Former walk-on Trey Anderson is the backup. The redshirt junior is listed at 6'0" 195 but he's probably closer to 5'10". While Anderson admirably stayed at Pitt after the coach who brought him, Todd Graham, scurried off, it's very doubtful that he could win an important game if Voytik went down.
The only other scholarship quarterback on the roster is 6'6" true freshman Adam Bertke, whose size, arm, and mobility in the pocket could make him a good player down the road. But if he plays this season it will probably mean that the Panthers are having a long, miserable season. If Voytik does go down with a season ending injury or fails miserably don't be surprised to see Chryst bite the bullet and start the big freshman.
Bottom line- Voytik is unquestionably the most important member of this team, and it's not even close. If he does well, the Panthers will probably do well. If he gets injured or plays poorly, the team may be lucky to win more than they lose even against a less than stellar schedule. At the moment, depth and inexperience is a major problem at the position.
Last Season's Preseason Grade: C
Last Season's Final Grade: B-
This Season's Preseason Grade: C-
Running Back: James Conner was so good at times last season that one wonders why nobody else thought of him as a running back. Luckily for Pitt, they did, and the result is that now the 6'2" 250 pound sophomore is one of the more exciting young running backs in the country. And as if his size and tenacity wasn't enough, he also has very good, and underrated, speed.
It seems like 5'11" 210 pound senior Isaac Bennett has been around forever, but he's finally in his last season. Like Conner, Bennett is a straight line runner with good speed. He started for most of last season but Conner has much more upside so the sophomore should get most of the carries this season. Bennett battled injuries in the preseason, and combined with the excellent young talent at the position, it may not be surprising if he loses significant carries this season if the rest of the unit stays healthy.
Last year's third down back is true sophomore Rachid Ibrahim, who was a big surprise last season as a true freshman. The 6'1" 185 pounder has good hands and is sneaky quick. The competition is tougher this season but he had a good camp. He had just 27 carries and 9 receptions last season, and he may not get any more than that this season, but if he's called on to carry the load in an emergency I expect that he will produce.
The wildcard here is 5'10" 210 pound true freshman Chris James. He is a short, but muscular back with good agility and quickness. He has a high ceiling and is the favorite to be the main back of the future.
Another true freshman, Qadree Ollison, was slightly lost in the the public consciousness because of James, but the 6'2" 215 pounder has good speed and a strong, bullish running style. His future is also bright, though the depth may force him to redshirt this season.
A third true freshman, Dennis Briggs, will redshirt.
Bottom Line- This is a potentially excellent unit. Conner has the ability to be a major force this season, Bennett and Ibrahim are solid, and James could have an exciting freshman season.
Last Season's Preseason Grade: C-
Last Season's Final Grade: C
This Season's Preseason Grade: B
Wide Receiver: Chryst's receivers have been very productive at Pitt but 6'2" 180 pound sophomore Tyler Boyd is on a different level than the likes of Devin Street and Michael Shanahan. The 6'2" 185 Boyd used his great speed, quickness, and hands to be a star right off the bat, and he should only get better. It would be a crime if the Pitt quarterbacks can't perform well enough to get the ball to him because he's one of the most explosive players in Pitt history.
Starting opposite Boyd is fifth year senior Manasseh Garner, who dropped some weight after being an H-Back last season. He still is a muscular 6'2" and 220 pounds. That frame, along with good speed and great hands, should help him have a productive season against single coverage.
As the season starts, the slot receiver should be 5'8" 170 pound redshirt junior Ronald Jones, who missed last season after a suspension. Size is obviously a negative for him but he's fast and quick. The other second string receiver, and somebody else who will be in the mix for the slot is 5'10" 185 pound redshirt senior Kevin Weatherspoon, who had the position last season. He has decent hands but doesn't have Jones' skills of running after the catch.
The wildcard is 6'3" 190 pound true freshman Adonis Jennings, a big time talent with great speed and athletic ability. Injuries and inconsistency has slowed him some, but he's the kind of player that could get good in a hurry during the season and immediately become a factor. At least that's the hope.
Others that could break into the rotation are 6'2" 205 former walk-on Chris Wuestner, a redshirt sophomore, 6'2" 190 pound redshirt freshman Zach Challingsworth, and 6'2" 205 pound redshirt sophomore Dontez Ford, a transfer from Syracuse.
Redshirt freshman Jester Weah has great size at 6'3" 205 pounds, and has elite speed, but he's still too raw to see action. Two local freshmen, 6'2" 160 pound Jaquan Davidson and 6'2" 190 pound Elijah Zeise, have good futures but will redshirt this season.
