O-line helps anchor offense

Quarterback and wide receiver will be positions of concern on offense while running game should thrive.

The Panthers go into fall camp with many questions surrounding their passing game but with a strong foundation for what should be an excellent rushing attack. The strengths of the offense this year should be the line, tight ends, running backs and fullbacks. Areas of concern include quarterback and wide receiver.

Starting with the offensive line, Pitt returns all five starters from last season. Senior Chad Reed, 6-3, 295 lbs returns at center. He is one of the best centers in the Big East and is finally healthy this season after practically playing with one arm last season due to a shoulder injury. The other starting senior on the line is 6-5, 320 lb guard Bryan Anderson. Bryan has already been selected first team All-Big East by several publications.

Starting at left guard will be 6-4, 295 lb junior Dan LaCarte. Dan was a first year starter last season and should be much improved after having a season under his belt. Returning at right tackle is 6-7, 295 lb junior Matt Morgan. Matt is a muti-year starter and should continue his strong play.

At left tackle is 6-6, 330 lb redshirt sophomore Rob Petitti. Rob started as a freshman last year and did an outstanding job. He was selected to several freshman All-America teams after last season. If he keeps improving, the NFL will be in his future.

Top backups on the offensive line include 6-4, 295 lb junior guard Jon Schall, 6-3, 290 lb sophomore center Justin Belarski, 6-5, 330 lb junior guard Penny Semaia, 6-5, 285 lb redshirt freshman tackle Dale Williams, and 6-9, 300 lb true freshman tackle Jason Capizzi. Schall has starting experience, plus Belarski and Semaia have game experience. Both backup tackles do not have any game experience though.

At tight end, Pitt returns possibly the best tight end in the Big East in 6-3, 240 junior Kris Wilson. Kris is an excellent pass receiving threat and is a solid blocker also. Matt Mefford is a 6-3, 270 lb junior tight end who is used mainly as a blocking tight end. Redshirt freshman Erik Gill, who was the star of the spring game, was very highly recruited out of high school. His 6-5, 255 lb frame should make him a threat at both receiving and blocking.

This season should be the most talented and deepest Pitt has been at the running back position in a long time. Pitt returns 5-10, 215 lb sophomore running back Raymond Kirkley. Raymond started as a true freshman last season and was one of the best young running backs in the conference last season. He will be in a battle with 6-2, 235 lb Alabama transfer Brandon Miree. Brandon was a highly rated recruit out of high school and has a blend of power and speed that is hard to match. Another running back that looks to push for playing time is redshirt freshman Tim Murphy. Tim is a 5-10, 230 lb power back who was very impressive this spring. Abdur Abdullah is a 6-1, 235 lb redshirt freshman that also shows promise.

The fullback position features 6-1, 240 lb junior Lousaka Polite, who has been ranked among the best fullbacks in the country. This will be his third year as a starter and he has been outstanding since he first broke into the lineup. Dustin Picciotti should make a strong push for playing time this season. Dustin was considered the No. 1 fullback recruit in the country coming out of high school, and his 6-3, 250 lb frame and excellent running skills give him unlimited potential. Dustin will be a redshirt sophomore this season after struggling through concussion problems his first two seasons on the team. If any injuries would occur, 5-11, 245 lb true freshman AJ Schneider will be pressed into action.

The wide receiver spot was hit hard by graduation last year and Pitt lost both starting wide receivers to the NFL. Trying to fill those holes are 6-4, 210 lb senior Lamar Slade, 6-1, 175 lb sophomore Roosevelt Bynes, and 6-1, 190 lb redshirt freshman Joe Stephens. Slade has been a solid performer during his Pitt career and will be asked to lead this young core of receivers this year. Bynes and Stephens are two Florida speedsters with good size who look to come into their own this season. Marcus Furman, the 5-8, 185 lb sophomore who had an impressive true freshman campaign last year at running back, was moved to wideout in the spring and will provide competition also.

Pitt has one of their best wide receiver recruiting classes ever coming in for fall camp. It includes super recruit Larry Fitzgerald, a 6-3, 210 lb freshman who was ranked among the best high school players in the country. Princell Brockenbrough is a 6-3, 200 lb JUCO transfer who was regarded by many as the No. 1 JUCO wide receiver in the country last season. Billy Gaines is another speedy incoming wide receiver. Although not the biggest in size, this 5-7, 170 lb recruit has game breaking speed, as he proved by running the fastest 40-yard time at the Nike Camp last year.

Quarterback is the No. 1 concern going into fall camp. Rod Rutherford, a 6-3, 220 lb junior, is the leading candidate to start. He is an excellent athlete with a strong arm, but needs to improve his accuracy. He also provides a game breaking threat running the ball on any down. Pat Hoderny is a 6-6, 230 lb sophomore with an extremely strong arm and should push for the starting position. Incoming freshman Tyler Palko was rated one of the top 10 high school quarterback recruits in the entire country. He is 6-2, 210 lbs and known to be a great athlete and leader. The other highly regarded true freshman quarterback is 6-2, 210 lb Luke Getsy. Luke is an excellent athlete with a strong arm. Both have started since their freshman years in high school.

This offense should be very strong running the ball, and if it can get solid play from its quarterback and wide receivers, it has the chance to be an outstanding offense. If the passing game struggles, this offense could be very one-dimensional and have its ups and downs all season.

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