Spring Practice Primer: Pittsburgh
After a short-lived run with Todd Graham, Pittsburgh fans look forward to the beginning of the Paul Chryst era during spring practice.
Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Pittsburgh.
Spring Practice Starts: March 15
Spring Game: Saturday, April 14
Three things to look for:
1. The undoing of Todd Graham's "high-octane" offense. After Graham's up-tempo spread attack imploded on itself, Pittsburgh fans will welcome the more traditional, downhill style of football that accompanies new head coach
2. Establishing depth at running back. One consistent piece of the Panthers offense, at least for the first seven games, was running back Ray Graham. The shifty junior was averaging over 120 yards per game when his season was ended by an ACL tear against Connecticut. While Graham will sit out spring practice as he continues to recover from successful surgery, backups Isaac Bennett and Corey Davis will take a majority of the snaps at running back. Bennett saw his first action as a freshman after Graham's injury, and finished the season as the starter after senior Zach Brown suffered a bruised sternum. Highly-touted freshman running back Rushel Shell will join the team in the fall, so this spring provides Bennett and Davis an opportunity to get a head start on what figures to be stiff competition in August.
3. Aaron Donald's continued development. 2012 might be a special season for junior defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Over the last couple of years Pittsburgh has produced great pass rushers on the defensive line - Greg Romeus, Brandon Lindsey, Jabaal Sheard, to name a few, and Donald appears to be the next in line. After breaking out in 2011 with team-high 11 sacks (2nd in the Big East), you could argue Donald has already added his name to the list. New defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable wants the defensive line to be very active in his 4-3 scheme, and Donald possesses the type of playmaking ability to have a special season for the Panthers.
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