July 3, 2015

Heading out this afternoon to see family. Unless something big happens, I’m not going to be getting back on the computer until Tuesday.

Going to pull a few tabs I’ve been meaning to hit (two for quite a while).


July 2, 2015

Jaryd Jones-Smith Out For the Year

Filed under: Football,Injury — Chas @ 9:54 am

Well this was a bummer of a press release.

Pitt sophomore tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith, expected to contend for a starting position on the Panthers’ offensive line, will miss the 2015 season due to a right knee injury.

Jones Smith (Voorhees, N.J./West Catholic [Pa.]) sustained the injury during an offseason conditioning session. He was a significant member of Pitt’s offensive front last year as a redshirt freshman, playing in all 13 games and making three starts.

“We are incredibly disappointed for Jaryd,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said. “Our entire team will rally behind him as he works to overcome this challenge. Jaryd is a great young man and a tough competitor. Even though he is sidelined this year, he is going to remain an important member of our team this fall.”

It was expected that Jones-Smith would take man the right OT spot this season. It’s a tough, tough break for Jones-Smith. For the Pitt offense it hurts, but it isn’t that devastating.

Jones-Smith was a solid recruit (3-stars, offers from Arizona, NC State, Michigan), but not considered a linchpin to the O-line’s future. He developed much quicker than expected, and at times was one of the best O-linemen not named T.J. Clemmings on the field last year for Pitt.

If there is one thing that can be pointed to as a clear plus for the Paul Chryst period, it was the work done to build real depth on the O-line. Something not seen since… I don’t even know for sure.

Aaron Reese was named his back-up on the 2-deep coming out of spring practice. There are other options, though, that would require a little bit of line shuffling.

…redshirt freshman Alex Bookser, who played tackle at Mt. Lebanon, but was Pitt’s right guard this spring.

Moving Bookser would create more movement on the offensive line, with sophomore center Alex Officer possibly moving to guard and senior Artie Rowell regaining his accustomed spot at center. Rowell missed most of last season with a knee injury, but he could be ready for the start of training camp Aug. 10.

With a new coaching staff, I’m not as sure what they will do. Chryst and staff, I think would put Rowell back at center (if he’s healthy and ready), with the plan DiPaola laid out. Not sure what Narduzzi will do.

The good news is that there are options, and actual time to figure this out. It didn’t happen in season. It didn’t even happen in training camp. There will be some competition in camp to get the best five on the line.

Bits & Pieces; 7/2/15

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Players,Recruiting — Reed @ 8:26 am

Time to catch up on some media articles and podcasts about PITT football that have gone public over the last few days:

First off AD Scott Barnes has been doing some rounds of pretty detailed interviews with media outlets.  Good, that is exactly what we need at this point in time leading our upcoming season.

Here is a great piece by the University’s Pitt News who apparently got a nice chunk of Barnes’ time to answer a bunch of pertinent questions.

Of course two topics jump out.  One is timely and the other is timeless:

TPN: In light of Tyler Boyd’s recent incident, how high of a standard do you think college athletes in general should be held off the field?

ADSB: We will hold our student athletes to a higher expectation due to the front porch they sit on, and that’s more of in terms how they conduct themselves publicly, obviously, and the quality of people they are and the quality of people we recruit… 

Hmmm, that sounds familiar.  We talked about that on here the day after Boyd’s arrest. There is this interesting Q&A also.

TPN: How much do you think Pitt’s struggles to fill up Heinz Field for football games are part of the nature of having an off-campus stadium? How much of that do you think can be improved with improved amenities and fan environment at the games?

…and crickets on the stadium part of the question.  Nothing.  I think the Chancellor stated what he stated about never seeing an on-campus stadium in his tenure at PITT so this administration steers clear of the issue. Barnes spoke a whole lot on the new Fan Committee however.


