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January 18, 2007

You know, I really do want to let the whole McCoy thing fade. I get the whole Penn State frustration and, “well if he doesn’t want to come here, we don’t want him” thing. Frankly I and many Pitt fans have been guilty of the same attitude. The character assassination disturbs me, but again, it happens way too often with everyone to think of it as unique to PSU fans. The one thing I think worth pointing out is that the RB position at PSU is not exactly loaded at the moment to believe that Penn State ever pulled the offer.

Unless redshirt freshmen Brent Carter and Evan Royster emerge as quality replacements for Tony Hunt, the coaching staff will have to choose between seniors Austin Scott and Rodney Kinlaw to carry the load for the offense.

If you think that running combination is going to strike fear in the hearts and minds of Big Ten defensive coordinators, you’ve swallowed way too much blue-and-white propaganda.

Joe Paterno, a master at manipulating his players through the media, continually praised Scott, who was redshirted, and Kinlaw, who played sparingly, during the latter part of the 2006 campaign. At his season wrapup press conference the morning after the Outback Bowl, the veteran coach said he has big expectations for both players next season.

His reasoning: Their performance in practice – Kinlaw as a backup to Hunt, and Scott as the demonstration team’s tailback.

Frankly, I’m not buying it.

Kinlaw, who’s ran for 326 yards on 80 carries in his collegiate career, has shown little at the position, certainly not enough to convince anyone that he can be a big yardage-producing, durable back.

The mercurial Scott, meantime, has been a colossal disappointment at Penn State. And, after his mysterious departure from the team during bowl week in Tampa, some insiders even question if the former Parkland star will be back next season.

Interesting. I suppose the PSU hope is to still get Broderick Green to renege on his USC verbal. You know, because that’s the kind of character that does fit.

Meanwhile, ESPN.com/Scouts, Inc. took a look this week at recruiting in all the conferences. Capsules of each team in each conference. This one is from the Big East (Insider subs.).

Selling point: Lots of history, led by former NFL head coach Dave Wannstedt.

2007 class highlights: With the departure of starter Tyler Palko, the Panthers added a top-15 quarterback prospect in Pat Bostick (Lancaster, Pa. / Manheim Township). Pitt struggled to move the ball on the ground on offense, so several running back prospects will look to pick up the slack, led by , LeSean McCoy (Harrisburg, Pa./Milford Academy), one of the top running backs from the Class of ’06, who has reportedly committed, and Xavier Stinson (Hollywood, Fla. / Chaminade-Madonna). Also, don’t forget No. 6 fullback Henry Hynoski (Catawissa, Pa./Southern Columbia) to help open holes.

The offensive line has also been addressed, and Chris Jacobson (Pittsburgh/Keystone Oaks) is one of the more physical guards in this class.

Pittsburgh was one of the worst in the nation in defending the run in 2006, so DEs Myles Caragein (Pittsburgh/Keystone Oaks) and Tony Tucker (Washington, D.C./Saint Johns College) have been added. Pitt also went to the junior college ranks to try and get some immediate help by adding Tommie Duhart out of Coffeyville Community College. Safety Maurice Williams (Erie, Pa./Strong Vincent) gives Pittsburgh an excellent athlete in the secondary.

Could see on the field in 2007: Bostick, Williams, Jacobson, Stinson, Duhart.

Rutgers has had a great recruiting season. WVU has been solid and USF is likely to be full of sleeper talent. USF could be poised to do even better in the closing weeks as the way too early 2007 top-25 are including USF at #25. It can’t hurt their profile. Especially while FSU and Miami are still overhauling their coaching staffs.

Storrs, Connecticut. Named “America’s Best Place To Avoid Death Due To Natural Disaster.” Also the home to the UConn Huskies and professional whiner Jim Calhoun. I never thought Jim was one to give a pile of credit to another team and then this comes up.

“Pitt can get to Atlanta and I think you’ll see them there,” Calhoun said. “They’re the best team we’ve seen in the league.”

Why thanks, that was very nice of you. You sure you’re not just saying it to make the 19 year old kids who just lost to them feel a little better?

“[Aaron Gray] is a difference-maker. It’s great when you have an ‘out’ pitch,” Calhoun said, dropping in a baseball analogy. “And they have a great out pitch when he can score like that.”

An “out” pitch? I would suggest staying away from any more baseball terms. And he’s not the only one to throw some good words our way, especially the guards. Some fo our own guys get into the love fest which was joined today by Andy Katz and Seth Davis.

“If you focus on Gray it’s a mistake, because he’s surrounded by some great shooters and passers,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said.

“We have depth,” forward Mike Cook said. “Aaron Gray is great, but we have so many players on this team capable of scoring 20 points.”

