Photo credit: Pete Madia/Pittsburgh athletics
One of the major storylines for the Pittsburgh Panthers this past season was the emergence of true freshman wide receiver, Jordan Addison.
He stepped on campus and immediately made a major impact. In Week 1, Addison was not only the starting wide receiver, but back deep to field kickoffs and punts.
Addison was Pitt’s most productive receiver this season and the most productive true freshman receiver in the ACC. He caught 62 of 80 targets for 662 yards. Addison rushed for an additional 58 on nine carries.
The main fascination with the Maryland native though, is his versatility. Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple would use him in various ways and formations. Addison would typically line up in the slot but also has the ability to play on the outside or come in motion into the backfield.
As shown in Pro Football Focus’ receiving direction chart below, he produced in spots all over the field.
In this feature, we break down the various ways Whipple was able to utilize Addison during his Freshman All-American season. All videos are courtesy of the ACC Digital Network.
Pitt likes to use this heavy set where it stacks the line with receivers, and adds an extra offensive lineman. Addison (top of the screen) is set in motion where Pitt can get him the ball in open space.
Addison has good open field vision and the ability to read blocks. That’s not an ability that not every wideout has. This is why he is often used to return kicks on special teams as well.
On this play, Pitt spreads it out and Addison is lined up in the slot on the short side of the field. He runs a simple hitch route and finds the soft spot in the zone.
Addison’s quickness is utilized to not only beat the underneath linebacker but the safety coming from an angle over the top. A simple read for the backup quarterback turns into a 19-yard gain.
Addison lines up in the slot towards the bottom of the screen. A receiver from the weak side is sent in motion in order to distract the eyes of the safety and free up space in the middle of the field.
There are several positive takeaways from the true freshman on this play.
First is Addison’s presence of mind to work his way back across the field towards the quarterback when the play breaks down. Louisville’s blitz completely disrupted the design of that route combination but he was able to make himself available as a target, nonetheless.
Secondly, his ability to accelerate and cover that much ground is impressive in itself.
Finally, Addison is able to complete the catch in a contested area. He ripped the ball away from the defender to turn a disaster into a first down.
This play certainly belongs on Addison’s highlight reel in a few years when he will be evaluated for the NFL Draft.
Here, Addison lines up towards the top of the screen along the hash marks. On 2nd-and-short, the Panthers decide to take a shot downfield to their emerging star.
Addison runs a double-move in order to beat the Cover 2 concept that Florida State shows. He is able to get depth on the slot corner (No. 3) while still retaining separation from the deep safety. The underneath receiver (No. 18) serves as a decoy, forcing the defense to cover the flat.
In addition to good awareness from the young wideout, he shows good hands by hauling in the low pass while taking an open field hit. He also adjusts well to the deep ball by slowing his momentum down.
Addison could also be effective on the outside. This is another formation Whipple likes to use, in which he bunches two receivers on either side of the line.
Addison runs a relatively simple out route, but his versatility is key in situations like these. He is able to utilize the sidelines and get past the sticks for a new set of downs.
Room For Improvement
During his freshman season, Addison was impressive as a route runner, a possession receiver, and a ball carrier in open space. The one downside, however, was his drop issue.
Pitt, as a unit, has struggled in this department during Whipple’s tenure and Addison led the ACC this year with 10 drops. This is bound to happen, given his volume of targets, but it is an aspect of his game he needs to work on, nonetheless.
Over the next two seasons, look for Addison to continue to refine his skills and potentially become one of the top wide receiver prospects down the line.