Dave Wannstedt is known to favor experience, so it’s not normally a surprise to see the Pitt coach pick an upperclassman over an unproven.
When the Panthers announced their depth chart for Saturday’s season opener against Youngstown State, though, two veterans pulled off upsets by winning starting jobs over their more heavily hyped counterparts.
Senior Joe Thomas was named the starting left guard, despite redshirt sophomore Chris Jacobson taking the majority of first-team repetitions there during training camp. Thomas has 27 career starts, second only to receiver Oderick Turner. But Jacobson was an U.S. Army All-American coming out of Keystone Oaks, and was considered the favorite to win the job.
Pitt coaches gave Jacobson every opportunity to win a starting spot, and it was believed here that Thomas might be turned into a reserve just because he’s capable of backing up both guard and tackle positions.
Redshirt junior Dan Hutchins, a walk-on from Williamsport, won the starting placekicker and punter jobs. He beat out redshirt freshman Kevin Harper, a scholarship player, for the kicking duties. Hutchins not only proved to be more consistent, but matched Harper kick for kick in camp, possibly sealing the starting job by making a 52-yarder at the second scrimmage and a 46-yarder as time expired in the final drill of camp.
Harper also lost out to Lucas Briggs for kickoff duties.
Also, redshirt sophomore Aaron Smith will handle punt returns, with Cameron Saddler the backup. In something of a surprise move, Saddler and Antwuan Reed are designed the starters on kickoff returns ahead of returning starter Aundre Wright and freshman Dion Lewis.
No starter was named at free safety (Andrew Taglianetti OR Elijah Fields) or flanker (Oderick Turner OR Cedric McGee).
Tino Sunseri is the backup to Bill Stull at quarterback. Pat Bostick, who is expected to redshirt this fall, isn’t listed on the depth chart. Ray Graham is the backup to Lewis at tailback, and Chris Burns isn’t listed.
Interesting designations for backups include Jordan Gibbs at left tackle and Greg Gaskins at right tackle, although Gaskins is expected to serve as the swing tackle, or first off the bench at either spot.
Redshirt freshman Ryan Turnley, who made major improvements in the off-season, is the backup to John Malecki at right guard. Walk-on Joe Capp, a transfer from Texas Tech, is the backup to Henry Hynoski at fullback – ahead of redshirt junior Kevin Collier – and redshirt freshman Jarred Holley, a converted cornerback, is listed along with fifth-year senior Irv Brown as the backup to Dom DeCicco at strong safety.
We’ll find out more at noon, at Wannstedt’s first news conference.