Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett turning attention to NFL draft, won't play in Peach Bowl

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — The Peach Bowl will go on without Kenneth Walker and Kenny Pickett.

Walker, an All-America running back at Michigan State, and Pickett, a record-setting quarterback for Pittsburgh, both announced Thursday they are skipping the bowl game to focus on the NFL draft.

Walker and Pickett both revealed their respective decisions in social media posts on Thursday, leaving the 10th-ranked Spartans (10-2) and 12th-ranked Panthers (11-2) without their biggest stars for the Dec. 30 game in Atlanta.

Pickett, the ACC Player of the Year and third-place finisher in the Heisman Trophy voting, thanked the university, head coach Pat Narduzzi, offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, his teammates and the fans in a lengthy Twitter post. Pickett called the celebration after the Panthers won their first ACC title with a win over Wake Forest earlier this month “one of the best moments of my career.”

It’s a moment few saw coming entering the fall before Pickett started re-writing the Pitt record book. He set new school marks for touchdown passes in a season (42) and yards passing in a season (4,319) while guiding the Panthers to 11 wins for the first time since 1981. He captured the Johnny Unitas Award last week and was named a second-team All-American by The Associated Press.

“From the time you arrived as a freshman five years ago, right up until the moment you walked off the field in Charlotte as ACC Champion, you gave the University of Pittsburgh absolutely everything you had,” Narduzzi wrote to Pickett in a Twitter post.

Pickett’s breakout season has rocketed him up NFL draft boards. He is expected to be among the first quarterbacks selected in April.

His decision means the Panthers will be without their starting quarterback and offensive coordinator for the Peach Bowl after Mark Whipple resigned last week to take the same position at Nebraska. Narduzzi has not said who will call the plays against Michigan State. Nick Patti figures to get the nod at quarterback after spending the season as Pickett’s primary backup.

Kenny Pickett will not play in the Peach Bowl as he turns his attention to the NFL draft.

Hours before Pickett said he was heading to the NFL, Walker did the same, a decision Michigan State coach Mel Tucker supported.

“I want to congratulate Ken for all his success and thank him for taking a chance on us,” Tucker posted.