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Burning questions: Pittsburgh

8/24/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

It may be Sunday, but the Big East Burning Questions take no days off. Let's get our burn on with the Pittsburgh Panthers.

1. How good is the overall depth?

Pitt has been piling up players on the recruiting trail the last few years, but many of them are still young and unproven. True freshmen might be thrust into roles on the offense and at cornerback, while a preseason injury to linebacker Shane Murray was a hit to an already thin position. Pitt has battled key injuries the past couple seasons, and quarterback Bill Stull and Derek Kinder missed all but two quarters of last year combined because of health problems. If injuries strike again, will the Panthers be able to plug in adequate replacements?

2. How will the offensive line hold up?

Pitt replaces three starters from last year's line, including NFL first-rounder Jeff Otah and fourth-round pick Mike McGlynn. Head coach Dave Wannstedt hasn't expressed much confidence in new starting right tackle Joe Thomas so far. New offensive line coach Tony Wise, who spent the last 18 years in the NFL, needs to get this group in shape so it can block for LeSean McCoy and keep Stull upright.

3. What about the coaching?

Paul Rhoads built an intimidating defense before leaving to become the defensive coordinator at Auburn. Former SMU coach Phil Bennett was brought on board to replace him. And, fairly or unfairly, Wannstedt's coaching acumen has been called into question at times as Pitt has executed poorly late in close games. The best way to silence those critics would be for Wannstedt to guide Pitt to its first bowl game since 2004.