PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Two true freshmen to the left, one redshirt freshman to the right.
That’s what Pitt’s defensive line, which is full of talent and experience, will be looking down on Saturday evening as the Panthers open their season against Buffalo. The Bulls boast a largely inexperienced offensive line, which will have a tough test to start the season.
Buffalo (2-10 in 2010) averaged just 14.2 points and under 300 yards of total offense a game last season under first-year head coach Jeff Quinn. Accordingly, the Bulls scored just three rushing touchdowns all year, fumbled the ball away 10 times and quarterback Jerry Davis threw 16 interceptions.
Now three new starters will try and patch the Buffalo offensive front, including true freshmen Dillon Guy and Gabriel Barbe, two Canadians who entered the University of Buffalo in January.
They’ll go up against Pitt seniors Chas Alecxih, Justin Hargrove, Myles Caragein and Brandon Lindsey, who will be providing the pressure all night.
It’s safe to say the Panthers have given this mismatch a look.
“When freshmen come in they’re definitely gonna struggle because it’s their first year playing college football,” Caragein said. “That’s something we do kind of look at to see where they’re at, but at the end of the day we’re looking at what’s best for our defense in general.
“We’re not gonna exploit just one spot. We’re gonna keep giving them different looks, changing it up. We’re not gonna just keep staying on one (side).”
If Pitt’s pass rushers can get to transfer quarterback Chazz Anderson, they’ll do their secondary a favor, as Graham said Buffalo has a few receivers he’s worried about — namely Marcus Rivers, Terrell Jackson and Alex Neutz.
Rivers caught 50 passes in 2010 for 690 yards and five touchdowns as the Bulls’ deep threat. Jackson added 43 catches and three touchdowns, and Neutz pulled in four scores of his own.
“They have three wide receivers, I think, that are special, that can hurt ya, that can make things happen,” Graham said, adding that Buffalo reminds him of a few of the teams he coached down at Tulsa.
Graham said Buffalo’s system of play under Quinn resembles a lot of what the Golden Hurricane ran in his four years as head coach.
“(They) look a lot like some of the teams I had at Tulsa — very, very skilled,” he said.
Just like his teams of the past, Graham is preaching turnovers to the Pitt defense. He wants his unit to be plus-3 in the turnover department every game.
This could be a chance for Pitt to get off to a good start early on and provide the offense, which will be playing under a brand new system for the first time, some breathing room and time to relax and execute.
Forcing other teams in to mistakes, Graham says, is the key to winning ball games.
“This whole game’s about us going out and performing,” he said. “Early in the season I am always a firm believer that the team that makes the least amount of mistakes is going to win.”
Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog