While the defensive side of the ball has a lot of proven playmakers and returning experience, the offense is going to be more under the watch on Monday night.
Moreso because of first-time starters, in a lot of key roles.
Starting at quarterback, where fifth-year senior Tom Savage takes over. Savage last played in a game in 2010 when he was the starter at Rutgers. The road to becoming Pitt's starter on Monday night was much-traveled.
Though it was a long wait--one even Savage admits was a long wait since he came to Pitt a little over a year ago--there was a relaxed sense from Savage, talking about it on Wednesday.
"I was a walk-on, I was just coming back, I was down then, and I thought about hanging it up, a little bit," Savage said. "I got the encouragement from my parents to just keep on going."
Savage even admits getting some pre-game jitters, aside from the fact this is a nationally-televised game against a national power like Florida State. It's his first game at Pitt, his first game in three years--truly a unique situation. Where does he go to seek that comfort level?
"Coach Chryst, Coach Bolllinger," Savage said. "It's unique to talk to Coach Bollinger because he's been through the experience. We talk about situations that we had, whether it's good or bad. It's good to know that there are people out there that know. It's fun, and I'm happy to have him as a coach."
Rowell--the guy who will be snapping the ball to Savage--also had a long road to his first start, a long wait. The lone verbal commit from the 2011 class who stuck with his commitment when Dave Wannstedt was still head coach, Rowell showed patience and perseverance for his opportunity.
Even when redshirt freshman Gabe Roberts moved in with the first group in the spring, and in training camp, Roberts didn't slump. He kept pushing on.
"In bowl preparation last year, Artie stuck out," head coach Paul Chryst said. "He had a great winter conditioning, did some good things in the spring and continued to carry that into the summer and fall camp. He’s earned it, and that’s a good thing.”
By the end of the second week of training camp, Rowell saw his most extensive work with the first group. When the depth chart was released Monday, Rowell won the starting spot.
"It was awesome," Rowell said, when he learned he was the starter. "I was kind of expecting it to be in a meeting room, but it was on the field. And then, we got to play football. There wasn't much time to think about it, because I had to go play football right away."
Among those other positions where we'll see new starters, freshman Tyler Boyd lived up to the hype in training camp, and is slated to start on Monday.
"I think one, he was in and on every day," offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said. "He didn't miss anything, he fought is tail off, he battled through. He hit the wall at some point, and then battled through that."
With all-conference receiver Devin Street back, they won't rely strictly on Boyd--which makes his transition easier. Still, any spark Boyd can provide will create a distraction away from Street. Any spark Street can give back, should ease Boyd's comfort level.
Rudolph also has some flexibility at tight end, where he has more options this year. In addition to Garner, J.P. Holtz returns after starting in 10 games last year.
Freshmen Jaymar Parrish and Scott Orndoff may be inexperienced, but the added bodies should help everywhere. At the very least, Rudolph has a comfortable number he can use, showcasing his philosophy on using multiple tight ends with unique skillsets.
"I think we truly have competition at every position," Rudolph said of the multiple tight ends. "We're not deep, but we truly have competition. There's guys fighting for roles. It might not be fighting to win a particular job. You got options now."