Despite the way things ended, Pat Narduzzi and his coaching staff have to consider the 2015 season a success and will have plenty to build on for the future.
Honestly, I don’t think too many people would’ve predicted a 8 win season if they’d known that James Conner would miss the entire season and last year’s starting quarterback Chad Voytik would barely play.
That’s exactly what happened and that tells me two things: 1) Pitt had depth 2) Pitt’s coaches did a good job.
The other thing that had to surprise many people (aside from the coaches) was the overall success of the defense. Yes, they struggled at times at getting off the field and giving up big plays, but they also created turnovers and got to the opposing quarterbacks (37 sacks).
I’m guessing that’s an aspect of the Panthers that will just continue to get better as Narduzzi gets better recruits. Fast, talented kids will want to play in this defense.
The 2015 season is in the past so let’s look at reasons to be optimistic about the future of Pitt Panther football:
***Defensive End Depth: The depth that this team will have next year is potentially scary. How’s this look- Ejuan Price (if granted a 6th year), Dewayne Hendrix, Shakir Soto, Rori Blair, Zack Gilbert, Allen Edwards, etc.
***Strong OL returns: Pitt was very fortunate in that the starting offensive line was intact the entire 2015 season. The good news is that most of them will be back for 2016 and they’ll be added depth.
Returning will be Adam Bisnowaty, Dorian Johnson, Alex Officer, Brian O’Neil. Plus, they also have Alex Bookser and Jaryd Jones-Smith (injured) to challenge for starting spots.
***Running Back Trio: James Conner will enter the 2016 NFL Draft but the offense will have their running back trio from this year all returning. I think Quadree Ollison, Darrin Hall and Chris James are all talented enough to be the starter next year. This doesn’t even take into consideration any potential incoming freshman backs (like a certain kid from Woodland Hills).
***The future of Jordan Whitehead: Not only did Whitehead turn into one of Pitt’s best defenders, he put himself in position to become the ACC’s Freshman of the Year. The possibilities for Jordan Whitehead are endless and with Conner and Tyler Boyd, becomes the face of the Pitt 2016 football team.
***Incoming Talent: add these guys into the mix for playing time in 2016- Tre Tipton, Dewayne Hendrix, Quadree Henderson, Dane Jackson, Anthony McKee, Saleem Brightwell, Jay Stocker, Allen Edwards, Ruben Flowers, Zack Gilbert, Chase Pine, Kaezon Pugh. The cupboard is getting full.
***Continuity: For the first time in awhile, the Pitt football program isn’t on a coaching search and can actually start the offseason recruiting. Narduzzi and his staff will be out on the road trying to lure in more top level talent. They’ve started to build relationships with schools and coaches and can now begin to strength that relationship.
Trying to be as objective as I can, but I think 8-9+ win seasons are going to be the norm for Pitt Panther football