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Pitt vs. Villanova Depth Chart: Probable starters named for Panthers' first game of the year

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jim typically handles the depth charts around here on Tuesdays but because the Pitt depth chart was so anticipated, I wanted to get to it a day early since it was released on Monday.

One big battle up for grabs was at backup quarterback behind starter Nathan Peterman. Transfer and converted wide receiver Manny Stocker was ahead there in the spring and that held true in the fall as well as Stocker is indeed listed as Peterman's backup. No matter who was there, Pitt was going to be in a precarious position with either a freshman with no experience or Stocker, who hasn't played much there.

The top three wideouts remains unchanged from the depth chart heading into training camp - there, it's Dontez Ford, Quadree Henderson, and Jester Weah. Two backups are Tre Tipton and Rafael Araujo-Lopes. The third backup spot is still up for grabs between true freshman Aaron Mathews and Zach Challingsworth (the team's second highest receiver in terms of production returning from last year).

That goes along with what offensive coordinator Matt Canada said recently. The three starters and two backups were listed as Pitt's best five guys. A sixth wasn't named and it appears like Mathews and Challingsworth are still battling it out.

On the offensive line, the new guy is Alex Bookser at right guard as he'll team up with right tackle Brian O'Neill. The left side and center looked to be solidified but there were questions on the right. Those are cleared up now with Bookser getting the nod and into the lineup. Jaryd Jones-Smith, a contender to get into that top five, will be a backup behind O'Neill.

Several backup spots are still open and one of those is at running back. James Conner, as fully expected, will start. But the team's trio of Chawntez Moss, Darrin Hall, and Qadree Ollison are all listed as his potential backup. How that plays out is anybody's guess. My guess? I think it could be one of those things that fluctuates week to week as the team did a bit last year. In other words, whoever brings it in practice could be the guy that gets that job for the week.

There was no shortage of intrigue on defense, either.

The biggest surprise to me was at the Star linebacker position where Oluwaseun Idowu will start over senior Bam Bradley and Elijah Zeise. Bradley could move around quite a bit but for now, he's listed as the backup to Mike Caprara at the Money spot. Idowu was a converted walk on safety that played mostly on special teams last year, so to see him vault his way into the starting lineup is a surprise.

At defensive end, Tennessee transfer Dewayne Hendrix will indeed get first crack at the job on the line with Tyrique Jarrett, Shakir Soto, and fellow end Ejuan Price. Hendrix was expected to win the job and that's what happened. While expected by many, that was still a chance from the preseason depth chart where Rori Blair was listed as the top dog. Hendrix had to come in and prove himself after not playing last year and he did that.

The other big battles were in the secondary. Senior Ryan Lewis winning the second cornerback spot opposite Avonte Maddox seemed to be a given after head coach Pat Narduzzi said last week that true freshman Damar Hamlin would likely miss the opener. The second safety spot opposite Jordan Whitehead was earned by Terrish Webb. His competition, Reggie Mitchell, missed much of last year with an injury and if Webb struggles, you can look for him to get his shot. This was one of those positions that seemed truly up for grabs and Webb came away as the winner.

Any surprises from your vantage point?

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