“We have tremendous depth and a lot of guys who can score, but I think it’s our perimeter shooting that really sets this team apart,” coach Jamie Dixon said. “We’ve had other teams that were good at that, but none that were quite like this.”

And if you missed it before the game against Calhoun’s Huskies on Saturday, Aaron Gray had some of pain in his wrist after a dunk in pregame warm ups.

Gray said he was in some pain when he caught the ball Tuesday night, but after the game he said it hurt only “a little bit.”

There was no additional swelling or pain as of yesterday afternoon, Pitt officials said.

“I’m not too worried about it,” Gray said. “I was real happy with my play.”

At least Tony Allen has no room to laugh.

And finally, the team we’ll duel on Sunday, Marquette, is Ray Fittipaldo’s choice as the toughest team we’ll play the rest of the regular season.

pastorcarl: Who is Pitt’s toughest opponent the rest of the regular season

Ray Fittipaldo: That’s a good question. I’d say Marquette. The Golden Eagles won at UConn and have been playing well lately. That’s going to be a very tough game Sunday. Dominic James is one of the best point guards in the country. If Pitt had trouble protecting the ball against UConn, they’ll have similar problems against James and Co. After Marquette, I’d say West Virginia. The Mountaineers will be very tough to beat again.

James, who is only a sophomore, is one of those guys who we might have to end up labeling a “Pitt killer” if he can score on our guards and keep them from seeing open shots. I can be he’ll see his own open shots if we hand the ball over to him as much as we did to Connecticut.

Love Those NYC Guards

Filed under: Basketball,Players,Puff Pieces — Chas @ 8:28 am

Both Andy Katz at ESPN.com and Seth Davis for SI.com had little bullet point love notes to a different Pitt guard this week.

Is there a better 3-point threat off the bench then Pitt’s Ronald Ramon? His 3-point shooting has been key, with a trey to help beat Georgetown and then burying four more in the win over Connecticut.

and

The more Levance Fields tries to take over games the way Carl Krauser did, the closer Pitt will come to winning a national championship.

Add in Dick Weiss for the NY Daily News throwing the hometown love to both Fields and Ramon.

“We weren’t thinking about getting a point guard in that class because we had Carl (Krauser) and Ronald,” Dixon said. “As things went on, we went and saw him play, we realized you can never have too many point guards and we said, ‘This kid is too good.’ We felt Ronald could play (shooting guard) and Levance could play the (point), just like we’re doing right now.”

That really worked out well for Pitt, as Ramon is so much better along the perimeter looking for a shot, rather than trying to always bring the ball up court and distribute.

Starting the B-Ball Class of 2008

Filed under: Basketball,Recruiting — Chas @ 7:38 am

I’ve been trying to get to this, but it has fallen to the sidelines for an extra day. Pitt got its first verbal for 2008 (well, technically Terrelle Pryor gave a verbal at some point but…). Nasir Robinson from Chester, PA.

“His personality is parallel to Pitt’s program,” said Ray Carroll, who coached Robinson at American Christian High School last season and is Robinson’s mentor. “He’s a workhorse, a natural floor leader. He’s relentless just like a lot of Pitt players.”

Carroll said Pitt had been the front-runner for the past two years and that Robinson simply wanted to end the recruiting process early because he had come to a firm decision. He said Dixon has been to Chester to see Robinson more than most coaches and that was an important part of his decision.

He was also recruited to Pitt by Mike Rice, Jr. Looks like the Philly-area pipeline has also opened up a bit more.

Scout.com only places him as a 3-star. Rivals.com is much higher on him with 4-stars, and considers him the 8th best shooting guard nationally and 45th best overall recruit in the country.

Now, on to that “other” verbal that Chris Dokish alluded to. He’s a North New Jersey kid at St. Anthony’s coached by the New Jersey HS Coaching legend Bob Hurley — you might be interested in this book from Adrian Wojnarowski on Hurley and St. Anthony’s (yet another book I have sitting around that I haven’t gotten to reading). Travon Woodall.

The 6-foot, 186-pound junior combination guard from St. Anthony gave a verbal commitment to Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon, and will play in the Big East.

“I thought it was the perfect place for me,” Woodall said by phone. “It’s not too far from home. It’s not too close, where I can’t grow up as a man and be out on my own. Me and (assistant coach) Mike Rice have known each other for a long time. We have a good relationship.”

Woodall is averaging 10.9 points, 4.6 assists and 2.3 rebounds for undefeated St. Anthony, ranked No. 1 in the state in one poll and No. 4 nationally by USA Today. He was an All-Star last summer at Reebok Camp Next and 5-Star Camp, and also competed at the prestigious Reebok ABCD Camp.

“He’s a really good physical defender, which Pitt really likes,” St. