2009 CFN Pitt Preview
PItt DT Mick Williams
PItt DT Mick Williams
Posted May 12, 2009

Will Pitt ever turn the corner and win the Big East title? For yet another year, Dave Wannstedt has a good team with plenty of talent, but it might be inconsistent unless the offense is better. On the plus side, Mick Williams and the D should pick up the slack. Check out the CFN 2009 Pitt Panther Preview.

Pitt Panthers

Preview 2009

By Richard Cirminiello

- 2009 CFN Pitt Preview | 2009 Pitt Offense
- 2009 Pitt Defense
| 2009 Pitt Depth Chart
- 2008 Pitt Preview | 2007 Pitt Preview
| 2006 Pitt Preview

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Head coach: Dave Wannstedt
5th year: 25-23
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 20, Def. 30, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best Pitt Players
1. DE Greg Romeus, Jr.
2. CB Aaron Berry, Sr.
3. DT Mick Williams, Sr.
4. DE Jabaal Sheard, Jr.
5. WR Jon. Baldwin, Soph.
6. TE Nate Byham, Sr.
7. LB Greg Williams, Soph.
8. LT Jason Pinkston, Jr.
9. S Dom DeCicco, Jr.
10. CB Jovani Chappel, Sr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 8-4

2009 Record:

9/5 Youngstown State
9/12 at Buffalo
9/19 Navy
9/26 at NC State
10/2 at Louisville
10/10 Connecticut
10/16 at Rutgers
10/24 USF
11/7 Syracuse
11/14 Notre Dame
11/27 at West Virginia
12/5 Cincinnati

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record:

8/30 Bowling Green L 27-17
9/6 Buffalo W 27-16
9/20 Iowa W 21-20
9/27 at Syracuse W 34-24
10/2 at So Florida W 26-21
10/18 at Navy W 42-21
10/25 Rutgers L 54-34
11/1 at N. Dame W 36-33 4OT
11/8 Louisville W 41-7
11/22 at Cincinnati L 28-21
11/28 W. Virginia W 19-15
12/6 at Connecticut
Sun Bowl
12/31 Oregon State L 3-0


After three seasons of mediocrity and late-season collapses, Pittsburgh has finally captured some momentum, courtesy of last year’s nine wins and much-needed bowl appearance. Sure, the Panthers were feeble in a 3-0 Sun Bowl loss to Oregon State, but just getting there was a start for this struggling program. The next steps in the blueprint will be to stay above .500 and win a Big East championship.

Pitt came close to a league title a year ago, falling to eventual champ Cincinnati in a pivotal, late-November game. Progress is being made in Western Pennsylvania. Fifth-year head coach Dave Wannstedt has steadily improved the talent level through recruiting and coaching up players, such as Greg Romeus and Scott McKillop, who weren’t blue-chippers coming out of high school.

Keeping the train on the tracks, however, requires an about-face from an offense that’s been vilified since the current staff took the reigns. It’s gotten slapped with labels, like vanilla and predictable, which new coordinator Frank Cignetti will attempt to erase. He’ll have his plate full, trying to correct problems in the passing attack, while reenergizing a ground game that loses star RB LeSean McCoy. If he succeeds, look out because the defense is among the Big East’s best.

Pittsburgh did well to handle pressure in 2008, going 9-4 with its back firmly against the wall. The agenda for 2009? Handle expectations because this school is likely to begin the season ranked or just on the periphery of the Top 25.

What to watch for on offense: The replacements. Now that LeSean McCoy has foregone his final two years of eligibility, Pittsburgh needs to locate its next workhorse in an offense that leans pretty heavily on the run. Although none are going to be McCoy right away, the Panthers have recruited the position very well, providing hope for the future. True freshman Dion Lewis took part in spring drills, wowing the staff with his quickness and maturity. Sophomore Shariff Harris is a 215-pound plower and the most experienced of the contenders. Redshirt freshman Chris Burns is a blend of the other two competitors and a blue-chip recruit from 2008. One of the three backs is going to get a chance to carry the ball 20-25 times a game.

What to watch for on defense
: Constant pressure. At any level, if you can get a consistent push up front, everything else has a way of falling into place. Pittsburgh will have such a luxury this season, thanks to the presence of three All-Big East-caliber players on the defensive line. Tackle Mick Williams and ends Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard have all displayed a knack for collapsing the pocket, meaning opponents can forget about throwing multiple blockers at any one Panther. It’ll be tough for opposing quarterbacks to complete passes when they spend so much time trying to escape this rush.

The team will be far better if
… the offense isn’t awful without RB LeSean McCoy. If not for McCoy, where would the Panthers have been the last two seasons? The passing attack was toothless, generating just 10 touchdowns in 13 games, so someone will have to step up in place of the star runner, particularly in the red zone. The onus falls on Dion Lewis, Chris Burns, and Shariff Harris, underclassmen, who have a dozen career carries between them.

The Schedule: It's not all that bad with the toughest road date in non-conference play coming at NC State and with just three conference road dates. While the late November trip to West Virginia for the backyard brawl will be tough, the other two Big East road games at Louisville and Rutgers are manageable considering Cincinnati and South Florida come to Heinz Field. On the down side, the toughest stretch of the year comes early on with three road games in four weeks closing out with a short week to prepare for Rutgers. The positive of the early game is the eight days off before the South Florida game. After going off to play the Scarlet Knights, Pitt doesn't play another road game for six weeks.

Best offensive player: Sophomore WR Jonathan Baldwin. You can read this selection two different ways. The second-year Baldwin is either a bona fide prodigy or that the Panthers are dangerously in proven talent. Actually, there’s a little bit of truth to both. The sophomore is the real deal, provided he gets support from the quarterback. Yeah, he only caught 18 passes as a rookie, but he averaged more than 22 yards a reception and three of them were for touchdowns. At 6-5 and 220 pounds, he has a great future and a natural advantage every time he runs a route.    

Best defensive player: Junior DE Greg Romeus. From a raw, skinny athlete a few years ago, Romeus has blossomed into a 6-5, 265-pound beast coming off the edge. Fast becoming one of the nation’s premier pass rushers, he parlayed 15.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks into a spot on the All-Big East second team. With continued improvement in his third year, he could have a hard time turning down NFL overtures at the end of the season. 

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Bill Stull. This is a return engagement in this spot for Stull, who has to give defenses a reason to respect the passing game. The defense is outstanding and the running game should survive, even without star RB LeSean McCoy. However, if Stull treads water for a second straight year and fails to get his talented receivers involved in the offense, the Panthers have little chance of taking the conference crown. 

The season will be a success if ... Pittsburgh finishes the season in the Top 25. The Panthers are likely to begin the season ranked, so anything less than that in December will be viewed as a disappointment. After bowling a year ago, Pitt has to make it back to the postseason, especially with a schedule that opens with Youngstown State and Navy at home, and Buffalo on the road.               

Key game
: Nov. 27 at West Virginia. The day after Thanksgiving. The Backyard Brawl. This is always one of the biggest games of the year for Pitt, especially since both schools expect to be in the Big East title hunt. The Panthers have won the last two in this intense rivalry, and Mountaineer fans remember all too well what happened the last time they met in Morgantown. Pitt pulled a stunning 13-9 upset, keeping West Virginia out of the national title game and setting in motion Rich Rodriguez’s departure to Michigan.   

2008 Fun Stats:
- 4th Quarter Scoring: Pitt 122 - Opponents 47
- Red Zone Scores: Pitt 41-of-45 (91%) - Opponents 28-of-35 (80%)
- Penalties: Opponents 73 for 624 yards - Pitt 57 for 440 yards