Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Can Pitt Meet High Expectations in 2010


By Garrett Dodson

Some Pitt fans can remember going into the 2003 season ranked #10 by the AP poll. This team had future hall of famer, Larry Fitzgerald on the roster. So, among the Pitt faithful, expectations were running high with the potential of winning the Big East title and going to a BCS bowl game. They lost a 35-31 contest early in the season to Toledo and eventually finished the season at a disappointing 8-5 record. The same kind of expectations is being heaped upon the 2010 squad to not only win the Big East, but finish in the top ten. Below is the top 15 for the 2010 preseason coaches’ poll.

#1 Alabama

#2 Texas

#3 Florida

#4 Texas

#5 Boise State

#6 Virginia Tech

#8 TCU

#9 Oklahoma

#10 Nebraska

#11 Iowa

#12 Oregon

#13 Wisconsin

#14 Penn State

#15 Pitt

Season Overview:

The 2010 Pitt squad returns 7 starters on offense and 6 on defense. The team returns Heisman trophy candidates Dion Lewis (RB) and Jon Baldwin (WR). On the defensive side, standout defensive ends Greg Romeous and Jabaal Sheard anchor the front four that led the nation in sacks a season ago. The non-conference schedule will be challenging with visits to Utah and Notre Dame, while hosting Miami at home. Even though Pitt was selected as the preseason favorite to win the Big East, they will face stiff competition against Connecticut, West Virginia, Cincinnati, and Rutgers.


Even though Dion Lewis and Jon Baldwin will get most of the media attention, the success of redshirt sophomore Tino Sunseri will be a key to offense. After redshirting his freshman year, Tino gave last year’s starter Bill Stull plenty of competition in preseason training camp. Many will question his height (list at 6’ 2”, but more like 6’), but has a terrific arm and the ability to run if necessary. Tino was 10 of 17 for 114 yards with 2 TD’s last season in relief effort. The offense is loaded at the both the running back and wide receive positions, but have question marks at the interior of the offensive line. Both tackles, senior Jason Pinkston and junior Lucas Nix are looking to have outstanding years, but starting positions for the two guards and center positions are up for grabs. Senior walk-on Alex Karabin has a slight edge on Jack Lippert at the center position. And Chris Jacobson, Greg Gaskins, and Ryan Turnley will be competing for the guard positions. Pitt returns a rarity in college football these days, and that is a good blocking fullback. Junior Henry Hynoski, is not only an excellent blocker, but has good hands receiving. Mike Cruz seems to have solidified his position as starting tight end, which plays an integral part in Frank Cignetti’s offense. If the offensive line can protect Sunseri and open gaps for Lewis, this offense can be very lethal. It would not surprise me to see the Pitt offense score more than 30 points per game on many occasions.


The 2010 Pitt defense has the potential to be better than the 2009 squad, which led the nation in sacks (47). One of the reasons for optimism is the good depth that Dave Wannestadt has established through his successful recruiting efforts. T.J. Clemmings, Bryan Murphy, Aaron Donald, and Khaynin Mosely-Smith are four defensive ends/tackles to remember in the future. These freshmen are already pushing for second and third string positions early in training camp. Jabaal Sheard and Greg Romeous combined for 13 sacks last year at the defensive end position. Myles Caragein and Chas Alechxih look to fill in the void left by Mick Williams and Gus Mustakus at defensive tackle. The linebacking corps will be the fastest group coached under Dave Wannestadt. All of them run the forty yard dash around 4.5 seconds. Over the last several years, Pitt’s defense has been noted for having a good middle linebacker. Remember H.B. Blades, Scott McKillops, and Adam Gunn? Dan Mason looks to continue this streak of good linebackers. The one thing that sets Dan Mason apart from other linebackers is the head on his shoulders. He spends plenty of time in the film room. The secondary has been a weakness for Pitt over the last couple of years. But, Ricky Gary and Antwuan Reed look to strengthen the cornerback position. Dom DeCicco (6’4” 230 lbs) and Jarred Holley are valuable at the safety positions.

Special Teams:

Dan Hutchins has the role of both punter and kicker. He was 23 of 29 (79%) in field goals last season. Dan kicked the winning field goal during the Meinecke Car Care Bowl against North Carolina last season. Dan has spent his offseason working on adding distance to his kicking. He was very accurate within 40 yards, but kicks over 40 yards were the majority of his misses. Dan made a 48 yard field goal in their last scrimmage game; giving coaches the assurance that he can be counted on to hit the long ones.


1) The defense returns two outstanding defensive ends that will harass quarterbacks all season long.

2) There is good depth at the skilled positions. Ray Graham could start on most college football teams, but is a great compliment to Dion Lewis at running back. The wide receiver position is stacked deep with plenty of talent. With Jon Baldwin and Mike Shanahan as the starters, Cam Saddler, Greg Cross, and Devin Street can all provide the fire power needed to compliment a solid running game for the Panthers.

3) Offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti. He can make an average player a good one.

4) Offensive line coach Tony Wise. He is a former line coach of the Dallas Cowboys.


1) The offensive line must replace 3 out of 5 starters from last season. Also they must replace the tight end position which lost two players to the NFL.

2) The secondary has been a weakness over the last couple of years, giving up plenty of yardage through the air. Pitt blew two leads last year against N.C. State and Cincinnati by giving up points through the passing game.


Sept 2 at Utah

Sept 11 New Hampshire

Sept 23 Miami

Oct 2 Florida International

Oct 9 at Notre Dame

Oct 16 at Syracuse

Oct 23 Rutgers

Oct 30 Louisville

Nov 11 at Connecticut

Nov 20 at South Florida

Nov 26 West Virginia

Dec 4 at Cincinnati

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