Pittsburgh spring wrap

May, 10, 2012
5/10/12
8:00
AM ET
2011 overall record: 6-7

2011 conference record: 4-3 (T-4)

Returning starters

Offense 8; Defense 4; Kicker/punter: 2.

Key returners

RB Ray Graham, QB Tino Sunseri, OG Chris Jacobson, RB Isaac Bennett, WR Devin Street, DT Aaron Donald, S Jarred Holley, CB K'Waun Williams

Key losses

DE Brandon Lindsey, DT Chas Alecxih, DT Myles Caragein, LB Max Gruder, CB Antwuan Reed

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Ray Graham* (958 yards)

Passing: Tino Sunseri* (247-of-385 for 2,616 yards, 10 TDs, 11 INTs)

Receiving: Devin Street* (754 yards)

Tackles: Max Gruder (116)

Sacks: Aaron Donald* (11)

Interceptions: Eight tied with one each

Spring answers

1. Depth at safety. Pitt has some major talent at safety, with four players capable of starting in Jarred Holley, Andrew Taglianetti, Jason Hendricks and transfer Ray Vinopal, one of the highlights for the Panthers this season. Coaches are going to have a hard time determining the starters from the backups once the season begins.

2. Michigan transfers rise. Speaking of Vinopal, he and Cullen Christian came to Pitt from Michigan and were forced to sit out a year. Though the scheme has changed, both players had terrific springs. Vinopal was making plays all over the field, exactly what you want your safety to do. Christian is making a serious play to win the starting cornerback job opposite K'Waun Williams.

3. Chryst comfortable. Pitt has had more coaching transitions in the last two years than any other school in America. So naturally, many wondered how coach Paul Chryst would do in his first spring. I haven't heard any complaints about him or what he is trying to do at Pitt. His persona has been embraced, and so has his offensive scheme.

Fall questions

1. Is Ray Graham 100 percent? All indications are that Graham is on schedule in his rehab from a torn ACL. But he missed all of spring, and just how much he will do in the fall remains up in the air. Remember, he will be less than a year removed from knee surgery when the season opens in September. So his recovery will be one of the biggest story lines to watch this season for the Panthers.

2. Can Tino Sunseri be better? If everything holds as expected, Sunseri will be going into his third season as a starter. Of course, he will be going into his third different offense as well, hard enough for most players to adjust to, let alone the quarterback. Coach Paul Chryst did a great job tailoring the offense to the players he had while at Wisconsin. It will be paramount to do the same with Sunseri, to get him comfortable in the offense and limiting his mistakes.

3. Revamped defensive front. Pitt lost three of its top four linemen from a year ago, and will feature a radically reshaped defensive front. Sack leader Aaron Donald is the only one who returns. The others who will be counted on to step up, from Shayne Hale to Bryan Murphy to T.J. Clemmings, were all highly touted players who must now meet expectations to maintain Pitt's status as a solid defensive team.

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