Jaryd Jones-Smith out for 2015 Season

Filed under: Football,Injury — Justin @ 8:19 am

According to Chris Peak of Panther Lair, Jaryd Jones-Smith suffered a knee injury and is out for the 2015 season. He will have surgery this week. Jones-Smith was set to start at RT this upcoming season. Unfortunately Jones-Smith has already used his redshirt, so he will lose a season of eligibility. Peak had this say about who could replace him:

The most likely option might be to move redshirt freshman Alex Bookser, who worked at right guard in spring camp but came to Pitt as a highly-regarded offensive tackle prospect. That scenario would probably mean a move for redshirt sophomore Alex Officer from center to right guard and a return to the starting lineup at center for redshirt senior Artie Rowell.

Other options could include junior Dorian Johnson, who started 13 games at left guard last season but played tackle as a freshman in 2014, as well as redshirt freshman Aaron Reese, who was Jones-Smith’s backup in spring camp.

This is a big loss for the team, especially given Jones-Smith was set to replace NFL starter TJ Clemmings. Thankfully the roster does have a lot of talent, albeit unproven, on the OL. This situation will be one of the key things to monitor this summer.

June 28, 2015

The Chicken or the Egg?

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Players,Recruiting — Reed @ 6:34 pm

After getting two more recruits;  4* WR Ruben Flowers and unranked as yet ATH Marcus Ffrench, we have had a lot of follow up discussions about past and present recruiting on here.  Well, here are another couple of thoughts about recruiting we can chew on over the weekend.

I think we all agree that Paul Chryst had some pretty specific strengths and weaknesses when it came to his recruiting.  He seemed to have been right on target with his offensive scouting and then getting commitments from kids who have helped us move the ball and score points over the last two years:

RBs Conner, James, Ollison, Hall and Parrish at FB;  WRs Boyd, Jennings (good get, too bad) and Zeise along with Holtz and Orndoff at TE. His recruiting what looks to be like the complete OL two deep this season is a great job also (fingers crossed).

So, on that side of the ball he’s leaving Pat Narduzzi with a well stocked cupboard with good players he and his staff recruited.

Where the weakness has been, or where we perceive it to have been (more on that in a second), is in his lack of ability to recruitment of talented defensive players and, given the way the defense faltered in key moments last year, that sure seems to be the case.

But wait a second! Let’s discuss the age-old football question of “Do you win ballgame with Xs & Os or Jimmies & Joes?


June 26, 2015

Two New Commits

Filed under: Football,Narduzzi,Recruiting — Justin @ 12:03 pm

Now that we have official confirmation of the latest Pitt verbal, I can post who the two newest Panthers are. First up is Maurice Ffrench (not a typo), a WR/DB from New Brunswick, NJ. Ffrench was a recent prospect camp attendee and the coaches liked what they saw, so they put a ring on it extended an offer.

There was speculation yesterday and some unconfirmed reports that WR Ruben Flowers was the second commit, and the news just officially broke. The Lima, Ohio product chose Pitt over several B1G schools and Kentucky. The 6’4″ Flowers is the eighth verbal to Pitt’s 2016 class and the fifth in the month of June.


We are now at the time when PITT’s recruit starts to take off so we should review the different Recruiting Sites and see how they compare in their ranking systems.

As you can see below, each one is different in some aspects.  Sometimes we see that difference writ large with a single player as happened with QB Mark Myers when he was graded out by these services.  Here is Myers’ scores and stars along with our seven 2016 recruits already onboard. Note that ESPN does most of their rankings later in the game.




Mark Myers ‘10 86  3*  23rd 74  2*  103rd 5.8  4*  11th 3*  32nd
Butler 89  3* 5.6  3* 35th  3*
Ffrench NR NR NR
Ford 82  3* 76  3* 5.5  3* 63rd  3*
Garner 88  3* 5.4  2* 42nd  3*
Macvitte 89  3* 78  3* 5.5  3* 57th  3*
Moss 84  3* 5.5  3* 56th  3*
Pine 86  3* 5.6  3* 77th  3*


June 25, 2015

I knew Pitt had a lot of players getting some off-season surgery, but I didn’t know it was this many.

