A new coach, a struggling quarterback, and a weak offensive line - with concerns like these, Pitt fans are anxiously anticipating the coming season. Now that Pitt’s first game is just a couple weeks away, here are several questions that fans are asking:
5. What kind of offense is new head coach Paul Chryst going to run?
Paul Chryst instilled a tradition of excellence as Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator. With Chryst at the helm, Wisconsin’s offense drove the team to two consecutive Rose Bowls in 2010 and 2011. According to Pitt’s website, Wisconsin’s offense averaged 39.2 points per game over the past three seasons. Chryst runs a pro-style offense that focuses heavily on the run. Hopefully, this is going to take some pressure off of Tino Sunseri, which leads to our next question…
4. What can we expect from Tino Sunseri?
Last season, Sunseri proved that he couldn’t be counted on to carry a team, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns. Pitt fan site Cardiac Hill observes that Tino is still the best option at quarterback due to experience, but that backup Chad Voytik may contend for the starting job if Sunseri can’t get things done this season. Former head coach Todd Graham’s spread offense did nothing but confuse Tino last season, and it won’t be returning. Since Sunseri’s decision-making under pressure is questionable, the reliance on the run will be a good thing.
3. Is Ray Graham going to be ready to play?
Every Pitt fan watched in horror last season as potential Heisman nominee Ray Graham suffered a season-ending knee injury. Isaac Bennett, Graham's replacement, held down the fort pretty well, but Pitt needs Graham back and healthy to reach a bowl game. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Graham is staying cautious, but that he feels good. With Bennett backing him up, Pitt can probably afford to use Graham sparingly until he fully recovers. The Panthers obviously don’t want to risk another injury, and a little Ray Graham is better than none.
2. Will Pitt's O-line Struggle?
Sunseri might be under less pressure with the impending return of Ray Graham, but he still needs a strong line to protect him. The O-line gave up a whopping 61 sacks last year, and with the suspension of starting tackle Juantez Hollis, Pitt has to utilize some less experienced players. Luckily it has seniors Chris Jacobson and Ryan Turnley both returning. While there is some stability with these experienced players, frankly, there are too many questions to be confident in the offensive line at this point.
1. Can Pitt win a bowl game this year? Or the Big East title?
Painful. Pathetic. That’s how fans feel about Pitt’s trip to the BBVA Compass Bowl this past season. In an embarrassing 28-6 loss to SMU, Pitt extended the bad rep it has developed over the years - the Panthers lose bowl games.
Still, the focus should be on winning a conference title. Luckily for Pitt fans, Chryst took Wisconsin to two Rose Bowls after winning consecutive Big Ten Conference titles. Hopefully, the trend continues at Pitt. The Panthers have the talent to do it, but the team always appears to have confidence issues. If Chryst can instill some confidence in the program and teach these guys how to close games, Pitt can be a legitimate contender for the Big East title.