Starters returning: 4
Starters returning: 6
September 10, 1978
Last September, Pitt was the defending national champion, but its chances of repeating—or even of being very successful—seemed slim. Tony Dorsett was gone and, worse, the depth chart looked more like a shallow chart. But the Panthers won nine games and were ranked eighth. How? "Well," says Coach Jackie Sherrill, "we did have a great recruiting year."
Great, indeed. In all, 18 freshmen lettered and 22 made traveling squads, probably a record for any Top Ten team. Now those youngsters are a year older and savvier. On defense 10 experienced sophomores rejoin five returning upperclassmen on a unit that surrendered just 11.2 points a game.
Best among them is End Hugh Green, who will always be remembered for the game at Boston College in which he stopped a punt attempt by hurdling a deep blocker and—while still in midair—tackling the punter with his legs. But upperclassmen Dave DiCiccio, Dave Logan, Jeff Pelusi and leading tackier (82) Al Chesley are almost as impressive. Together they are the heart of a defense that held Notre Dame and Penn State to two touchdowns below their normal averages.
Offensively, Pitt has a star in Split End Gordon (Too Much) Jones and a potential star in Halfback Ray (Rooster) Jones. Too Much already holds four Pitt receiving records and also was the nation's 10th-best punt returner. The linemen are mammoth, especially Matt Carroll (6'3", 260) and Mark May (6'5", 270).
Pitt has a schedule that includes four bowl winners, and the Panthers have lost a splendid quarterback, Matt Cavanaugh. In the three games his successor, Rick Trocano, started last year, Pitt scored 149 points, though Trocano completed only 12 of 23 passes and had four intercepted. Nevertheless, Sherrill is optimistic about the season. "We've still got some big guns and we were further ahead than we were last season after spring practice," he says.
"Yeah. We had an excellent recruiting year."