The news that Greg Romeus plans to return to Pittsburgh for his senior year instead of entering the NFL draft is huge lift to the Panthers' 2010 hopes.
Romeus was co-defensive player of the year in the Big East this past season, sharing the honor with teammate and defensive tackle Mick Williams. He had eight sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss this season, and one offensive coordinator told me that Romeus was the hardest guy in the league to prepare for.
There aren't many specimens like Romeus. He's 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds with a ton of speed and athleticism. He played basketball until late in his high school career. Romeus is still a bit raw because of that and can use another year of development under Dave Wannstedt and Greg Gattuso.
Had Romeus left -- and he would have almost certainly been a first-day NFL pick -- the Panthers would have had to replace three-fourths of their starting defensive line, which was the best in the Big East. Williams was a senior, as was fellow tackle Gus Mustakas. Instead, Romeus will team with senior-to-be Jabaal Sheard to form the most fearsome pair defensive ends in the league in 2010. Pitt will still have to field new starters on the interior line, but Myles Caragein played well as a sophomore and the talent is there from Wannstedt's strong recruiting efforts.
With Romeus, Sheard, offensive player of the year Dion Lewis and supremely talented receiver Jonathan Baldwin back, Pitt will have the strongest core of returning stars in the Big East next season. While they still have some other major holes to fill, namely at quarterback, cornerback and on the O-line, the Panthers will have to be strongly considered among the favorites to win the league.