Grading the 2004 Pittsburgh Panthers

In the first of a three part series, Pitt Insiders will be grading the 2004 Pittsburgh Panthers. In the first segment, we'll break down the Panther offense. In the coming weeks, look for the Panther defense and special teams. Heading into the 2004 season....



Grade = C+

Skinny: Based on potential, this Panther squad is loaded.  The problem is a lack of overall game experience. The battle for the starting job should be fierce.  Which QB gets the starting nod had better keep looking over his shoulder. Walt Harris' impatience with young guns not meeting his expectations is well chronicled.

Outlook: Competition should bring out the best in the young QBs.  The guy that wins the job will be under the constant pressure of replacing All Big East performer, Rod Rutherford.  If he should falter early, expect coach Harris to shuffle these guys in and out of the line-up.

Projected depth chart: 1) Tyler Palko  2) Luke Getsy  3) Joe Flacco

In the mix: Darrell Strong

15 Joe Flacco   6-6, 210, So.  Redshirted in 2003.

Prep Notes:  Two time All-New Jersey Group II. Two time All-South Jersey. Two time All-conference.  Set single game Sout Jersy record by passing for 471 yards in one game. Honor roll student. Joe passed for 5,137 yards in 3 years as a starter - registering 2,020 yards and 10 TD's his senior year and 1,790 yards and 15 TD's his junior year.  He has a very quick release to go along with a cannon for an arm.

28 Matt Flaus  6-2, 180, Jr.  2003 - 0/0/0

Prep Notes:  Earned one letter in football and four letters in track and field. Played for former Panther Bill Cherpak at Thomas Jefferson High School. Section pole vault champion. Graduated with honors. His father is the head coach at Peabody High School.

11 Luke Getsy  6-2, 220, Jr.   Luke was redshirted in 2002.  In 2003 he became the back-up to Rod Rutherford, completing 3 passes in 13 attempts for 32 yards.  He threw no TDs or INTs.  Had four rushes for 34 yards.

Prep Notes:  Luke was a four year starter and threw for 6,021 yards at Steel Valley. Led school to playoffs all four years. Named to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Fabulous 22 and the Tribune-Review's Terrific 25. Two time All-Century Conference. First team All-state by the Associated Press (small school). National Honor Society. He was a PrepStar All-Eastern Region selection and was the 24th-ranked prospect in Pennsylvania by SuperPrep.Four year starter in basketball. All-section performer.

3 Tyler Palko   6-2, 220, Jr.  After backing up Pitt starter Rod Rutherford in 2002, Palko played in six games and finished 2 of  3 passing for 13 yards and rushing for 1 TD in the Insight Bowl vs. Oregon State.  Was redshirted in 2003.

Prep Notes:  Led West Allegheny HS to three straight successful WPIAL Class AAA championship campaigns in which the team also advanced to the PIAA title game, winning the state championship in 2001. That season, as a senior, he passed for 1,887 yards and 18 touchdowns and rushed for 628 yards and 8 touchdowns. Over his career at West Allegheny, Tyler threw for 5,553 yards and rushed for 1,681 yards.Associated Press Pennsylvania Player of the Year in 2001. USA Today All-American second team. Three time Post-Gazette AAA Player of the Year. Three time Post-Gazette Fabulous 22 and Tribune-Review Terrific 25.  2001 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Player of the Year. Selected to the Big 33 game and the US Army All-American Bowl. Attended the Elite 11 camp. PrepStar rated him as the No. 1 quarterback in the East and No. 6 nationally. SuperPrep rated him 10th nationally. 

Running Backs

Grade = C-

Skinny: The Panthers have talent in the backfield.  Powerful runner Ray Kirkley should be hungry for playing time coming off a redshirt season in 2003.  Jawan Walker has a world of talent and showed flashes of brilliance during the 2003 campaign.  Though Walker has plenty of skill, he has yet to show that he can handle the job full time.  Marcus Furman was switched back to the runningback position to provide depth.

Outlook:  The 2004 group has the talent to surprise some people. Lack of quality depth means the backs need to avoid the injury bug this season. This unit will go as far as the offensive line will take it. 

