The Pitt football team is just 10 days away from their first official practice of the 2016 season. Following the just concluded ACC meetings in Charlotte, the media forecasted a 3rd place finish for Pitt in the Coastal Division. Prior to conference play, the Panthers will play one of the more competitive non-conference schedules in the country with games against Penn State, Oklahoma State, Marshall and Villanova.
On paper, Pat Narduzzi looks to have a 8-9 win team and if things break right, Pitt could be looking at 10 wins. While that might not seem like much, consider that since 1981, Pitt has only had 1 ten win season (2009, 10-3).
Heading into his second season as head coach, Narduzzi has plenty of ingredients that could make for a double-digit win total. A veteran quarterback, running back depth, strong offensive line and depth on the defensive line are the strong areas heading into the season.
Like any team, Pitt has areas of concern and places that things need to go right in order to make it a special season. What are those areas?
1) Wide Receiver Depth – Who make up for the lost catches of former Pitt great and current Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd? Players like Dontez Ford, Tre Tipton, Quadree Henderson, Zach Challingsworth and Ruben Flowers will be the leading contenders to make an impression and earn minutes at the wide receiver position.
2) New Offensive System – How quick will the offensive players pick up and be comfortable in new offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s system. The good thing going for them is that Nate Peterman is back and having a veteran quarterback will help tremendously. How different will Pitt’s offense look from last season with Jim Chaney in charge? Will they throw the ball more? Will they attempt more deep passes? Will Pitt throw more than run? We’ll start getting answers to those questions in about a month.
3) Carries For The Running Backs? – The question isn’t the talent level at running back, the big question is how will Canada split the carries for each player. Pitt will enter camp with James Conner, Quadree Ollison, Darrin Hall, Chawntez Moss, Rachib Ibrahim and possibly George Hill as options to carry the ball. No doubt, Conner and Ollison will be the top two options but who’s after that will be determined by camp.
4) Impact From Freshman? – Will anyone in the Class of 2016 be able to have the impact that safety Jordan Whitehead had last season? The likely answer to that is “No” because Whitehead was spectacular but that doesn’t mean that a freshman or two can’t be impact players in 2016. Potential freshman impact players could be Damar Hamlin, Ruben Flowers, Keyshon Camp, Therran Coleman and Chase Pine.
5) Improvement In Secondary – To me, this is the biggest area of concern for Pitt. How good will the secondary be? There’s a good news/bad news scenario when it comes to the secondary. Good news is that DC Josh Conklin has talent back there. Bad news is that a majority of the talent is young. How quick will players like Hamlin, Coleman, Henry Miller, George Hill, Phil Campbell, Bricen Garner and Dane Jackson develop?
Let me know what your biggest question is with Pitt heading into training camp, just leave a comment.
The Pittsburgh Sports Now team of Alan Saunders, Mike Vukovcan, Joe Steigerwald and Harry Psaros will be at Pitt camp on Monday, August 8th to provide you with opening day coverage.