As the Pitt Panthers make the move to the ACC in 2013, they enjoy excellent experience on both the defensive line and in the secondary. There are still key pieces that need to be replaced from 2012, however, and none bigger than free safety Jarred Holley. After three years of solid production, who will step up and replace the safety next fall?
Holley has been the most consistent player for the Pitt secondary over the last three seasons and was a steady presence at the back end of the defense. Last season, he finished second on the team with 75 tackles, with two interceptions and four passes defended. He was a valuable piece of the defense who provided unmatched leadership and very solid production.
Paul Chryst not only has to worry about replacing Holley, he also has to replace his primary backup, Andrew Taglianetti. The reserve defensive back was always able to be counted on to come and make an impact with a massive hit and finished 2012 with 38 tackles, ninth best on the team. He also broke up a pair of passes and forced a fumble, providing a spark to the Panthers’ defense every time he came off the sideline.
In their place, another reserve has to step up. Ray Vinopal was a key piece of the defensive rotation last season, accumulating 14 tackles with 1.5 sacks. He will have to prove he can handle a bigger role in the defense in his junior season and show he can defend the pass as well as he comes up and rushed the passer in 2012. He’ll join an experienced group that will help get him up to speed as quickly as possible.