OT Rob Petitti

2003 Statistics

Coach: Walter Harris
44-40, 7 years
2003 Record: 8-5
at Toledo LOST 31-35
at Texas A&M WON 37-26
at Rutgers WON 42-32
at Boston College WON 24-13
at West Virginia LOST 31-52
at Temple WON 30-16
Virginia LOST 16-23

2003 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2004 Outlook

To say the least, this is a transitional campaign. The 'Golden Era' of Rob Rutherford and Larry Fitzgerald is finished, with seriously deep (if not total) changes across all offensive dimensions. But this last phase of Pitt's football history proved to be an exceptional few years after nearly two decades of struggle and disappointment. Harris saved the program in his first year (1997) with Pitt's first winning record and bowl game since 1983. By turning around a program that won 15 games the five previous seasons, Harris secured "savior" status for himself that now translates into high expectation. Two straight years now of finishing ranked means such. Success would mean Walt Harris is the coach that this steel city-college needs, but we think the team is looking to have struggles ahead in 2004.

When a team can rely on the kind of readily-accessible magic Fitzgerald held, young college players often, as it was in Pitt's case, stop performing themselves to watch and lean on such production that consistently bails them out for wins. The Panthers are now forced to fill in the gaps this QB-WR combo leaves. They have the talent to shape a new identity, but saying this and achieving it are two different things, huh. With expectations low and the conference weakened, the bed is made for Pitt to keep enough momentum going to make this a winning season.

It's funny that with such an offensive genius at the helm, the main cornerstone becomes the defensive back-seven. The main concern is the offensive line and how its results will affect an unestablished QB. Once the other talent guys get the ball, points will follow. But (even under Rutherford) there has recently been a lack of the offensive integrity and innovation for which Harris is so famous. Since Pitt finished ranked 95th in the running department, we can only wonder what hungry defenses have in store for such a green QB-line combo. This will not be a team that can come from behind, so defensive stability/control will be the primary key to any victory. If/when teams can run against them, Pitt will wind up on the losing end.

Expect Nebraska to be their only guaranteed early loss, but a hungry Connecticut has a bulls-eye on Pitt that looks bad. The level of competition is quickly increased with a Big East slate that finishes Pitt's campaign. This is only heightened by their second-to-last game at Notre Dame, leading to a Thursday night gig with backyard rival West Virginia. By starting slow and finishing the year with much tougher challenges, this young squad is setting themselves up for a bad progression of early overconfidence leading to sobering/deflating realities. Learning first to win against patsies (instead of first learning character through close, but competitive, losses) will not serve the team well. Just ask Virginia Tech about what happens when you start too easily. It looks bad, but just how bad will go a long way toward making 2005 at Heinz Field worth following. Just imagine, if they could ever get a real college football stadium to call their own…

Projected 2004 record: 6-5
QB - 3 DL - 2.5
RB - 2 LB - 3
WR - 3 DB - 3
OL - 2 ..

Passing: Luke Getsy, 13-3-0, 32 yds., 0 TD

Rushing: Jawan Walker, 107 att., 407 yds., 3 TD

Receiving: Princell Brockenbrough, 35 rec., 616 yds., 4 TD

Scoring: David Abdul, 9-18 FG, 49-51 PAT, 76 pts.

Punting: none

Kicking: David Abdul, 9-18 FG, 49-51 PAT, 76 pts.

Tackles: Brian Bennett, 118 tot., 79 solo

Sacks: Brian Bennett, 3 sacks

Interceptions: Malcolm Postell, 2 for 66 yds.

Kickoff returns: Terrell Allen, 25 ret., 23.6 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: H.B. Blades, 1 ret., 9.0 avg., 0 TD


LB H.B. Blades
OFFENSE: Dan LaCarte-OG, Jon Schall-C/OG, Justin Belarski-C, Matt Morgan-OT, Kris Wilson-TE, Rod Rutherford-QB, Lousaka Polite-FB, Brandon Miree-TB, Larry Fitzgerald-WR (NFL)
DEFENSE: Claude Harriott-DE, Lewis Moore-MLB, Shawntae Spencer-CB, William Ferguson-CB, Corey Humphries-FS, Andy Lee-P

This is a unit that remains undefined until Panther coaches can assess real-game developments. Luke Getsy and fellow-junior Tyler Palko both have shown reasons to make them the starter. Unfortunately, both have also given reasons that the other is more qualified. Getsy is more mobile, though not considered a running QB by any stretch. Palko has yet to reach the potential he showed when recruited. Both the same size, Getsy has to work on his "pocket presence" and decision making. This position is truly up for grabs, and the first guy to show he can play mistake-free will, by default, start. Getsy is looking to be the one as of now (post spring). If both struggle, Joe Flacco (player favorite) is ready, just a bit green.

