Five To Watch : Offense

Pitt's offense will have a whole new look personnel-wise. Here is a look at how some of those components stack up, heading into the first game of the season against Florida State.

Tom Savage, QB
The last time Savage took a snap in a live game, it was Nov. 13, 2010, a 13-10 loss to Syracuse, when he was the quarterback at Rutgers.

A lot has happened since then. Savage transferred to Arizona when Mike Stoops was the head coach. After Stoops was fired from Arizona, Savage left to join the Pitt program as a walk-on in the summer of 2012. Also, since that last start, Pitt has gone through six head coaches--including two interim coaches.

Savage comes to Pitt at an interesting juncture, as both he and the program are looking to gain some stability, both by going back to the basics.

Savage was named the starting quarterback by head coach Paul Chryst two weeks ago, and will be backed up be redshirt freshman Chad Voytik.

This is an interesting scenario on a lot of levels. One, Chryst has had success in developing productive starters in just one year. In his final year at Wisconsin, Chryst's offense was led by Russell Wilson who transferred in to Madison for his final year of eligibility. Wilson threw for 3,174 yards, completed 72 percent of his passes with 33 touchdown passes and four interceptions.

In just one year with Tino Sunseri, Pitt's senior quarterback went from 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in Todd Graham's gimmick 'high-octane' offense, to 21 touchdowns and just three interceptions under Chryst, while throwing for 3,288 yards.

Chryst has certainly had a big impact on his previous two quarterbacks. If he can get Savage to come anywhere close to the numbers of Wilson and Sunseri, it will further set the tone in developing quarterbacks at Pitt.

Manasseh Garner, TE
The 6-2, 230-pound Garner transferred to Pitt a year ago, after spending two years at Wisconsin where he played in 20 career games.

On a personal level, Garner gets the best of both worlds--returning to his hometown, while playing for the same coaches who recruited him at Wisconsin.

While Pitt has a proven playmaker in Devin Street, the offense needs a distraction elsewhere. With a new starting quarterback, and an unproven threat in the running game, a lot of that can be solved with Garner. Though he will be listed as a tight end, look for Garner to line up all over the field to create matchup problems. If he contributes, he can drag attention away from Street, add some confidence to Savage in the form of another target, and possibly take pressure off the run game.

In other words, if Garner can prove to be productive, it will do a lot to open up the offense as a whole.

Artie Rowell, C
Within his brand of bringing a productive and efficient style of offense to Pittsburgh, is strong offensive line play. The jury is still out on how this offensive line will be. One different this year from previous years was the competition factor at multiple spots on the offensive line.

Leading the way was a competitive battle at center between redshirt sophomore Artie Rowell and redshirt freshman Gabe Roberts.

Roberts was the guy to beat out, going back to the spring. He ran with the first-team throughout the spring, and through the first half of training camp. Keep in mind Roberts had never played the position, and spent the majority of his freshman year recovering from a shoulder surgery that kept him out of practicing.

"I think Gabe did a lot of good things and is continuing to improve, but right now we felt that Artie gave us the best chance to succeed," Chryst said. "In bowl preparation last year, Artie stuck out. He had a great winter conditioning, did some good things in the spring and continued to carry that into the summer and fall camp. He's earned it, and that's a good thing."

Rowell was the more natural center, and was the lone player from the Class of 2010 who stuck with his initial commitment to Pitt all along, after the firing of Dave Wannstedt.

The patience and the perseverance of Rowell paid off, as he won the starting job coming out of camp. He gets an ultimate test right away in facing Florida State.

T.J. CLEMMINGS, RT
Clemmings is a former five-star defensive end, who worked his way into the starting lineup last year as a redshirt sophomore.

Despite battling some injuries in 2012, Clemmings played in eight games, starting six. He finished the season with 20 tackles.

Even with a promising 2012 season at defensive end, Clemmings was moved to the offensive line in bowl game preparations. Initially, the move was made to provide some depth on the offensive line. Clemmings liked it that much--at the time--that he decided in December, he was staying on offense.

Carrying over to the spring, Clemmings ran with the first-team from start to finish. He earned the Ed Conway Award for most improved player on the offensive side of the ball. In training camp, he would have to hold off competition from redshirt senior Juantez Hollins--back from a season-long suspension in 2012--and heralded freshman Dorian Johnson.

Even for as good a training camp as both Hollins and Johnson had, Clemmings remained with the first group. He's going to get a good test from a speedy Florida State defensive line in his first start, but Clemmings has responded to every demand the coaching staff has asked of him.

RUNNING BACK
Why do we not list a player here? Because at this juncture, we don't know who it's going to be.

True freshmen James Conner and Rachid Ibrahim took the majority of snaps at running back in training camp, and were impressive. If they play on Monday night, how much does their inexperience show?

Interestingly, neither is listed on the two-deep.

Junior Isaac Bennett--the favorite to take over as starter--was injured in training camp, and did not see action after the fifth day. Malcolm Crockett, a redshirt sophomore, also had a nagging shoulder injury to deal with. Even when healthy, we saw more of Conner and Ibrahim.

It's as much of a question as to who the starter is, as well as how much of an impact the running game as a whole will be a factor.


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