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Pitt Football: Top Ten Spring Developments

Pitt's first Spring under Todd Graham was far from an uneventful one. There were additions, cuts, and position changes - not to mention a new offense.

Here are the top ten developments from Graham's Spring practices.

10. Pitt lands late wide receiver commitments. Even after National Signing Day, Todd Graham was still busy picking up late commitments. First came the unexpected signing of receiver Justin Jackson, and then last week, Pitt added Josh Brinson. Neither player was highly touted, but both should at least add a bit of depth to the unit. Graham's offense will require a lot of receivers and he added a couple more to the team with these moves.

9. Ray Vinopal transfers to Pitt. Vinopal started in Michigan's secondary last year as a true freshman, but decided to head to Pitt after a new regime came in replacing Rich Rodriguez' staff. Vinopal won't play right away due to the transfer, but could be a valuable piece in Pitt's secondary for years to come.

8. Delvon Simmons opens recruiting. Simmons, a four/five-star defensive end, was originally targeted by the Panthers. He ended up choosing North Carolina and signed with the Tar Heels, but asked to be let out of his scholarship. Simmons was granted his release and while Pitt may still be a long-shot for him as far as a potential destination, he's back on the Panthers' radar and would be a huge late get for Todd Graham.

7. Buddy Jackson gets chance to return kicks. The Panthers had some trouble on special teams last year (seems like it's actually been nearly every season, actually) and are giving cornerback Buddy Jackson a look back there. He's shown a lot in practices and probably cemented a chance by returning the opening kickoff of the Spring Blue-Gold game for a touchdown. Cam Saddler may be getting phased out of that spot and will see more time at wide receiver.

6. Todd Thomas to play defense. Thomas is often a forgotten man. He was a four-star recruit expected to contribute immediately, but redshirted last season as a freshman. It was unknown where he would end up as he has the skills to play at wide receiver or in the secondary. Graham declared during the Spring that it's on defense where Thomas will make his mark, and that's probably a good thing, as the already somewhat-weak secondary lost its best player last season in Dom DeCicco. With Devin Street and Mike Shanahan, the offense already has a pair of playmakers at receiver, so Thomas isn't needed as much there.

5. Mike Cruz gone. Mike Cruz left the team after an undisclosed incident, leaving Graham without a starting tight end. Brock DeCicco and transfer Hubie Graham should be able to hold down the position, but losing Cruz was still a blow. He exhibited pretty good hands and would have been a solid weapon in Graham's new offense.

4. Anthony Gonzalez the backup. I haven't heard Graham confirm this, but it's believed that Gonzalez will be the backup quarterback on the team. There was also a mention of that in a Trib-Review article last week. That is a big step for Gonzalez, as Mark Myers was not only supposed to be a leading candidate for that job, but be a viable option as the team's starter. With Myers apparently slipping to No. 3 on the depth chart, that may be the biggest surprise in terms of Spring developments.

3. Chris Jacobson to center. Jacobson, one of the team's best linemen, made the move from guard to center. It's obviously going to be a work in progress, but Graham has had good things to say about Jacobson since the switch. After losing center Alex Karabin to graduation, this was (and still could be) a trouble spot. Jacobson got plenty of practice, though, as Graham tried to cram a year's worth of snaps in before the Fall.

2. Tino Sunseri 'named' starting quarterback. This was the battle to watch this Spring and it looks like Sunseri has fended off challenges from both Gonzalez and Myers. No, he has not been officially crowned as the starting quarterback for Pitt's first game this Fall, but he might as well have been. He entered camp as the starter and by starting the Blue-Gold game as the first-team quarterback, it's clear he's No. 1 on the depth chart right now.

1. Pitt appears to be adjusting well to new offense. I know, I know - what else were they supposed to do? Well, the fact is that going from a pro-style, conventional offense to an up-tempo one is a lot harder than it sounds. And during the Blue-Gold game, fans got a glimpse to see that it's actually working. Most of the snaps came in at or near the desired 15 second-time limit, and the first-team offense appears to not only be surviving, but thriving as Tino and crew racked up more than 400 yards of passing (in the wind and rain, no less). It's early, but the offense may be as good as advertised by this Fall.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.