Pitt ended an up and down 2012 season at 6-7 under first year coach Paul Chryst. Today the Panthers start spring practice in a new conference, the ACC. Anson Whaley, the manager/editor of the Pitt Panther blog Cardiac Hill breaks down the Panthers for us in our Pittsburgh 2013 Spring Preview.
2012 was Pitt’s final season in the Big East, and it produced a disappointing 6-7 record, even though the Panthers were on their third new coaching staff in three seasons.
The team got good play from quarterback Tino Sunseri (21 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, and 3,288 passing yards), had an NFL running back in Ray Graham, and a solid defense. Losing games to Syracuse and Connecticut was frustrating and falling to Youngstown State in the opener was inexcusable.
Pitt had its moments in beating Rutgers and nearly toppling Notre Dame, but all in all, 6-6 in the Big East was a disappointment. I expected the team to win at least seven regular season games with the chance to get to eight.
Pitt’s defense should be pretty good – particularly the secondary. They lose safety Jarred Holley, but they have Jason Hendricks, the Big East’s interception leader, returning. There’s also Lafayette Pitts who started last year as a true freshman and is a future star.
K’Waun Williams should start again at the other corner spot opposite Pitts and I expect Ray Vinopal will start in Holley’s place. Pitt returns three starters there and with two seniors, a junior, and a sophomore, it’s an experienced group.
I’m not sure it will be a weakness, but the wide receiving corps have a good deal to prove. Gone are Mike Shanahan and Cam Saddler, two of the top three receivers from last season. Running back Ray Graham, who was third in the team in catches, is also gone.
Devin Street returns and the Panthers picked up a four-star recruit to help out, Tyler Boyd. But it’s still an inexperienced group and with a new quarterback, there will be an adjustment period.
The defensive line and linebackers also struggled at times last year and could be a problem yet again. A couple of great players lead those groups in Aaron Donald and Todd Thomas, but there are a lot of question marks there.
I don’t think Pitt is ready to challenge for an ACC title this season. Too many question marks and with a new quarterback, the team will be feeling their way around a bit.
The Panthers couldn’t even win the Big East in recent years when it was there for the taking, so there’s nothing on paper that tells me they will win a more difficult conference right now. But with a lot of younger talent, look for this team to compete in 2014.