 class.

Redshirt senior wideout Jester Weah, who for five years now hasn't said all that much, fittingly summed up his Pitt career with a few words.

"It's been long," he said, with a laugh. "A lot of ups and downs."

Indeed, it's been a lengthy journey for Weah and the four other scholarship seniors who have stayed Panthers since 2013: Offensive linemen Jaryd Jones-Smith and Alex Officer, tight end Devon Edwards and punter Ryan Winslow.

Even Max Browne, one of three graduate transfers, epitomizes what that influx of veterans has experienced at Pitt. While the ones still left over from the Paul Chryst regime had at least been to a bowl game every other season, Browne, tight end Matt Flanagan and offensive lineman Brandon Hodges each have dealt with injuries in their lone year at Pitt. …

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