[Pitt Coach Jamie] Dixon, who has three players out with surgeries and at least five others recovering from previous surgeries or nagging injuries, said the changes to NCAA rules also played a part in the decision.

“The rules have changed to where you could only have two players from one college team on each of the summer league teams,” Dixon said. “That sort of made it difficult with only so many Division I players available to have the kind of competitive league you are looking for.

“Hopefully, it is something we can revisit for next year, but, for this year, it just didn’t seem like it was going to be able to work out.”

Josh Newkirk earlier followed by James Robinson and incoming transfer, Sterling Smith, recently had off-season surgies.


It is a slow week for PITT football with the two exceptions in recruiting that Chas covered earlier.  To update that a bit here is the Post-Gazette’s Sam Werner’s article about the last three pick-ups and in his Red Shirt Diaries blog Werner lists all the recruits vitals with links to their highlights:

Bricen Garner
Safety, Central Catholic HS (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
Rivals: 2*, NR
Scout: 3*, No. 80 S
Offers: Army, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, UMass, Miami (OH), Navy, Old Dominion, Temple, Toledo

Chawntez Moss
Running Back, Bedford HS (Bedford, Ohio)
Rivals: 3*, NR
Scout: 3*, No. 56 RB
Offers: Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Eastern Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Kent State, Marshall, Miami (OH), Ohio, Old Dominion, Toledo, Western Michigan

Chase Pine
Linebacker, Lafayette HS (Williamsburg, Va.)
Rivals: 3*, NR
Scout: 3*, No. 86 OLB
Offers: Buffalo, California, Charlotte, East Carolina, Georgia, Marshall, North Carolina, N.C. State, Old Dominion, Syracuse, Toledo, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, West Virginia

Here are a few interesting items for you all to look at during lunch…

First, I heard back from EJ Borghetti and the PITT Fall Training Camp begins on Monday, August 10th.  That gives the Narduzzi Power and Light Company 26 days to get ready for the season opener against the Youngstown State Penguins.

As we know this opponent has given us problems before when Chryst opened his time at PITT with an embarrassing 31-17 loss.  That game needs to be looked at again given the circumstances that will be surrounding our ’15 PITT team.

For one we’ll be starting a season with a shiny new head coach again, this time trotting out Pat Narduzzi in his new PITT gear for all to see. We are all looking forward to seeing that because, I believe, PITT fans across the board are happy with Narduzzi’s hiring.

One of the reasons for happiness is that it is entirely possible that PITT’s defense will be better and more effective right out of the gate as this is Narduzzi’s successful background that he made his name in.  Looking at the specifics of that past YSU game we need that.

YSU basically ran all over us that day with 202 yards on the ground. Rushing the ball 46 times wore us down… even when PITT knew the run was coming we were almost powerless to stop it as they gained 4.4 ypc.

To complement that YSU used their passing game for surgical strikes that resulted in three TDs.  It is worth noting that those three TDs came on only 14 completions for 177 yards in 24 passing attempts;  a 58% completion rate with 12.6 yards per completion which is very good.

If we allow YSU to replicate that this year I’m pulling Narduzzi’s contract.

But, truth be told, it is entirely possibly the YSU might be a stronger team this season than it was in ’12. They are coming of 8-4 and 7-5 seasons so the team knows how to win games.

But the big stroke YSU made over the offseason was hiring Mark Anthony Pelini who, in addition to being Cleopatra’s third husband and losing the whole Roman naval fleet in a sea battle against Octavian, used to be the HC at Nebraska.  “Snarling Bo” as he is called these days knows how to fire up a football team, so we can expect the Penguins to come out fighting.

Another similarity to the ’12 game is that we’ll most probably start off the season with a suspension impacting the PITT team.  Back then we had six players suddenly suspended the morning of the game, two being starters.  Whether or not you feel that had any influence on the loss, we may well be replicating that is a short form depending on what sort of discipline Tyler Boyd gets awarded by Narduzzi.

Speaking of which in one of Cardiac Hill’s Poll of the Week series they asked the fans about what punishment Boyd should get.  You can see that most favor a one game suspension which fits my view and I think the majority of guys on this blog also.

