For the first half of the season Chris Blewitt looked like an all-star but things went south in the second half of the season. In the first six games he was 9-9 in FGs. In the last six games he went 5-10. Punter Ryan Winslow averaged just 39.9 per punt and finished No. 83 nationally. The team also finished No. 73 in net punting. In other words, out of the Panthers two kickers they got a half of a good season out of one of them.
The return teams had better luck. The team finished only No. 65 in punt returns but Tyler Boyd finished No. 17 nationally thanks to a hot finish. The kickoff team finished No. 43 nationally. The defense for the returns were pretty similar finishing No. 67 in kickoff return defense and No. 30 in punt return defense.
Overall: A good, but not great year and that's an improvement. It could have been significantly better if Blewitt didn't, well, you know.
Last Season's Final Grade: C
This Season's Preseason Grade: B
Midseason Grade: C
Final Grade: B-
Coaching: The most controversial facet of the team which is understandable when the head coach that is 19-19 has some questionable coaches on his staff. It's not fair to name names, but if I did I would name Matt House, Inoke Breckerfield, and Chris Haering as coaches that Pitt should upgrade.
As for Chryst, first of all, he needs to correct his staff. He also has to stop losing to teams like Akron. Yes, Pitt is young and young teams sometimes do the unexplainable, but that's an inexcusable loss.
On the bright side, the team is extremely young, and in fact was the youngest team in the nation. I will get into details in a future article, but the offense improved immensely and it's obvious that Paul Chryst is in the process of doing wonders with Chad Voytik. The offensive line has been totally transformed with top talent and the running back unit is loaded. The wide receivers need to develop because it's pathetic that there's only one accomplished receiver on the team right now, and the tight ends are still criminally underutilized, but all in all the offense is good and getting better. In fact, next year, on paper, Pitt has the offensive talent of a top 20 team- at least.
Then there is the defense. I've said this before but it's important to keep reiterating it. When a head coach has his expertise on offense he needs to have an experience coordinator and staff on defense. Instead he has a neophyte coordinator who has yet to prove his worth and a few other members of the staff that have yet to prove themselves as coaches or recruiters.
The recruiting on defense and at quarterback are still questionable as is recruiting so many running backs. The front seven has no elite prospects at all as of this writing. There's no doubt that some defensive linemen an linebackers will develop well, maybe even into stars, but you can't count on that all the time. The same can be said for young quarterbacks like Adam Bertke and Alex Hornibrook. Either may turn into a big time quarterback and both are fine development prospects, but it's still a failure on Chryst's part, with his lofty reputation, not to be able to land an elite quarterback. And why the Panthers need seven running backs, and counting, is beyond me, especially since they only play one at a time.
No head coach is perfect. Nick Saban and Bill Belicheck has made mistakes, too. But the mistakes Chryst are making are correctable. if he can correct them and continue to add personnel that fits his personality then he may eventually succeed. But at the moment he is still a .500 coach that is still trying to find his way.
Last Season's Final Grade: B-
This Season's Preseason Grade: B-
Midseason Grade: C
Final Grade: C