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Football opens spring drills eyeing first season of ACC play

Aaron Donald is one of America's top defensive tackles.

Aaron Donald is one of America's top defensive tackles.

March 5, 2013

Link (PDF): Pitt Football Spring Prospectus

 

Pre-Spring Positional Preview 

THE OFFENSE

QUARTERBACKS

Pitt will have a new starting quarterback for the first time in three years. The graduated Tino Sunseri made every start for the Panthers from 2010-12 (39 games). He saved his best season for last, throwing for 3,288 yards and 21 touchdowns against just three interceptions as a senior.

   Four players will compete for the starting job beginning this spring.

   Junior Trey Anderson has been the primary backup each of the past two seasons. Anderson has played in five career games, completing 14-of-35 passes for 108 yards with three INTs. He played in one contest last year (Gardner-Webb), completing his only two pass attempts for 53 yards.

   Anderson’s most experienced competition will come from senior Tom Savage, who was inactive last season as a transfer. Savage played two seasons at Rutgers (2009-10) and was a Freshman All-American after throwing for 2,211 yards and 14 touchdowns in his initial collegiate campaign. He was a scholarship player at Arizona in 2011 but did not play in any contests.


 

 

   Chad Voytik enters his first active season following a freshman redshirt in 2012. A former “Elite 11” honoree, Voytik was a 5,000-yard career passer and U.S. Army All-American at Cleveland (Tenn.) High School. 

   Pitt signed one quarterback in its 2013 class, Tra’Von Chapman, who enrolled at Pitt in January and will participate in spring drills. Chapman threw for 5,736 yards and 62 touchdowns while rushing for 1,506 yards and 19 TDs over his final two seasons at Theodore Roosevelt (Ohio) High.

 

RUNNING BACKS

The Panthers will need to replace one of the most productive running backs in school history. Ray Graham finished his four-year career with 3,271 rushing yards, second only to the immortal Tony Dorsett in Pitt annals.

   Sophomore Rushel Shell will be a leading candidate to take over Graham’s workload. As a true freshman, Shell was the team’s second-leading rusher with 641 yards and four touchdowns on 141 carries (4.5 avg.). In a 35-17 upset of No. 13 Virginia Tech, he bulldozed for 157 yards using a physical running style not seen at Pitt in recent years. 

   Shell will be pushed by three returning lettermen: junior Isaac Bennett, sophomore Malcolm Crockett and senior Desmond Brown. Bennett has the most career production with 378 yards and five TDs on 87 carries (4.3 avg.). Crockett had 50 yards on 12 carries (4.2 avg.) as a redshirt frosh last year, while Brown’s contributions came on special teams. Also in the tailback mix will be redshirt freshman Demitrious Davis

   The Panthers return their starting fullback in junior Mark Giubilato. Junior Adam Lazenga is also back after lettering as the top reserve. Anthony Rippole enters his first active season following a freshman redshirt.

 

WIDE RECEIVERS

Pitt has four returning lettermen at wide receiver led by senior Devin Street. A 2012 All-Big East selection, Street is coming off a career year in which he posted 73 catches for 975 yards (13.4 avg.) and five touchdowns. He enters his final collegiate season eyeing Pitt’s biggest receiving records and Biletnikoff Award consideration. 

   Street benefited from having another All-Big East receiver, the graduated Mike Shanahan, playing opposite him last year. Shanahan’s production (62 catches for 983 yards and six TDs) will not be easily replaced. Lettermen looking to fill the void are senior Ed Tinker (five catches for 68 yards and one TD last year), junior Ronald Jones (seven catches for 66 yards) and junior Brandon Ifill. Other returning veterans include juniors Kevin Weatherspoon and Brett Zuck. New to active duty are redshirt freshmen Chris Wuestner and Chris Davis.

 

TIGHT ENDS

J.P. Holtz was an impact freshman at tight end last year. Emerging as a starter in the opening month of the season, Holtz totaled 13 receptions for 173 yards (13.3 avg.) and three touchdowns. Entering his sophomore year, he returns as a key building block for the offense.

   Junior Drew Carswell contributes depth and versatility to the position. A letterman the past two seasons, Carswell owns the finesse of a receiver and has also lined up as an H-back. Last year he had 13 catches for 163 yards (12.5 avg.) and two scores.

   Junior Manasseh Garner enters his first active season at Pitt following his 2012 transfer from Wisconsin. A product of Pittsburgh’s Brashear High School, Garner will work at tight end in his first spring with the Panthers. He was a two-year letterman at receiver while at Wisconsin.   

   Freshman Scott Orndoff enrolled at Pitt in January following a decorated career at nearby Seton-LaSalle High and will participate in spring drills. The two-time all-state pick averaged nearly 17 yards per catch as a senior and was ranked by the scouting services as one of the country’s top 20 tight end prospects.

 

OFFENSIVE LINE

The Panthers will need to replace graduated All-Big East center Ryan Turnley. Competing for the starting nod will be sophomore Artie Rowell, who served as the top backup last year, and redshirt freshman Gabe Roberts.  

   Last year’s starting tackles, senior Cory King and junior Matt Rotheram, will move inside this spring. King and junior letterman Shane Johnson will work at left guard. On the right side, Rotheram will work to unseat returning senior starter Ryan Schlieper, whose 2012 season was limited to eight games due to a broken foot. (Schlieper could get a look at center as well.)  

   At left tackle, redshirt freshman Adam Bisnowaty enters his first active campaign after making a strong impression on the scout squad. Bisnowaty will compete with senior Juantez Hollins, who was under a season-long suspension in 2012 but owns seven career starts.

