Pitt's practices have taken on a slightly different look since the Panthers wrapped up their regular season with a bowl-clinching victory Dec. 1 against South Florida.
As many coaches do, Paul Chryst opted to give his seniors some time off during the early part of bowl preparation, focusing on the younger players as a preview for spring practices.
Chryst said it was nice to see some of the underclassmen, including freshmen redshirting this year, taking on more involved roles in practice.
Pitt (6-6) vs. Mississippi (6-6), Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.
BBVA Compass Bowl.
1 p.m. Jan. 5.
Mississippi by 31/2.
"I think we've had a good enough mix. The mix of old guys, young guys, everyone," Chryst said. "It's actually been pretty fun."
Chryst said last week that none of the younger players have surprised him in these two weeks, since he and the staff have been monitoring them all season.
There are a few players who could play prominent roles for the Panthers next season, though, and they are getting their chance to shine with the seniors resting.
Of course, the most high-profile battle to watch in the spring will be to see who replaces three-year starter Tino Sunseri at quarterback. Redshirt junior Tom Savage, sophomore Trey Anderson and freshman Chad Voytik are the candidates currently on the roster, and Chryst said all three have gotten work in the bowl preparation.
"I think they're all very diverse," wide receiver Devin Street said. "Trey and Chad are a little similar, more mobile. Tom Savage has one of the best arms I've ever seen. Once he learns the system, I think he can be great. I think it'll be great competition back there."
Chryst said he didn't anticipate a quarterback "controversy" next season, but rather a healthy competition in spring and fall practices for the starting job.
"The only time there's a controversy is when no one's taken it," Chryst said.
Voytik is one of 14 Pitt freshmen who took a redshirt this season. A number of them have stepped into bigger roles at bowl practices.
Senior offensive lineman Chris Jacobson pointed to freshman Adam Bisnowaty as a player who could be ready for major playing time next year. Bisnowaty, a Fox Chapel graduate, is redshirting this season, but the staff has spoken highly of his potential. He has spent the bowl practices working at left tackle, and figures to contend for a starting job along the line next season.
"I think Adam Bisnowaty's going to be a stud," Jacobson said. "I feel like he'll be a four-year starter here. He's good and he's improved all year."
On the defensive side, defensive lineman Aaron Donald picked linebacker Mike Caprara as his standout freshman of the past two weeks, and linebacker Todd Thomas pointed to safety Jevonte Pitts.
"He's stepping up big," Thomas said of Pitts. "He's playing hard, and he knows how to play football at safety."
While Pitt's seniors are undoubtedly excited about preparing for their final game in a Pitt uniform, these past couple of weeks have given the younger players a sneak peek at what's to come for next season and, so far, they like what they see.
NOTE -- Donald, a draft-eligible junior, said he submitted paperwork to the NFL for evaluation and grading. For now, though, his plan is to return to Pitt next season. "From where it stands right now, I'll be a Pitt Panther," Donald said
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter: @SWernerPG.