Quarterback - 1. Nate Peterman 2. Manny Stocker
Nate Peterman gave a Nate Peterman type performance in week one against Villanova. In his second year as the starter for Pitt, we kind have grown accustomed of what to expect from the senior signal caller. Peterman isn’t a big time statistical QB that will throw for 300+ yards, but 175 yards 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions is just the type of performance we have seen from him. His touch seemed a bit off on certain throws, and missed on really opening the game open a few times.
The story remains the same behind Peterman, and that’s not good. Manny Stocker was never able to get into the game last week, as Pitt failed to pull away from Villanova earlier in the game. An injury to the starter would be a gigantic blow.
Running Back - 1. James Conner 2. Chawntez Moss OR Darrin Hall OR Qadree Ollison
James Conner returned to game action against Villanova to mixed results. Conner made some big plays, but seemed bottled up throughout most of the day. Part of his ineffectiveness was due to some poor offensive line play however. Still, he showed some versatility in lining out wide and catching some passes. The patented toughness was evident when he bulldozed his way in for the first touchdown. Conner will need to be better this week against the Nittany Lions.
Chawntez Moss continues to be listed second, but did not play at all against Villanova. The coaching staff has insisted since Spring that Moss will play this year, but for now his redshirt remains intact. Darrin Hall managed to get some snaps in the second half, and gave a light 13 yards on 6 carries.
It was Qadree Ollison that was the second back on the field against Villanova, and that should continue this week. Ollison actually appeared to be the most effective back against the Wildcats. He broke an 11 yard run, a long for the team that day, and averaged 4.3 yards per carry, also a team best.
Wide Receiver - 1. Jester Weah Dontez Ford Quadree Henderson.
2. Aaron Mathews OR Zach Challingsworth Tre Tipton Rafael Araujo-Lopes
Life without Tyler Boyd started last week, and we saw some good things, and some not so good things. Only the three starters caught passes, so we’ll see if the depth is ready to contribute this week. Dontez Ford was expected to be the number one guy this year, and finished with just two receptions for 14 yards. Pitt will need more out of their lone senior at the position.
Jester Weah had 4 catches for 38 yards and a touchdown. It marked the first four catches of his career after a number of years of Pitt fans waiting for him to break through. As advertised, he looks the part physically. We will see this weekend if he can play at this level against a quality opponent like Penn State.
Quadree Henderson’s emergence as one of the top offensive weapons in the program was evident in week one. Henderson had the big kick return, but also made some plays in the offense. Although the play was waved off, Henderson made a nice play on the sideline on a third and long. I think those are the types of plays he can continue to make.
Tight End - 1. Scott Orndoff 2. Jaymar Parrish
Scott Orndoff led the team with 5 catches and 68 yards in week one. Orndoff has been a proven commodity for years now, but now will have to produce as the top guy this season. The senior tight end came down with multiple drive-extending third down catches. He’s a weapon, and it looks like Matt Canada knows how to use him.
Jaymar Parrish pulled in one catch for four yards. He was moved around mostly as a blocker, his role always seems to be changing. Pitt’s running game was stagnant last week, and they need it to be effective this week and beyond. I expect to see Parrish used quite a bit on Saturday.
LT - 1. Adam Bisnowaty 2. Aaron Reese
LG - 1. Dorian Johnson 2. Carson Baker
C - 1. Alex Officer 2. Connor Dintino
RG - 1. Alex Bookser 2. John Guy
RT - 1. Brian O’Neill 2. Jaryd Jones-Smith
Pitt’s offensive line is talented and experienced. There are preseason All-Americans and future NFL starters. They were predicted to have a big season on merit, not some far off projection. So with all of those factors, it makes it troubling why they looked lackluster on Saturday against an FCS team. Were they unamused by Villanova? Is the new offensive scheme by Matt Canada not fully settled? I don’t have the answers, but they need to be addressed this week.
Defensive End - 1. Dewayne Hendrix Ejuan Price 2. Rori Blair James Folston OR Allen Edwards
Rumors went out yesterday that Dewayne Hendrix broke his foot and that he may miss extended time. Pat Narduzzi mentioned in his press conference that he anticipates him to play this week and never mentioned a broken bone. I guess that’s worth monitoring, as those are two completely different stories. Hendrix is potentially the highest impact newcomer on the team, and his debut was much anticipated. He played sparingly after leaving with the apparent injury in week one.
