Big tests looming in ACC for Pitt football


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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- There have been a lot of adjustments for Pitt the past few weeks as the Panthers officially joined the Atlantic Coast Conference. New logos plastered around the athletic buildings, new opponents to get familiar with, even a new set of media days to attend this week.

The biggest change, though, may not come until Sept. 2 when the Panthers get their on-field welcome to the ACC against reigning league champion Florida State.

Pitt will have to adjust to a brand of football next season that's notably different from the one it grew accustomed to in the Big East. According to wide receiver Devin Street, the difference is evident as soon as you put on the tape.

"Everyone's fast," Street said. "Everyone can run. Just watching Florida State, seeing the defensive ends track down a running back or a guard pulling, just seeing that different type of speed is pretty electrifying."

The ACC last season had four teams in the top 20 for total offense in Division I. The Big East had just one, Syracuse, which is jumping with Pitt this year to the ACC. Syracuse, like Pitt, runs a primarily pro-style offense.

"It's going to be a different style of play than I think the ACC's used to," Syracuse center Macky MacPherson said. "Big East football is a little different than ACC football."

Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald admitted he anticipates facing more hurry-up offenses this season. The Panthers faced a similar attack against Mississippi in last year's BBVA Compass Bowl and struggled, giving up 387 yards in a 38-17 loss to the Rebels.

Donald said the Panthers have emphasized conditioning this offseason, with more running in their summer workouts.

"It's more mental stuff, I feel like," Donald said. "When you're tired, you've got to be able to push through that tiredness to get to that second wind. It's just mental."

Pitt coach Paul Chryst won't deviate from his pro-style attack, but Street said fans can expect a few more wrinkles in the offense next season.

Most notably, likely starting quarterback Tom Savage has a stronger arm than predecessor Tino Sunseri, which will allow Pitt to stretch the field more.

"I think it's going to be a lot of different looks -- complex," Street said. "I think there's going to be a lot of things thrown out there."

The Panthers will also face the challenge of scouting nine opponents next year that they didn't face this season, as opposed to having the familiarity of regular conference opponents. Street said he hasn't watched much film on any ACC teams beyond Florida State, but looks forward to the opportunity.

"I'm just going to do what I have to do, know my opponent when I get in the game and try to exploit his weaknesses," Street said.

"Football's football, even though we're in a different conference. Things might not go our way, we still have to respond to it. Adversity strikes, we still have to play."

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Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG. First Published July 22, 2013 4:00 AM


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