Our 2013 NCAA Football schedule continues Monday night as Pittsburgh welcomes Florida State to Heinz Field. We’ll have complete coverage beginning at 7:30 PM Eastern on our radio affiliates coast-to-coast and streaming live right here on WestwoodOneSports.com!
To get you ready for the game, our analyst Derek Rackley, who will call the game on Monday, filed this scouting report on the Seminoles and the Panthers.
In a Nutshell: The Seminoles lost a staggering 11 players to the NFL Draft and the coaching staff includes six new faces. All eyes, however, will be on redshirt freshman Jameis Winston, who was recently named the starting quarterback. He was one of the highest-rated prospects coming out of the 2012 recruiting class and benefited from watching and learning from EJ Manuel. The comparisons to Charlie Ward have already been thrown out (Winston is also a two-sport athlete as a member of the baseball team) and fortunately for Winston, he has a talented cast surrounding him. Four starters on the offensive line return along with two experienced running backs in James Wilder, Jr. and Devonta Freeman.
Former Alabama DB coach Jeremy Pruitt takes over defensive coordinator duties after Mark Stoops was named head coach at Kentucky. I would expect to see an aggressive and attacking style of defense as Pruitt has worked with two of the best defensive minds in college football in Nick Saban and Kirby Smart. I expect to see a lot of linebacker Christian Jones, safety Lamarcus Joyner and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. All three of those guys will be playing on Sundays in the very near future.
Player I’ll Be Watching: No surprise here, but I’m really excited to see Jameis Winston up close and personal. Ever since the departure of EJ Manuel to the NFL, most people assumed Winston was a lock to be the next starter. He played very well in the spring, including a STRONG spring game, but Jimbo Fisher allowed the quarterback competition with Jacob Coker to continue into pre-season camp. There is always a tremendous amount of pressure and expectation placed on the shoulders of Florida State quarterbacks and that seems even more amplified this year with Winston.
What the Seminoles Need to Do to Win: Focus on the ground game. There aren’t too many college football programs with a tandem of backs possessing the talent of Wilder, Jr. and Freeman. (Also known as “Wild & Free”) I would expect Jimbo Fisher to lean on his veteran offensive line and establish the line of scrimmage, which will help ease the transition for Winston. That will open up the pass game for a veteran group of receivers led by Rashad Greene and Kenny Shaw.
In a Nutshell: The Panthers are coming off a 2012 season in which they finished 6-7 after losing to Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl under first-year head coach Paul Chryst. Chryst is back for round two, and I cannot think of a better way to be welcomed into your first year in the ACC than with defending Orange Bowl champion and college football powerhouse Florida State.
Pitt will have a different look this year as longtime QB Tino Sunseri is no longer in a Panther uniform after starting every game (39 contests) over the past three years. Former Rutgers transfer Tom Savage was named the starter with one season of eligibility remaining. He won the starting job at Rutgers as a freshman, but he fell out of favor, and hasn’t taken a snap in a game since 2010. Pitt is also looking to replace its top two rushers from a year ago as Ray Graham is looking to make an NFL roster and Rushel Shell is now a West Virginia Mountaineer.
Player I’ll Be Watching: Senior wide receiver Devin Street. With a solid season, he will likely go down as Pitt’s all-time leading receiver, which would put him ahead of names like Larry Fitzgerald and Antonio Bryant – pretty impressive company. Street’s size (6-4, 195) and experience (73 rec, 975 yards in 2012) make him a threat to make a play any time he touches the ball.
What the Panthers Need to Do to Win: Find a running back… in a hurry. Along with the departures of Graham and Shell, went 97 percent of the team’s 2012 rushing total. Isaac Bennett will get the start in the backfield and he needs to get off to a fast start. Florida State was third in the country in rush defense a year ago and even though they lost quite a few pieces to the NFL, the “cabinet” is still stocked full on the defensive side for the Seminoles.
– Derek Rackley
John Sadak and Derek Rackley will be on the call Monday in Pittsburgh. Coverage begins at 7:30 PM Eastern and you can listen to the broadcast right here on the web site.