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Monday January 22 2018
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Spring Cleaning

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It's time for Pitt to welcome a new football season, and for the fourth time in six springs, there's a new coach at the helm. Pat Narduzzi will oversee his first practices as head coach next week.

Here are four issues Narduzzi and his staff will be focused on once spring drills get underway.

O-LINE SHUFFLE: The starting right side of the line must be replaced with the graduation of Matt Rotheram and TJ Clemmings. For the first time in years, the Panthers have the depth and versatility to reload. Jared Jones-Smith or Adam Bisnowaty can play right tackle, though they might face a challenge from redshirt freshman Alex Bookser. Bisnowaty is also a candidate to replace Rotheram at guard. If center Artie Rowell returns to health following ACL surgery, it gives the Panthers the option of moving him or Alex Officer, who started in Rowell's absence, to guard. Carson Baker, Alex Reece, Mike Grimm and Gabe Roberts could push for spots in the rotation.

WHO'S BACK AT OUTSIDE LINEBACKER? No one. Todd Thomas and Anthony Gonzales have graduated, meaning both outside spots need filled. With Narduzzi and defensive coordinator Josh Conklin installing a new defense, expect this to be a wide open battle that extends into late-summer. Bam Bradley, Nicholas Grigsby, Quintin Wirginis and Jamal Davis could wage a four-man competition for the two spots. Size is not as crucial as speed and the ability to tackle in space for outside backers in Narduzzi's defense, so all four with be tested. Incoming freshmen Saleem Brightwell and Anthony McKee, both recruited by Narduzzi, could get long looks when they arrive this summer.

BACKED INTO A CORNER: Pitt's biggest weakness was in the secondary last season, and the dismissal of Titus Howard made a weak spot even weaker. Lafayette Pitts, Avonte Maddox and Reggie Mitchell are the three veterans most likely to battle for the starting spots. Pitts had an excellent freshman season but has regressed the past two years. It will be interesting to see if Narduzzi and his defensive staff can get the Woodland Hills product to return to the form he showed three years ago. Maddox struggled but showed promise as a freshman, while Mitchell is a natural safety who was forced to play corner last year.

COMPLIMENT BOYD. This was a question a year ago as well. It was answered with a resounding no in 2014. Ronald Jones and Adonis Jennings are no longer with the program, leaving Dontez Ford and Jester Weah as two leading candidates. The spring will be huge for Jaquan Davidson, Elijah Zeise, Chris Wuestner and Zach Challingsworth, who may need to impress to be in line for playing time this fall. Coaches will be looking for someone to man the slot as well, so several positions are open behind Boyd. Finding a compliment to perhaps the ACC's top receiver will be a main priority for offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.

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