Running Back
Pitt runs a traditional backfield, but the gaudy sizes of their RB-FB combinations have opponent's work cut out for them. Raymond Kirkley rode the pine last year, but is now the #1 guy. Kirkley has the speed a big man needs. Jawan Walker is ten pounds smaller, but has yet to show he can consistently get the Panthers more speed or power. Tim Murphy is ready for the multiple carries and catches a Pitt FB gets. He got quite a few in '03 as a backup, so expect this position to be well-worked. The real problem for Pitt is their lack of a 'slasher'. Without a back who can make players miss (especially on third-downs), the Panthers invite foes to stack the box (run blitz) when needed. Expect more than 3.2 per run, though with mostly new backs and only two returning linemen.

Senior Princell Brockenbrough will be the man to replace Larry Fitzgerald as the Panther's main target. Brockenbrough is big and proven as a deep threat. He has seen double-teams already, so the focus on him will not dampen his numbers. Greg Lee is a sophomore who is another proven set of hands that can also stretch the field. The only drop off here is that this unit is young and unproven once you get past these two guys. Inconsistent mixes of size and speed dot the second- and third-strings, but the potential is there. Keep that eye out for Terrell Allen's development. This corp's growth rate will reflect the results of the entire offense. If they do well, everything will be clicking. Those wondering what this crew will produce without all-time great Fitzgerald should realize this - without a superstar, and unless the entire depth chart has been purged, most teams still thrive as the wealth is spread and opponents are unsure of where it will go from play to play.

Tight End
Two upperclassmen here flank the new line that itself will feature two seniors who start for the first time. This likely means that Pitt's usual TE-heavy passing game will stay home early in the campaign. Just like the WRs, when you see the Panthers throwing to these ends four-to-six times per tilt, the team itself will be progressing nicely.

Offensive Line
With so many struggling areas, why should this one be any different? Many of the problems here are a carry-over of the same dilemmas from 2003. The hope here is that three of the starters are new, and most anything will produce better results than what the last group did. What can we say when it's still the same left tackle here who was on a line that allowed 43 sacks? We know LT Rob Pettiti is talented, but the point still holds. The promising part is the seniority (three out of five are in their last season) in the second team. Teams actually stacked the box once they saw how easily this line was handled, which is a curious stat for the nation's 14th-ranked passing attack (that should have just beat teams over the top WAY MORE OFTEN, especially with Fitz). With new QBs, the predictable nature of knowing whether a run or pass is coming may become easier, so the pressure is on. Unless a strong "feature back" can emerge, this line is likely to fail even worse than in '03 (when they ranked 95th for ground production).

With all of the different dimensions that Pitt can clearly see were to blame for the team's disappointing finish, the offense squarely shoulders a majority of them. Panther fans cringed weekly as head coach Walt Harris kept trying to run, something he cannot do with teams knowing his heavy hand this way, even when failing. This tact failed to keep teams honest, but Fitz saved the day more often than not. There is no magic safety valve now. Furthermore, this means to look for teams to be that much more effective if/when then know it is a "must" passing down. New-QB Luke Getsy has to be rolled-out early and often for this side of the ball not to be a total disaster. Lateral movement will nicely compliment the deep threats/routes at WR. The real story will eventually be the line's inability to hold its own once lateral ground options are cut off. The pocket then starts to collapse quicker and quicker with defenses able to (again) accurately predict Pitt's play-choices. 2004 will be a continual struggle for the Pittsburgh offense.


QB Luke Getsy


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Tyler Palko-Jr (6-2, 220) Luke Getsy-Jr (6-2, 220)
FB Tim Murphy-Sr (5-10, 235) Mark Yezovich-So (6-0, 220)
TB Raymond Kirkley-Sr (5-10, 225) Jawan Walker-Jr (5-10, 215)
WR Greg Lee-So (6-2, 180) Joe DelSardo-So (5-8, 200)
WR Princell Brockenbrough-Sr (6-3, 205) Joe Stephens-Sr (6-0, 190)
TE Erik Gill-Sr (6-5, 265) Steve Buches-Jr (6-3, 240)
OT Rob Petitti-Sr (6-6, 330) Kevin Harris-Sr (6-5, 285)
OG Charles Spencer-Sr (6-5, 320) Rob Frederick-Sr (6-3, 295)
C Justin Belarski-Sr (6-3, 285) Chris Vangas-So (6-2, 300)
OG John Simonitis-Jr (6-3, 300) Eric Fritz-Jr (6-3, 295)
OT Mike McGlynn-So (6-5, 320) Dale Williams-Sr (6-5, 295)
K J.B. Gibboney-Sr (5-9, 175) David Abdul-Jr (5-10, 185)



