Pitt returns both the Big East offensive and co-defensive player of the year. They also return a playmaker in receiver in Jon Baldwin.
The question today, is if you're a Pitt opponent, who are some of the players that would require building a gameplan around?
Jacory Harris - QB, Miami
Harris is the guy Randy Shannon has built his rebuilding around, since he took over the program. All Harris has done, is throw for 4,359 yards and 35 touchdown passes in just two years as a starter. Already in his career, he's led the Hurricanes to two significant win in the national spotlight--a thrilling win over Florida State, and a 21-20 win over Oklahoma, which boosted the Canes to a No. 11 ranking.
Playing at Pitt on a Thursday night will be tough, but Harris has already played in some big games in his career, in tough atmospheres. He will come to Heinz Field ready to play, no matter what Pitt throws at him.
Brandon Harris - CB, Miami
Harris was an All-American last year, and was recently one of 35 defensive backs in the country to be named to the Jim Thorpe Watch List. Pitt's Dom DeCicco is also on the watch list.
As a sophomore, last season, Harris tied for second in the country with 1.31 passes defended per game, and 15 passes broken up. He finished third on the team with 58 tackles, two forced fumbles and two interceptions. He is a true shutdown corner, and will pose an interesting challenge for Baldwin on September 23.
Michael Floyd - WR, Notre Dame
The current class of junior receivers in the country is impressive. Two of them--who are not only two of the top players in their respective class, but of two of the best anywhere, are Pitt's Baldwin and Notre Dame's Michael Floyd.
In 17 career starts, Floyd has caught 92 passes for 1,514 yards and 16 touchdowns. Floyd's numbers should explode this year--based on the fact he will be the go-to guy now that Golden Tate is graduated and is off to the NFL, but also because of the magnified numbers his new spread offense provides. Cincinnati's leading receiver Mardy Gilyard had 87 catches for 1,191 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2009 alone.
Savage made 11 starts as a true freshman. Not only that, he went on to throw for 2,211 yards--the most ever by a true freshman in the Big East. While the group of receivers, nationally, is impressive among the junior class, Savage headlines a solid crew of sophomore quarterbacks in the Big East that includes USF's B.J. Daniels and Pitt's Tino Sunseri.
Doug Hogue - Syracuse
Syracuse returns nine starters on defense, led by senior linebacker Dough Hogue. Hogue made the move from safety to outside linebacker for the Orange a year ago, and it paid off. He led the team with 16.5 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks--yes, this all coming from the linebacker position.
Linebackers are asked to do a lot of things--in most cases, provide run support and help in pass coverage, but are usually considered the best tacklers on the team. When they're given the keys to create pressure for a defense, responding like Hogue does, it's easy to see why Syracuse jumped all the way from the No. 100 run defense in 2008 to No. 13 in 2008. Hogue is a playmaker at linebacker.
Jordan Tedman - RB, UConn
Despite sharing the workload behind Andre Dixon last season, Jordan Tedman still found room to rush for 1,188 yards and 14 touchdowns. Only Pitt's Lewis and Noel Devine had more rushing yards.
This year, Tedman's carries will go up, and he could very well push Lewis and Devine for first-team Big East honors this year. Further proof Tedman should have a bigger year, is that he has four of five starters on the offensive line returning.
B.J. Daniels - QB, USF
When senior quarterback Matt Grothe--who was a very good dual-threat quarterback in his four years as a starter for the Bulls--was lost for the season, USF was forced to go to a freshman.
Instead of worrying about starting a freshman, they had an equally effective player in B.J. Daniels, who averaged 211 total yards of offense a game in his first year as a starter, and also led all Big East quarterbacks in rushing.
With a full year as a starter under his belt, Daniels can pick up where he left off. Skip Holtz, who can be creative in his game plans, not only has a player he can do a multitude of things with, but also has a player to build around as he rebuilds and reshapes the USF program.
Noel Devine - RB, WVU
The senior speedster will look to leave his mark as one of the finest running backs in Big East history. Has rushed for 3,381 yards in three years at West Virginia, which ranks fifth in school history. Even more impressive than that, is his 6.5 yards per carry average in 520 rushing attempts.
Pitt did a good job of stopping him in his first two games against the Panthers, but in the 2009 matchup, he rushed for 134 yards, including a decisive 88-yard touchdown run.
Armon Binns - WR, Cincinnati
In his first two years, Binns combined for two total receptions. Last year, those numbers exploded to 61 receptions for 888 yards and 11 touchdowns--not bad for a number-two receiver. With Gilyard now in the NFL, Binns becomes the go-to guy. If he can add a few catches to his 2009 total, he will be a tough one to stop.