#74 Pittsburgh Football 2013 Preview

Pittsburgh Panthers

Overall Rank: #74
#11 ACC

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Instead of ushering in the very first season of the AAC, the Pittsburgh Panthers have paid their exit fees and will take some trips down south this season during their first as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The ACC, not to be confused with the aforementioned AAC, is not new to football; they are, however, not really a football conference. This bodes well for Pittsburgh who will be coming in trying to rebound from a very poor final year in the Big East. The 2012 season was not all bad. An early season win over now-conference peer Virginia Tech boosted confidence; as did a triple overtime defeat at the hands of Notre Dame in November. Pitt will need more than close losses to good teams to call 2013 a success though. And there will be no grace period to acclimate to the ACC. The Panthers’ first game is against conference power Florida State.

2012 Record: (6-7, 3-4)
2012 Bowl: BBVA Compass Bowl vs. Ole Miss (L 17-38)
Coach: Paul Chryst (6-7 at Pittsburgh, 6-7 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Joe Rudolph
Defensive Coordinator: Matt House

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Isaac Bennett, RB, 150 yards
Passing: Trey Anderson, QB, 53 yards
Receiving: Devin Street, WR, 975 yards
Tackles: Jason Hendricks, DB, 90
Sacks: Aaron Donald, DL, 5.5
Interceptions: Jason Hendricks, DB 6

Other Key Returnees: OL Matt Rotheram, OL Cory King, TE JP Holtz, DL Tyrone Ezell, LB Todd Thomas, DB K’Waun Williams

Key Losses: QB Tino Sunseri, RB Ray Graham, RB Rushel Shell, WR Mike Shanahan, TE Drew Carswell, K Kevin Harper, LB Eric Williams, DB Jarred Holley

For a team that finished just 6-6 prior to their bowl game last season, it is surprising to say that they should be feeling good. However, it is kind of true. During their first year under Head Coach Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh found some things that worked on offense and gelled into a very solid defense at times. The defense is what should be lifting spirits for 2013. With the return of its two best players, lineman Aaron Donald and defensive back Jason Hendricks, the Panthers will be set up. The dismissal of linebacker Eric Williams will hurt but Pitt finished in the top 25 in the nation in pass defense, total defense and scoring defense a season ago. They barely missed that mark in rushing defense, finishing 31st. Three of their six wins saw the defense allow fewer than seven points, a remarkable performance considering two of those victories were against conference foes late in the year. On the offensive side, things will be a bit shakier but wide receiver Devin Street should look to carry on the legacy of the departing Mike Shanahan.

Ray Graham is not the only long-time producer the Pitt offense will be saying goodbye to. Quarterback Tino Sunseri also graduated. The two were rocks at their respective positions for the Pitt Panthers. Sunseri threw for over 2,500 yards each of his final three years on campus. His backup last season, Trey Anderson, threw only two passes all year long. One of the real advantages Coach Chryst had was coming into an offense with experienced veterans. As he ventures into his second season, the roster on offense completely turns over. The team’s leading receiver, Shanahan, was also a senior. Although he caught fewer passes than the returning Street, Shanahan was more of a big play threat, averaging close to 16 yards per catch. On the other side of the football, the Panthers will be more skilled but will have a much more daunting task on their hands playing in the ACC for the first time. Sure Louisville would have been a tough test this coming season but instead of one powerhouse, Pittsburgh will now be looking at four or five on their conference slate.

The Bottom Line:
There were many positives to build off of from last season. The offense showed promise and returns a good running back and its leading receiver in terms of catches. The defense had a couple great outings and should be even better with a handful of studs coming back for another go-around. Nevertheless, the coach is inexperienced, the schedule is hard and the expectations should be low. It is always fun to switch conferences, find new fans to hate on and make a big statement; however, there is something to be said for undertaking a new chapter and simply not embarrassing yourself. That should really be the Panthers’ goal here.

Projected Bowl: None

2012 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 133.08 (92nd in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 257.00 (46, 3)
Total Offense: 390.08 (71, 4)
Scoring Offense: 26.62 (74, 4)
Rushing Defense: 136.38 (31, 4)
Pass Defense: 194.15 (20, 2)
Total Defense: 330.54 (17, 3)
Scoring Defense: 21.08 (23, 4)
Turnover Margin: .92 (15, 1)
Sacks: 1.85 (70, 7)
Sacks Allowed: 2.92 (102, 8)

Madness 2013 Football Recruit Rankings:
#90 Dorian Johnson
#154 Tyler Boyd


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