With it being the slowest time of year in terms of Pitt athletics- that time of year before summer camp for the football team and before Jamie Dixon’s basketball team even thinks of getting started- now is a great time to unveil my weekly Pitt Panthers notebook, recapping the week in Pitt athletics.
With that being said, let’s not waste any time and look at Pitt wide receiver Devin Street, who could be taking on a new leadership role with the team this season.
- One problem with having Tino Sunseri under center for the past three seasons is the fact that the Panthers were without a true leader on the football field. Usually your quarterback steps up and becomes a leader, but that word wasn’t in Sunseri’s vocabulary.
But there is no rule that specifies that your leader must be the quarterback. With a new quarterback, a new starting running back, and new roles for the offensive linemen, Street has become one of the most recognizable faces of the Panthers’ offense. He started all 13 games last year and led the team with 73 catches for 975 yards and five touchdowns. He finished second in the Big East in receptions per game and had three 100-yard receiving games.
While Street certainly wants to become one of the better receivers in the nation, just as importantly he needs to be the guy to step up and lead this Panthers team on and off the field. If the offseason and spring practice was any indication, Street is up for the challenge.
“I try to seize the day,” Street said. “As soon as I wake up, I’m always trying to think of ways to better myself, whether it be in football or outside of football. The biggest thing as we go through everyday life is growth and opportunities and learning through things. That’s the biggest thing I’m going through right now. When I get over here, it’s a mindset where I’m coming in and going to work and really fine-tuning my game and being able to bond and spend time with the guys around here and just feed off of them and try to make this whole team better.”
- Speaking of the football team, a couple Panthers were lauded by Athlon Sports’ 2013 ACC Football Preview magazine.
Defensive tackle Aaron Donald and safety Jason Hendricks were both selected preseason first team All-ACC by Athlon. The two seniors headline a Pitt defense that returns eight starters and ranked 17th nationally in yards allowed last season (330.54 yards/game).
Donald was a first-team All-Big East selection last year, with 64 total tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He led the Big East and ranked 12th nationally with 1.54 tackles for loss per game. Over the past two seasons, Donald has recorded 18.5 sacks and 37.5 TFLs. He enters his senior year as a legitimate All-America and major awards candidate.
Hendricks was a force against the run and pass last year. The second-team All-Big East pick led the Panthers in tackles (90), interceptions (six) and passes defensed (tied with 10). Hendricks’ interception total was the highest by a Pitt player since 2000, while his 0.46 INTs per game led the Big East and ranked sixth nationally.
He anchored a Pitt secondary that finished 20th in the nation against the pass (194.15 yards/game), pass efficiency defense (21st, 113.12 rating) and interceptions (26th, 15 total). Hendricks could be a candidate for the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation’s best defensive back.
Two other Pitt players earned mention in Athlon’s ACC preview. Freshmen Dorian Johnson and Tyler Boyd were both rated among the league’s top 30 signees for this year. Johnson, an offensive tackle, is rated No. 7, while Boyd, a wide receiver, is No. 26.
- On to the basketball team, in case you missed it, J.J. Moore transferred to Rutgers. There’s a chance he could play this season as he applied for a hardship waiver because his grandfather is ill.
Dixon also lost out on former Marshall guard DeAndre Kane, who elected to transfer to Iowa State instead of his hometown Panthers. Kane averaged 15.1 points and 7.0 assists last season for the Thundering Herd.
- On a good note, Dixon did land a recruit. The bad news is that it won’t be until 2016.
Maverick Rowan, a 6’6″ freshman shooting guard from Lincoln Park in the WPIAL, has made a verbal commitment to Pitt.
Rowan, who will turn 17 in July, was one of only 26 players in the country named to the MaxPreps.com freshman All-American team. He is an excellent shooter, making seven 3-pointers in one game this season and averaging three 3-pointers a game. He was the third-leading scorer in the WPIAL in the regular season, averaging 22.6 points.
Pitt, Ohio State and North Carolina, among others, were already showing interest in Rowan.
- Cincinnati and Pitt, who will go their separate ways next season as the Bearcats compete in the American Athletic Conference while the Panthers head to the ACC, will meet on Dec. 17 in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City as one of two high-profile games in the annual event.
In an ESPN doubleheader, Memphis will meet Florida in the nightcap, which pits the Bearcats’ fellow American Athletic member against one of the traditional powers in the SEC.
- And to conclude this week’s notebook, it looks as if Paul Chryst has landed a former Wisconsin starter.
Redshirt freshman Reggie Mitchell, who was projected to be the University of Wisconsin football team’s starting free safety this season, has been granted his release from the program and is expected to transfer to Pittsburgh.
Mitchell is from Pittsburgh and attended Shady Side Academy. He was recruited by former Wisconsin tight ends coach Joe Rudolph, who is now the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator under Chryst at Pitt.
That’s it for this week. Check back to Pittsburgh Sporting News for next week’s tour around Pitt athletics.
Photo Credit: ESPN