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Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi releases 2017 depth chart

Jerry DiPaola
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Max Browne, a transfer from USC, is expected to start at quarterback for Pitt.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt transfer quarterback Max Browne during the first day of spring practice Thursday, March 16, 2017 at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt quarterback Ben DiNucci stiff-arms Northwestern's Brett Walsh in the fourth quarter during the Pinstripe Bowl on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016, at Yankee Stadium in New York.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt receiver Elijah Zeise is moving from receiver to linebacker. Coach Pat Narduzzi is looking for someone to fill the void left by the graduation of outside linebacker Nicholas Grigsby.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt quarterback Max Browne throws during the spring game Saturday, April 15, 2017 at Heinz Field.

With players due to report to training camp July 31, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi released the first version of his depth chart for the 2017 season Thursday.

As expected, graduate transfer Max Browne, who won the starting job at USC last year and held it for three games, is listed No. 1 at quarterback. That means he will be receive the first shot at winning the job full-time.

Browne, 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, is followed by sophomore Ben DiNucci, a Pine-Richland graduate. Redshirt freshman Thomas MacVittie, freshman Kenny Pickett and walk-on sophomore Jake Zilinskas of Indiana High School are also in the mix.

The biggest surprise on the depth chart might be at middle linebacker where sophomore Saleem Brightwell, who played outside last season, is listed No. 1 ahead of senior Quintin Wirginis. Brightwell played middle linebacker in spring practice and impressed coaches well enough to hold onto the position entering camp.

Also, junior Elijah Zeise, who began last season as the starter at star (outside) linebacker before suffering an ankle injury in the opener, is listed No. 1 at money (outside) linebacker. He would replace graduated senior Mike Caprara.

Junior Seun Idowu, who replaced Zeise last year and finished third on the team with 74 tackles, remains at star.

Senior defensive end Allen Edwards is listed as a starter ahead of returning starter and fellow senior Rori Blair, a three-year letterman with 10 career sacks. Blair was not with the team at the Pinstripe Bowl in December.

In the secondary, senior cornerback Avonte Maddox returns for his fourth season as a starter and initially will be paired in the starting lineup with junior Phillipie Motley.

Jordan Whitehead will move from strong to free safety, leaving a starting job open that senior Dennis Briggs will get an opportunity to fill. Briggs is listed as a starter, followed by redshirt freshmen Phil Campbell and Henry Miller.

Central Catholic graduate Damar Hamlin, who played three games at cornerback last season as a freshman, also will line up at safety this season.

Apollo-Ridge graduate Tre Tipton was listed as a starter at one wide receiver position before he suffered a season-ending knee injury earlier this offseason. He might be replaced by junior Rafael Araujo-Lopes, but several others will get opportunities.

The depth chart — two- or three-deep at all positions — lists 16 redshirt or first-year freshmen, including No. 1 defensive tackle Keyshon Camp, who redshirted last year. Jerry Drake, who graduated early from high school and enrolled in January, is the backup to senior Jaryd Jones-Smith at right tackle.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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