Young Talent Makes Pitt Panthers a Dark Horse in ACC Coastal Division

By Tyler Brett
tyler boyd
Rick Osentoski – USA TODAY Sports

As Paul Chryst prepares the Pitt Panthers for their second season in the ACC, he must face a great deal of turnover from his 2013 squad that went 7-6. Gone are stalwarts like defensive tackle Aaron Donald, quarterback Tom Savage, and wide receiver Devin Street, leaving Pitt to find new leaders for this team in 2014. But with an incredibly talented and young nucleus on offense, could the Panthers make a run at the ACC Coastal Division title this fall?

There is plenty of reason to be excited about the future of Pitt football. There is no shortage of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball with sophomores James Conner and Tyler Boyd leading the way at running back and wide receiver, respectively. Conner came on strong as the season wore on and finished the year with 799 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. Boyd, meanwhile, was one of the country’s top freshmen receivers, racking up 85 catches for 1,174 yards and seven touchdowns.

But there are still plenty of questions that Pitt needs to answer before they can be considered legitimate contenders. At quarterback, sophomore Chad Voytik figures to be the front-runner for the starting job this fall and offers quite a bit more athleticism under center than Savage brought. He sparked the Panthers in the Little Caesars Bowl win in the second half, throwing for 108 yards and rushing for a touchdown. Now, he has to prove he can handle the offense on a full-time basis.

Elsewhere, can Isaac Bennett once again provide a secondary backfield option to Conner after rushing for 797 yards and seven touchdowns last season? Will someone step up into Street’s spot in the starting lineup opposite Boyd to keep defenses from loading up against him? How will the offensive line, which gave up 43 sacks last season (fourth-most in the country), develop this offseason?

While the nucleus is in place for an exciting, young football team at Pitt, it will be the details that determine how far the Panthers go in 2014. If Paul Chryst can find some answers this fall, look for Pitt to be dangerous in the ACC Coastal Division race.

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