Monday, August 6, 2012
Opening camp: Pitt
By Andrea Adelson
As Big East teams begin practicing again, I will have a quick preview of each team to get you caught up on the basics. We continue with ...
Start date: Today.
Predicted finish at media days: Fifth.
Biggest storyline: Can Ray Graham return to form? The truth is, there are multiple storylines facing Pitt this season, but the biggest has to center around its star running back in his quest to return from a torn ACL. While Graham has said his knee feels good, there really is no way of knowing where Graham stands in the rehab process until he starts going through camp and taking some hits. Running on a field during the summer is vastly different from actually participating in a practice. Both he and coach Paul Chryst have said they are going to be cautious during camp. Still, the hope is that Graham will be able to play Week 1. If Graham is anywhere near where he was last season before he got hurt, the Panthers could be in excellent shape. Even if he is not, there is talent and some depth at running back, so that should help with the new pro-style offense Chryst is bringing to Pitt. But there is no question all eyes are going to be on Graham.
Biggest question marks: Graham is huge. So is Tino Sunseri at quarterback, and the overall ability for every player to learn from yet another coach. Much has been made about the transitions these Pitt players have had to go through, with their third opening day head coach in the past three years. At least there is a return to more traditional schemes associated with Pitt, the pro-style offense and 3-4 defense. Sunseri is going into his third year as a starter, and the hope is that Chryst will be able to manage Sunseri the right way -- essentially putting him position to succeed without asking him to put the entire offense on his shoulders. If Pitt can get the play-action working and its offensive line is better than it was last season, the potential is there for Sunseri to redeem himself to all the critics who have slammed him in recent years.
Who needs to step up: The defensive line. Aaron Donald is the only sure thing along the defensive front. After him, you have players who have not quite lived up to their potential yet. But the opportunity is there for highly touted players like T.J. Clemmings, K.K. Mosley-Smith and Shayne Hale. Defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable has had some pretty stellar defensive lines in his past, so having him to help the defense should help the linemen improve.