As the Pitt Panthers try to make some headway in the ACC, Paul Chryst has his work cut out for him. There are serious questions about a lot of key positions heading into this season and the Panthers figure to rely on some very inexperienced options in 2014. Their roster was even further cut down with the announced suspension of cornerback Titus Howard for the entire 2014 season, leaving Pitt with a serious void in the secondary.
Howard worked his way into the lineup regularly as a true freshman in 2013, playing in 11 games and starting two. He finished the year with 21 tackles and two pass breakups and was fully expected to step into the starting lineup on a full-time basis during his sophomore year. With Howard suspended, though he will still be with the team and practice, Chryst is left with just two cornerbacks on the roster with any game experience heading into 2014, Lafayette Pitts and Trenton Coles. Pitts saw significant action in 2013, recording 44 tackles and four pass breakups, while Coles was used sparingly during his freshman year, recording just nine tackles.
Without any real depth at corner, it will be difficult for Pitt to maintain their pass defense for 2014. Last season, the ranked No. 4 in the ACC against the pass, allowing 218.5 yards per game through the air. With Howard, the Panthers figured to have an experienced group of corners that would have made the secondary a strength of the Pitt defense. But without Howard, that secondary will be stretched thin and will have to rely on some unproven commodities to hold it down this fall.
In a wide open ACC Coastal, Pitt could make a lot of noise down the stretch in the conference title race. But now the Panthers will have to overcome the loss of one of their defensive starters after suspending Titus Howard for the 2014 season. Will his absence prove to be a stumbling block for Pitt’s division title chances?