July 31, 2012
NEWPORT, R.I.--Members of the Pitt football team traveled this week to Big East Football Media Day, the annual summertime ritual that heralds the onset of August training camp. Coach Paul Chryst, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, running back Ray Graham and safety Jarred Holley represented the Panthers in Newport, R.I., where a national media throng gathered to speak to the Big East's best for 2012.
Prior to the start of Tuesday's media day activities, the results of the preseason media poll were released. Pitt was picked to finish fifth in this year's race. Interestingly, the two preseason favorites - Louisville (24 first-place votes) and USF (four first-place votes) - each lost to the Panthers last year.
"Whether you are the team picked to finish first or the team picked to finish last, you have to earn your respect on the field," said Graham, a first-team All-Big East performer last year despite an injury-shortened season. "We understand that and know we need to work hard during training camp to have a chance to achieve our goals this season.
"The goal is always to win the Big East," Graham continued. "That hasn't changed, but you've got to work hard as a team to make your goals a reality. Our first focus will be having a great training camp and then we'll take it week-by-week, one game at a time."
The Panthers return 14 starters. Graham, who rushed for 958 yards in only seven full games last year, is one of eight regulars back on offense. Donald and Holley, considered among the nation's finest at their respective positions, will need to spearhead a retooling defense that returns four starters.
"I feel a higher level of responsibility this year since our defense will be younger than in the past," said Donald, who ranked seventh nationally in quarterback sacks last season (0.85 per game/11 total). "It will be important to set a tone when camp starts with my work ethic. I've got to lead by example, go 100 miles an hour, and let my teammates feed off my energy."
Holley, who enters his third year as a starter in the secondary, agreed. "Coming in as a young guy I had senior leaders I could look to for direction," he said. "Now it is my responsibility and I'm embracing that role. All of our upperclassmen know we have to set the standard."
Chryst comes to Pittsburgh following an accomplished eight-year tenure at the University of Wisconsin, where he was a two-time finalist for the Broyles Award, annually presented to college football's top assistant coach.
Widely recognized as one of the game's finest strategists, Chryst directed a Wisconsin offense last year that averaged a school-record 44.1 points per game en route to the Badgers' second consecutive Big Ten title and Rose Bowl berth.
Pitt season-ticket packages are currently on sale for as low as $99 and can be purchased online (PittsburghPanthers.com), by phone (800/643-PITT) or in person at the Petersen Events Center ticket office. All Pitt and UPMC employees are eligible for a 20% discount.
The 2012 preseason Big East media poll.
|Rank||Team (First-Place Votes)||Pts.|
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