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April 28, 2012

The 2012 Scholarship Board

Paul Chryst's first roster as head coach of the Pitt football team has depth at some positions but holes at other key spots, and those contrasts illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of the Panthers as they head into the 2012 season. Today Panther-Lair.com breaks down the roster by position and class with the 2012 Scholarship Board.

Click here for the 2012 Scholarship Board

Total numbers

From a broad perspective, the 2012 Scholarship Board shows that Pitt broke spring camp with 66 players on scholarship and 16 expected to join the team from the incoming freshman class. That total of 82 includes redshirt junior linebacker Carl Fleming, whose late-spring legal issues likely mean he will not return to the team. NCAA teams can have a maximum of 85 players on scholarship, so if Fleming does not return, Pitt will be able to hand out four additional scholarships.

Those scholarships will most likely go to walk-ons who have earned roles as significant contributors. Redshirt sophomore Mark Giubilato broke spring camp as the first-team fullback, so he would seem to be in line for a scholarship. Likewise for redshirt junior Matt Yoklic, who is the incumbent punter.

Biggest class

In terms of class size, Pitt is loaded with players who have sophomore eligibility, with 28 sophomores and redshirt sophomores making up 34.1% of the current roster. That total includes five players who came to Pitt as transfers: cornerback Cullen Christian, safety Ray Vinopal, receiver Brendon Felder, offensive tackle Tom Ricketts, and fullback David Durham.

Christian, Vinopal, Felder, and Ricketts sat out last season due to transfer eligibility rules, while Durham, who is transferring in from Ohio State, will sit out this season.

Biggest holes

One advantage of The Scholarship Board is that it provides a stark view of where Pitt's roster is lacking. As such, the defensive line is very exposed from this perspective. Pitt has one senior on the defensive line (end Shayne Hale) and one redshirt freshman (end Devin Cook).

The problem is more defined at defensive tackle, where Pitt has four returning players. Three of those four players have junior eligibility (Aaron Donald, Tyrone Ezell, and Jack Lippert) and one (Khaynin Mosley-Smith) is a sophomore. And that's it for Pitt's veteran presence in the interior of the defensive line.

How did the defensive tackle position get so thin? Consider: Terrell Jackson will join the group this year. That will make 2012 the fourth consecutive season that Pitt has had only one true freshman tackle on the roster: 2011 - Mosley-Smith, 2010 - Donald, 2009 - Ezell. And in 2008, Pitt had no true freshman defensive tackles.

Dave Wannstedt and Todd Graham both had plans to re-stock the tackle position, but the abrupt endings to those coaching tenures caused those plans to go awry.

Most depth

By the numbers, Pitt's deepest position is the offensive line with 14 players, but there are qualifiers that go with that figure.

The offensive line is front-loaded with upperclassmen; seven of the 14 linemen are juniors or seniors, and four more are sophomores. There is one redshirt freshman (center Artie Rowell) and two true freshmen (Adam Bisnowaty and Gabe Roberts) joining this summer. That leaves Pitt dangerously low at a position where it's ideal to have numbers in every class, thus making the offensive line a recruiting priority in both quality and quantity.

Experience is also lacking on the offensive line. Of the 11 linemen with sophomore-or-higher eligibility, six have started games at Pitt: Chris Jacobson, Ryan Turnley, Juantez Hollins, Cory King, Ryan Schlieper, and Matt Rotheram. But for five of those six - Turnley, Hollins, King, Schlieper, and Rotheram - the starting experience is contained within the 2011 season, and only Turnley started the entire season.

Real depth

Pitt's deepest position might be safety, where the Panthers have six returning players. Four of those six have considerable starting experience, as Jarred Holley, Andrew Taglianetti, and Jason Hendricks all started games for Pitt last season and Vinopal started at Michigan two years ago.

Redshirt freshmen Roderick Ryles and Steve Williams look the part as reserves, and incoming freshmen Deaysean Rippy and Bam Bradley were among Pitt's highest-rated recruits in the class that was signed in February.

Short-handed throwers

Taking The Scholarship Board at face value, it would seem that Pitt hasn't always bought into the notion that quarterback is the most important position on the football team. Redshirt senior Tino Sunseri represents the class of 2008 on the roster, and Mark Myers and Anthony Gonzalez are from the class of 2010.

But the only quarterback from the class of 2009 was Kolby Gray, who bounced between quarterback and safety before leaving the team after the 2010 season. And Todd Graham didn't sign a quarterback in the class of 2011, although he did add Trey Anderson to the roster last summer.

That leaves Pitt with one redshirt senior, three sophomores, and an incoming freshman in Chad Voytik. But the situation is a bit more concerning than that, as Gonzalez got very few reps this spring and could be facing a position change, and Anderson was a better fit in Graham's spread offense. If those two are not in the equation, Pitt will have two upperclassman quarterbacks in 2013: Myers and Voytik.

More observations

- Of the 66 returning players, 54 have taken redshirts. That includes all 12 returning offensive linemen and six of nine returning defensive linemen. Additionally, all six of Pitt's returning safeties have redshirted, as have nine of 10 returning linebackers, all three tight ends, nine of 11 receivers, and three of four quarterbacks.

- Counting incoming freshman JP Holtz, Pitt will have four tight ends on the roster this season. That's not enough for Chryst and offensive coordinator/tight ends coach Joe Rudolph, who want to run a lot of multiple-tight end sets.

- Running back is similarly low in numbers, although it's very high in talent, with Ray Graham, Isaac Bennett, and Rushel Shell all having the look of potential 1,000-yard rushers.

- There's a correlation between the size of the senior class and the size of that year's recruiting class, insofar as the seniors represent the number of scholarships that will be immediately available for recruits. So after 2012 there will be at least 15 scholarships available, after 2013 there will be at least 14, etc. That means the recruiting class of 2015 will start with nine available scholarships, but that number will climb if any of the incoming recruits play in as true freshmen 2012 (they would have the same eligibility status as the current redshirt freshmen going forward).

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