Pitt's 2016 preseason football depth chart was released by the Post-Gazette's Sam Werner, who obtained it from the team's media guide. The depth chart can't be wholly relied upon for a few reasons. First, it doesn't include all of the incoming freshmen. Also, with training camp not even started yet, we are a long way off from cementing many positions.
Now, Jim has some great analysis coming up next starting with a look at the individual positions for the football team. So I don't want to steal his thunder here. All of that said, I wanted to offer some positions on the depth chart just released. First, have a look if you haven't already:
Running Back/Fullback - Conner, Aston
The running back position is the one that will raise some eyebrows. Not so much that Conner is leading the pack - even with a year off, if he's ready to go, he's going to be the top guy. I'm fine with him there just because he's already proven he's the top guy and everyone knows it. He's hardly an unknown and to treat him as one by putting him at the bottom would be kind of silly.
What's interesting is Ollison's standing. Ollison is third on the depth chart behind sophomore Darrin Hall. Obviously, that's a bit odd since Ollison was the starter for the majority of the year, rushed for over 1,100 yards, and was the ACC's Offensive Rookie of the Year. The staff, as evidenced by their numerous flip flops earlier last season, wasn't really sold on Ollison initially but I'm surprised he sits third here after such a big year. Again, though, this is all fluid.
On a lesser note, true freshman Chawntez Moss sits ahead of junior Rachid Ibrahim, who missed all of last year due to injury. That Ibrahim is still here is interesting to me on some level. Ahead of him is Conner, who has two years of eligibility (even though he might use only one) and three underclassmen all with more years of eligibility left. There's a very real chance that he barely plays going forward unless Pitt sees several injuries (which, admittedly, we saw last year).
There's less drama at fullback with returning part-time starter, George Aston, expected to get that job.
Offensive Line - Bisnowaty, Johnson, Officer, Bookser, O'Neill/Jones-Smith
Left to right, we're looking at Adam Bisnowaty, Dorian Johnson, Alex Officer, Alex Bookser, and either Brian O'Neill or Jaryd Jones-Smith. Four of those guys were starters last year and as a big-time recruit a couple of years ago, Bookser at guard doesn't seem like a reach.
I'll be waiting to see what happens with Jaryd Jones-Smith. He missed all of last season and was expected to contend for a starting spot. Now with him back, does he beat out O'Neill? Could O'Neill move to guard over Bookser? We'll see. The left side of the line (Bisnowaty and Johnson) along with center (Officer) looks to be pretty set. There could be some fluctuation in the right side.
One thing to keep in mind is that these exact positions are not necessarily settled and guys can often move during camp.
Quarterback - Peterman
The interest here isn't in that Nathan Peterman is the starter. Rather, it's going to be for the backup job where Manny Stocker, who was was believed to be the case in the spring, is in a battle with Ben DiNucci. That all comes, of course, with the loss of Adam Bertke this offseason. Plus, we'll have to see how, if at all, Tom MacVittie changes things once he gets here. Starter settled but backup in the air. My money would be on Stocker right now since he's the only one of the group with previous experience, but we'll see.
Wide Receiver/Tight End - Ford, Henderson, Weah, Orndoff
Returnee Dontez Ford snatching a starting spot isn't a surprise here. Opposite him, Pitt lists two other receiver positions with Qadree Henderson and Jester Weah there. Obviously they won't go with three receivers every time out so we'll have to see who the one is that plays with Ford on every down.
As I wrote earlier, this is a position that's really up for grabs and if you want more of a breakdown, check out that link. In summary, it's hard to make too much sense out of things this early. This and the defensive line are probably the positions on the depth chart I'm taking least seriously right now.
Defensive Line - Blair, Jarrett, Soto, Price
Price is staying put at one end spot but I wonder how many of the others will change before the season.
While Dewayne Hendrix appears as the backup to Rori Blair at defensive end, that's one that I feel could change by the beginning of the season. Hendrix hasn't yet played for Pitt so it doesn't make sense to declare him a starter right now. But he's highly touted and expected to be a big time player.
In the middle of the line, Pitt has several incoming freshmen such as Amir Watts, Keyshawn Camp, Rashad Wheeler, and Bryce Hargrove that could factor in here. The guys they'll have to beat (Soto and Jarrett) are experienced seniors so it won't be easy. But I could see a couple at least getting onto the depth chart and playing right away.
Linebackers - Galambos, Caprara, Zeise/Idowu
Matt Galambos (Mike) and Mike Caprara (Money) were starters last year, so they get the early nod here. But I'll be anxious to see if Bam Bradley can push Caprara.
At the third linebacker slot (Star) is a battle between relative unknowns. On one side, we've got walk-on linebacker redshirt sophomore Oluwaseun Idowu, a Wexford product. He played on special teams last year. On the other, there's Elijah Zeise, former wide receiver who converted to linebacker in the spring. It was previously announced that his change then might not be permanent, but I would be surprised if it isn't by now. There's a logjam at wide receiver and, as evidenced here, Pitt needs linebackers.
Zeise impressed earlier this year in the spring so he looks to have an inside track here. If Pitt doesn't do something like move Bam Bradley here, I would be surprised if Zeise didn't win the job.
All of that said, one thing to watch here is where incoming freshmen Kaezon Pugh and Chase Pine fit in. They are both pretty highly-touted guys. Perhaps one fights his way into contention for the Star spot or competes at one of the others.
Cornerback - Maddox, Lewis
Like most people, I like true freshman Damar Hamlin to lock down one of these spots currently occupied by Avonte Maddox and Ryan Lewis. With Maddox a little more established and as a previous starter, I expect him to be more likely to keep his job. Hamlin starting might not happen right away. After all, even ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year Jordan Whitehead didn't even get to do that last year. But when it's all said and done, I expect Hamlin to move into the starting lineup at some point.
And truthfully, it's worth watching to see what incoming freshman Phil Campbell does and also George Hill if he happens to land here. This could be a very unsettled situation.
Safety - Whitehead, Webb/Mitchell
Both seniors Terrish Webb and Reggie Mitchell are in the popular 'OR' grouping so for the moment, we've got a toss up. Webb's career seems to have flown by and he has two years of starting experience. Mitchell was a full-time starter two years ago then missed much of last year, rotating between being a starter and reserve. One thing is pretty clear to me here - whoever emerges as the starter here, this is one of those situations where they're going to have to really fight to keep it week to week. It should be that way for every position and coaches say it is. But when you've got two decent options with experience, it's even more appropriate. If this job changed hands a few times, it wouldn't surprise me all that much.
Whitehead, obviously, is a given to start.
Special Teams - Blewitt, Winslow, Quirin
Chris Blewitt is your kicker, Ryan Winslow your punter, and Pat Quirin your snapper. Done, done, and done. Let's keep those guys healthy.