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February 5, 2004

Quick Note

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chas @ 12:26 pm

Maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but I just noticed this little event for today on the Pitt calendar

Team Pittsburgh – National Letter of Intent Day – Football
Start Date: Thursday, February 05, 2004
Start Time: 07:00 PM
End Date: Thursday, February 05, 2004
Location: Petersen Events Center

This annual event is exclusive to TEAM PITTSBURGH members, and will take place the day immediately following the signing period for football recruits – National Letter of Intent Day. For more information on how to join TEAM PITTSBURGH and support the Panther Athletic Scholarship Fund – and how to get an invitation for this event, hosted by Head Football Coach Walt Harris – please call the TEAM PITTSBURGH office at 412-648-8889.

I’ll bet this will be an interesting night. I’m guessing Walt’s steeling himself for this one. It would be nice if someone who was a Team Pittsburgh Member attended and provided a report. If only we knew someone. Isn’t that right, Pat?

Two Quick Points

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lee @ 12:00 pm

First, I think it’s cute that BlueWhite Illustrated and its editor — Phil Grosz — state in today’s top story that “there is no denying the fact that the Nittany Lions will have one of the top 10 recruiting classes in the country” when every recruiting analyst that I’ve seen — including their own freakin’ website — has them ranked in the teens.

Second, anybody who thinks that Penn State somehow has better “academics” than the University of Pittsburgh should read this post from last August (and more importantly, the accompanying article from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review). I bring this up only because Anthony Morelli cited “academics” as a reason for eschewing Pitt for Penn State.

Finally, how sad do these other posts from last August seem now?

This is obviously going to be a long and kind of painful post. So let me start off with a positive note. We sure looked good against St. Johns last night, didn’t we?

OK, let’s start off with Rivals.com, which seems to be everyone’s favorite recruiting analysis organization. And why not? Because Rivals is composed of analysts representing practically every major university (including Pitt), it tends to cancel out its own biases. Furthermore, it is the only network that I’ve seen which ranks the recruiting classes all the way up to #124. This is important for fans of schools like Pitt, which will obviously be out of the top 25 this year (@#%*@#! Morelli & Johnson). So here’s Rivals.com’s final ranking of the 2004 football recruiting classes.

1 Southern California
2 LSU
3 Florida State
4 Miami-FL
5 Michigan
6 Georgia
7 Florida
8 Oklahoma
9 Ohio State
10 Texas
11 Tennessee
12 Oregon
13 Texas A&M
14 Penn State
15 Alabama
16 Michigan State
17 Maryland
18 Kansas State
19 Washington
20 Purdue
21 Auburn
22 Arkansas
23 California
24 Boston College
25 Washington State…

32 Notre Dame
40 Virginia
41 Virginia Tech
43 South Florida
47 West Virginia
48 PITTSBURGH
52 Rutgers
54 Syracuse
64 Louisville
80 Cincinnati
124 Georgetown (I knew that somebody would want to know who came in dead last)

(I highlighted Miami, Penn State, and Ohio State because (1) I wanted to show how much Johnson’s commitment would help the Hurricanes (four spaces since Tuesday), (2) I wanted to show how much Morelli’s commitment would help the Nittany Lions (two spaces since Tuesday), and (3) if this crap keeps up, Ohio State will be my only alma mater that can @#%*@#! play big time football. How depressing is that, given Pitt’s prestige at certain points this past fall [when we were admittedly overrated]?)

So how bad does that suck? In December, our football recruiting class was competing with Penn State’s. Now we’ve fallen behind both the Hoopies and (gulp!) the South Florida Bulls.

For those of you who are only interested in Pitt football recruiting, you can pretty much skip the rest of this post. Like I said above, none of the other recruiting services go beyond the top 25.

On SportsCenter last night, ESPN’s Tom Lemming gave his top ten recruiting classes as follows: 1. USC, 2. LSU, 3. Michigan, 4. Ohio State, 5. Miami, 6. Oklahoma, 7. Florida State, 8. Texas A&M, 9. Texas, and 10. Tennessee.

