The Pitt Panthers ended the 2009 football season on a solid note with a 19-17 win over UNC in the Car Care Bowl. Obviously the final 2 games of the Big East schedule ended on a bad note with losses to West Virginia and Cincinnati knocking Pitt out of a BCS Bowl, but a #15 ranking to close the season is solid nonetheless, and definitely something to build on.
We will need to not miss a beat next season coming out as we open the season at Utah the first weekend of the college football season. 2 weeks later, Miami comes to Pitt. Throw in a trip to Notre Dame, and we have one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation. It is nice to see a team not afraid to schedule tough in the non-conference, unlike Penn State.
Pitt has a lot of solid players returning, but also a lot of question marks, mostly at the QB position. Pitt returns all american WR Jonathan Baldwin, who is one of the best WR's in the league. Pitt also returns all american Dion Lewis, who was the best freshman in the nation last year, and is one of the best RB's in the nation. The offensive line was incredibly solid this year, and even though we have to replace some bodies there, I think we will be fine there. On defense, Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard both return to form one of the best DE tandems in the league. Pitt led the nation in sacks last season. Remember the name Dan Mason, who takes over the middle linebacker position this year - he is going to be a beast. The secondary replaces both CB's, but I think we will be fine there.
The main position battle and question mark comes from the most important position on the field - the quarterback position. Even though we have 2 solid incoming freshman in Mark Myers and Anthony Gonzalez, it looks like it is going to be a battle between junior Pat Bostick, and sophomore Tino Sunseri. Bostick was the highly recruited QB from Lancaster who came in and played games in both his freshman and sophomore year when Bill Stull struggled. Bostick, unfortunately looked pretty bad each time he was in there, but he was able to win some big games including games at Notre Dame, and at West Virginia. However, Tino Sunseri, the sophomore from Pittsburgh seems to have the upper hand running with the first teamers in spring practice. Sunseri was fairly highly recruited, came from a big time Pittsburgh program, and has much less playing time than Bostick, but has appeared poised and under control when he has been in the game.
I think we will go into the season with Tino Sunseri having the upper hand and starting at the quarterback position. He might be on a short leash with the more veteran Bostick waiting for some playing time however. Also, going forward, look for Mark Myers, from Ohio to eventually be the starting QB on this Pitt team.
Pitt should start the season in the top 20 nationally, and with big games in the non-conference and in the Big East, this could be a huge season for Pitt to put their stamp that last year was no fluke, and the Pitt Panthers are back in the national spotlight in football.