   After earning two letters at defensive end, junior T.J. Clemmings will move to the offensive side of the ball and work at right tackle. Clemmings will compete with redshirt freshman John Guy.

 

THE DEFENSE

DEFENSIVE LINE

With three starters and nine total lettermen returning, Pitt’s defensive front might be the deepest unit on the team.

   The group’s anchor is senior defensive tackle Aaron Donald, a two-time All-Big East performer who should be on everyone’s All-America lists in 2013. Last year Donald collected 64 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. His 1.54 TFLs per game led the Big East and ranked 12th nationally.  

   Providing quality depth behind Donald is sophomore Darryl Render, who was a top backup as a true frosh last year. Render will be pushed by redshirt freshman Terrell Jackson.

   Senior Tyrone Ezell returns as the starter at nose tackle. Ezell compiled 39 tackles, seven TFLs and 3.5 sacks in 2012. Juniors LaQuentin Smith are back after lettering in reserve roles. Also in the mix at nose tackle is freshman Tyrique Jarrett, a mid-year prep school recruit out of New York’s Milford Academy who was a Pittsburgh City League standout at Taylor Allderdice High School.

   Junior defensive end Bryan Murphy collected 27 tackles, 4.5 TFLs and two sacks in his first season as a starter. Murphy will be pushed at the rush end position by sophomore Devin Cook, who was productive as a reserve (eight TFLs and a team-high two forced fumbles). Also competing at this spot will be sophomore Keegan Buck

   Competition at the other defensive end position will revolve around senior letterman Jack Lippert and newcomers David Durham and Shakir Soto. Durham, a junior, enters his first year of eligibility following his transfer from Ohio State (where he played fullback). Soto was a January freshman enrollee out of Pennsylvania’s G.A.R. Memorial. He was a two-time all-state pick after racking up 52 career sacks.  

 

LINEBACKERS

Pitt’s linebacker unit dealt with an array of injuries in 2012, forcing several lineup shuffles. Last year’s challenges should benefit this year's group through increased depth and experience.  

   Senior Shane Gordon returns in the middle. When healthy – he missed three full games and parts of others last year due to injuries – Gordon played at an impactful level, collecting 48 tackles and six TFLs. He was also effective in pass coverage with six breakups to rank second on the team.

   Working behind Gordon will be senior Dan Mason, who has been limited to five games and a pair of starts the past two seasons due to injuries, and redshirt freshmen Mike Caprara and Jacob Craig.

   Junior Todd Thomas returns as the starting Will linebacker. Thomas missed the opening month of the season while recovering from knee surgery but quickly regained his athletic form and compiled 59 tackles, five PBUs, an interception and a blocked punt (which he recovered himself for a TD).

   Sophomore letterman Nicholas Grigsby (27 stops) made two starts in Thomas’ absence and will again vie for time. Adding competition and depth will be two players coming off inactive seasons, sophomore Ejuan Price and redshirt frosh Devon Porchia. Price was a part-time starter as a true freshman in 2011.

   Junior Anthony Gonzalez, a former safety, moved to Sam linebacker late in the 2012 season and was a surprise starter against Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Gonzalez will look to earn the full-time nod beginning this spring. He will compete with senior and three-year letterman Emanuel Rackard and a pair of redshirt frosh, Bam Bradley and Deaysean Rippy.

 

SECONDARY

Three starters and seven total lettermen return in an experienced secondary.

   Pitt boasts a strong starting tandem at cornerback in senior K’Waun Williams and sophomore Lafayette Pitts. Williams, entering his third season as a starter, had 47 tackles and four interceptions last year. Pitts seized a starting role in his first active collegiate season and had 35 stops, one INT and a team-high nine pass breakups.

   Competing behind Williams at the boundary corner position will be junior letterman Brendon Felder, mostly a special teams performer last year, and redshirt freshman Jahmahl Pardner, who was contributing in Pitt’s nickel package before a knee injury – and eventual medical redshirt – ended his season in the third game. Also working at the boundary will be redshirt frosh Ryan Lewis and junior Pat Fisher.

   Junior Cullen Christian will vie with Pitts at field corner after lettering as a top reserve last year. Also pushing for time will be senior E.J. Banks and redshirt frosh Trenton Coles

   Highly productive senior Jason Hendricks returns at free safety after earning All-Big East in 2012. Hendricks was a force against the run and pass last year, leading Pitt in tackles (90) and interceptions (six). His interception total was the highest by a Pitt player since 2000, while his 0.46 INTs per game led the Big East and ranked sixth nationally.

   Junior Eric Williams, a starter at Sam linebacker last year, will move to free safety this spring. The rangy Williams had 52 tackles, two fumble recoveries and a pick in 2012.

   At strong safety, junior Ray Vinopal will work to earn the starting nod after serving as a top reserve last season. Competition will come from redshirt freshmen Jevonte Pitts and Ethan Brown

 

THE SPECIALISTS

Pitt will need to replace departed kicker Kevin Harper, who led the team in scoring last year (100 points on 20-27 field goals and 40-40 extra points). Spring repetitions will revolve around junior Drake Greer and redshirt freshman Brad Lukasak.

   Senior Matt Yoklic enters his third season as Pitt’s starting punter and has all-star potential. He enjoyed career production in 2012, averaging 41.8 yards per attempt. In addition to placekicker, Greer will also get reps at punter.

   Senior Kevin Barthelemy is a two-year letterman at long snapper, handling punts, field goals and PATs. Sophomore David Murphy is back after lettering as Barthelemy’s backup last year. Redshirt freshman Pat Quirin will also compete at long snapper.

--PITT--