TheInsiders.com‘s top 25 football recruiting classes (via Fox Sports) goes like this: 1. USC, 2. LSU, 3. Miami, 4. FSU, 5. Michigan, 6. Georgia, 7. Oklahoma, 8. Florida, 9. Tennessee, 10. Texas, 11. Ohio State, 12. Penn State, 13. Michigan State, 14. Texas A&M, 15. Oregon, 16. Maryland, 17. Texas Tech, 18. UNC, 19. Alabama, 20. N.C. State, 21. Washington State, 22. Washington, 23. Arizona State, 24. UCLA, and 25. Virginia. Since TheInsiders.com never listed Pitt’s recruiting class in its top 25 at any point this year (even when we actually deserved it), I could care less about this outfit.

Finally, we have the Official College Sports Network‘s top 25 football recruiting classes by ESPN’s Bill Hodge. Hodge’s ranking is always the first to come out, and was by far the kindest to Pitt throughout most of this season. Before Christmas, Pitt was ranked as high as #14. But we fell to #18 by January 4, #22 by January 16, and #25 by January 28. Now, of course, we’re unranked.

No. 1 Southern California
No. 2 LSU
No. 3 Florida State
No. 4 Miami-Florida
No. 5 Michigan
No. 6 Oklahoma
No. 7 Georgia
No. 8 Florida
No. 9 Ohio State
No. 10 Texas
Tie No. 10 Tennessee
No. 12 Texas A&M
No. 13 Oregon
No. 14 Penn State
No. 15 Michigan State
No. 16 Alabama
No. 17 Maryland
No. 18 Washington
No. 19 California
No. 20 Purdue
No. 21 Missouri
No. 22 Washington State
No. 23 Kansas State
No. 24 Nebraska
No. 25 Notre Dame

OK, enough of the minutia and the kicking ourselves. I’m through with recruiting class rankings for this year. I’m gonna grab a cup of coffee, brace myself, grab today’s copy of the Altoona Mirror, and see what that idiot Neil Rudel has to say about Pitt’s latest humiliation at the hands of the mighty Nittany Lions.

God, I hate Penn State.

And Now, Back to the Misery

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chas @ 9:52 am

That was the 2004 National Letter of Intent day for college football.

Lots of material in both the Post-Gazette and the Tribune-Review (by the way, don’t you think it’s time both papers gave up the hyphenated titles and choose just one part?).

First the straight news. Coach Walt Harris was somewhat defensive and trying to spin the recruiting class and all the last minute losses. Actually, most of the discussion centered on lost recruits

Harris lost his prized WPIAL recruits, as Penn Hills quarterback Anthony Morelli signed with Penn State and North Hills tailback Andrew Johnson with Miami.

Reading All-American linebacker James Bryant, who had indicated to Pitt coaches in June that he was coming, signed instead with Miami. And receiver Johnny Peyton (South Florida) and cornerback Alphonso Smith (Wake Forest) made stunning last-minute decisions at news conferences.

“We were excited about those young men,” Harris said, “but if they feel like someplace else they’ll get coached better or like the university better, we wish them well and hope they accomplish their dreams.

“We’re going to move on with our group.”

Harris appeared to want to put the blame on other schools and their recruiting methods.

Neither Johnson nor Morelli, once believed to be the cornerstones of the class, informed Pitt coaches of their decision. While Johnson picked his childhood favorite — calling Miami his “best chance to the NFL” — Morelli expressed concern over Harris’ job status.

“I really like coach Harris and believed he could get me to the NFL,” Morelli said, “but you can’t make a decision on the coach because he might leave.”

That caused Harris to use the platform to berate his peers for their “negative recruiting” and call for an early signing period. Harris said opposing recruiters used rumors regarding his job status, as well as the departures of several assistants and the changing makeup of the Big East Conference, to influence Panthers recruits to reconsider their decisions.

“Our kids that have committed have been totally abused by other schools,” Harris said. “We try to take the high road in every situation and not get into negative recruiting.”

Two things. One, how sad is it that Morelli claims (not believes, but claims) that a 77-year old coach who was the subject of national questions as to how much longer he can stay around as head coach of PSU was more stable in his position than Harris? Is he truly that stupid or was that all he had to work with in spinning the decision?

Two, I don’t buy it for a minute that Harris and Pitt recruiting doesn’t use “negative recruiting.” If it was actually true, I want Harris gone now because he truly would be an idiot. That said, the fact that Pitt couldn’t see the negative whisperings coming and counter it really bothers me. Of course people were going to keep wooing these kids. Pitt helped open the door with its on the field performance.

