Spring Football: What To Watch For

This spring, Pitt has a new coaching staff, some key injured veterans either out for all of spring, or to be limited. There will also be a few position switches to look at, and if there's any significance.

Paul Chryst's First Spring
- It's Chryst's first shot as a head coach, and his first step out of Wisconsin after a successful run there as offensive coordinator. He said Wednesday that he's looking forward to overseeing the whole operation (offense, defense, special teams), so it doesn't sound like he's nervous for his first head coaching gig.

Less Players Sitting Out
- Only running back Ray Graham and linebacker Todd Thomas are out for the spring. Salath Williams (shoulder), Mike Shanahan (back), Jarred Holley (knee) and Chris Jacobson (knee) are the only other players on the roster that will be limited--considerably fewer injured players sitting out of spring drills than in recent drills.

Offensive Line Shuffling
- With starters Lucas Nix, Greg Gaskins and Jordan Gibbs all graduated, and veteran Chris Jacobson limited in spring drills, there will probably be a lot of reshuffling on the line as the spring begins. Ryan Turnley started all 13 games at center last year, and he will be joined by Juantez Hollins, Ryan Schlieper, Matt Rotheram and Cory King--all players who started games last year

Which position switch means the most?
- When Pitt's spring roster came out Wednesday, Brandon Ifill moved from safety to receiver, E.J. Banks and Anthony Gonzalez moved from defensive back and receiver, respectively, to quaterback. Bryan Murphy, Devin Cook and LaQuentin Smith all moved from linebacker to defensive end. Jason Frimpong moves from defensive back to linebacker, Steve Williams moves from running back to linebacker, and Lafayette Pitts moves from safety to corner, where he was initially recruited. For now, it all looks to even out the numbers at some of the positions. Ifill, Pitts and Smith would be safe bets to be in line for a backup spot at their new respective position.

Running Backs Get A Leg Up
- Isaac Bennett, Corey Davis and Malcolm Crockett need to seize the opportunity at running back this spring. With Ray Graham out, and with Rushel Shell not getting here until August, this is a big spring for all to prove they can stand out.

Linebacker Spots Up For Grabs
- Pitt graduated Max Gruder, Tristan Roberts, Greg Williams and Brandon Lindsey--four players who started at linebacker last season. The Panthers get a bit of a boost, shifting from the 3-4 to the 4-3 which will aid the linebacker position from a number standpoint. There's some experience, but it's a group full of unproven players. Shane Gordon, Carl Fleming, Todd Thomas, Ejuan Price and Joe Trebitz have all seen time at linebacker during their careers. Thomas is out for the spring, leaving Price as the next most experienced player. Can he handle being a leader of the linebackers at an early point of his career.

Dan Mason
- Nothing else needs added to this name. Paul Chryst said Wednesday that Mason is ready to go and will practice this spring following the devastating knee injury suffered in the Miami game in 2010. If Mason can come back strong, how much could he help the linebacker position? It might be awhile before we see him in some full contact, but could be one of the things determined as a result of these spring drills.

Defensive Line Not Short On Potential
- If this defensive line--based on some of the reshuffling--works out, it has a chance to be a strength of the team once again. Despite losing Myles Caragein, Chas Alecxih and at times Brandon Lindsey--who switched around at a standing end position last year--the d-line does return Khaynin Mosley-Smith and its sack leader from a year ago, Aaron Donald. Those two are back at tackle, along with Tyrone Ezell--who is still looking to break into a regular role. At defensive end is T.J. Clemmings, who redshirted last year. Bryan Murphy also moves back to defensive end after sitting out last year as an academic casualty. LaQuentin Smith--who played in a lot of games as a freshman--is also there to compete. Shayne Hale and Jack Lippert will also be reserves somewhere in this group--either at tackle or end. (Hale most likely at end, Lippert possibly at tackle). There's some numbers in this group, and a lot of potential. The door is wide open for some players in this group to put that potential on display.

Transfers Join In
- Cullen Christian, after sitting out a transfer year from Michigan last year, is eligible to play this year as is safety Ray Vinopal. Christian could be in a battle for a starting spot at corner, while Vinopal should be able to backup a talented and experienced group of safeties in Jarred Holley, Andrew Taglianetti and Jason Hendricks. Brendon Felder is ready to go after transferring in from North Carolina, and will help out at receiver.

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