An early look at the Panthers' 2003 opponents

A brief overview of each of Pitt's opponents next season, including key strengths and weaknesses

Pitt will play against six opponents who won nine or more games in the 2002 season.

Note: the number of returning starters may not be exact due to injuries and such, but they should be very close.

Kent State

Returns 7 starters on offense and 4 starters on defense. They finished 3-9 in the 2002 season. Key losses – they lose 3 of 4 starters on the defensive line and 3 of 4 starters in the secondary. Strengths – Returns 7 starters on offense including standout QB Joshua Cribbs.

Ball State

Returns 5 starters on offense and 8 starters on defense. They finished 6-6 in the 2002 season. Key losses – RB Marcus Merriweather who rushed for over 1,600 yards last season. Two standout senior starters on the O-line. Strengths – 8 starters return on offense including the entire D-line and LB units.

Toledo

Returns 5 starters on offense and 6 starters on defense. They finished 9-5 this season and played in the Motor City Bowl. Key losses – They lose standout seniors on offense in QB Brian Jones, and WRs Carl Ford and Donta Greene. They also lose two excellent senior LBs in David Gardner and Tom Ward. Strengths – They return 6 starters on defense including three on the defensive line.

Texas A&M

Returns 7 starters on offense and 5 starters on defense. They finished 6-6 this season and upset No.1 Oklahoma. Key Losses – Standout defensive performers in D-end Ty Warren, OLB Jared Penright, ILB Brian Gamble and CB Sammy Davis. Strengths – 7 starters on offense including QB Reggie McNeal, RB Derek Farmer and both starting WRs.

Notre Dame

Returns 6 starters on offense and 6 starters on defense. They finished 10-3 in the 2002 season. Key losses – Offensive threat Arnaz Battle, and several key starters on the offensive and defensive lines. Strengths – Top offensive talents return in QB Carlyle Holiday, RB Ryan Grant and WR Maurice Stovall.

Miami

Returns 8 starters on offense and 7 starters on defense, if nobody goes Pro. They finished 12-1 and played for their 2nd national title in two years. Key losses – QB Ken Dorsey, Center Brett Romberg and all 4 starters on the defensive line. Strengths – The entire two-deep in the secondary and at linebacker returns! Superstars on offense such as RBs Willis McGahee and Frank Gore, plus Andre Johnson and Kellen Winslow Jr.

Virginia Tech

Returns 6 starters on offense and 8 starters on defense. They finished 10-4 in the 2002 season. Key losses – RB Lee Suggs, FS Willie Pile and CB Ronyell Whitaker. Strengths – 8 starters return on defense including the entire D-line and linebacker units.

Boston College

Returns 6 starters on offense and 5 starters on defense. They finished 9-4 in the 2002 season. Key losses – QB Brian St. Pierre, two senior starting WRs In Jamal Burke and Keith Hemmings, plus 3 of 4 starters in the secondary. They also lose standout defensive lineman Antonio Garay. Strengths – They return three very good running backs led by Derrick Knight. They also return three starters on the D-line.

Syracuse

Returns 7 starters on offense and 6 starters on defense. They finished 4-8 in the 2002 season. Key losses – LB Clifton Smith and Safety Keeon Walker. Strengths – Returns most of their top players including RB Walter Reyes and 4 starters on the O-line. They also return all 4 starters on the D-line.

West Virginia

Returns 5 starters on offense and 4 starters on defense. They finished 9-4 in the 2002 season. Key losses – RB Avon Cobourne, WR Phil Braxton, DT David Upchurch, and Safety Angel Estrada. Strengths – QB Rasheed Marshall, MLB Grant Wiley and 3 of 4 starters in the secondary return.

Temple

Returns 4 starters on offense and 4 starters on defense. They finished 4-8 in the 2002 season. Key losses – RB Tanardo Sharps, DT Dan Klecko, WR Sean Dillard and 4 starters on the O-line. Strengths – QB Mike McGann and CB Yazid Jackson.

Rutgers

Returns 4 starters on offense and 4 starters on defense. Although with injuries and playing younger players, they return a lot of experience. They finished 1-11 in the 2002 season. Key losses – LB Gary Brackett, FS Shawn Seabrooks, DE Raheem Orr, and TE L.J. Smith. They also lose 4 starters on the O-line. Strengths – QB Ryan Cubit and RB Clarence Pittman.


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