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Initial Depth Chart Breakdown

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Looking at Pitt’s initial depth chart for the 2017 season.

NCAA Football: Marshall at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, ACC Media Days took place in Charlotte. Lance Lysowski of DKPittsburghSports tweeted out a picture of Pitt’s depth chart as listed in the media guide for the event. With that, here are some reactions to that first depth chart. Many of Pitt’s incoming true freshmen are not listed, so that’s something to remember. And of course, Fall camp has yet to begin, and plenty can change between now and the September 2nd opener against Youngstown State.

Quarterback

  1. Max Browne SR. 2. Ben DiNucci SO.

No surprises here. Max Browne transferred to Pitt with the expectation to be the starter, and he most likely will be. We all know his story, a former five-star recruit that went to USC that waited his turn, to only lose his starting job to super freshman Sam Darnold. The pedigree is there, but now we need to see it. Browne was largely unimpressive in the Spring game, so there is some slight concern.

Ben DiNucci as the top backup is no surprise. He has some game experience, although not much. He should have a leg up on the freshmen QB’s, Tom MacVittie and Kenny Pickett. Still, DiNucci was considered by many as a reach by Pitt. He was a prolific high school player, but there is still uncertainty he can be an impact player here in the ACC. I still think MacVittie has a ways to go, despite a lot of optimism surrounding him by the fan base. Kenny Pickett really opened eyes at the Spring game, but will likely redshirt this season. Should Browne falter or get injured, it will be DiNucci going into the huddle.

Running Back

  1. Qadree Ollison JR 2. Darrin Hall JR 3. Chawntez Moss SO

There may not be a deeper position on the whole roster than running back. Pitt has seemingly five capable ball carriers, and all of them have some serious ability. Out of the gates, it’s junior Qadree Ollison as the starter. Ollison only carried the ball 33 times last year, following a 1,000 yard season in 2015 in which he was named ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year. Ollison is listed at 6’2” 230, and he is more of a downhill runner than the other backs.

Darrin Hall is listed as the top reserve, and has 417 rushing yards on 100 carries in his career. Like Ollison, he was used much more in 2015 during Conner’s absence. His playing time dwindled last year, but has shown flashes in his career. He could push for the top spot.

The third back may be the most intriguing among the returning players. Chawntez Moss rushed for 227 yards last season as Conner’s primary backup before a mid-season injury. He displayed real promise in his playing time last year, and could win the starting job.

Not listed on the depth chart are a pair of incoming ESPN300 recruits, AJ Davis and Todd Sibley. The two four-star backs are the best pair of running backs Pitt has brought in together since Ray Graham and Dion Lewis came into the program in 2009. It wouldn’t shock anyone if one of these players seizes the opportunity to play this year, they are that talented.

Fullback

  1. George Aston JR 2. Colton Lively SR

George Aston is one of the key components that makes Pitt’s offense go. The junior fullback is coming off a 10 touchdown season, and is a factor in running, receiving, and blocking. Aston is a smart football player that proved to be very valuable and versatile last season.

Colton Lively is a walk-on senior that has not contributed much offensively. I would suspect if Aston goes down, they would go with more two tight end or three receiver sets. He’s really the only guy on the roster that can do what he does.

Tight End

  1. Chris Clark 2. Devon Edwards

Chris Clark is the presumptive starter at tight end this season. A one-time top recruit, he started his career at UCLA before ending up at Pitt. He missed last season with a knee injury, but appears to be ready to go this season. Clark has big shoes to fill after Scott Orndoff has a very productive season in 2016.

Devon Edwards is technically the only other scholarship tight end returning this season. He is expected to be used mostly in blocking sets. That will also be the case with Rutgers grad transfer, Matt Flanagan, who is not yet listed on the depth chart. He had 18 career receptions for the Scarlet Knights before coming to Pitt.

Pitt brought in three tight ends in the most recent recruiting class. One or two of them may redshirt, but I expect at least one to see the field. Charles Reeves is a four-star from Ohio, and has the potential to be a serious weapon in his career, he is the favorite among the newcomers to see the field. Although local recruits, Tyler Sear and Grant Carrigan will be in the mix as well.

Left Tackle

  1. Brian O’Neill JR 2. Tony Pilato SO

Brian O’Neill comes into the 2017 after a strong sophomore campaign. The junior is making the switch from right to left tackle, and many believe it will be a seamless transition. O’Neill is on many preseason watch lists and All-American teams and things of that nature. He has started in Pitt’s past 25 games over the past two years.

