Pitt came into 2011 with high expectations after going 8-5 and dismissing Dave Wannstedt. Todd Graham was plucked from Tulsa to lead the Panthers into the future. When we talked to the Pitt Script blog before the season they thought Pitt could manage through an easy early schedule and a potentially light Big East to finish 9-3. When we did our Big East preview we tabbed Pitt for a second place finish. Unfortunately for Pitt, the script didn’t go as planned and they finished just 6-6 in the regular season. To rub salt into the wound, Graham took off and headed out West with his tail between his legs to Arizona State. Pitt will now be on it’s fourth Head Coach in less than two years as they head into 2012. Once again we caught up with the Pitt Script Blog to get their take on the 2011 Pittsburgh Panthers and also take a brief look at 2012.
CFBZ: To say Pitt has had issues on the coaching front would be understating it. Most recently Todd Graham put his tail between his legs and headed West. What are the expectations for new coach Paul Chryst in year one?
Pitt Script Blog: Even when Todd Graham came in and radically overhauled the system, there was still a high level of expectations based on Pitt’s comparative talent against the rest of the Big East. Even the most pessimistic of Pitt fans were surprised by how poorly Graham’s system was implemented. On offense, injuries and a poor offensive line made Tino Sunseri’s job that much more overwhelming for the junior quarterback. Pitt’s receivers weren’t quick enough off the ball to get open in a “fast-paced, high-octane” system. Defensively, the unit wore down several times in the fourth quarter and blew several leads, but a lot of that can be attributed to the offense’s inability to sustain drives and eat up clock.
CFBZ: QB Tino Sunseri finished the year with 10 TD and 11 INT. Do you project him as a starter next year or do you see someone else stepping up and taking that spot?
Pitt Script Blog: That’s going to be the million dollar question going into the spring. Sunseri has been underwhelming at best with no real prospect of real improvement. Behind Sunseri is once-upon-a-time four-star prospect Mark Myers, but he’s a guy who has reportedly struggled with work-ethic issues. Former walk-on Trey Anderson got some work behind Sunseri last year, but played terribly and likely isn’t suited for a pro-style system. One of the big fishes in this year’s recruiting class was Army All-American QB Chad Voytik, who was a leader in keeping the recruiting class together. I would still expect Sunseri to hold on to the job based on his experience, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Voytik forgo a redshirt and play some quality minutes if Sunseri fails to deliver.
CFBZ: Pitt will be losing some of their defensive stat leaders this off-season (Gruder, Lindsey, Alecxih). Who are some players that you are expecting to step up on the defensive side of the football?
Pitt Script Blog: Pitt’s secondary next year should be pretty solid with Jason Hendricks and Jared Holley both returning at safety. Pitt returns starting corner K’Wuan WIlliams and picked up former Michigan starter Cullen Christian. Christian struggled at Michigan, but being thrown to the wolves as a true freshman tends to lead to struggles. After a redshirt year at Pitt, hopefully Christian has the confidence and football IQ to contribute at Pitt in 2012.
CFBZ: What is the lasting memory you will have of this season?
Pitt Script Blog: To me, the most memorable game was the loss to Iowa. For three quarters, Pitt’s offense looked unstoppable. It was the efficient, high-octane system that was promised after years of conservative Wanny-ball. Until it wasn’t. With a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter, Pitt’s offense and defensive simultaneously collapsed and the Panthers gave up 21 points in under 12 minutes. To me, there was no greater microcosm of the Todd Graham year.
CFBZ: Heading into the off-season what are the biggest concerns about this team for 2012?
Pitt Script Blog: Can I pick everything? Obviously, quarterback will be a huge concern until the position is settled. The rehab of Ray Graham’s ACL is another one. But the biggest issue long-term might be the offensive and defensive lines. Over the past two recruiting classes, Pitt has signed three offensive linemen. Same with the defensive line. That’s six men total to fill nine total sports. Some 3-4 linebackers will be moved back to DE in Pitt’s 4-3, but there still just doesn’t seem to be enough bodies upfront to fill Pitt’s needs.
Previous 2011 Exit Surveys