Quarterback: The long Tino Sunseri nightmare is over but unfortunately it sometimes looks like he's still around. Despite NFL talent physically, Tom Savage has not performed as well as he should be performing this season, and worse yet he seems to have regressed as the season has progressed.
On the season Savage is No. 38 nationally and No. 6 in the ACC in passing efficiency. He's completed 56.8% of his passes, which is not a great number these days. In fact it's No. 85 nationally. Most quarterbacks throw for a higher percentage because of new offenses that feature high percentage throws. However, Savage throws almost entirely to receivers, and it's usually long throws. That leads to bigger completions, but also to more interceptions and incompletions.
Savage has thrown for 11 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, while amassing 1,343 yards. He is also 7th nationally in yards per completion, which again is because of his feast or famine throws. On the downside, he has been unable to get rid of the ball fast enough, not a good trait to have when in front of a poor offensive line. On the season the Panthers are No. 119 in sacks allowed.
Last Season's Final Grade: C
Preseason Grade: C
Midseason Grade: C
Running Back: Going into this season there were questions, but after true freshman James Conner started quickly it looked like this major weakness may become a slight strength. But that hasn't been the case. Thanks to 240 yards against Old Dominion, Isaac Bennett now leads the team with 450 yards on 5.8 yards a carry. He's also run for 5 touchdowns, 3 against the horrible Old Dominion defense. Against ODU and New Mexico, the two worst teams on the schedule, Bennett ran for 341 yards. In the other four games he ran for a total of 109 yards.
Likewise, Conner ran for 119 yards against New Mexico and 173 yards against Duke. Against Florida State, he ran for 34 yards and against Virginia he ran for 27 yards. Because of a lingering injury he ran for 1 yard total in the last two games. For the season he has 354 yards on an impressive 5.3 yards a carry. He also ran for 4 touchdowns.
Rachid Ibrahaim has chipped in with 80 yards, but only has a 3.8 yard average.
Nationally, the Panthers are No. 91 nationally in rushing offense and No.11 in the 14 team ACC.
Last Season's Final Grade: B+
Preseason Grade: C-
Midseason Grade: C-
Wide Receivers: Finally a rare bright spot. The starters, senior Devin Street, and true freshman Tyler Boyd, have lived up to their lofty expectations. Street was among the national leaders in many categories until sitting out the ODU gain with an injury. In the five games he played, he has 26 catches for 549 yards, a 21.1 yard average. He also grabbed 3 touchdowns.
On the other side, Boyd has 31 catches through 6 games, for 491 yards, a 15.8 yard average. He also had 4 touchdown receptions. He also ran 9 times for 106 yards, an 11.8 yard average. He also had one rushing touchdown, and it was impressive.
After the two stars, there's not much production. Kevin Weatherspoon added 8 catches for 113 yards, a 14.1 average. Ed Tinker has 1 catch for 9 yards.
Last Season's Final Grade: B
Preseason Grade: B-
Midseason Grade: A-
Tight End: This has been a very disappointing unit but it appears that's more of the fault of Savage and the Pitt offensive coaches. Manasseh Garner leads all tight ends with 9 catches for 96 yards, a 10.7 average. Included in those numbers are 2 touchdowns. Starter J.P. Holtz has just 4 catches for 38 yards, a 9.5 average. Scott Orndoff has just 2 catches for 21 yards, and both went for touchdowns. Bottom line, it's really unfathomable that the staff can't figure out how to get this excellent trio the ball more.
Last Season's Final Grade: C-
Preseason Grade: A
Midseason Grade: B
Offensive Line: The more things change, the more things stay the same. Eventually one would have to assume that this unit will eventually be good, but it's not looking like it will be this year. Redshirt freshman Adam Bisnowaty, who many had high hopes for this year, has been brutalized at times. And the rest of the unit has not been much better. The center position, which looked like a big weakness entering the season, is as bad as expected, as has have the guards. The saddest part is that none of the promising prospects, including Dorian Johnson, appear to be ready to overtake the linemen who are playing.
I had high hopes for this unit, if only because some of these guys have been around the program for years. You would think there would be progress, but you would think wrong.
Last Season's Final Grade: D
Preseason Grade: C+
Midseason Grade: D
Overall Offense: This is a major problem, and quite frankly I didn't think it would be. I get accused of not being a Paul Chryst fan, but the truth is, I think he is a great offensive mastermind. You couldn't tell that this season, though. The offensive line has not progressed, Savage has actually regressed, and the play calling doesn't always make sense. Savage keeps getting sacked, so why keep throwing more bombs? You have excellent tight ends so why not throw to them? And Chryst and the staff still can't develop the offensive line into mere competence?
Sometimes statistics lie, but not in this case. The numbers show just how brutal the offense has been this season. Despite playing three horrible defenses in Duke, New Mexico, and Old Dominion, the Panthers are No. 92 in total offense, No. 91 in rushing offense, and No. 69 in passing offense. It gets worse. They are also No. 93 in 3rd down efficiency, No. 74 in red zone offense, and No. 64 in scoring offense (and that's with scoring 58 against Duke and 49 against New Mexico).
Against the three quality defenses Pitt played (Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Florida State), the Panthers averaged 12.0 ppg, 42.3 yards rushing, 193.0 yards passing, and 235.3 yards total. Against the average Duke defense, and the atrocious defenses of New Mexico and Old Dominion, the Panthers averaged 47.3 ppg, 241.0 yards rushing, 257.3 yards passing, and 498.3 yards total.