At the end of the spring practice sessions, I put together a list of the top five developments afterwards. With football training camp kicking off today, I wanted to throw out five things I'll be watching for over the next few weeks.
There's a lot more, obviously, and things will develop, but here are five that might be at the top of the heap:
5. Running Back Distribution - Pitt has significant depth at running back. Returning all three of last year's primary backs in James Conner, Isaac Bennett, and Rachid Ibrahim, the Panthers have a lot of stability there. And when you throw several true freshmen into the mix, including Chris James and Qadree Ollison, it's going to be interesting to see how head coach Paul Chryst splits up the carries.
4. Help for Tyler Boyd - Pitt lost starting wide receiver Devin Street to the NFL and while true sophomore Tyler Boyd returns as one of the conference's top wideouts, it will be interesting to see if Street's loss and the corresponding loss of starting quarterback Tom Savage affects Boyd's game. Boyd, quite simply, has too much talent to be held back completely. But the Panthers need at least one wide receiver to step up to deflect some of the attention he'll surely receive.
3. Defensive Line Play - Gone is the production of first-round NFL Draft pick Aaron Donald ... not only the statistical production, but all of the plays he disrupted by getting into the backfield so quickly. That, however, is only part of the puzzle. Pitt also replaces NFL/WWE hopeful Ty Ezell and Bryan Murphy on the line. Add in the ill-timed season-ending injury to Ejuan Price and there's plenty of reason to be skeptical of the unit.
2. Offensive Line Growth - Face it - Paul Chryst's entire plan for turning around Pitt is based on a strong offensive line. The skill players are somewhat in place and Chryst needs to see improvement in a unit that has been plagued by inconsistencies. There are still many young players here, but guys like Dorian Johnson and Adam Bisnowaty really need to take a step forward in 2014 to show the line is going in the right direction.
1. Chad Voytik, Chad Voytik, Chad Voytik - A football team is never about one player, so I want that to be as clear as possible. But if there's one guy that holds the key to this year's successes (or lack thereof), it's quarterback Chad Voytik. Quarterback is often the key position on many teams, but it's particularly true this year. The team should have a strong ground game, but will also need Voytik to make plays and, maybe more importantly, stay healthy. The depth chart at quarterback is not only thin, but also inexperienced with true freshman Adam Bertke and little-used backup Trey Anderson behind him.