Projected depth chart:  1.) Jawan  Walker  2.) Ray Kirkley  3.) Marcus Furman

In the mix:  Brandon Mason, Rashad Jennings

49 Abdur Abdullah  6-0, 235, Sr.  N/A 

Prep Notes:  He was a three year starter at Kiski Prep on both sides of the ball. Two-time first team All-Interstate Prep on offense and defense. Earned four letters in football and three letters in basketball and track and field. IPSL 100-yard dash champion. Honor Roll Student.  At Kiski School in Saltsburg, PA, Abdur played tailback and and defensive back, helping the team to a 1999 IPSL championship. He was twice selected to first-team All-Interstate Prep School League on offense and defense, and set a season rushing record with 1,428 yards his senior year, with a career-high game of 346 yards rushing.

2 Marcus Furman  5-8, 190, Sr.  2002 Season: At running back and receiver, Marcus had 30 rushing attempts for 84 yards and 1 TD, and 8 receptions for 67 yards. He had two kick returns for a total of 74 yards.  Was switched to CB for the 2003 season but is back at his original position of RB for the upcoming season.  2001 Season: As a true freshman, Marcus played in eight regular-season games as well as the Tangerine Bowl. He rushed for 72 yards in the West Virginia game as the starting tailback. 

Prep Notes:  Marcus was a two-time all-state player at Connellsville High School. A member of the Pittsburgh Press' Fabulous 22 and the Tribune-Review Terrific 25, Marcus was the ninth leading rusher in WPIAL history with 5,041 career yards.  His senior season produced totals of 1,787 yards and 21 touchdowns.  Won the WPIAL 100 meters championship in 2000.  He was also selected for the Big 33 game in Hershey. 

43 Raymond Kirkley  5-10, 225, Sr.  Career stats:  200 rushes / 797 yards, 4 TDs.  Kirkley burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2001 rushing for 645 yards on 155 carries for a 4.2 Avg. with 3 TDs and catching 19 passes for 127 yards.  In 2001 he was named ECAC Rookie of the Year.  His sophmore season was a dissapointment.  He gained only 216 yards on 52 carries.  Has not had a 100 yard game at Pitt, coming closest to the mark in 2001 against Miami (93Yds).  Was redshirted in 2003. 

Prep Notes:  Two time All-Virginia Group A selection in high school. Rushed for 5,362 yards and 87 touchdowns at Madison County High. Named the state, district and regional player of the year.  During his prep season at Fork Union Military Academy, Raymond was the team's leading rusher with 800 yards. Over his career at Madison County HS, he was twice selected All-Virginia Group A and rushed for 5,362 yards and 87 touchdowns. An outstanding senior season saw him record 2,963 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns, as well as 7 receptions for 163 yards and 3 touchdowns. Kirkley was the state, district, and regional Player of the Year.

34 Jawan Walker  5-10, 215, Jr.   In 2002 Walker impressed during the preseason but had his progress hindered by a partially torn medial collateral ligament (left knee) in the last scrimmage of training camp.  Probably should've taken a redshirt.  Made his collegiate debut in the season's seventh game (at Notre Dame) and finished with five rushing yards on two carries...had six carries for 15 yards on the year.  In 2003 Walker showed flashes of brilliance.  To a fault, Walker likes to run east/west and doesn't hit the holes as quickly as he should.  Finished the 2003 season with 451 yards on 107 carries, and a paltry average of 3.8 yards per attempt.

Prep Notes:  In his junior year Erie Cathedral went 14-0 and won the PIAA AAAA state championship and a # 2 ranking in the nation by ESPN, # 4 ranking by USA Today.  Lettered three times in basketball and track/field.  As a senior he rushed for 2,429 yards and 33 touchdowns while receiving for 203 yards on 13 receptions with 1 touchdown. During a stellar career at Cathedral, Jawan amassed 4, 864 yards (an Erie County rushing record) on 605 carries. His honors include first team Associated Press Big School All-State, All-Erie Metro, Allegheny Football Conference MVP, Erie Metro League MVP, and a selection to the Big 33 Football Classic. He was ranked 26th by SuperPrep and named All-Eastern Region by PrepStar.


