Pitt Football: 5 Panthers Poised to Break out in 2012
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The Pittsburgh Panthers football team is coming off a disastrous 6-7 season in 2011 wherein their former coach Todd Graham, and his spread offense, left to coach Arizona State after just one season.
With Graham leaving to coach elsewhere, the Pittsburgh Panthers have had four head coaches alone since December 2010.
Additionally, the Pittsburgh Panthers' starting quarterback Tino Sunseri is coming off a terrible 2011 campaign and your star running back Ray Graham is coming off an ACL tear.
However, the good news for the Pittsburgh Panthers will be that new head coach Paul Chryst, former Wisconsin Badger offensive coordinator, will run a pro-style offense.
Moreover, Chryst relies heavily on committee of running backs and the play-action pass which were a perfect suit for the Panthers under former coach Dave Wannstedt.
Furthermore, Chryst has been dedicated this spring to assuming a new identity for this Pittsburgh Panthers football team: be professional, do your job, and everything else falls into place.
As a result, there have been major impact players that have been fueled by Chryst's foundation and will look to break out in 2012.
Drew Carswell Photo by Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
The Pittsburgh Panthers football team will now rely on the tight end position a good amount of time within Chryst's pro-style Power-I formation.
Although, on the 2012 Pittsburgh Panthers depth chart the starting tight end is Hubie Graham, look for the backup Drew Carswell to be the tight end who breaks out.
In 2011, Carswell, a freshman, had 13 receptions for 140 yards and a touchdown and loves the new offense under Chryst in 2012.
Pittsburghpanthers.com spoke with Carswell following a spring practice, “I love this offense,” Carswell said. “Every day, every play there are opportunities for us.”
According to Pittsburghpanthers.com, on Wisconsin's 2010 Rose Bowl team, the leading receiver was tight end Lance Kendricks (43 catches for 663 yards and five TDs). The year prior, tight end Garrett Graham was second for the Badgers with 51 receptions—just three catches behind wide receiver Nick Toon's team-best 54. Chryst's offensive schemes at Wisconsin produced two first-team All-Americans at tight end (Travis Beckum and Kendricks) and three consecutive NFL Draft picks from 2009-11 at the position.
Moreover, look for Carswell to thrive in 2012 under coach Chryst as Carswell has already established good rapport with Tino Sunseri during the spring.
Cullen Christian photo by Touch the Banner Blog Spot
The Pittsburgh Panthers will have a solid secondary in 2012 thanks to the former Michigan Wolverine Cullen Christian.
Christian will start opposite of K'waun Williams. Christian will be a sophomore in 2012 for the Pittsburgh Panthers, after training with the scout team transferring from Michigan in 2011.
Chryst will run a 4-3 defensive scheme in 2012 and the defensive secondary has been very opportunistic in forcing turnovers this spring.
Moreover, Christian has been huge for the Pittsburgh Panthers using his size at 6'0'' to get a lot of pass breakups and interceptions during all of the spring drills.
According to Pittsburghpanthers.com, coach Chryst said this about Christian:
"There's a guy who spent a tremendous amount of time trying to learn and football is important to him. The more guys like that you can get, you can't help but be better in the long run."
Furthermore, Christian has performed very well this spring and will look to carry over that success for the Pittsburgh Panthers in the 2012 season.
Ray Vinopal will make plays all over the field
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The safety spot will be the most talented and deepest positions on the Pittsburgh Panthers football roster in 2012.
The returning players at the safety spot for this Pittsburgh Panthers team will be Jarred Holley, Anthony Taglianetti and Jason Hendricks.
However, the safety that will break out won't be among these returning players, instead, it will be another Michigan Wolverine transfer in Ray Vinopal.
Vinopal has been on fire this spring for the Pittsburgh Panthers. Vinopal has a nose for the football and has been involved in big hits, interceptions and forced fumbles.
According to Pittsburghpanthers.com, whether it has been in pass or run support, the Youngstown, Ohio native, Vinopal, has displayed a knack for always being around the football.
As a senior all-state performer at Cardinal Mooney High, Vinopal had 84 tackles, 16 pass breakups, four interceptions, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. His play helped the Cardinals to a 15-0 record and the state title.
Moreover, Pittsburghpanthers.com also reported coach Chryst saying Vinopal just has a nose for the football.
"Yeah he does. (Vinopal) is another guy that it's important to him. It's kind of a common theme. You are going to get out of something what you put into it. Football is no different than anything else. Those guys that are doing that and can do it over a long haul will be rewarded. They get better. Once you do something well and then do it consistently then you've got a chance."
Furthermore, Vinopal might be smaller at 5'10'' but he is a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball and will break out in 2012 for this Pittsburgh Panthers football team.
Isaac Bennett will be a bruiser in 2012
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The Pittsburgh Panthers football team will feature a running back committee in 2012.
Starting running back Ray Graham has not participated yet in the spring but will be the starter when the 2012 season starts.
With Graham on the shelf due to injury, sophomore Isaac Bennett has made the most of his reps in the spring for the Pittsburgh Panthers.
Bennett has ripped off several long 50-yard and 70-yard touchdown runs in the spring and that culminated with a great overall performance in the Pittsburgh Panthers annual spring game where he had 23 carries for 121 yards including a 51-yard scamper.
In the 2011 season, after Graham went down from the injury, Bennett was solid for the Pittsburgh Panthers and had 237 yards rushing with two touchdowns.
According to Sam Werner at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Bennett will most likely split time with Graham as the feature back and incoming freshman Rushel Shell. Bennett, though, said he wasn't concerned about his place on the depth chart, and Chryst certainly shouldn't have any problem finding carries for three running backs. As the offensive coordinator for Wisconsin in 2010, Chryst came four yards away from having three running backs rush for 1,000 yards.
Furthermore, Bennett will definitely get a lot of repetitions within this running back committee offense and will be among the top candidates to break out for this Pittsburgh Panthers football team in 2012.
Tino Sunseri will thrive under coach Paul Chryst
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The Pittsburgh Panthers football team will look at the 2011 season of Tino Sunseri and realize he was just in the wrong system.
Sunseri never thrived in a spread offense that is predicated on being extremely accurate and being very mobile, as evidenced by the numbers over 2,500 yards but 10 touchdowns compared to 11 interceptions.
The offensive line for the Pittsburgh Panthers had a lot of issues with adjusting to the spread offense which led to Sunseri getting sacked 61 times in 2011 (most in the NCAA).
According to Paul Zeise at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the interior linemen will have the help of tight ends and a fullback and that should help ease some concerns about the inexperience. Basically, the offensive linemen can go out an hit people, instead of waiting to get hit.
As a result, a happy offensive line means an upright quarterback. Just as effective will be the trio of running backs that the Pittsburgh Panthers will use in a ground-and-pound attack.
This will then open up the play-action pass for Tino Sunseri in the passing game finding the tall athletic Devin Street and the small speedy Cameron Saddler.
According to Andrea Adelson at ESPN.com, Chryst said,
"He clearly was the best this spring that we had. You’re aware of the history but it doesn’t really matter for us. What do you have right now? It’s our job to coach them and how can you help everyone get better? He’s got a great opportunity. He has played in a lot of games, he does have experience."
Furthermore, Sunseri will take advantage of Chryst's pro-style offense and will have a breakout season for this Pittsburgh Panthers football team in 2012.