Pitt Panthers: Looking At The Off-Season And Predictions For 2015


Leaving the past in the past, we need to adjust our eyes for the future. The Panthers look to do that this week with the opening of camp.

In the hopes of not regurgitating information over and over, I will make the recap of last season as brief as possible.

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Recap: 6-7, humiliating defeat to Houston, Paul Chryst leaves.

Yes, James Conner and Tyler Boyd each had phenomenal seasons. However, the squad overall seemed to lack a backbone. What fortitude remained left with the former coach on his departure to Madison, Wisconsin. With that, there can be some relative weight to the term “bold predictions” under first time head coach, Pat Narduzzi.

It is a great time for those that follow Pitt football as the hard work of fall camp will lead to the opening kickoff on September 5 against the Penguins of Youngstown State.

What we know is that Scott Barnes now heads the athletic departments after his time of the same role at Utah State. Chancellor Pat Gallagher has done a fantastic job of his new role with the university. They have brought in a coaching staff that can rival the best of the best with first hand experience and championship pedigrees. It is a group of coaches I feel can deliver, and on the bold predictions I will bestow on you.

Bold Prediction One: Pitt will finish with the number one offense in the ACC.

The Panthers will provide the fans with a powerful show each week. Last season they were more productive than expected, even with James Conner and Tyler Boyd. The offense averaged 31.8 points per game, a statistic you would expect to carry your team to a better record than 6-7, but we are over that.

This season Chad Voytik is ready to leave his mark on the field. The success of the Pitt offense depends on their quarterback. Voytik can lead the offense north of 39 points per game with the proven weapons at his disposal. The new weapons that are joining the program should help put points on the board.

With Clemson, Georgia Tech, NC State, and Louisville all having dynamic offenses this seaon, it could be a tall feat, but still an attainable goal in 2015.

Bold Prediction Two: Pitt will have two players selected as first team All-Americans, and selected in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

Okay, this has an indirect bearing on the season, but a bearing nonetheless. Players can put together a great season, and look primed for the NFL in just their sophomore season. However, if they tank in their junior campaigns, they could become an undrafted free agent.

This season, Pitt will conclude the campaign with two first team All-Americans in Conner and Boyd. On top of those accolades will come the very real prospect of both being selected in the first round of the draft.

While it may seem an easy prediction, let me explain why it becomes a bold prognostication. The Pitt Panthers has never had two players selected in the first round going all the way back to 1960.

Boyd should be a lock after being one of the two best receivers to play at Pitt behind Larry Fitzgerald. Conner may not go as high in the draft. The perception is that running backs are a devalued position on the next level and selected accordingly. He could go either at the end of the first round or the beginning of the second. If his numbers are close to what they were in 2014, his stature and ability to hit the holes with a burst could bump him up a few spots.

I look for Boyd to go within the first ten picks, and Conner to come off in the late twenties to a playoff contending team in need of a big back. He simply could be the best available at the time. It could come down to their health at the time.

Bold Prediction Three: Games against Youngstown State and Notre Dame will be sell outs and the average attendance for the season will rise from 41,315 to 45,000.

I believe in Coach Narduzzi and the effect he has on this team. He has me convinced that last season’s defects were simply superficial. With the flaws put behind them, the fans will flock to Heinz Field to watch the team play.

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  • I can not recall a time that the results of the spring game turned out so well. The opener against Youngstown State remains one of the most important contests this season.

    I expect Youngstown State’s fans to come out. The Penguins, under new coach Bo Pelini, seek the upset. The proximity will assist in selling out Heinz Field.

    You can highlight the schedule when Notre Dame clashes with Pitt. The match-up brings the most fans of any contest. It is almost always a sell-out, or close to it. This year should be no exception unless the Panthers disappoint early.

    That first contest against YSU could very well make or break the season where attendance is concerned. With all of the expectations of the team, if they do not deliver, I know many fans will throw in the towel.

    It should not be that way, but we know it to be true.

    ALSO – In anticipation of this coming season, if you haven’t already, I highly encourage you to check out the Pitt positional previews that fellow writer Brett Tunno and I have been releasing. It provides insight and names that you might not expect to break out and become known this season.

    Next: Pitt Linebackers Look To Step Up And Reload

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