As we countdown to kickoff in September, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each week over the summer. SU will open its 2017 ACC conference slate when it hosts Pitt on Oct. 7.
NEW OC: Pitt had an offensive season for the record books last season. The Panthers exploded for 40.9 points per game, good for 10th in the country, with coordinator Matt Canada leading the way. Canada left for LSU in the offseason, and head coach Pat Narduzzi replaced him with Indiana quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson. Watson is as experienced a coach as you’ll find in the college ranks, with a 35-year career that includes stops at Texas (2014-15), Louisville (2012-13), Nebraska (2007-10) and Colorado (2000-05) as offensive coordinator. “I don’t know if there is a better quarterback developer than Shawn Watson,” Narduzzi said. “Just in my three years there when I watch development, I watch individual drills as a head football coach, the little things that he teaches in there are incredible, and again, the best I’ve seen in my three springs here as the head football coach.”
WHO TO WATCH FOR: Watson will get a new quarterback to work with, with two-year starter Nathan Peterman gone. The heir apparent seems to be USC transfer Max Browne. The former five-star recruit played for three years with the Trojans, but lost his starting position after just three starts at Southern Cal. When the most recent depth chart was released, Browne was at the top of the list. Narduzzi said the competition will remain open, with Ben DiNucci, a Pine-Richland graduate, as a potential starting candidate, as well. “[Browne is] a guy that was at the top, but he knows he’s coming into this fall camp with guys on his heels,” Narduzzi said during ACC Kickoff earlier in July. “They’re all competing, and I think competition is great for everybody.” On defense, there are plenty of new faces, especially in the front seven, which includes five new faces. Still, the Panthers return cornerback Avonte Maddox, who was part of last year’s defense that gave up 61 points against Syracuse (but still won). “That was a basketball game,” Maddox said. “We’re not going to let them score 60 points this time.”
PREDICTION: Pitt didn’t shy away from competition in its non-conference slate, with games against Penn State and Oklahoma State on the docket. Even with losing 12 starters from last year’s team that defeated Clemson, Pitt figures to be in the conversation for the ACC Coastal title. PITT 48, SYRACUSE 42.