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Joining the ACC is "an upgrade, for sure," receiver Devin Street said, but Pittsburgh is embracing the move.
Courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh
Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald (97) was an All-Big East selection last season.
Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst steered the Panthers to a 6-7 record last year in his first season at the helm.
Pittsburgh receiver Devin Street had 73 receptions for 975 yards and five touchdowns for the Panthers last season.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
In recent years, Pittsburgh football has been marked by change in the head coach’s office.
This season, the big change for Pitt concerns its conference. Pitt, formerly a member of the Big East, makes its ACC debut this season.
The Panthers expect their new league to be tougher than their old one.
“It’s an upgrade, for sure,” receiver Devin Street said this week at the ACC’s preseason football media gathering in Greensboro, N.C. “We’re going to see more talent. … Miami, Florida State — those are cream-of-the-crop teams, teams that contend for national championships.”
The Panthers, coming off back-to-back 6-7 seasons, are already preparing for the tempo of some of the offenses in the ACC.
“From what I hear and what I see on film, it’s a lot more hurry-up, so the game pace is a little faster,” defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. “We’re … conditioning for that.”
Pitt was picked to finish fifth in the seven-team Coastal Division in the ACC’s preseason media poll. But Street is confident the Panthers can handle the challenge of their new league.
“We’re definitely ready,” he said. “We’ll fare well in the ACC.”
Pitt was represented by former Panthers great Larry Fitzgerald when the ACC held a media event in New York City on July 1 to mark the first official day of membership for Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame.
“This is a big moment for our university,” said Fitzgerald, now a receiver for the Arizona Cardinals.
Fitzgerald played for Pitt when current ACC members Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College were part of the Big East.
“A lot of my fondest memories from college actually happened against some of the teams that are currently members of the ACC,” he said. “I caught my record … touchdown against Boston College [his 18th straight game with a TD catch]. I’ve had some of my biggest games against Virginia Tech. Competing against Miami in their heyday was always a great experience.
“My first game in Blacksburg was still probably the coldest game I’ve ever played in.”
The league has given Pitt a marquee foe for its first ACC game. The Panthers will host defending league champ Florida State in a Labor Day duel at 8 p.m. on Sept. 2 at Heinz Field (ESPN).
Fitzgerald said Pitt fans are looking forward to ACC action.
“How could you not embrace a matchup with Florida State coming to Heinz Field?” Fitzgerald said. “They’re very excited — not only from the football standpoint but for basketball. I know I’ll be back for a few [basketball] games.”
Pitt has had a different head coach in each of the past three seasons — and that’s not even counting two interim head coaches for bowls, or the coach who was fired before ever coaching a Pitt game.
But the Panthers have regained some stability. This will be their second season with former Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst at the helm.
“We started our first meeting with this [year’s] group saying, ‘The good news and bad news is we’re back.’ Some of the guys were fired up and some were [swearing],” Chryst joked.
Dave Wannstedt coached Pitt for six years, but he resigned under pressure after the 2010 regular season. Mike Haywood was hired as his successor, but he was fired a few weeks later after being charged with domestic violence. Todd Graham was then given the job, but he left after the 2011 regular season to take the Arizona State job.
Chryst steered the Panthers to a 6-7 mark last season, including a 3-4 record in Big East play. Nonconference games included a win over the Hokies and a triple-overtime loss to Notre Dame. Pitt lost to Mississippi in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Street said Pitt has a “hard-nosed team.”
“We’re deceptive on film,” Street said. “We’ll come out and hit you in the mouth.”
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