Grade = B-

Skinny: Tim Murphy proved in the past that he can shoulder the load at fullback, filling in for Lousaka Polite when needed.  Justin Acierno and Mark Yezovich provide solid depth behind Murphy.

Outlook: When a team loses the leadership and overall talent of a Lousaka Polite, players need to step up and take charge.  The talent is there, now Murphy will need to become that senior, vocal leader.

Projected Depth Chart: 1) Tim Murphy  2) Justin Acierno  3) Mark Yezovich

In The Mix: Tyler Tipton, John Pettiford

40 Justin Acierno   6-1, 240, Sr.  Started his Panther career at linebacker.  Was switched to fullback during his sophmore season. Dressed for seven games in 2003.  A solid lead blocker, his Pitt career has netted two carries for one yard.

Prep Notes:   A student of the game, Justin was an All-Quad East selection and three year letter winner at Central Catholic HS, helping the team to an 8-3 record and the WPIAL quarterfinals his senior year.

38 Kellen Campbell   6-0, 230, Sr.  N/A

Prep Notes: Football and wrestling standout at West Allegheny.   Earned All-State, All-Big 7 and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "Fabulous 22" West honors in football under Coach Bob Palko. Was the team's starting linebacker and running back from his since his sophomore year. In wrestling he earned All-State honors and compiled over 100 career victories.  Four year letterman in both football and wrestling.  A former highschool teamate of Tyler Palko.                    

23 Tim Murphy  5-10, 235, Sr.  In 2003 Murphy rushed 29 times for 79 yards, a 2.7 average.  He caught 7 passes for 48 yards.  His career totals at Pitt are, 32 carries for 135 yards, 11 receptions for 60 yards.  Murphy has yet to visit the endzone in a Panther uniform.

Prep Notes: First team All-State. Two time first team All-Northeast Ohio. Three times All-League. Akron Beacon Jounal Player of the Year in 1999. Rushed for 5,427 and 65 touchdowns at Buchtel. As a senior he racked up 1,795 yards over 174 carries for 23 touchdowns, and 2,147 yards over 197 carries for 27 touchdowns as a junior. Buchtel amassed a 37-12 record during his career there and 3 trips to the state playoffs. PrepStar named him All-Midwest Region.

30 Mark Yezovich   6-0, 220, So.  N/A

Prep Notes: Second team Associated Press All-State (big schools). First team All-Quad East Conference. In his final two years Woodland Hills they were 28-2 and won the WPIAL AAAA title both years and also advanced to the state finals. Named to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Terrific 25 and the Post-Gazette's Fabulous 22. Selected to the Big 33 game.  Mark Yezovich was a standout two-way performer for Woodland Hills HS. He finished with 596 yards and 9 TD's on 109 carries on offense and 117 tackles, 9 sacks, and an INT on defense this season. He registered 231 tackles over two years. With a 5 yards per carry average, Mark helped lead Woodland Hills to the State Championship game two years in a row. They also won the WPIAL Class AAAA title two years in a row.


Wide Receivers

Grade = B

Skinny: Walt Harris knows how to recruit the skill positions.  The Panthers have very good talent at wide receiver. If the o-line holds up, there won't be a problem with finding open receivers on a regular basis.  Will this be the year that Terrell Allen emerges as a star?  Will Greg Lee continue his marvelous play?  This is one area of the Pitt offense that actually exites me.

Outlook: How do you replace All-World receiver Larry Fitzgerald?  You don't.  The receivers need to make their own marks.  Fitz set the standard at Pitt.  These guys need to try and perform as close to that standard as possible. 

Projected Depth Chart: 1) Princell Brockenbrough  2) Terrell Allen (FL)  3) Greg Lee  4) Joe Stephens  5) Joe DelSardo

In The Mix: Kelvin Chandler, Marcel Pestano, Derrick Kinder                     

8 Princell Brockenbrough   6-3, 205, Sr.  2003: Princell caught 35 passes for  616 yards, an astounding 17.6  yards per catch, with 4 touchdowns.  . 