What would you do with Tyler Boyd?

  • 7%No on-field punishment(79 votes)
  • 18%Not start him in the season opener, but let him play(199 votes)
  • 42%One-game suspension(460 votes)
  • 23%Two-game suspension(251 votes)
  • 10%Suspension of three or more games(107 votes)

That is a breakdown of a total of 1096 votes as of this morning.  That is a pretty big sample for a blog to gather especially when you count the 107 PSU fans who pretty much wants Boyd’s shot at a NFL career to end by suspending Boyd “three or more games”.  It is interesting to read the 50+ comments the poll and associated article generated.

Also as something I didn’t know existed here is a Cardiac Hill’s open thread “The Pitt Stop” that they do on a regular basis.  Linked is the June 2015 edition.

As wbb mentioned in his comment yesterday PITT is reaching out to various groups to form a Panther Fans Experience Committee to solicit feedback on how to enrich the PITT athletics game day experience.  It is a good thing to do I think and something we wouldn’t have seen with our dearly departed AD.

There is a short form to fill out then a section for text where you are asked to provide your Fan Resume.  Be aware that you are limited to 750 words to describe how you would be a great fit for this committee.  Stating that you are too much of a perfectionist gets your season tickets revoked though.

750 words might not be enough for some of you guys because when you start telling ‘Big Fish’ stories about how you are such a better fan than the next guy you go on and on and on.

The commitment is for quarterly meetings at PITT for a two year term. In other words eight times where you get to bitch and someone is actually listening.  Anyway, I suggest that you all apply for it – we definitely have some great ideas on here the PITT administration should be made aware of.

I am in the process now and it will be interesting to see the final makeup when the committee is selected.  Here is the Trib article on it.

For those PITT BB fans who are wondering what is happening the P-G’s Paul Zeise, our old P-G PITT football beat writer friend, has a rather detailed ‘catch-up’ about that program. It seems to me that the main news is that former PITT BB player Ontario Lett is joining the BB staff as a Grad assistant.

Just for something else to look at and because we talked about actually playing a football game in September here are the details and stats of PITT’s 2014 season.


June 23, 2015

Verbals Keep Coming

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 6:51 am

I’m not sure if it is his offer sheet, where he is from, or the fact that he is the third verbal in five days, that gives the recruiting a sense of momentum. Either way, there seems to be a lot of excitement from Pitt fans that Chase Pine is the sixth verbal for Pat Narduzzi and the staff.

Pine was on Pitt’s campus two weeks ago for a prospect camp. That experience gave him the opportunity to work with linebackers coach Rob Harley, and Pine cited Harley as another big factor in his decision.

“It’s the way that he coaches; he showed me video of how he coaches and when I went there, it was just like that: he’s an energetic coach and that’s what I like,” Pine said. “I was talking to Coach Harley about their defense, and it’s a defense where you really can’t do anything against it. And the fact that they’re getting good players for defense is going to make it good.”

Pine picked Pitt over a considerable offer sheet that included scholarships from Buffalo, Cal, Charlotte, East Carolina, Georgia, JMU, Marshall, North Carolina, N.C. State, Old Dominion, Syracuse, Toledo, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and West Virginia.

He said that his top three schools prior to committing were Pitt, Georgia and West Virginia, but he felt like he fit into the Panthers’ defense best.

“They want me to be an outside linebacker who plays against the run and rushes the passer and can drop into coverage,” Pine said. “And there should be a good chance for early playing time, which was important to me.”

A third of the ACC along with programs from the Pac-12, SEC and Big 12 after him.


June 22, 2015

Third Commit From Ohio

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 7:09 am

Hope everyone had a nice Father’s Day either in self-celebration or in honor of your own father. I’m sure at some point in the future, I will want to do or be around my family more for the day. At this point, however, the best gift the kids can give me is letting me have a bit of peace on the day. I got to sit out by the smoker “tending” to ribs yesterday with a growler of Brew Kettle Old 21 DIPA and some books. Just perfect.

