EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first of eight team previews that will be launched this week on BIGEAST.org. The order of release will coincide with the order of this year's preseason poll.
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Pittsburgh's two BIG EAST losses last season were by a combined four points. The Panthers' three total losses were by a combined 11 points.
With a 10-3 record in 2009, the Panthers reached double digits in wins for the first time since 1981. Pittsburgh was ranked No. 15 in the final national polls, marking the Panthers' highest final listing since 1982.
Pittsburgh's 19 wins in the last two years rank among the top 25 of all FBS programs.
The Panthers have had three players chosen as first team all-America in the last four years (LB H.B. Blades in 2006, LB Scott McKillop in 2008, TE Dorin Dickerson in 2009).
RB Dion Lewis ran for 1,799 yards as a true freshman and ranked third in the NCAA in rushing at 138.4 yards per game. Lewis earned all-America second team honors from the Associated Press and Sporting News last year.
QB Tino Sunseri is expected to take over behind center for departed Bill Stull, who was a two-year starter. QB Pat Bostick started nine games as a true freshman in 2007.
WR Jon Baldwin was an All-BIG EAST First Team pick last year and is a solid candidate for the Belitnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver. Pitt has had two previous winners of the Biletnikoff Award (Antonio Bryant in 2000 and Larry Fitzgerald in 2003).
Pittsburgh lost a pair of tight ends to the NFL in Nate Byham and Dorin Dickerson.
Pittsburgh's defense led the nation in sacks last season (3.62 per game).
DE Greg Romeus shared the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year honor with teammate Mick Williams last year. Romeus joins DE Jabaal Sheard to comprise what might be the best defensive end tandem in the nation.
Pittsburgh's starting middle linebacker has been named to the All-BIG EAST First Team in five consecutive seasons (H.B. Blades in 2005 and 2006, Scott McKillop in 2007 and 2008, Adam Gunn in 2009). LB Dan Mason is expected to start for the Panthers in 2010.
The Panthers lost both starting cornerbacks to graduation, but return three safeties with significant starting experience in Dom DeCicco, Jared Holley and Andrew Taglianetti. Taglianetti returns after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the second game of the 2009 season.
K/P Dan Hutchins was an All-BIG EAST Second Team selection last season. Hutchins set Pitt's single-season record for points by a kicker last year (115).
|From the BIG EAST Newsstand
|Nearly all Pitt freshmen will redshirt this season to save a year's eligibility, but that does not mean there will not be a few who make an impact."I would expect we will have two, maybe three freshmen play this year," Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said.
Only one freshman on Pitt's 2-Deep - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
|Pitt defensive ends coach Greg Gattuso did some research during the offseason and didn't like his findings. The Panthers were middle of the pack in forcing turnovers, with an average national ranking of 62nd over the past three years at 22 turnovers a season.
Pitt's 'D" focused on turnovers - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review