Prep Notes: The nation's No. 1 junior college receiver ( and No. 9 overall junior college prospect (SuperPrep).  City College of San Fransico went 24-0 and won two California Community College championships while he was there.  Had 65 receptions for 1,055 yards (16.2 avg.) and 20 touchdowns in two seasons at City College of San Francisco. Two way standout (receiver and free safety) at Henrico High in Virginia.  High school honors included All-Virginia, All-Region and All-District.  Was selected to play in the Virginia East-West Game.

87 Donald Brooks   6-3, 180, Fr.  N/A

Prep Notes: Enrolled in January of 2004 after recovering from an automobile accident. Donald's high school coach, Dimitri Gazelas, played under Walt Harris at Pacific University in 1991-92 and Pitt defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads was his position coach in 1992-93. Coach Gazelas showed Pitt the tape on Donald before any other school. Texas A&M, Oklahoma, SMU, and TCU, were showing interest in him.  He was a Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) class 3A First-team All-State selection as a junior. Donald caught 25 passes for 626 yards, an average of 25 yards per catch, and 8 TD's last season. Of his 8 TD catches his junior year, 5 were of 45 yards or longer. He had TD grabs of 53, 61, 59, and 52 yards and also had an 80-yard punt return for a TD.

86 Greg Lee  6-2, 180, So.   In 2003 Greg, a true freshman, caught 10 passes for 211 yards with no touchdowns.

Prep Notes: Second team All-Florida 5A selection. All-Tampa Tribune County. First team All-Western Conference. Chamberlain was 10-2 his senior season. Four year letter winner in football and basketball. Third team All-Florda selection in basketball. Won two letters in track and field. Greg Lee registered 44 catches for 658 yards and 12 TD's his senior year at Chamberlain HS. He was a 3-year starter. Greg was selected Florida Class 5-A All-State (2nd team). He was also named All-Tampa and All-Western Conference. Greg helped lead his team to the Florida 5-A playoffs three years in a row.  Greg joins Chamberlain High teammate Joe Clermond, who also became a Panther in 2003. Chamberlain went 22-5 his final two seasons of play.

81 Joe Stephens   6-0, 190, Sr.  2003 stats: 1 reception for 4 yards.

Prep Notes:  At Armwood  High School , Joe's honors include St. Petersburg Times All-Sun Coast, first team All-Western Conference, first team All-County, and third team All-State. He registered 39 receptions for 842 yards over his career for an outstanding 21.6-yard average. As a senior he helped Armwood to a regional championship and the Class 3A state semifinals after an 11-3 record.  Four year letter winner in football.  Joe has great speed to go with his size and has shown good skills going up against defenders.

80 Terrell Allen  6-0, 185, So.  2003:  As a true freshman Allen returned 25 kicks for 591 yards and a very respectable 23.1 average.

Prep Notes: First team All-South Carolina selection. As a senior Allen caught 36 passes for 645 yards, and 7 touchdowns in helping James F. Bynes High School to 14-1 record and the AAAA state championship. One of only three players ever to start for 4 years at his school.  Was elected to play in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, an all-star game featuring players from North Carolina and South Carolina.  Student Sports and SuperPrep All-American.  Coming out of highschool Terrell was rated the nation's No. 22 receiver prospect by SuperPrep, and No. 30 receiving prospect by Was South Carolina's No. 7 prospect by Superprep and No. 11 prospect by  PrepStar All-Atlantic Region

2 Joe DelSardo   5-8, 200, So.  N/A

Prep Notes: First team all-state (small schools). Member of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review's Terrific 25 and the Post-Gazette's Fabulous 22. Post Gazette AA player of the Year. Tribune-Review AA Player of the Year. Four year starter. Caught 29 touchdowns and had 2,395 yards receiving at Seton LaSalle.                 

7 Tom Kail   6-4, 220, So. N/A

Prep Notes: Played at Milford Academy in Milford, Connecticut.   Dabbled in minor league baseball before resuming prep football career.

