Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Looking at Next Season- Offense

I really don't know if Todd Graham and his staff can do much at this point with personnel changes to change the season, but let's look at what may happen with the personnel next season.  I will show, in my opinion, the realistic, ideal situation.  This isn't a prediction, and it's obvious not all of these things will happen, but instead I'm showing what, in my opinion, has to happen for Pitt to be better next season.  And the more of these things happen, the better chance they will have to succeed.

Quarterback:  Tino Sunseri will be back for his senior season and he'll obviously have the chance to make up for this poor season.  Will he succeed?  Who knows?  But you know he will be in the middle of the QB competition, and amazingly would have to be considered the favorite at this time.  Prized freshman Chad Voytik will enter the picture and while it's difficult for a true freshman to start at QB, there's always a chance.  Ideally, somebody else does well enough at QB for him to redshirt, but barring that, hopefully he can see enough snaps to be comfortable to start two years from now.  Another possible newcomer is California junior college quarterback Andrew McDonald, son of former USC and Cleveland Browns quarterback Paul McDonald.  The former preferred walk-on at Arizona has put up big numbers the last two seasons, and while he's not considered an elite prospect, he at least could be another option.  So could current TE Anthony Gonzalez, who was moved to TE prior to the season.  His passing is not considered a strength, but he's a good athlete who should be given a chance.  If he fails, he could always move back to TE.  Lastly, there is Trey Anderson, who should be better after a year of seasoning and time in the weight room.  Five quarterbacks entering training camp equals much depth and options.  You may have noticed that I didn't mention Mark Myers, and that's because I can't imagine that he won't transfer.  He is not right for this offense and is having a lot of trouble trying to run it.  

Tino Sunseri, Sr.
Andrew McDonald, Jr. (has not committed)
Anthony Gonzalez, So. (currently at tight end)
Trey Anderson, So.
Chad Voytik, Fr.

Running Back:  Obviously the ideal here is to have Ray Graham stay.  There's always a possibility that he will want to do that, make himself bigger and stronger, and prove that he can be an every down NFL back.  College running backs who can get drafted generally leave early because they are afraid of injury and wear and tear, but there have been exceptions.  Elite freshman Rushel Shell would form the perfect one/two punch with Graham.  Imagine the devastation of trying to catch Graham, then have Shell come in and run over your face.  It would have the potential of being one of the best tandems in the country, if not the best.  If Graham does leave, you have to assume that Shell will be starter.  Corey Davis, Isaac Bennett, and Malcolm Crockett were all freshmen this season and would unite with Shell to have a quick, but extremely young unit.  Bottom line, with Graham, the RB situation is unreal.  Without Graham, Pitt will need excellence, and health, from a true freshman.

Ray Graham, Sr.  (possible NFL early entrant)
Corey Davis, So.
Isaac Bennett, RS Fr.
Malcolm Crockett, RS Fr.
Rushell Shell, Fr.

Wide Receiver:  This is a unit that needs some changes.  Michael Shanahan, Devin Street, and Cameron Saddler are the three starters this year, and all will return, but none of the three have had a good season.  Even worse, all three lack the quickness needed in this offense.  Other returnees include Joshua Brinson, Brandon Felder, Ed Tinker, Salath Williams, Ronald Jones, and Darius Patton.  But it's three newcomers who may be the biggest threats to the starters.  Twin brothers, Demitrious and Chris Davis, and Corey Jones, are the quick game breakers that are ideal for the offense.

Michael Shanahan, Sr.
Cameron Saddler, Sr.
Joshua Brinson, Sr.
Devin Street, Jr.
Ed Tinker, Jr.
Brandon Felder, So.
Salath Williams, So.
Ronald Jones, So.
Darius Patton, So.
Corey Jones, Fr.
Demitrious Davis, Fr.
Chris Davis, Fr.

Tight End:  This is a position that the Panthers won't have to worry about next season, ironic since this offense doesn't feature the position.  Hubie Graham is the starter, and is a good player.  Reserves Drew Carswell, Anthony Gonzalez, and Brendan Carozzoni also return.

Hubie Graham, Sr.
Drew Carswell, So.
Anthony Gonzalez, So.
Brendan Carozzoni, So.

Offensive Line:  This unit has been pretty bad this season, but there is a chance it could be better next year.  Not that it could be much worse.  But for that to happen, some things have to happen.  While Lucas Nix and Jordan Gibbs will be gone, there's always a chance that guard Chris Jacobson could get a sixth season.  If he does, he will join Juantez Hollins, Ryan Turnley, Cory King, Ryan Schlieper, and Matt Rotheram as players who started at some point this season.  All but Turnley are underclassmen, so their futures could be bright, especially King and Schlieper, who I feel are the best of this bunch.  Arthur Doakes, Shane Johnson, and Justin Virbitsky could also be in the mix.  Penn State transfer Tom Ricketts could be a huge addition if he lives up to his reputation as a high school prospect.  True freshman Adam Bisnowaty needs to add size, so he will probably redshirt, but there's always a chance that he could be good enough to see action right away.  Another true freshman, Brandyn Cook, was not highly recruited but the Panthers needed a center badly and took him early which tells me they think he is perfect for their system.  For that reason, and because Turnley isn't a top talent, I could see Cook possibly pushing him.  The biggest immediate contribution could come from talented juco Tavon Rooks, one of the best junior college lineman in the country.  Right now he's down to Pitt and West Virginia as his final two choices.