Also happening yesterday, Pitt football got its fifth commit.


June 20, 2015

With the commitment we just received from Safety Bricen Garner of local Central Catholic High School ( Garner is listed as a 3* on two sites and unranked on the other two) we now have a total of four recruits with most being 3* kids.

Looking at that verbal and thinking about the recruiting game in general made me recall that I’ve always thought of the makeup of a school’s successful football program, and its recruiting, as much like a human body.

The skeleton, the frame on which the whole thing depends to stay upright, is the university’s administration and the support system those it gives to the rest of the football body. That support is both financial and administrative and if the program is getting a strong frame from the University, one that is healthy with no cracks or injuries to it, then building on those bones is made that much easier.

I see the internal organs of the program to be the athletic department’s administrative and support systems for the program and the players. There are a lot of separate parts which have to work together as a whole to make and keeps the program’s body functioning. For instance our last AD Steve Pederson was the Urinary Bladder because each time he came to PITT he tried to piss all over the program. Think Torch-Cut and DinoCat for starters.


June 19, 2015

Been A While Since a Commit

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 6:38 am

Oh, sure it could be about the first verbal commit for Pitt since the end of March. But it is also about the first commit to Pitt from Central Catholic since Andrew Taglianetti and Tino Sunseri in the 2008 class. That seems crazy, but Pitt has only offered three kids from Central Catholic until this year (which also seems kind of crazy).

Pitt has already offered three players from Central Catholic. Bricen Garner, Rahsad Wheeler and Damar Hamlin.


June 18, 2015

(Note: I am drafting a series that look at the leading players on each of the positions PITT will field this season.  I am doing the RBs now but as I was writing I got side tracked by the referenced article on James Conner’s good works.  Here is a compendium look at what he’s done in that area since he’s been at PITT.)

The Trib has a June 18th article by Jerry DiPaola regarding James Conner and his relationship with an ill six year old with Klippel-Feil Syndrome which necessitates multiple open heart surgeries….

Before the game, Conner told Roman Pfister, who was recovering from his third open heart surgery, that he would score a touchdown for him.

Conner — like Roman, a resident of Erie — did score, tying Tony Dorsett’s all-time Pitt record. Then, after getting hurt, he sent an autographed football and his game-worn gloves to the Heinz Field box where Roman was watching the game with two of Conner’s injured teammates, Artie Rowell and Adam Bisnowaty.

“He wanted Roman to know these are special hands for securing the football,” Roman’s mother Tiffani Wasiela said. “He wanted him to know that he cared about him. Roman went home and fell asleep with those gloves on, holding that football.”

An interesting bit in that article involves Conner and a hand baked cake…

Wasiela (Roman’s mother), who owns a pastry shop in Erie, baked a cake for the occasion. Conner declined, sticking to his offseason diet that has helped him lose about 15 pounds to 235. “I was very thankful for it,” Conner said, “but I didn’t have any.” Said Wasiela: “When he is ready to eat some cake, we are going to get him some cake.”  

Dammit’ to Hell!! Get that man some pastries!!  Apparently Conner can have his cake and eat it too at a later date. Here is one from that bakery James might like.

Conner Cake

So, he’s dropping 15 pounds for the 2015 season.  What the Hell?  He wasn’t effective enough last year at 250 pounds when he gained 1765 yards, scored 26 TDs and sent multiple opponents back to their bench crying their eyes out? Is this what Chaney means by tweaking the offense?

It is a good article and it lays out just one in a long line of selfless things Conner has done since he’s became a Panther back in 2012.

Back in March DiPaola also wrote this early account of Conner’s helping others. After finding the father of his best friend fallen ill with the results of kidney disease and helping the man to the hospital, Conner has since devoted his time and energy to the National Kidney Foundation and to those who suffer from that disease.  From the Trib again:

When James Conner and his best friend Sean Gallagher walked into Gallagher’s house one day, they were horrified by what they saw.