Tight Ends

Grade = C-

Skinny:  Not only does lack of experience makes this an area of concern, there is not much depth at the position.  An unfortunate injury could decimate this unit.   

Outlook: It's great to have players the quality of Kris Wilson, but it also hurts from a standpoint of allocating playing time to younger players.  Are these present tight ends prepared to battle game in and game out?  Only time will tell.

Projected Depth Chart: 1) Erik Gill  2) Steve Buches  3) Dan Pickens

In The Mix: Robbie Agnone                   

84 Steve Buches   6-3, 240, Jr.  2003:  2 Receptions for 27 Yards, a 13.5 Average with no touchdowns. 

Prep Notes: He was a two way starter and team captain at Central Catholic. He also can perform long-snapping duties.  An Associated Press second team All-state, Post Gazette's Fabulous 22, and Tribune Review's Terrific 25.  Helped the Vikings to an 11-2 record and runner-up in the WPIAL finals as a senior.  Selected to play in the Big 33 game in Hershey, PA.  Steve also made the Second Team Associated Press Big School All-State Team list and was the WPIAL's top receiving tight end in 2001. Coming out of highschool, Superprep rated him as the 15th ranked player in the state of Pennsylvania.

45 Erik Gill    6-5, 265, Sr.  2003:  1 Reception for 15 Yards, a 15.0 Average with no touchdowns.

Prep Notes:  At Belle Vernon HS, Erik Gill was twice selected to The Associated Press Big School All-State Team. Named to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Terrific 25 and the Post-Gazette's Fabulous 22.  Two time All-Keystone Conference selection. Three year letter winner in basketball. Named all-section in junior and senior season.  He led the team to a 30-4 record, including three WPIAL playoff berths and three conference championships,. PrepStar named him All-American and Super 30 All-Eastern Region. Erik was the nation's seventh-ranked tight end by Max Emfinger, and the nation's 15th-ranked tight end by Tom Lemming. He was ranked the 24th prospect in Pennsylvania by SuperPrep.

88 Dan Pickens   6-4, 220, So.  N/A

Prep Notes: Played at South Fayette High School.  


Offensive Linemen

Grade = D

Skinny: As woeful as the line was in 2003, things could be worse in 2004.  Baptism by fire?  The Panthers may be forced to start as many as three untested players along the front line. In 2003, injuries dashed any hope of consistency in the trenches.  The injuries continued to haunt the Panthers through spring workouts. 

Outlook: They don't get much better than Rob Petitti.  A two time All Big East selection, Panther fans can rely on the steady Petitti to anchor a very young offensive line.  Injuries and under-achieving seems to be the norm on the Pitt campus these days.  With the exception of Petitti and perhaps John Simonitis, the Panthers will be hard pressed to field a consistent, sound offensive line.

Projected Depth Chart: (LT) 1) Rob Petitti  2) Mike DeLuca  (LG) 1) Matt Maiers  2) Rob Frederick  (C) 1) Justin Belarski  2) Chris Vangas  (RG) 1) John Simonitis  2) Eric Fritz  (RT) 1) Mike McGlynn  2) Dale Williams

In The Mix: Dave Weber, Chase Clowser

67 Mike DeLuca   6-3, 290, Fr*. 

Prep Notes: Four-year starter in high school. Two time All-District Division III. Two time first team All-County. Named two time All-Dream team by the Cleveland Plain dealer. Three time All-All-North Coast League. Selected to play in the Big 33 game and the Ohio North-south All-star game.  He also doubled as a defensive lineman during his high school career at Notre Dame Cathedral Latin School.  DeLuca is also a very talented basketball player and a skilled long snapper.

77 Kevin Harris   6-5, 285, Sr.  N/A

Prep Notes: Named to the first team AP All-state squad. First team All-Conference. Two year starter and three year letter winner in high school. Honor Roll student. Attendance Award. Kevin Harris was named to The Associated Press Small School All-State Team at Sharon High, as well as first team All-Conference. He was also named to the Sharon Herald "Heralded 22". He led Sharon to a 12-2 record and the Western finals of the state playoffs. The team went 34-7 (.829) during his career, and won three district championships, three conference titles, and advanced to the state playoff berths each season. He was named PrepStar All-Eastern Region.