In the analysis of Pitt’s class, well…

“I think Pitt’s class would have to go down as one of the most disappointing classes of the year, along with Notre Dame, Colorado and Auburn,” said Allen Wallace of Super Prep magazine. “I know some college coaches who question how good Morelli is, but it’s still a big blow to lose those two.”

Bobby Burton of Rivals100.com said, “I think what hurts Pitt more than anything is just the mentality and the perception, no matter how good Johnson and Morelli really are.”

Burton and Wallace said Pitt’s class doesn’t appear to be as good as the past few Harris has put together.

“We’d probably rank them somewhere between 40 and 50 nationally,” Wallace said. “For Pitt, I’d say it’s a below-average class.”

As was also pointed out in an article. The status of the reconfiguring Big East had mixed results. The teams that will be joining did very, very well; while the old guard seemed to be hurt.

In the commentaries there was a very incoherent piece from Smizik. He knew it was a bad day for Pitt, but he couldn’t bring himself to put his finger on why — other than the flux in the Big East.

The same can’t be said for Starkey’s caustic piece. He puts the blame squarely on Coach Walt Harris.

A better title for a movie reflecting the state of Pitt’s football program might be one Brando already starred in: “Apocalypse Now.”

Spin it any way you like, Pitt lost arguably the top five players on its recruiting list, all of whom had indicated to the coaching staff they were headed this way.

Losing them has to fall on the boss.

Morelli might have delivered the knockout blow on Harris, because he didn’t just choose another school. He chose Dear Old State.

He chose Joe Paterno.

Essentially, Harris sat and watched while a 77-year-old man broke into his house and stole the keys to his brand-new Mazerati.

Can’t you just see JoePa — not exactly the picture of stability himself these days — driving that thing back to State College, cackling madly all the way?

Oh, the horror.

2003-2004 has to be one of Harris’ worst years. Pitt had high expectations that crashed. His in game coaching was exposed all season — again. His supposed real strength — recruiting — took a major blow. And I think it is safe to say that most of the local media has just about had it with him and his constant position of “Not my fault.”

Oh, and he lost another coach from his staff.

Pitt assistant Bob Ligashesky left his position as special teams/tight ends coach to become the assistant special teams coach for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. His departure comes on the heels of the hiring of Mike Kent as the Panthers’ new strength coach.

Ligashesky is the fourth Panthers assistant to leave coach Walt Harris’ staff since the end of the season. Offensive coordinator J.D. Brookhart became the head coach at Akron, running backs coach Dino Babers moved to UCLA, and strength coach Dave Kennedy accepted the same position at Nebraska.

Think that kind of turnover might have hurt in keeping recruits?

Here is Pitt’s official commitment list.

Two themes were reported about Pitt’s 71-51 beating of St. Johns. First was the NYC flavor of Pitt with Krauser, Taft and McCarroll — but especially Krauser. The other theme was that St. Johns gave up, didn’t seem to want to play.

The most eye-opening stretch occurred during the final 9:43 of the first half, when St. John’s was outscored 20-3 for a 19-point deficit. The Red Storm never got closer than 17 points.

“I guess we took it for granted,” Elijah Ingram said. “I guess we thought since we won one game we could slack off.”

It didn’t help that three Panthers who were critical to the win are from New York City. Brooklyn’s Chris Taft (Xaverian) had 15 points; The Bronx’s Carl Krauser (Notre Dame Academy) had 9 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds; and Queens’ Mark McCarroll (Christ the King) scored eight points in 13 minutes.

Even they were surprised St. John’s didn’t put up a fight.

“I was real shocked because New York City guards and New York City players in general are like the toughest players out of all cities,” said Krauser, a sophomore point guard. “We never quit. We’re really competitive. I was definitely surprised to see those guys back down and not play a full 40-minute game.”

Pitt played a completely dominating game; and, despite having a week off between games, Coach Dixon used his bench liberally. No starter, except for Jaron Brown, exceeded 30 minutes of playing time. I mean Demetrius was actually in the game for 13 minutes. Torree Morris was in for 11. Unbelievable.

Pitt is confident, poised and making no secret of their goals this year. Conversely, some see another dangerous set of games for Pitt. They are approaching another tough stretch of games: at Notre Dame, at Seton Hall and the UConn rematch. Should be another good week of b-ball.

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