Gallagher’s father Michael, who suffers from kidney disease, was laying on the floor, bleeding from his mouth and nose.  The Erie McDowell football players fought the urge to panic, gathered Michael in their arms and carried him to the car. With Sean behind the wheel, they drove his father to a hospital emergency room.

The boys were 15.

He had been close to that family for a long time and when the Gallagher’s daughter, Megan was afflicted with the same illness he kept on serving:

Conner has shown support for Gallagher’s daughter, Meghan, another kidney patient. When Meghan was hospitalized, he visited her frequently, once carrying Meghan to a window so she could see the sun set over Lake Erie.

“He has seen all that and been around all that, but he hasn’t wavered,” Gallagher said. “He could have said this family is a little too nutty for me, but he never did.”

All these good works, and the many more I’m sure James did in the past and that we have never hear about, led up to his being awarded the prestigious National Kidney Foundation’s (NKF)  “Gift of Life” award. Talk about being in rarified air; take a look at who his fellow awardees are for that award:

On March 7, 2015 the National Kidney Foundation Celebrated Life at the 2015 Kidney Gift of Life “All that Glitters is Gold” Gala at Heinz Field’s West Club Lounge!  This year’s Gala featured live entertainment by Protégé as well as a VIP reception, open bar, sit down dinner, and silent and live auctions.

The night featured a VIP Reception to honor our 2015 Gift of Life Awardees. This year’s Gift of Life Awardees were: 


Mark Costanzo, President, Renal Therapies Group of Fresenius Medical Care; 

Dr. David Levenson, Section Chief, Renal Division and Vice-Chair of Medicine, UPMC Shadyside; Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Medical Director, DaVita Pittsburgh Dialysis Unit; and, Partner, Partners in Nephrology and Endocrinology (PINE); 

Dr. Richard L. Simmons, Distinguished Service Professor of Surgery, Chairman Emeritus, Department of Surgery, Medical Director, UPMC; and 

James Conner, University of Pittsburgh Sophomore Running Back. The awardees epitomize the profound commitment that is essential in providing the best quality of life for those affected by chronic kidney disease.

Hmmm, let’s see, a President of a Medical Group and two highly distinguished doctors from the renal Division of UPMC… and star PITT running back James Conner.  That’s a hell of a starter resume’ for James right there.

You can listen for yourself how the NFK appreciates Conner’s work with the organization in this podcast clip (listen to it all for Conner’s first impressions of Narduzzi). The clip is at the bottom of the page.

Back in December of ’14 John Dudley wrote an article about Conner being the Erie Times-News Sportsman of the Year and how Conner is remembered very fondly by his Erie friends. Here is a piece that shows where Conner’s head is after receiving all the accolades he has garnered in his two years at PITT.

While posing for photos with students and teachers, Conner filled the doorway at his old school — figuratively, if not literally, a larger-than-life presence for young athletes who will grow up recognizing him as a household name. 

The legacy he’s contributing to in his hometown and the Erie region — one fed over the years by a string of football stars like Mike McCoy, Fred Biletnikoff, Mark Stepnoski and Bob Sanders — isn’t lost on him.

He’s well aware of what he represents, and the obligation that comes with it.  “With having success and having younger kids look up to me comes a lot of responsibility,” Conner said. “You have to do the right things at all times because people are always watching. But I enjoy that, being a role model to the younger kids, and showing them that dreams do come true.”

Conner Running

That last part is something that we all hope every PITT player embraces as much as James Conner does.

BTW – in doing research for this I stumbled on this RotoWorld NBC Sports website that lists info on Conner and links all the latest national articles written about him.  Here is that site’s Tyler Boyd page and Chad Voytik’s also.


Last week some media noted that it was five years after the dogs of the expansiopocolypse were unleashed. The picking apart of the Big 12 that started it all. That led to the silly winners and losers articles. The standards for “winners” and “losers” depended on the biases of the writers.

But hey, it is the offseason. Content is tough to come by. Why not join in the fun.

I just can’t put it simply in winners or losers. There’s a fair amount of stuff in the middle. How about,  “Win, Lose or Draw?”


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