Bottom Line- As long as Boyd stays healthy this is a good, and improving, unit. But if the quarterback position doesn't succeed, it will be a wasted group.
Last Season's Preseason Grade: B-
Last Season's Final Grade: B
This Season's Preseason Grade: B
Tight End: This unit has had good players for a few years now but surprisingly they haven't been utilized by Chryst. Junior J.P. Holtz is a tough 6'4" and 245 pounds, and he will be the starter for his third season. He's only had 46 catches over his first two seasons and it would be beneficial for the Panthers if he matched that total this season.
Backing up Holtz will be 6'4" 260 pound redshirt freshman Devon Edwards, who has great size but limited agility. For that reason he will be more of a blocker.
At H-Back, 6'2" 270 pound sophomore Jaymar Parrish will start. The big, athletic Parrish was a surprise starter at times last season and is a matchup problem with his unique size/speed combination. Backing him up is a personal favorite of mine, 6'5" 260 pound sophomore Scott Orndoff, who missed the end of last season with an injury, but showed when he played that he could be a major factor down the road. I still expect him to explode one of these years, and maybe this will be that year.
Both 6'2" 220 pound redshirt freshman Tony Harper and 6'6" 245 pound true freshman Brian O'Neill won't crack the rotation unless there are injuries.
Bottom Line- Holtz, Orndoff, and Parrish are three talented players making this is a very good unit. Now they just need to be utilized, something Chryst has yet to do since he's been at Pitt.
Last Season's Preseason Grade: A-
Last Season's Final Grade: B
This Season's Preseason Grade: A-
Offensive Line- This has been the bane of Pitt's existence for many years now but there are signs that this unit may finally be close to turning the corner. Last year's starting left tackle, 6'6" 300 pound redshirt sophomore Adam Bisnowaty, returns after a less than stellar first season. He's still slightly smaller than most major college left tackles, and he doesn't have the elite left tackle feet, so he may eventually move inside or to right tackle as I've always predicted.
At left guard, 6'5" 300 pound sophomore Dorian Johnson is looking to make a big improvement after having a very difficult first season. In his defense, like most incoming offensive lineman he probably should have redshirted, but instead he was forced into action. Hopefully he can overcome that traumatization because even though he's also still slightly undersized, he has great athleticism and a high ceiling.
At center, 6'2" 315 redshirt junior Artie Rowell returns as the starter. He's adequate at best, but he's a favorite of his teammates who see him as a leader. If 6'5" 305 pound redshirt sophomore Gabe Roberts can snap more consistently (who knew that could be a thing?), or if big 6'4" 335 pound redshirt freshman Alex Officer can develop fast, Rowell may have to fight to keep his job in the future.
At right guard, 6'6" 335 pound redshirt senior Matt Rotheram obviously has the size and experience to finish his career strong. He's one of the team's two best linemen, along with the guy next time.
That guy would be 6'6' 315 pound redshirt senior T.J. Clemmings, a former defensive lineman who moved to offense prior to last season. He learned on the job last year, and did okay, but now that he has experience he could have a breakout season.
The most interesting reserve is 6'7" 335 pound redshirt freshman Jaryd Jones-Smith, who looks the part both with his large frame and good feet. If Bisnowaty and/or Johnson struggles, don't be surprised to see him move into the left tackle slot with Bisnowaty either going to the bench or taking Johnson's spot.
Roberts is a tough kid that could get snaps at either guard or center and equally tough Carson Baker, a 6'5" 330 pound redshirt freshman, could also see time at guard. Behind Clemmings, 6'6" 300 pound Alex Bookser may see time if Chryst wants to burn his redshirt. A former elite recruit, Bookser has star potential.
The rest of the unit is made up of players who won't likely see time unless injuries occur. That group includes 6'5" 310 pound redshirt freshman Aaron Reese, 6'7" 285 pound redshirt sophomore John Guy, 6'4" 280 pound true freshman Connor Hayes, and 6'6" 325 pound true freshman Mike Grimm. It is Grimm who has great potential down the road and after a redshirt season will probably be the favorite to take Rotheram's spot next season.
Bottom line- Thanks to two potentially good veterans in Rotheram and Clemmings, and young exciting talent like Johnson, Jones-Smith, Bookser, and Grimm, the future for the unit may finally be bright. This season there should be improvement but it's still unknown just how much.
Last Season's Preseason Grade: C+
Last Season's Final Grade: D+
This Season's Preseason Grade: C+