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Early Tuesday afternoon ESPN's Pete Thamel reported that star wide receiver Jordan Addison was officially entered into the transfer portal. This news capped several days of speculation regarding Addison's future. Rumors began to swirl last week that he would leave Pittsburgh for USC where he would be compensated with a multi-million dollar NIL deal plus a house. Not bad for the 2021 Biletnikoff award winner and AP first-team All-American (allegedly)! Confirmation that Addison is now in the transfer portal has given at least some credibility to last week's rumors.
It's also sparked quite a debate. Surely there was some tampering going on here, right? Is this the new normal in college football? Will blue blood programs with deep pockets consistently poach the best players from less traditional powers? Is college football... DEAD?
We're not going down that road. Instead, there is an excerpt from Thamel's article that caught my eye and I think is worth further discussion.
"The expectation remains that this will not be a name, image and likeness (NIL) bidding war but rather a way to situate Addison best for the NFL."
What do you think? Did your eyes just roll back into your skull because you're certain this is nothing more than a player securing the largest NIL deal available? I wouldn't blame you for thinking that way, especially if you're a Pitt fan. But I actually accept the above statement at face value.
What Pitt Lost
Pitt lost a ton of important pieces from last year's ACC championship squad. Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple resigned in early December and has since taken the same job at Nebraska. Wide receivers coach Brennan Marion left Pitt for Texas in late December where he received a promotion to both wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator. Most recently, former Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett was the only quarterback taken in the first round of the NFL draft.
Those were the men primarily tasked with getting the ball to Addison, but what about the pieces around him? Also gone are three of Pitt's six top pass catchers from last season. Lucas Krull, a massive target at tight-end, signed with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent. Wide receiver Taysir Mack is also pursuing the NFL. And, wide receiver Shocky Jacques-Louis transferred out (to Akron??).
It needs to be mentioned that the Panthers have brought in a few transfers, most notably quarterback Kedon Slovis, in an effort to repeat last season's success. But will it be enough? I think it's reasonable for Addison to assess the turnover at Pitt and conclude that a better opportunity from a football standpoint might exist elsewhere.
Addison As A Player
Jordan Addison is a stud that can do it all, but he's particularly dangerous when aligned in the slot as an interior wide receiver. From this position his outstanding agility is a problem for defensive backs, especially safeties, in off-coverage alignments. He has excellent hands and big play ability after the catch. When aligned off the line of scrimmage as an outside receiver he's difficult to get hands on and press. And, when aligned on the line of scrimmage on the backside of 3 x 1 formations he commands a double team. Obviously, a player of Addison's caliber requires a significant amount of defensive attention.
Where Jordan Addison Fits
Should he remain at Pitt, which according to Thamel's article might somehow still be an option, defenses may be able to get away with consistently giving him that attention. Frank Cignetti Jr. is Pitt's new offensive coordinator, and he has a long history coaching in the NFL. I'm confident he will bring to Pitt NFL concepts and terminology that would help further prepare Addison for the next level. But does Pitt have the weapons to take attention away from Addison? I'm not sure that they do. And, if not, that could cause Addison's production to slip and possibly even affect his draft position.
This is where a move to USC would makes sense. The Trojans have brought in transfers Brendan Rice from Colorado and Mario Williams from Oklahoma. They've also added a couple of talented running backs, and of course, quarterback Caleb Williams. This is the kind of skill position talent that could theoretically take attention away from Addison. A defense that sells out to stop Addison at Pitt might occasionally get hurt. But, a defense that sells out to stop him at USC could regularly get killed. Plus, Lincoln Riley has quite a recent history of putting wide receivers in the NFL.
Texas and Alabama are additional schools reportedly in the hunt for Addison's services. It's impossible to ignore that these are two traditional financial powers in the sport. However, a transfer to either school would also make on-field sense for Addison. If he were to transfer to Texas Addison would join up with fellow transfer Isaiah Neyor as well as Xavier Worthy to make an explosive trio. He would also reunite with his former wide receiver coach, Brennan Marion. A transfer to Alabama would unite Addison with transfers Jermaine Burton and Tyler Harrell to create a reloaded receiving corps for the Crimson Tide. In any case, Addison goes from the guy, to still the guy, but with explosive playmakers around him.
I'm not naive enough to believe that money isn't a factor at all. But, in this unregulated NIL world we're living in I'd bet that money for a player like Addison can be matched, or even exceeded. And, of course, personal relationships also play a role. But, I don't think Jordan Addison is looking to simply drive up the price and secure the bag from the highest bidder. I really believe that Addison is looking at where he can be the most productive in 2022 to best position himself for the NFL.
Now, if he does end up transferring to USC we may need to start a serious talk about the Trojans competing for the Pac-12 South in year-one of the Lincoln Riley era.