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Freshmen Try To Impress At Camp

Pitt fans will need to see more out of Tino Sunseri or the calls to replace him with freshman Chad Voytik will grow louder and louder.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Pitt fans will need to see more out of Tino Sunseri or the calls to replace him with freshman Chad Voytik will grow louder and louder. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Pitt's two most high-profile freshmen - quarterback Chad Voytik and running back Rushel Shell - are adjusting to college life and college practices all while under a significant amount of scrutiny. Their high school accomplishments are some of the best to ever come to Pitt: an Army All-American quarterback, a national-record setting back. And both happen to play at important offensive positions where depth is questionable at best.

So what are the chances that these guys get on the field in 2012?

There may be no position easier to make the transition from high school to college than running back. Obviously, the skill and size and speed have to be there, but Pitt has been blessed with freshmen who have been able to come in and become instant susperstars at the position. Rushel Shell could be next:

Then, he’ll need to rely on something else he is hoping to develop this summer at Pitt’s training camp: Knowledge of the collegiate game.

It’s something Shell can’t wait to master, but he understands it will take time.

"I’m trying my best to get it all done so fast," he said. "Everybody here is a great athlete."

Right now, Shell is running with the backups while Ray Graham and Isaac Bennett get most of the work.

"Those guys have a great knowledge of the game, and I’m trying to get my knowledge up to their level," Shell said. "I’m trying to get better at the small things that take you from being good to being great."

We're only two practices into camp, but it seems as if Shell could see the field sooner rather than later. At running back, Pitt has three every-down type of backs: Senior Ray Graham, sophomore Isaac Bennett and Shell. One of those guys is coming off major knee surgery. Even though Ray Graham reportedly looked good at camp this week, it would be wise for the coaches not to throw into a 20-carries a game workload, at least right off the bat.

For Voytik, the eagerness of fans is understandable. With the exception of Bill Stull in 2010, Pitt just hasn't gotten much out of the position since Tyler Palko was on campus. Last year's poor numbers can be blamed on the system to some degree, but it's obvious that Pitt will need Tino Sunseri to step up in a big way. Now, I think Sunseri will be significantly improved from last year's debacle, but

Chad is correct in stating that he needs time:

"This is a great offense to be [in], and I feel like if I can make the right reads I can give myself a chance" Voytik said. "I'll do whatever is best for the team and, if that means using a year's experience being the backup, that is fine with me. I think I just mentally need to get everything down these first few days so that I can have a picture of what needs to be done and then physically execute it."

He probably needs more than a few practices to "get everything down." He's playing college football now and in an offense that is likely light-years ahead of what he's used to in high school, let alone being able to run the offense in real-time with 230 lb linebackers breaking through the line.

But depth is the major question at quarterback. With the departure of Mark Myers, the Panthers are down another body at a position that was already in question. Behind Sunseri is Trey Anderson, a returning sophomore who understandably failed to impress in relief of Sunseri last season. Behind him is... Chad Voytik. So while redshirting Voytik this season would be ideal, that just might not be in the cards right now, no matter how much he may benefit from it.