78 Rob Petitti   6-6, 330, Sr.  2003 First team All- Big East.  Rob Petitti became the starting left tackle as a redshirt freshman in 2001 and was named to first team Football News All-Freshman Team and second team Sporting News Freshman All-American Team. He followed that season up with an equally impressive 2002 season and second team All-Big East honors.

Prep Notes:  A three-year starter at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School.  Rob was twice selected first team All-Division. His other honors include two All-Shore selections, first team All-County, and All-State Group I, and an appearance in the New Jersey vs. New York governor's Bowl. He helped the team to a 1998 division championship and the state playoffs. SuperPrep ranked him the 31st prospect in New Jersey and All-Northeast Region. He was also a PrepStar All-East Region selection.  Lettered twice in basketball.

63 Mike McGlynn   6-5, 320, Fr.*   

Prep Notes: Played in only four games at Fitch in his senior season due to a fractured fibula. Two-way starter prior to injury. All-Steel Valley. Honoable mention All-District. Selected to play in the Big 33 game. Mike was rated by several recruiting services as one of the top 5 lineman prospects in the state of Ohio.  Mike spent last season working out in the weight room and practicing with the team. 

50 Joe Villani    6-2, 290, Jr.  N/A

Prep Notes: Played at St. Anthonys High School in Long Island, New York.

74 Dale Williams   6-5, 295, Sr.  He helped the Cathedral Prep team to a 14-0 record and the Pennsylvania Class AAAA Championship playing on both sides of the ball. The team was ranked No. 2 in the nation by ESPN and No. 4 by USA Team.  Other honors include first team All-Metro League, first team All-Conference, and a selection to the Big 33 Football Classic. He was ranked 26th in Pennsylvania by SuperPrep.  PrepStar named him All-Eastern Region. Dale was also a Blue Chip All-American recruit.  Named an academic All American by the United States Acheivement Academy. National Honor Society. Who's Who Among American High School Students.

72 Rob Frederick   6-3, 295, Sr.  Rob Frederick transferred from Tulsa to play for his hometown Panthers as an invited walk-on. Rob was a three-year letterman and starter on the offensive and defensive lines at Southmoreland High School in Scottdale, PA, playing center on offense and tackle on defense, plus handling the long-snap duties. He was a three-year selection to the Fay-West All-Star team, selected to the Pennsylvania Fabulous 85 team, and nominated for the Big 33 Football Classic. Rob was also named to the Pennsylvania Sports Fever Magazine Supreme Team.

68 Matt Maiers   6-3, 290, Sr. 

Prep Notes: First team All-state in High school. First team All-Tri State (Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois). Two times All-district. Lettered three times in track and field and two times in wrestling. All-Region offensive lineman and team captain at Waldorf College.  At Waldorf, Matt was an All-Region offensive lineman and team captain.  Matt was also a Big Bend Conference shot put champion and runner-up in the discus. In wrestling he finished second in the conference in the heavyweight division.  Matt Maiers transferred to Pitt from Waldorf (junior) College in 2001 and redshirted after an injury in training camp that year.

58 Joe Perri   6-2, 270, So.  N/A

Prep Notes: Played at Muskegon (Mich) Central Catholic High School.  

76 Neal Tracey   6-3, 295, Fr. 

Prep Notes: Enrolled at Pitt in January of 2003. Two time All-Rhode Island. Two time first team All-Division. Three year starter and Honor Roll student.  Neal is projected to play center or guard at Pitt. Neal Tracey was considered possibly the the biggest sleeper of Pitt's 2003 recruiting class. He received national interest after being a 2-way star for Ponaganset HS.  He was a 1st Team All-State pick his senior year and as a 2nd Team All-State selection his junior year.

