#57 Pittsburgh Football 2015 Preview

Pittsburgh Panthers

Overall Rank: #57
#10 ACC

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Despite all of the coaching changes, Pittsburgh has been pretty consistent in the last five years. For four straight regular seasons, they have reached six wins and occasionally reached seven with a bowl win. Once again the Panthers have a new man leading the team. This time it is former Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. He will bring his aggressive defense to Pitt and this is a team that needs a fresh start on defense.

2014 Record: 6-7, 4-4
2014 Bowl: Armed Forces Bowl vs. Houston (L 34-35)
Coach: Pat Narduzzi (0-0 at Pittsburgh, 0-0 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jim Chaney
Defensive Coordinator: Josh Conklin

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: James Conner, RB, 1,765 yards
Passing: Chad Voytik, QB, 2,233 yards
Receiving: Tyler Boyd, WR, 1,261 yards
Tackles: Matt Galambos, LB, 72
Sacks: Rori Blair, DE, 5.0
Interceptions: Lafayette Pitts, CB, 2; Terrish Webb, S, 2

Other Key Returnees: RB Chris James, TE J.P. Holtz, K Chris Blewitt, P Ryan Winslow, S Reggie Mitchell, LB Bam Bradley

Key Losses: LB Anthony Gonzalez, LB Todd Thomas, OL T.J. Clemmings

Coach Narduzzi may be a defensive specialist, but he inherits a potent offense. Running back James Conner rushed for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns as a sophomore. Pitt relied on Conner last year, but they will do so even more this year with Coach Narduzzi and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, who held the same position at Arkansas, planning the playbook. The passing game ranked 102nd in the nation, but quarterback Chad Voytik had a solid year, throwing for 2,233 yards and 16 touchdowns. Having Tyler Boyd back will certainly make the passing game at least somewhat effect. Boyd caught 78 passes for 1,261 yards and eight touchdowns. The problem is that Pitt desperately needs to develop a secondary receiver threat. Dontez Ford, who only caught three passes in 2014, is the best option. If Pitt’s passing game is not just Boyd or nothing, the entire offense suddenly becomes extremely potent.

The new defensive scheme is going to put a lot of pressure on cornerbacks Lafayette Pitts and Avonte Maddox. Coach Narduzzi is going to put them out there on man-to-man coverage so he can bring blitzes from elsewhere. Pitts has a lot of experience and Maddox started six games as a true freshman last year, yet their success or failure will depend more on how much pressure the rest of the defense can get on the quarterback. This was not a team that got to the quarterback often in 2014 and much will be asked of players like defensive end Rori Blair and tackle Darryl Render. Pitt just does not have the same type of players that Coach Narduzzi has gotten used to at Michigan State. How well it all translates at Pitt remains to be seen.

The Bottom Line:
On paper, this looks like another middle of the road type of season for the Panthers. The offense is good at the skill positions and the defense has potential to be very disruptive. However, the schedule is not too kind. After hosting Youngstown State in the season opener, Pitt plays five of their next six games on the road. None of those games are particularly difficult (Akron, Iowa, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Syracuse), but it is hard to ask this team to win more than two of those games. And then they will be chasing bowl eligibility through November when they host tougher teams like North Carolina, Notre Dame, Louisville and Miami.

Projected Bowl: None

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 249.5 (15th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 185.9 (102, 10)
Total Offense: 435.4 (40, 3)
Scoring Offense: 31.8 (43, 5)
Rushing Defense: 160.8 (55, 8)
Pass Defense: 198.9 (24, 4)
Total Defense: 359.8 (33, 8)
Scoring Defense: 26.3 (58, 11)
Turnover Margin: -0.38 (95, 13)
Sacks: 1.46 (102, 12)
Sacks Allowed: 1.62 (29, 4)

Madness 2016 NFL Draft Rankings:
#13 Tyler Boyd
#45 James Connor

Madness 2015 Recruit Rankings:
#121 Jordan Whitehead


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