Hope springs eternal. Those three words have been uttered by Pitt fans the past few seasons ... or decades. A new beginning. A new chance. A return to glory. All those nice happy thoughts. And then the season starts. Those dreams end up shattered all over the field, presumably on the ground next to Tino Sunseri, who most likely took too long to release the ball. Pitt camp starts today, and it's time to look forward to 2012. No more Todd Graham and his "high octane." It's a new era (again) for Pitt football, and it starts today.
If you look at my preview from last year (ignore just how wrong it turned out to be), you'll notice how optimistic I was going into camp. It's my one downfall. I'm an unabashed optimist when it comes to Pitt football. This year, I'm going to try and be a bit more reserved and realistic.
Before we get into the game-by-game predictions, I'm going to address some of the question marks heading into the season. The perennial problems persist:
- Quarterback: Tino Sunseri is back for his final year of eligibility. He'll be a lightning-rod of controversy the second he makes a bad play, most likely when he holds onto the ball too long and takes a killer sack. However, if new head coach Paul Chryst can mold Tino into a responsible game manager, I'll be more than thrilled. If he doesn't, expect to hear the calls for freshman Chad Voytik.
- Offensive line play: Rinse, wash, repeat. Same old, same old for the Panthers. Chris Jacobsen, who feels like he's been on the roster since the Hackett era, will anchor the line. Other than 'Lumpy,' the line is a huge question mark. It got even shakier this week with the season-long suspension of tackle Jauntez Hollins. Expect Adam Bisnowaty, a true freshman, to get an opportunity to lock up one of the tackle spots. This is never a good situation and will be a position to watch during camp.
- Ray Graham's health: I wrote about it here recently. Basically, Pitt needs Graham healthy and ready to face contact when the season starts. If he isn't, expect Rushel Shell and Isaac Bennett to benefit.
- Paul Chryst: I'm anxious to see how Chryst handles the reins as head coach. I expect to see a lot of running plays and play-action fakes. Also, I'm interested to see how he and his coaches handle the defensive side of the ball. There are many unknowns on that side of the ball, and some of those questions will be answered during camp.