*** There are a couple changes in the Panthers’ starting lineup for the Syracuse game at noon today, including a first look at true freshman defensive end Bryan Murphy, who missed the first five games with a broken foot. Murphy is expected to play and could start at right defensive end ahead of Brandon Lindsey (shoulder). Also on defense, redshirt freshman Shane Gordon will start at strong-side linebacker ahead of junior Greg Williams. On offense, redshirt freshman Brock DeCicco will make his first career start at tight end in place of sophomore Mike Cruz.
*** Tristan Roberts is starting at weak-side linebacker and senior Dom DeCicco is back at strong safety after starting at will linebacker the past two weeks.
*** Obviously, the biggest news here is the debut of Murphy, the highly-regarded 6-3, 245-pounder who was a training camp standout before sustaining a broken foot in late August. The former star at Don Bosco (N.J.) Prep, who returned to practice this week, was expected to redshirt, but the future is now for both of Pitt’s defensive ends of the future, Murphy and freshman T.J. Clemmings.
*** As for Cruz, the coaching staff isn’t happy with either his production (four catches for 31 yards) or, apparently, his work at practice. DeCicco, a 6-5, 240-pounder, was a consensus top-15 tight end coming out of Thomas Jefferson. With the lack of production at the tight end position this year since the loss of Dorin Dickerson and Nate Byham, something had to be done.