Tony Pilato is a redshirt sophomore from Hempfield High School in the WPIAL. He did not play at all last season, but finds himself in the two-deep depth chart to start the year.

Left Guard

  1. Alex Officer SR 2. Brandon Ford FR

Alex Officer is back, and is four-year starter on the offensive line. He started all 13 games last year as a center, but in 2015 he played guard, and that’s why the coaching staff feels he can transition back to that spot this year. Officer has 36 career starts under his belt, making him one of the most experienced offensive linemen in the ACC.

Brandon Ford enters the two-deep depth chart for the first time after redshirting in 2016. Ford is a local product from Upper St. Clair High School in the Pittsburgh area.

Center

  1. Connor Dintino JR 2. Jimmy Morrissey FR

Connor Dintino is expected to earn the starting job at center. He was a backup all of last season and played special teams mostly. Dintino came to Pitt as a defensive player, but made the switch to offense before last season.

Jimmy Morrissey is from Philadelphia, and came to Pitt as a walk-on. He drew attention last year and seems to be a viable option this season to earn some playing time.

Right Guard

  1. Alex Bookser JR 2. Justin Morgan FR

Alex Bookser has 15 starts under his belt including every game last season. A former top recruit from the Pittsburgh area, he has proved he is a solid player for the Panthers. He is however dealing with an off season arrest that could subject him to a suspension for a game, if not more.

Justin Morgan is listed on the two-deep for the first time after a redshirt last season. He is a massive presence, as he checks in at 6’6” 350 pounds. He could be in the mix for some playing time with Bookser’s status in doubt.

Right Tackle

  1. Jared Jones-Smith SR 2. Jerry Drake FR

Jared Jones-Smith is a talented player, but has dealt with injuries that has slowed his progress a bit. He appears in line to be a starter this season, and perhaps could have an NFL future. After a promising 2014 season, a knee injury sidelined him for all of 2015. He played some last year, but looks to become the player many expected him to be by now.

Jerry Drake is the first true freshman to find himself on the two-deep. He enrolled early and participated in the Spring, giving him a leg up on some of the other incoming recruits. Drake is a massive player, and held his own in the Spring game.

Defensive End

  1. Dewayne Hendrix JR Allen Edwards SR
  2. James Folston Jr. JR Rori Blair SR
  3. Rashad Weaver FR Patrick Jones III FR

Dewayne Hendrix was expected to be a force last season, but came down with an injury in the opener against Villanova and missed the entire season. Hendrix is a former four-star recruit that started at Tennessee, but transferred to Pitt after a season. With Ejuan Price gone, a lot is expected of the junior. Joining Hendrix at the top line is senior Allen Edwards. He found his way into the starting lineup late last season, and came up with some big plays. Edwards will look to continue that into this season.

As a bit of a surprise, Rori Blair is not listed as a starter. Blair has 20 career starts in his three years at Pitt, and is their most experienced defensive linemen. He has 10 career sacks including 3.5 last season. James Foltston is another reserve with some experience.

It’s a two deep depth chart, but Pitt included three for this position. Rashad Weaver and Patrick Jones III are redshirt freshman with very promising futures. Both looked the part in the Spring game, and should see the field this year.

Defensive Tackle

  1. Amir Watts SO Keyshon Camp FR
  2. Mike Herndon JR Shane Roy JR
  3. Rashad Wheeler FR

Pitt lost three key faces at defensive tackle from last season, and will have a lot of new faces here this year. Amir Watts and Keyshon Camp are the listed starters for now. Watts played some last year as a true freshman, and is a player the coaches seem very high on at the moment. Keyshon Camp was a big recruiting win for Pat Narduzzi, and looks ready to contribute as a redshirt freshman.

Both Shane Roy and Mike Herndon have game experience, but have yet to really break through for serious playing time. They should push the younger players ahead of them for now in Fall camp.

Rashad Wheeler is another highly regarded freshman, and came into the program with Camp and Watts. He should get some snaps this season. I think a guy that’s not listed that can really push for a starting job is junior college transfer, Kam Carter.

Money Linebacker

  1. Elijah Zeise 2. Jalen Williams 3. Elias Reynolds FR

Elijah Zeise is penciled in as the starter at Pitt’s “Money” linebacker spot for now. The junior earned a starting spot last year, but sustained a season-ending injury in the opener against Villanova. Zeise is a former wide receiver, and has limited game experience as a linebacker.

