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Pitt suspensions mean more opportunities for unproven players

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Friday's Pitt football suspensions were an offseason shock most of us could have done without. Including the dismissal of defensive end Rori Blair from the team, the Panthers lost at least three (and potentially four) starters for part of the season.

Those losses will allow some other players to get opportunities in the non-conference part of the season. Unfortunately, it's going to mean playing some unproven guys.

Alex Bookser is gone for only one game and he already could see competition from incoming transfer Brandon Hodges. The rest of the backups, though, are less proven than Hodges is.

Blair likely gives way to Allan Edwards at defensive end. Edwards is a senior but has only one year of playing (mostly as a backup with a handful of starts) for Pitt after coming here from junior college. By contrast, Blair, would have been a three-year starter.

Whitehead would also be a three-year starter and behind him on the depth chart is redshirt sophomore Jay (now Jazzee) Stocker. Stocker played only a little as a backup last year and had a total of 12 tackles in his first season of playing time.

Finally, Wirginis will give way to Saleem Brightwell. Brightwell played pretty solidly last season but he was primarily a backup and has only one year of experience while Wirginis has been a backup for three years and is a senior.

Some of these moves shouldn't dramatically hurt Pitt. Bookser will miss only one game and Hodges is experienced, starting last year for Texas. And even though Brightwell is younger and less experienced, he's arguably a better player than Wirginis, anyway. But Pitt will see some challenges in trying to replace Whitehead and, to a lesser degree, Blair. Blair hasn't been dominant at Pitt but he has played a lot of games and that kind of loss will hurt since the team has a couple of heavy hitters on the schedule while he's out (Penn State and Oklahoma State).

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