After a hectic schedule that included interstate travel and moving back to Oakland last week, Bulls, Bears & Panthers is back, just in time for Saturday's season opener. Over the past couple weeks, Pitt wrapped up camp, classes started, and Youngstown State preparation began. Hard to believe it's college football season already, but I'm ready. Analysis from the final weeks of camp - whose stock is rising for the Panthers, and whose stock is falling - after the jump.
Let me start right off the bat - Chad Voytik is not going to usurp the starting job from Tino Sunseri. Paul Chryst named Sunseri the starter back in the spring for a reason. He may not be a stud, but Tino has two years of starting experience under his belt and a solid grasp of the offense- something that will serve the team better this year than Voytik's flashy, but underdeveloped talent.
That said, Voytik really came on strong during the final weeks of camp and is showing some promise for the future. The thing that stands out to me about his performance is that other players seem to respect him which is an integral part of succeeding under center.
Voytik did just that with several strong throws that caught the eye of many players, some of whom were shaking their heads out of respect after practice.
As Greg points out in his post, it's so easy to get excited about the next potential starting quarterback, but you have to keep a level head. Voytik may not contribute too much this year (or not at all) but there are definitely some glimmers of hope in Pitt's near future.
Bear (downward trending): Depth at Linebacker
Pitt's corps of linebackers isn't the team's obvious strength to begin with. The group has some raw talent, but is largely inexperienced. Shane Gordon has solidified one of the three jobs up for grabs, with Eric Williams and Nicholas Grigsby appearing to be leading at the other two. Depth, however, is a huge concern for the group.
The key to the group is the health of outside linebackers Ejuan Price, a sophomore, and redshirt sophomore Todd Thomas, who are both recovering from major offseason surgery (Thomas, ACL and Price, pectoral). If both are healthy, the group's depth will be good, too.
Unfortunately, since those couple sentences were penned we've realized that the Panthers won't have either of those guys to start the year. Chryst has consistently referred to Thomas' injury as "longer" so it's no surprise he's still out. The depth was dealt a big blow yesterday though when Juan Price tweeted he would be out for the year.
Ouch. With injuries continuing to nag, linebacker may not be the team's biggest value-add in 2012.