2008 Pittsburgh Panthers Football Preview
Pitt's 2007 Record: (5-7, 3-4 Big East)
2007 Bowl: none
Pitt Head Coach: Dave Wannstedt (16-19 at Pittsburgh, 16-19 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Matt Cavanaugh
Defensive Coordinator: Phil Bennett
Returning Leaders for Pitt:
Other Key Returnees: DT Rashaad Duncan, LB Adam Gunn, WR Derek Kinder, K Conor Lee, LB Shane Murray, WR T.J. Porter, QB Kevan Smith, RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, QB Bill Stull, S Eric Thatcher
Key Losses: DE Joe Clermond, CB Kennard Cox, OT Mike McGlynn, OT Jeff Otah, S Mike Phillips, TE Darrell Strong
The Coach Dave Wannstedt reign has gone on for three years and it has been three years without Pittsburgh reaching a bowl game. That dubious little streak will not be prolonged to four years. In fact, with a majority of the teams in the Big East doing a little reshuffling, the Panthers could seriously be looking at a BCS Bowl.
More 2008 Big East football previews:
It certainly was not the offense that could take credit for the five victories in 2007, but the young group could lead Pitt to great things. Pat Bostick earned some valuable experience as a freshman, but the quarterback job is back up for grabs now that Bill Stull and Kevan Smith are healthy again and junior college transfer Greg Cross is on campus. Without Stull for most of last season, the inexperience of Bostick and Smith really showed, but a year of experience should turn the quarterbacks from a liability to a strength. Getting receiver Derek Kinder back after missing all of last season to join Oderick Turner and T.J. Porter should make the passing game even better. As good as the passing game could be, the running game is even better with sophomore LeSean McCoy and senior LaRod Stephens-Howling providing a dynamic one-two punch.
Yet, the problem on the offensive side of the ball is at the line. Replacing Jeff Otah and Mike McGlynn at the tackle spots will be virtually impossible. If the quarterback does not have time to get comfortable, the offense could continue to struggle. The key to the Panthers defense last year was getting to the quarterback. Joe Clermond totaled 10.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss during his senior season and somebody else will have to pick up that slack. Greg Romeus had a sensational freshman campaign, but it remains to be seen if he can be as productive as Clermond.
The Bottom Line for the Panthers:
Pitt’s total defense might not rank fifth in the nation again this year, but they will not fall much further than that either…even without their defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads who left for the same position at Auburn. The question is how big of a stride can the offense make? With McCoy and Stephens-Howling in the backfield, it should give the quarterbacks every possible opportunity to succeed. If the passing game does come around, look for Pitt to make a run towards the Big East title.
By Joel Welser
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