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The Pittsburgh Panthers 2013 College Football Preview

2012 Record: 6-7; ACC 3-4

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Introduction: The Pittsburgh Panthers finished the 2012 season 6-7 overall and 3-4 in the Big East. As expected, the Panthers struggled undergoing the program’s fourth coaching change in little more than a year; the changes led to general inconsistency on both sides of the ball, though when on its game, Pittsburgh was as good as any team in the Big East. Having said that, the Panthers will now move to the ACC where they hope to have some success. Head coach Paul Chryst will begin his first full year with the program after taking over in December last year. Chryst was the former offensive coordinator at Oregon State and Wisconsin and should bring a much needed boost to Pittsburgh’s offense.

Offense: Senior QB Tom Savage will start for Pittsburgh after having a rocky start to his college career. Savage left Rutgers after his sophomore year and went out to Arizona where he was a redshirt sophomore; after hiring Rich Rodriguez, Savage came back east to join Pittsburgh as a walk-on transfer in 2012, sitting out last season and making a distinct claim for the starting job during spring drills. Savage has a strong arm to say the least, but is inaccurate at times and is slow on his feet. Senior WR Devin Street is an All-ACC receiver playing with a big-time quarterback, so a hugely productive final year is very much in the cards. However, the Panthers are thin at the receiver position and Street may find himself double teamed all year long until someone steps up. Look for sophomore TE J.P. Holtz to find a bigger role in the passing game. RB Junior Isaac Bennett will run behind an offensive line that consists of two freshmen and a converted defensive lineman. However, Senior Cory King and Junior Matt Rotheram will shift inside to left and right guard, which will help the power running game that the Panthers would like to establish in 2013.

The Pittsburgh Panthers 2013 College Football Preview

USA TODAY Sports

Defense: The Pittsburgh defense should be on the level of Florida State and Virginia Tech as one of the best units in the ACC. The star is senior DT Aaron Donald, who should be considered an All-American heading into his final season. Donald is a disruptive an interior lineman as you’ll find in any conference and may be the best lineman in the ACC this year. Joining him inside is senior NT Tyrone Ezell, giving the Panthers a decidedly elite and hard-to-handle interior. Senior LB Shane Gordon missed spring drills but will be ready for the season opener. Gordon will be joined by junior LB Todd Thomas and converted quarterback Anthony Gonzalez. The only hole in the secondary stands at free safety, but senior CB K’Wuan Williams and sophomore CB Lafayette Pitts should have great success this year.

Special Teams: Freshman K Brad Lukasak or junior K Drake Greer will do the kicking for the Panthers this year, while senior Matt Yoklic will be one of the ACC’s best punters this season. Junior WR Ronald Jones will return punts and kicks for Pittsburgh this season.

Final Analysis: Pittsburgh will play its first year in the ACC and will be challenged with a tough schedule. The Panthers play Florida State at home to start the season, at Virginia Tech, at Georgia Tech, and home games against Notre Dame and Miami. The Panthers defense should be good enough to carry Pittsburgh back into the postseason, if not seven of eight wins. The offense, on the other hand, has concerns across the board. Savage, who hasn’t taken a meaningful snap since 2010 is a huge question mark at quarterback. Street is a talented receiver but other players will have to step up to take the pressure off him. The offense will struggle early but hopefully the defense can carry the weight until they get things sorted out.

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