Ejuan Price had a successful 2016 debut with 1.5 sacks and 3 tackles. He also chipped in three QB hurries, and was a big factor against the Wildcats. Pitt needs big things from the sixth year senior, and he seems up to the task.
If Hendrix is not ready to go in any way, it would be junior Rori Blair to fill in as a starter. Blair has started games in each of the past two seasons, and finished with three tackles and two quarterback hurries on Saturday.
Defensive Tackle - 1. Shakir Soto 2. Amit Watts OR Keyshon Camp
Shakir Soto had a quiet debut in his first career game playing defensive tackle with just a pair of tackles. He managed to get some pressure a few times as well. Pitt’s defense played well overall, so it may have masked any miscues. We’ll get a better feel for Soto at his new position this weekend. Amir Watts was the only true freshmen on the entire team to see any action in Week One.
Nose Tackle - 1. Tyrique Jarrett 2. Shane Roy OR Mike Herndon
Pat Narduzzi praised Tyrique Jarrett in his weekly press conference, calling him a “war daddy” for his performance. Jarrett may not be a guy with tons of stats this year, but at his size eating up blockers and drawing attention might be just what the coaching staff wants from him. He did record four solo tackles. He needs to have a big day going against a Penn State offensive line that has been struggling for years now.
Money Linebacker - 1. Mike Caprara 2. Bam Bradley
Mike Caprara came up with a big sack in the first quarter and combined with Ejuan Price for another one later in the game. Caprara finished the day with four tackles total. He’s been a productive player in Josh Conklin’s scheme, and now being the full-time starter, perhaps he can flourish. Bam Bradley got some reps throughout the game and posted two stops. He’s an experienced player, and is still capable of taking reps from Caprara.
Mike Linebacker - 1. Matt Galambos 2. Quintin Wirginis
Matt Galambos had a modest debut to the 2016 season with a four tackle performance. His play will be key this weekend against Penn State’s supposed up tempo offense. The Nittany Lions have good running backs and a mobile QB, and that should keep Galambos busy. Quintin Wirginis found himself playing on third downs last week, and I would expect that to continue. He’s pretty agile for a middle linebacker.
Money Linebacker - 1. Seun Idowu 2. Elijah Zeise
After naming Idowu the starter, it was actually Elijah Zeise who started against Villanova. He was injured early on, and it was Idowu who played the majority of the game anyway. Weird scenario for sure. Zeise is day to day, but one would think they will need him this weekend with the position battle still seeming to be ongoing.
Cornerback - 1. Avonte Maddox Ryan Lewis 2. Dane Jackson Phillipie Motley
Pitt continues to list Avonte Maddox and Ryan Lewis as the starters. Star freshman Damar Hamlin’s status is still unclear. Maddox had himself a big game and came down with two sacks. For an undersized player, he really hits hard, and defends the run well. He should be tested more this weekend.
Strong Safety - 1. Jordan Whitehead 2. Dennis Briggs
Surprise, surprise....Jordan Whitehead led Pitt in tackles in week one with six, with one going for a loss. Whitehead is arguably Pitt’s best player, and will be featured prominently on a national stage this week. Penn State has plenty of offensive weapons, and Whitehead will be asked to have a huge game. Dennis Briggs came down with a sack in the second half, and has found a role as Pitt’s starting Nickel. He will likely see the field quite a bit on Saturday.
Free Safety - 1. Terrish Webb 2. Reggie Mitchell
Terrish Webb had a nice start to his senior season with six tackles and a pass breakup. He also recorded his fifth career interception, and nearly pulled in one more. Mitchell was on the field as well, but had a quiet afternoon.
K - Chris Blewitt P - Ryan Winslow LS - Pat Quirin
Chris Blewitt was 4-4 in extra point attempts on Saturday. Unfortunately for him, it was all bad after that. He had one blocked and missed another one. It’s inexcusable on his part, and Pitt needs better out of their senior kicker.
KR / PR - 1. Quadree Henderson 2. Avonte Maddox
Quadree Henderson opened the second half kickoff with a touchdown. It was the second return of his career, and the second consecutive game he has taken one to the house. Henderson is a dangerous player in space, and is a threat to return one at any time. A big return by Henderson could be the difference this Saturday.