Pitt forecast: Where the Panthers stand after spring
A position-by-position breakdown of how the Pitt football team looks after spring practices:
Fifth-year senior transfer Tom Savage has a clear edge over redshirt freshman Chad Voytik. But Savage isn't always accurate, and he admits that becoming a leader in his one and only season at Pitt will take time. With Savage, coach Paul Chryst trades Voytik's quick feet for age, experience, size and arm strength. The velocity on Savage's throws tops anything seen at a Pitt practice since Joe Flacco in 2004.
Rushel Shell's decision to leave school is a significant loss, but Chryst showed his team he will treat a potential star like any other player. It set the right tone. Pitt will miss Shell's power, but Isaac Bennett has the patience to pick the right hole, the determination to keep his legs churning and a team-first attitude. But the lack of depth is a big problem.
Starters include two redshirt freshmen (left tackle Adam Bisnowaty and center Gabe Roberts), a former defensive end playing right tackle (T.J. Clemmings), and guards (Cory King and Matt Rotheram) who were out of position as tackles last season. Good thing line coach Jim Hueber knows the right buttons to push. This looks like a unit with room for prize recruit Dorian Johnson, who arrives this summer.
Unless at least two of the inexperienced pass catchers fighting for a starting job emerge as reasonably legitimate threats, Devin Street will face double teams weekly. Summer — and Tyler Boyd — can't get here fast enough for an offense that needs playmakers. Street (151 career receptions, nine TDs) has the look of a star. Just as important, he seems to enjoy stepping into a leadership role.
Perhaps the signature play of J.P. Holtz's freshman season was when he lowered his shoulder into Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas, a projected high NFL Draft choice. The helmet flew wildly from Thomas' head, and he lay motionless on the Carrier Dome carpet for several minutes before slowly getting to his feet. Holtz can catch and deliver a blow, but Drew Carswell, Manasseh Garner and Scott Orndoff will challenge him for playing time.
Pitt's offensive linemen spent much of the spring trying to figure out how to block tackle Aaron Donald, who has the strength to stand out from the crowd, the willingness to do whatever it takes and a love for the game. But there's more: Pitt coaches seldom rave about anything, but more than one has mentioned the developing depth on the line. When Ty Ezell lines up next to Donald, that's a lot of beef.
Todd Thomas brings good speed and enough upper-body strength to impact the run defense. Anthony Gonzalez is a gifted athlete who was miscast as a quarterback, but he has the instincts that all good defensive players need. Shane Gordon's return to the middle from a neck injury will make this unit better, but no one complained about his replacement, redshirt freshman Mike Caprara.
Cornerbacks K'Waun Williams and Lafayette Pitts can run and jump with most pass catchers, but here is their best trait: They play physical and nasty. Getting beat – and they will – won't bother them because they can't wait for the next play. Free safety Jason Hendricks' six interceptions last season represented the most at Pitt in 12 years, and his spring toe injury allowed Eric Williams to learn the position and build depth.
When freshman Chris Blewitt arrives with his scholarship and strong leg, he will compete for the No. 1 job with walk-on junior Drake Greer. But replacing Kevin Harper, who hit 14 of his final 16 field-goal attempts and 72 of 73 career extra points, won't be easy. Chryst needs to develop a level of trust with his new kicker, and that will take time. No worries at punter: Senior Matt Yoklic returns for his third season.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Hotel boom sweeps city
- Americans support strict rules for drones in poll
- Mossad agent arrested as spy by Hezbollah in Lebanon
- Greensburg high school roundup: Hempfield downs Penn-Trafford to stay unbeaten
- High school roundup: No. 4 Bethel Park boys edge USC
- Upscale Verano takes part in Buick’s success
- Musician embraced education, photography
- Pitt: Football coach hire comes 1st, athletic director 2nd
- Michigan State defensive coordinator a Pitt coaching candidate
- MLB notebook: Braves trade OF Justin Upton to Padres
- Demolition project at Oliver’s Pourhouse in Greensburg moves ahead