Insider's Perspective: Pittsburgh's Offense

as we ready for Thursday nights' kickoff, Panther's Digest publisher Tony Greco stops by to give us an inside look at PITT's offensive personnel.

Pittsburgh Offensive Personnel

QB – Tino Sunseri
Is Tino Sunseri on a short leash? That's what we have to question at this point. Pitt head coach Todd Graham has commented on how much Sunseri holds the ball. In fact, he's brought it up numerous times over the last two weeks. He said Monday Sunseri gives Pitt the "best chance to win championships." Sunseri did have his best day of the season against Notre Dame from a completion standpoint—completing 22-of-30 passes against the Irish. It was also a plus that he didn't turn the ball over. There's still a concern that Sunseri holds the ball too long, which is a key factor the Panthers have allowed 18 sacks this season.

RB – Ray Graham
Graham is Pitt's leading rusher and receiver. The junior running back started off hot out of the gate, carrying at least 30 times in the first two games and getting over 100 yards in the first two games. He's fallen just short of 100 yards the last two weeks, but that's mostly because he hasn't touched the ball as much. He is Pitt's big play weapon, and there's not even a close second. The key for any team beating Pitt will be shutting down Graham—that is of course if the coaching staff doesn't shut him down first, by calling his number less. Graham has 521 yards on 100 carries this season with six rushing scores, and leads all Pitt receivers with 21 receptions.

WR – Mike Shanahan
In the Pitt offense, Shanahan's position is known as the five-back. In other words, he's the big tall receiver who is expected to line up in the slot and challenge safeties and linebackers because of his size. You'll also see him from time-to-time lining up at the split end where he can go for the big play; possibly even the deep ball. Shanahan has been Pitt's most consistent receiver all season—tied for second on the team in receptions behind Graham with 17. He caught six passes last week against Notre Dame, which was a career-high. Shanahan can be a big-play threat if needed, but there's no question he's the most consistent thing Pitt has.

WR – Devin Street
Street is known as the nine-back. By definition, the nine-back is simply the playmaker, and that is what Street does best. The only drop on him is that he doesn't do it every week. When he does, he impacts the game dramatically. He had a career-game at Iowa two weeks ago, finishing with seven catches for 138 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown reception to open the scoring. He followed that up with a two-catch, 21-yard performance against Notre Dame. He was given the opportunity for a deep ball against Notre Dame. He was double-teamed, adjusted to the coverage, and actually came back to the ball. He did all the hard work. The only problem is that the ball bounced out of his hands, and that's where Street's game is right now. He's been very good at times, and just missing out on big plays at other times. That's the only thing separating Street from being an every-down, big-play threat.

WR – Cameron Saddler
Saddler is another player who has come through in spurts this season. He caught a 30-yard touchdown pass at Iowa a couple of weeks ago, but wasn't targeted too much last week against Notre Dame. As the two-back—which is a hybrid slot receiver/running back in the Pitt offense—he has the opportunity to be the most dangerous player on the field. What we've seen so far this season is the three receivers—Shanahan, Street and Saddler—taking their turn in cycles as to who gets the big play opportunity. Saddler could be due for his this week against South Florida.

TE – Hubie Graham
Graham, in addition to Shanahan, has been one of Pitt's most consistent receivers as well. The tight end is referred to as the five-back, and in Todd Graham's team's at Tulsa, has been given the opportunity to run the football. Hubie Graham's role has been slightly altered to make him more effective. He's an ideal tight end because he's just as good at blocking as he is catching the football. He caught the lone touchdown pass last week against Notre Dame. When Pitt needs a first down, Hubie Graham is often the first look.

LT – Juantez Hollins
Hollins never played a down of college football this year before making his first start in the opener against Buffalo. He's made slight progressions, but has a ways to go. Hollins is a physical left tackle, and is also pretty athletic (also played basketball in high school). He hails from the same high school Aliquippa) as former first round picks Darrelle Revis and Jon Baldwin. He's had to mature in a hurry due to the season-ending knee injury of Chris Jacobson at left guard, who was mentoring Hollins along.

LG – Cory King
King was running with the first-team at right guard going back to the spring, and up through the first week of training camp. Hollins played his way into the starting lineup at the end of training camp, while King took a slight backseat. He still remained the teams' sixth offensive line. The night before the Notre Dame game, he found out that starter Chris Jacobson would be lost for the year, and that he would make his first career start the next day against Notre Dame. King did okay according to head coach Todd Graham, but came up with a costly penalty. It's a rookie mistake, and he'll likely have those. Like Holllins—the coaches are pleased with his progression. He'll have some growing pains, but seems to be responding to everything he's being asked to do.

C – Ryan Turnley
Entering training camp, the biggest question on the offensive line was the center position. Actually, the center position has been Pitt's biggest question mark dating back to 2005. Since that season, six different players have started at center for Pitt. Four games in, and there's a fair argument that Turnley has been the team's most consistent offensive lineman. Not bad for a guy who played in 17 career games with no starts prior to this season—and the fact that he never played center before. Todd Graham is big on having the shotgun snap at 100%. Turnley has fit the bill so far.

RG – Lucas Nix
Nix is Pitt's most experienced offensive linemen, with 26 career starts. He's coming off a rough outing against Notre Dame where he committed three false start penalties. His role becomes even more crucial with the absence of fellow senior Chris Jacobson. Nix spent his first year as a starter at right tackle, before moving over to guard in Week 4 last season. He moved back to tackle in the spring, and for the first week of training camp, but has been at guard ever since. There was some hope to move him back to tackle to help in pass protection. Due to the loss of Jacobson, his play at guard is more pivotal.

RT – Jordan Gibbs
This time a year ago, Gibbs had not even made his first start. Now, he's Pitt's most experienced starter outside of Nix. He's more suited for left tackle, but because of how the top five linemen pan out—he's more well-versed at right tackle because of the inexperience on the left side of the line. It wasn't looking like Gibbs would even be a starter. When the switch was made prior to Pitt's game with Florida International last year—where Gibbs was put in at right tackle after Greg Gaskins lost his starting job—Gibbs has played well.

KEY RESERVES: QB Trey Anderson, RB Zach Brown, WR Ronald Jones, TE Anthony Gonzalez

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