Jalen Williams is listed as the top reserve here for now. He was once a safety, but transitioned to linebacker last year. He has been mostly a special teams player in his first two active seasons. Also listed is redshirt freshman, Elias Reynolds. He took a redshirt last year, but should compete with Williams for the top backup job.

Mike Linebacker

  1. Saleem Brightwell 2. Quintin Wirginis 3. Chase Pine

Saleem Brightwell is tabbed as the starter in the middle, which is a bit of a surprise. As a redshirt freshman, he found his way on the field as an outside backer, and many expected him to stay in that slot. Brightwell is one of the most promising young linebackers the Panthers’ have had in a while. He made an exceptional interception that was vital in Pitt’s upset win over Clemson.

Quintin Wirginis is an experienced veteran, and many expected him to be the starting middle linebacker this season. He will need to prove that in Fall camp. Behind both of them is redshirt freshman, Chase Pine. Pine is a very talented player, and could get himself on the field sooner rather than later.

STAR Linebacker

  1. Oluwaseun Idowu JR 2. Anthony McKee Jr. SO 3. Jalen Williams JR

Oluwaseun “Seun” Idowu started 12 games last season following the injury to Elijah Zeise. Idowu was a former walk-on and ended up being Pitt’s third leading tackles last season. Pushing Idowu will be sophomore, Anthony McKee Jr. McKee was a nice recruiting win for Narduzzi a few years back, and will look to make an impact on the field this season.

Cornerback

  1. Avonte Maddox SR Phillipie Motley JR
  2. Therran Coleman FR Dane Jackson SO
  3. Malik Henderson SO Damar Hamlin SO

Avonte Maddox has been a starter for three years at Pitt. He is their most experienced corner, so it should come as no surprise he is projected to start once again. Pitt’s passing defense was putrid last season, but Maddox still managed to come up with some big plays. He can be inconsistent, but he is talented. Surprisingly, Phillipie Motley is listed as the starter opposite Maddox. He has not played much throughout his career, but did register two starts last year.

Pitt’s talent at cornerback is young and that may start with redshirt freshman Therran Coleman. The native of Pittsbugh is a very gifted athlete, and should push for a starting job in Fall camp. Also listed as a backup is sophomore, Dane Jackson. He played a considerable amount last year, and showed glimpses of being a good player.

Also listed as a corner is Damar Hamlin. The sophomore was Pitt’s top recruit a year ago, and dealt with an injury plagued season. He managed to get on the field some, but did not make a significant impact. There has been talks he could be moving to safety, which will be something to watch once camp begins.

Safety

  1. Jordan Whitehead JR Dennis Briggs JR
  2. Jazzee Stocker SO OR Bricen Garner FR Phil Campbell FR
  3. Henry Miller FR

Jordan Whitehead is perhaps Pitt’s best overall player. After a slow start, Whitehead played like an All-American before breaking his arm in Pitt’s upset win over Clemson. Whitehead is listed on all the watch lists, preseason All-American teams, and even finds himself on some early mock drafts. If he lives up to his billing, this could be his last year as a Panther. Starting alongside Whitehead is fellow junior, Dennis Briggs. He has been a reserve most of his career, so it’ll be interesting to see him play full time.

Jazzee Stocker and Bricen Garner should push for playing time this year. Stocker saw the field some last year on special teams, while Garner took a redshirt. Pitt also lists Phil Campbell and Henry Miller. Both are redshirt freshmen with a lot of promise. Miller could eventually move to linebacker given his 6’3” frame.

Obviously the big factor here is Paris Ford. He might be Pitt’s second best safety already, but they are still in a waiting period to see if he qualifies, although Narduzzi seems hopeful.

Kicker

  1. Alex Kessman FR 2. Ian Troost JR

Pitt will be looking to replace the talented, but inconsistent Chris Blewitt. Blewitt was sometimes undervalued at Pitt, and may have the most iconic kick in Pitt history when he hit the game winner over Clemson. Kessman is a walk-on from Michigan. He seems to have the advantage to be the starter, how he will do remains to be seen.

Punter

  1. Ryan Winslow SR 2. Kirk Christdoulou FR

Ryan Winslow has been Pitt’s starting punter for the past three years. He has been solid in his career, yet sometimes underwhelming. Kirk Christodoulou will redshirt this year and likely be the starter next season.

Long Snapper

  1. Nate Bossory SR 2. Conrad Brake

Nate Bossory is a reserve tight end, and as it stands now is the favorite to be the long snapper this season.