Chris Jacobson, Sr.  (if he is allowed a sixth year)
Ryan Turnley, Sr.
Justin Virbitsky, Sr.
Juantez Hollins, Jr.
Cory King, Jr.
Ryan Schlieper, Jr.
Tavon Rooks, Jr.  (not signed)
Arthur Doakes, So.
Shane Johnson, So.
Tom Ricketts, So.
Matt Rotheram, So.
Adam Bisnowaty, Fr.
Brandyn Cook, Fr.

Best case realistic scenario for starting lineup:

QB:  Tino Sunseri, Sr./Chad Voytik, Fr.-  Having McDonald or Gonzalez win the job would be great, but right now neither is realistic, especially since McDonald is not even on the team.  Anderson is not realistic either.  And a true freshman quarterback always has the odds against him.  That's why the best hope, for now, is for Sunseri to be better and Voytik to get quality time so that he can take over as a sophomore.  Don't shoot the messenger, just hope for the best.

RB:  Ray Graham, Sr./Rushel Shell, Fr.-  I haven't heard one way or the other if Graham will be leave early, and I'm not sure if he has even thought about it yet.  It's just too early to tell.  If he stays, it will be huge.

WR:  Michael Shanahan, Sr., Devin Street, Jr., Corey Jones, Fr. or Demitrious Davis, Fr.-  I know I go off on Shanahan and Street often, but if they are starting now that means they are better than anybody behind them.  No reason to think that will change at this moment.  The Davis twins, and Jones, are more talented, and better fits, than any of the other receivers on the roster, but Todd Graham isn't about to start three true freshman wide receivers.  I think one has a good chance of beating out Saddler, though, and it would be very disappointing if they didn't.  At least one game breaking receiver out there would be nice.

TE:  Hubie Graham, Sr.-  Obviously.  And he has some good backups.  Strong position.

OT:  Tavon Rooks, Jr. and Tom Ricketts, So.-  Potentially this could be a huge upgrade at the position, if both live up to their hype.  Landing Rooks would be huge.  If they don't land Rooks, it will probably be either Rotheram or Hollins, and the latter has already failed at the position.

OG-  Chris Jacobson, Sr. and Corey King, Jr.-  If Jacobson comes back, and is healthy, that would be an enormous development for the line.  He has never lived up to his billing, but he is still a solid player.  King will battle Schlieper for the other spot, or should start if Jacobson doesn't come back.  Both King and Schlieper should both come into their own as juniors.

C-  Ryan Turnley, Sr./Brandyn Cook, Fr.- This is a position that has not been good for awhile.  It will be interesting to see if Cook puts some heat on the senior.

And just because I'm a glutton for punishment, the ideal starting unit two years from now:

QB:  Chad Voytik, So.
RB: Rushel Shell, So.
WR: Demitrious Davis, So.
WR: Corey Jones, So.
WR: Robert Foster, Fr.
TE:  Drew Carswell, Jr.
LT: Tavon Rooks, Sr.
LG: Cory King, Sr.
C:   Brandyn Cook, So.
RG: Ryan Schlieper, Sr.
RT:  Tom Ricketts, Jr.


  1. Thanks Chris, interesting projections.

    I agree Myers will be gone and I just can't see Gonzalez being moved back full time. His passing just isn't there at this level. Let's hope you are right and we get a JUCO.

    Although, when we got EJ Banks to transfer from Notre Dame I though he should be given a shot to compete at QB. Perhaps the staff could look at him in the spring. It isn't like we are going to be short on DBs next year where we couldn't afford to lose him.

  2. Chris, this article might be a good end point regarding football reporting (and on the season), and allow you to focus more time on basketball, of which you are unparalleled. I think Tra will be the key to this season, and curious as to how you feel where he is and how you think he'll do - will he step up his play? Thanks.

  3. I'll definitely have a lot of basketball coming up. I just don't want to exhaust all basketball stories too early because it's a long season!!

    As for Woodall, I was never a big fan up to this point but he's going to be the PG this season and maybe he'll be the next Pitt player who excels as a senior.

  4. It was interesting to see your line up in two years. That appears to have promise with Graham's offense. Next year is going to be another work in progress. Coach Graham better have very thick skin for the this year and next. If he is wise, he will also tone down all this hype during the off season. As has been mentioned numerous places, he overestimated what he had with the current group of players to install his offense and is now paying for it with all the criticism from the fans and media.

  5. Chris, I’m taking a quick look at next season...and beyond

    2012 Pitt struggles throughout the season with Tino returning as the QB that “gives the team it’s best chance of winning”

    2013 Pitt continues to struggle while first year starter Chad Voytic attempts to master coach Graham’s complex system

    2014 Pitt dominates ACC, as high-octane offense is finally executed to perfection

    2015 Head coach Todd Graham accepts offer to coach in SEC...Pitt franticly searches for new head coach, hoping to find candidate willing to fill position long-term thus ending the coaching carousel that has troubled this program for decades (unfortunately, Tom Bradley is no longer available, having taken over at PSU after the untimely death of Joe Paterno following yet another sideline collision between coach and player )...Steve P. contacts anger management center to obtain phone number of coach Haywood, believing that the second go-round cannot possibly be worse than the first.

    2016 Pitt football program returns to mediocrity.

    Mind you, I don’t actually want this to happen, I’m just afraid that it’s a possibility. I can’t help it, I’ve always been a glass-half-empty kind of guy. Chris, please convince me that I’m way off base on this nightmarish vision of the future.

  6. What about Arnie Rowell at Center

  7. I didn't list everybody but Rowell is one of those players that could come on. I didn't list everybody. He would just have to come on a long way considering he couldn't even beat out Turnley. But I hope he does come on.