In my opinion, there are eight Pitt football players who aren't stars yet, but have the talent to reach that level this season. By total coincidence, there are four on offense and four on defense. In no particular order:
Hubie Graham- The tight end is the only senior on the list but he also has a legitimate chance to make the biggest jump on the team this season. The former Illinois transfer from Scranton had 28 catches and 3 touchdowns in his first season as a starter last year, and caught a pass in every game, not bad for a team with a struggling quarterback and an offensive system that does not accentuate the position. Things will be different this season as new head coach Paul Chryst, and his right hand man Joe Rudolph, are tight end mavens. Couple that will Tino Sunseri's trouble with the long ball and Graham's numbers could go way up.
Devin Street- The junior struggled a lot with consistency last year, and I sometimes got on him hard, but he still managed 53 catches and 754 yards. Imagine how good he could be with Chryst's offensive expertise. At 6'4" and 190 pounds, Street has the size, along with enough game breaking speed, to have a breakout year and a possible NFL career. In fact, if he has a big year it's not out of the question that he could leave for the NFL early. But for all of that to happen he first has to live up to his potential.
Isaac Bennett- Well we all know how big of a jerk former head coach Todd Graham was, but you have to admit that he left Pitt with some good young players. One of them is this 5'11" 190 pound Tulsa native who surprised many last season by running for 237 yards and a 4.1 average in the last five games of his true freshman season. Not great numbers fore sure, but he ran hard, showed great hands, and ran for 69 yards against both Louisville and WVU. He also looked very strong in the spring which brings even more optimism. The question is, how much will he play this season? If Ray Graham is healthy, then obviously he is the man, and prized freshman Rushel Shell has superstar potential. But we know if there are problems with either, or both, of those players, Bennett is more than capable of carrying the load.
Matt Rotheram- There are three kinds of offensive linemen that Chryst covets- big, bigger, and biggest. At 6'6' and 350 pounds, they don't get much bigger than this Ohio native. And he's more than just big, he's also good, turning down offers from the likes of LSU, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Michigan State. A big, mean, drive blocker is ideal in Chryst's offense and that's exactly what the redshirt sophomore is at his right tackle spot. He played in the first eight games last season as a redshirt freshman, and started games 7 and 8 before breaking his ankle and being lost for the last third of the season. He's already reclaimed the starting right tackle job in the spring and looks like he has the potential to be the first "Wisconsin-type" lineman that Pitt can turn onto a star.
Bryan Murphy- One of those most disappointing developments of last season was that the 6'3" 250 pound New Jersey native was ruled academically ineligible. The good news is that not only did Murphy not leave the school, something a lot of players do in similar situations, he now is doing extremely well academically. Murphy is a redshirt sophomore now, and because of injuries and academics, he hasn't seen much action yet, but he is slated to start at end this season. With his size, toughness, and blue collar style he reminds me a lot of former South Park and Panthers end Brian Guzek who ended up being a pretty good player. Murphy actually has the ability to be better, but it's all up to him.
T.J. Clemmings- Like Murphy, he's a defensive end from New Jersey and he's a redshirt sophomore that hasn't produced yet, but contrastingly his physical dimensions are different, to say the least. A beastly 6'6" and 295 pounds, Clemmings is one of the bigger 4-3 ends you'll ever see. He also has great athleticism to go with that size. But Clemmings, who only played high school football for two years, is raw enough that he redshirted last season, a year after seeing some time as a true freshman. His job this season will be to make the life of the opponent's tight end a living hell by blowing him up at the snap, so he may not get a big sack total, but if he handles that job well he'll be considered a success. And with his size and athleticism, if he ever learns to actually play football, he could have an NFL future.
Todd Thomas- Panthers fans are already well aware of the former Beaver Falls star, but now it's time for the 6'2" 215 pound redshirt sophomore to turn it up a notch. As a redshirt freshman last season, Thomas looked very good at times and ended up with 47 tackles in 10 games. He's still on the smallish side, and injuries can sometimes be a problem, but he's highly athletic and has the potential to really excel this season, especially in a 4-3 defense that protects his small frame from big linemen.
Cullen Christian- Like Graham, the former Penn Hills star transferred from the Big 10, this time Michigan. Unlike Graham, Christian has not seen the field yet because he had to sit out last season after transferring. The 6'0" 190 pound Christian is not a speed demon, but as evidenced by his top 10 CB ranking coming out of high school, his size, athleticism, and extremely long arms gives a chance to be a quality college corner. He lettered as a true freshman at Michigan and could star this season for the Panthers if he can beat out promising Lloyd Carrington. One thing is for sure, if Christian is good immediately, he would pair with K'waun Williams to give the Panthers one of the best cornerback tandems in the country.