53 Troy Banner   6-3, 295, Sr.   N/A

Prep Notes: Became only the 4th player in Penn Hills history to letter in all four years. All-Quad East selection and honorable mention All-state.  Troy played defensive tackle, linebacker, tight end, offensive guard, and even punted during his career at Penn Hills High School. He was an All-Quad East selection and All-State Honorable Mention, and earned a spot in the state's prestigious Big 33 Football Classic.

61 Eric Fritz   6-3, 295, Jr.  N/A

Prep Notes: First team All-Ohio Capital Conference. Second team All-district and honorable mention All-state. Three year starter at Dublin Coffman. His father was an All-American guard at Ohio State in 1979 and played for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1980.  At Dublin Coffman High School, Eric Fritz was first team All-Ohio Capital Conference, second team All-District, and Honorable Mention All-Ohio. His play as a senior contributed to Dublin Coffman's to the state semifinals and a 9-4 mark. He earned PrepStar All-American, PrepStar All-Midwest Region, and Buckeye Blue-Chip All-Star honors. Prepstar named him the 66th-ranked prospect in Midwest Region and the nation's 42nd-ranked defensive tackle.

60 John Simonitis   6-3, 300, Jr.  2003: After a redshirt year of seasoning in 2002, John Simonitis bacame the starting right guard for game three (Toledo) and remained in that spot for the rest of the season.

Prep Notes:  Two time member of the Associated Press All-State team (big school). Two time All-Wyoming Valley Conference. Three year starter. Lettered four years in basketball. All-conference in basketball.  John was twice selected to The Associated Press Big School All-State Team while at Dallas HS and also made first team All-Wyoming Valley Conference twice, playing defensive tackle and offensive guard. Dallas racked up a 26-9 record and made the playoffs each of the 3 years John was on the team. He was ranked 18th in Pennsylvania by SuperPrep and was All-Eastern Region per PrepStar. Student Sports listed him in the country's top 100 offensive linemen. Simonitis was also a star basketball player during his career there.

62 Justin Belarski   6-3, 285, Sr.  A starter in 2003 until foot injuries cost him the rest of the season.

Prep Notes:  Second team All-Ohio at Fairfield. First team All-southeastern Ohio and first team All-Cincinnati. Three time All-academic inn the Miami Conference.  At Fairfield High School (Ohio) as a senior, Justin was Second Team All-State and First Team All-Southwest Ohio, as well as First Team All-Cincinnati, helping the team to a conference championship and the state playoffs.

64 Chris Vangas   6-2, 300, Fr.* 

Prep Notes: First team All-Ohio Division II. Helped school to state championship in senior year. First team All-Southeast Ohio. First team All-Greater Catholic League. All-Dayton Catholic League. Greater Cincinnati-Dayton Catholic North Division Offensive Lineman of the Year. Three year starter.  Chris Vangas was considered one of the top high school offensive linemen in the Midwest and one of the top-rated pure centers in the entire country. He recorded 65 pancake blocks during his junior season and also finished 7th in the state of Ohio Power Lifting Championship. Chris was selected All-Ohio, 1st Team All-Southwest Ohio, and 1st Team "Ohio Future Stars", among other accomplishments. . .

Panther Offense: The 2004 Pittsburgh Panthers will have a very tough time replacing the likes of All American wideout Larry Fitzgerald and All Big East quarterback Rod Rutherford.  The running game will also suffer from the depatures of RB Brandon Miree and Lousaka Polite.

The offensive line was atrocious in 2003 leading to several forced turnovers and allowing 43 sacks. The pass blocking was bad, the run blocking was worse, averaging a paltry 3.2 yards per carry with only 12 touchdowns.  In fairness, injuries decimated the 2003 unit. The return of All Big East left tackle Rob Petitti should help a line that might be forced to start 2-3 freshmen. 

The Panthers are beginning the post-Rutherford era with three inexperienced quarterbacks.  Quarterback transitions can be very smooth with a decent running game.  Establishing a good running game starts with the guys up front.  If the Panthers don't find some type of consistency in the trenches, this will be a very trying season for head coach Walt Harris.    

Panther Offense Final Grade = C-

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