Defensive Line
This is an area of marginal concern. Senior rush end Thomas Smith had 16 QBHs, but his bleak sack total (two) shows how often he was either out of position or just couldn't finish. We say out of position (like the rest of the front-seven) due to the 4.5 yards per run clip foes earned last campaign. Beyond Smith, there are no guarantees with these ends. Inversely, the middle starters are marginally weaker, but the reserves are capable, too, and will frequently rotate in for optimum effect. This unit never gelled in ranking 87th against the rush, and with three of the starting four back, battle scars have to mean improvement. Pittsburgh made the struggling Irish look good as N.D. ran it down the Panthers' throats with no resistance. Strong offensive lines will handle these guys in a sixty-minute contest.

This is an area of real strength. The anomaly here is how SLB (soph) Brian Bennett and WLB Malcolm Postell (sr.), both reserves this time, combined for nearly 40 more tackles in '03 than this year's starting three did. That says much for the entire corps and its rotational ability. First-time starter in the middle Clint Session will be the newest standout to reach his potential, and will bring back a hard-hitting spirit to this unit. We foresee the Panthers putting five on the line with such a competent group here, but that will reopen up the underneath passing routes. This crew is young, but experienced enough to be the foundation of anything successful (along with the safeties) on this side of the pigskin.

Defensive Back
This unit is the hardest to predict for the 'D'. The corners lack the focus it takes to permanently handle these hot spots. But the potential for Josh Lay (RCB) is unlimited with his size and speed. Lay was chipped to a crisp at times, though his spring performance showed he has taken the proverbial…ahem…corner. The competition for the other island also bodes well for the performance level of the Panther DBs. The safeties, seniors Morris and Gilliard, both play complete games, but Morris is the better tackler. All this secondary has to do is to keep the play in front of them as long as they have these talented LBs with which to align. They will beat last year's INT total of 14, just watch.

The line has the most starters back, but we like their back-seven better, regardless. Last time around, Pittsburgh was a mediocre defensive squad, shutting a few respectable teams down while allowing much (and losing) to those they should have walloped. The Panthers, under Paul Rhoads, went from 7th in total defense in 2001 to 12th in '02, and then dove to 79th in '03 (with seven returning starters). What happened? Well, it was much of what we again expect this time, which was/is a porous run-stopping unit with an adequate coverage scheme. The line has the chance to make things right, and they have an eased slate of foes against which to do such. A good TO-margin kept the time-of-possession stats on their side, but without those, this campaign will suffer. Look for Pitt to again "bend but not break" as teams will move the ball only to get checked most of the time once over the 50. It's all there for the Panthers to turn this side of the ball around, but doing it is not guaranteed.


LB Brian Bennett


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Azzie Beagnyam-Jr (6-1, 245) Charles Sallet-Jr (6-0, 225)
NT Vince Crochunis-Sr (6-4, 290) Jake Holthaus-Sr (6-1, 285)
DT Dan Stephens-Sr (6-2, 295) Andy Alleman-Jr (6-4, 281)
DE Thomas Smith-Sr (6-4, 275) Kyle Smith-Fr (6-5, 240)
SLB Brian Bennett-Jr (6-0, 235) H.B. Blades-So (5-11, 245)
MLB Clint Session-So (5-11, 230) Chris McKillop-So (6-2, 230)
WLB Malcolm Postell-Sr (6-1, 235) J.J. Horne-Sr (6-3, 225)
CB Mike Phillips-So (5-11, 180) Reggie Carter-Jr (6-0, 190)
CB Bernard Lay-Jr (6-2, 195) Kennard Cox-So (6-1, 180)
SS Tyrone Gilliard-Sr (5-11, 195) Sam Bryant-Jr (6-0, 210)
FS Tez Morris-Sr (5-10, 190) Jemeel Brady-So (6-0, 190)
P Adam Graessle-So (6-4, 205) J.B. Gibboney-Sr (5-9, 175)




Placekicker David Abdul has a leg, but his inabilities ostensibly changed the course of three games. All three became losses when Abdul missed critical attempts that then changed the Panther's strategies, and therefore the games' complexions. His attempts will again be the difference in a few games, and his ability to convert will additionally mean the difference between finishing above or below .500.

Adam Graessle will make few fans miss the prolific Andy Lee and his mastery of this skill. This second-team all-Ohio replacement also has a knack at placekicking, so his powerful leg could make itself in demand when Abdul again struggles. He is their KO guy from '03. Also important will be the snaps themselves, with both long snappers now gone.

Return Game
Terrell Allen is the only guy who seems to be solid in this area. A worthy KO-returner, there are likely to be more development here than just Allen. It will be the actual season before they decide on someone (who can bring the speed and elusiveness needed).