Pitt's Spring Game Draft doesn't operate under the same conditions as most selection processes. The unique style displayed itself in the form of the draft's No. 1 overall pick.
It wasn't James Conner or Jordan Whitehead. Rather, the Blue team tabbed offensive tackle Brian O'Neill to start Wednesday's proceedings.
"I thought that was a strength of our team," fellow tackle and Blue team captain Adam Bisnowaty said. "We started off there and worked our way, we have a lot guys inside on the offensive line so we have a lot of guys in there and we have a strong offensive line for our quarterback."
The structure of the Spring Game Draft is such that each position is chosen during a single round. What position is drafted is determined by the player chosen at the start of the draft.
So, when the Blue team drafted O'Neill first, the rest of the offensive tackles were chosen to close out the first round. As a result, an additional element of strategy enters the fold and Bisnowaty's group capitalized.
"I’m pretty sure our offensive line is one of the best in the country," Bisnowaty said. "Last year we were up for the Joe Moore Award, I think this year we’re going to win it so I think come this fall we’re going to have the best line in the country."
The Blue team drafted O'Neill to pair with captain Adam Bisnowaty and left the Gold team thin at the position while it tries to protect one of its captains, Nathan Peterman Saturday. While Peterman will likely wear a red jersey at Heinz Field, strategy permeated the draft as chosen by the seniors.
Peterman, Mike Caprara, Scott Orndoff, Dorian Johnson, Tyrique Jarrett, Chris Blewitt, Jaymar Parrish, John Guy and Chris Wuestner captained the Gold team. Bisnowaty, Ejuan Price, Dontez Ford, Matt Galambos, Reggie Mitchell, Terrish Webb, Shakir Soto, Bam Bradley, Ryan Lewis and Pat Quirin were drafted by the coaching staff as the Blue team's captains.
Peterman was pleased with the Gold team's draft, as his group added kicker Alec Schuster to Blewitt and punter Ryan Winslow to seemingly gain an edge in the special teams game.
"I think it was our best draft," Peterman said. "We’re really confident about our picks, they actually played into our hands perfectly."
The presence of Caprara, who knows all three linebacker spots, also allowed the Gold team to choose another Money linebacker in Saleem Brightwell. Caprara will move to the middle while Brightwell will play the Money, allowing the Gold's linebacker group added versatility and depth.
"I don’t think it’s necessarily the question if I want to play middle but the fact that we have depth of guys," Caprara said. "There’s a lot of things going on in the spring game, and the spring game atmosphere itself, we just want to have a lot of depth so we get a good rotation and keep guys fresh."
Blue countered by drafting the one long snapper available in Jake Knight with starter Pat Quirin was already on the team as a captain. As a result, fullback Nate Bossory will likely take on snapping duties for the Gold on special teams which could present challenges. That allowed the Blue team to choose two defensive tackles in the final round.
Perhaps the biggest surprise pick Wednesday was when the Gold team made Chawntez Moss the first running back chosen. Moss, an early-enrollee from the Class of 2016, was selected before Darrin Hall and ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year Qadree Ollison.
Head coach Pat Narduzzi says Moss has impressed in practice and scrimmages of later, but expects Moss will face much pressure heading into Saturday's game.
"I don’t know if that was against the third defense or the second defense but they have the image that he’s made plays," Narduzzi said. "It’s a tribute to what he’s done and if I’m the second or third or fourth tailback taken, I would imagine they’ll come out and run pretty hard."
After the Blue team chose Hall, the Gold took Rachid Ibrahim and left Ollison as the last back chosen. Peterman wants to see what Moss does with the spotlight.
"We knew we couldn’t have a wrong pick basically," Peterman said. "We think Chawntez brings a little burst and we’ll see what he can do Saturday. We want to put him in a situation where he can make some plays for us."
Narduzzi said he wasn't surprised by the order the players were drafted, and liked seeing how the Panthers understood the importance of generating depth for Saturday's game.
"That tells you what the kids understand about depth on your chart," Narduzzi said. "You’ve got to have it at every position and I think you’re a stronger unit when you have it because eventually you’re going to need that guy."