5 To Watch: Panthers Offense

Panther Digest publisher Tony Greco stops by with five key offensive players for Irish fans to watch when Pittsburgh invades South Bend Saturday afternoon.

QB #12 Tino Sunseri: For Pitt to have any chance in this game, they're going to need a similar type performance from Tino Sunseri that we've seen in all four Pitt wins this season. Sunseri has three 100-yard games, and four games where he's completed at least 71 percent of his passes. He will need to be that efficient against Notre Dame's defense, but that task will not be easy.

Sunseri has improved a lot in his decision making. If the Irish are able to establish pressure and force him into early throws, they should gain the advantage. Sunseri has not thrown an interception since Week Three against Virginia Tech; a streak of 143 passing attempts.

RB #1 Ray Graham: Ray Graham is the superstar of this offense, but without a passing game--as it's been witnessed at times this season--there is no productivity from Ray Graham, and ultimately there is no offense. Graham rebounded last week with his first 100-yard performance since Week Two at Cincinnati. He can make plays, but the ground game was only successful because of the way the pass was used to set up the run.

RB #4 Rushel Shell: We haven't seen the kind of production from Rushel Shell since the Virginia Tech game, but the freshman running back has found a way to be a factor. It works best when Ray Graham gets going. Shell is more of a north-south runner, and likes to take defenders head-on. For example, if Ray Graham gets in a rhythm, he wears a defense out by out running them, or juking out defenders. Shell, then, comes on and runs people over.

The coaching staff has been successful using both. They have a script for both to be productive. It is up to these two players, however, to carry out the game plan.

WR #15 Devin Street: Of all of Pitt's receivers, Street has the most ability to change a game. When Pitt's running game hasn't been effective, Street still has. When the run game has been effective, Street has also proven to be effective in this case as well. You can make a case for Street being Pitt's most consistent player this year, except for an early-season slump in the first two games. 

RG #56 Arthur Doakes: All eyes should be on Arthur Doakes, as he will likely make his first career start at Notre Dame. Even though head coach Paul Chryst said it could be him or Shane Johnson, based on how things worked Saturday, it was Doakes who came on for the injured Ryan Schlieper. Going after an untested quarterback or even a corner on the opposite side of the ball is a no-brainer. Do you go after an untested offensive lineman? It will be either sink or swim for Doakes. A very good debut, or a disastrous one will swing the pendulum one way or the other.

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