Stats Aside, How Do The Panthers Look So Far?

Big East play begins tomorrow night (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

At Week 5, Pitt is 2-2.  Big East play starts tomorrow and, so far, the fan base doesn't seem too impressed.  I thought  this would be a good time to give my opinion on Pitt's season to date.

The big thing is that I wanted to do this without analyzing the stats.  Sure some statistics will come up, but I want to base this argument more upon what I have seen in the stands and on television and what I have felt from the team in general - stats are sometimes misleading but emotions are not.

I'll take a look at the offense today and tomorrow will look at the defense, special teams, and a conclusion.

OFFENSE

So far the "high-octane" offense has looked anything but.  Right now it looks more like a "bicycle offense" or even a "grocery-store-motor-scooter offense".  Overall, it looks pretty bad.

Starting at quarterback, Tino Sunseri has looked out of place in the new offense.  He doesn't seem to be able to make the throws that the plays require.  His timing is off in general. Not only is his touch on the deeper passes poor, his zip on the shorter ones looks bad, too.  Nothing seems to be falling in to place for this guy.  I've been hard on him in my past articles, and I think he deserves it.  Tino says that he wants to be a leader and that he wants to take this team to new heights.  For goodness sake, his twitter account's avatar is a picture of himself on the cover of EA Sports' NCAA Football '12 rather than the true cover athlete, Mark Ingram.  He has a big head, which is fine, since I like my quarterbacks to be a little cocky and have a swagger to them.  So far, though, he hasn't come close to backing it up.

At receiver, stats and coach Todd Graham's comments aside, I like the way these guys are playing.  The slot guys, Ronald Jones and Cam Saddler, are getting open over the middle and are gaining some yards after the catch. Mike Shanahan and Devin Street have both proven that they can stretch the field vertically while showcasing some decent hands.  The biggest surprise so far, though, is probably Hubie Graham, a redshirt junior tight end who's been very effective in the passing game.  As a whole, I am very happy with where the receiving core sits at this point. If Tino can get them the ball, this offense will take off.

In the backfield, Ray Graham is a stud and was leading the NCAA in rushing after the first two games of the season.  Since then, though, his numbers have declined.  I attribute this to the play of the offensive line, but I'll get to them later.  Graham looks like he is capableof handling the load of being the offenses primary weapon.  He looks fast, quick, strong, and is also doing a good job of catching the ball out of the backfield.  Graham's back-up, Zach Brown, has looked good so far when he gets carries.  He is a much more downhill runner and will most likely be used in short yardage or goal line situations.  He hasn't gotten all that many carries so far, but definitely looks good when he does.

Lastly, there's the offensive line.  With Chris Jacobson's injury, the o-line woes could continue.  To be honest, the line looks awful.  The pass blocking seems okay at times, but in the last game, Tino was sacked during their final attempt at taking the lead from Notre Dame. ..not only sacked but the entire defensive line was in his face.  If you've seen the new "Longest Yard" with Adam Sandler, try to remember the play where he came back in the game after his team hated him.  They all stood there and the the defense take shots at him and that's exactly what that play looked like.  The holes for Graham to run through look like they're shrinking as well.  Any time he does make it past the line of scrimmage, it seems like it was because he squeezed through a tiny gap and made something happen on his own.  I have been hard on Tino Sunseri and his play at quarterback, but every aspect of the game gets better when the offensive line plays well.  So far they have been well below where they need to be and definitely need to improve.

Tomorrow, we'll look at the defense, special teams and I'll give my conclusion.

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