2001 Pitt Football Preview

A 7-4 regular season and a trip to a bowl game was a good start for the Panthers. While players should be pleased with what happened last year, it should serve as a reminder of how much harder they need to work. Close losses to Virginia Tech and North Carolina should fuel the competitive spirit as the team prepares for the season opener against ETSU Sept. 1. There are a few players that are pretty solidly entrenched in their positions but, many questions need to be answered during camp.

 

Defensive Line

 

      Defensively this team should be ready to play with anyone in the conference.  The roster teems with players who have starting experience.  Like last year this defense is fast and will bring pressure from the outside.  That aspect should be even better this year with an even larger rotation.

      Leading the way is senior Bryan Knight.  Knight teams with junior Ryan Smith at the other end.  If Smith is healthy this could be one of the most fun positions to watch.  Backing up at end are junior Brian Guzek and sophomore Claude Harriott.  Those two are not even safe from pressure because redshirt freshman Brandon Hayes and incoming freshmen Thomas Smith and Kevin Harris bring size and speed to the position.

      The interior of the line needs to increase the pressure.  The push up the middle will make the ends job that much easier.  Senior Joe Conlin is the leader inside but he has had to battle his share of injuries.  Darrell
McMurray should help inside as well. The sophomore provides a bit more size than Conlin.

      The backups inside are numerous and inexperienced.  Sophomore Matt Mefford and redshirt freshmen Vince Crochunis, Jake Holthaus and Dan Stephens have to provide depth.  If they do not, look for incoming freshmen Troy Banner, and Charles Spencer to push for time.

 

Linebacker

 

      There is no shortage of talent at linebacker.  It's probably the most competitive position on the roster.  The group is led by a trio of seniors, Brandon Williams, Ryan Gonsales and Amir Purifoy.  Purifoy and Gonsales share time inside and Williams sees extensive action outside.

      There are so many capable linebackers on the squad that it


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