BIGEAST.org will be previewing all eight BIG EAST teams leading up to the start of the season. Team previews will be released in inverse order of the preseason media poll - today's preview will be of the Pittsburgh Panthers, who were picked fifth.
Former Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst enters his first year as Pittsburgh’s head coach, replacing Todd Graham. Graham resigned after one year to take the head coaching job at Arizona State.
Pitt has made four straight postseason appearances. The Panthers played in the BBVA Compass Bowl in each of the last two seasons.
The Panthers were 5-0 last year when they scored at least 33 points and 1-7 when they were held to fewer than 33 points.
Pittsburgh has finished with a winning record in BIG EAST play in each of the last four years.
RB Ray Graham was the BIG EAST rushing leader — and was ranked second nationally (134.1 ypg) — until he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the eighth game of the season. Graham was an All-BIG EAST First Team pick despite missing four games.
QB Tino Sunseri has started Pittsburgh’s last 26 games behind center and enters his third year as the Panthers’ starter.
WR Devin Street (53 catches, 754 yards) and WR Mike Shanahan (39 catches, 493 yards) , who both return in 2012, were Pittsbugh’s top two receivers last season.
Pittsburgh has had four players named BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year in the last four years (two players shared the honor in 2009).
All-BIG EAST First Team FS Jarred Holley — a two-time all-conference selection — leads a 2012 defense that has just four returning starters from last year.
DE Aaron Donald — an All-BIG EAST Second Team choice last year — finished second in the BIG EAST in sacks (11.0) and tackles for loss (16.0) last season.
He is the lone returning starter on the defensive line.
CB K’Waun Williams and SS Andrew Taglianetti join Holley to comprise one of the most experienced defensive backfields in the BIG EAST.
K Kevin Harper ranked second in the BIG EAST in field goals (21) and P Matt Yoklic was second in punting average last year (41.2 ypp). Both return in 2012.
DB Buddy Jackson averaged 23.6 yards on kickoff returns last season, good for sixth in the BIG EAST.
SYRACUSE - TEMPLE - CONNECTICUT