Pitt wide receiver Jordan Addison, the winner of the Biletnikoff Award this season, opted to enter the transfer portal after two seasons as a star for the Panthers. Early reports have USC or a return to Pitt as the most likely options, but Addison has plenty of time before making a decision.
Addison’s sophomore season was truly special. In addition to winning the award as the nation’s best wide receiver, Addison led Pitt to an 11-3 record, a Peach Bowl berth and the first conference championship in program history. Addison ranked No. 4 in the nation with 1,593 yards receiving and led the country with 17 touchdowns in the legendary season.
While Addison could easily be a first-round pick in the NFL Draft if he stays at Pitt, the bright lights of USC have plenty to offer. Here are pros and cons for Addison as he makes a potentially career-defining decision.
Pros: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Addison came to Pittsburgh as the No. 275 prospect in the nation, and quickly found his footing. Even as a freshman, Addison had 60 catches to emerge as an All-ACC caliber player. If Addison comes anywhere close to replicating his 2021 performance, he will be one of the first two wide receivers off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft (along with Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba).
While there is turnover, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi worked hard to build a strong staff to maximize Addison. Narduzzi poached Frank Cignetti Jr. from ACC rival Boston College to run the offense and sold Tiquan Underwood on leaving his alma mater to coach Addison. Additionally, quarterback Kedon Slovis transferred from USC in hopes of rediscovering his freshman form.
Addison led Pitt to the program’s first ACC championship in 2021. Everything is built around his prodigious talents. As long as he doesn’t regress mightily, Addison will make millions in the NFL.
Cons: Returning to Pitt doesn’t come without complications. The Panthers’ offense will look much different than the record-breaking unit in 2021. Quarterback Kenny Pickett is off to the NFL. Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple and receivers coach Brennan Marion also leveraged the success into blue-blood gigs.
The new staff has some interesting potential heading forward. Still, there’s no guarantee that all the new faces will be able to maximize Addison’s potential quite like the previous staff. Pickett hit a Heisman level during his fifth-year senior season; Slovis could bust.
The Panthers play West Virginia and Tennessee in the nonconference slate, but there are few showcase opportunities for Pitt. Louisville’s Kei’Trel Clark is the only all-conference cornerback on the schedule. It’s hard to see Addison improving his stock.
Pros: If Addison likes numbers, Lincoln Riley’s offense is the place to be. From 2015 to 2019, his Sooners produced a 1,000-yard receiver every year. CeeDee Lamb was a consensus All-American, while Dede Westbrook won the Bilentikoff Award in 2016.
Now, Addison has a shot to be the co-face of a new era — along with quarterback Caleb Williams — at USC. While Pickett was an outstanding player for Pitt, Williams’ upside is being the best quarterback in the nation.
As opposed to the relative anonymity of Pitt, all eyes will be on Addison at USC. The spring game was broadcast on ESPN with a live crew. He can appear on any sports show in Los Angeles and build his brand. The hype for Addison’s debut would be off the charts.
Cons: While Riley is one of the most respected offensive coaches in the game, he is embarking on a new adventure in the Pac-12. The Sooners steadily declined over Riley’s tenure, finishing off with a disappointing 10-2 campaign in 2021 behind wildly inconsistent offensive performance.
Despite recruiting elite receiver talent, Riley’s Sooners ranked just No. 33 in passing offense during a frustrating season. Marvin Mims was the only receiver to go over 700 yards receiving. After sending CeeDee Lamb to the Cowboys in the first round of the 2020 draft, Riley’s only other drafted receiver was Michael Woods in the sixth round in 2022.
While the expectations would be a blessing, it comes with a curse too. Anything short of 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns would be seen as underachieving. From a team perspective, falling out of the playoff race would be underwhelming. The expectations are so high that they might be unreachable. Playing at USC will be much more of a boom-or-bust proposition than running it back at Pitt.
Dark horse options
Texas: The Longhorns have been active in the transfer portal, nabbing receivers Isaiah Neyor (Wyoming) and Agiye Hall (Alabama) to pair with freshman phenom Xavier Worthy. However, Addison would be a crown jewel for Steve Sarkisian’s receiver room to pair with star quarterback Quinn Ewers. Of course, the Longhorns are also fresh off a 5-7 season. A move to Austin, Texas, comes with risk.
Tennessee: The Vols have been one of the most notorious players in NIL so far, and Addison should quickly become a target of their money cannon. Hendon Hooker played exceptionally well to close the 2021 season and there are snaps available and 1,000-yard receiver Cedric Tillman is back, so adding Addison would make a dangerous combo. The one downside is offensive structure; Josh Heupel’s spread offense isn’t known for preparing players for NFL routes.
Alabama: Nick Saban’s offense is the most prolific producer of NFL talent in the country. Addison could guarantee that he will be physically developed at a freakish level in Alabama and can virtually lock down becoming a first-round pick by committing. However, Alabama added two of the best transfer receivers in the country this offseason. The Tide might decide they don’t have space.
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers’ offense is in desperate need of speed and Addison is the best value on the market. Nebraska added two transfer receivers, but Scott Frost’s program desperately needs talent to replace Samori Toure and become more dynamic. Nebraska also outbid Texas for a transfer in the last few days.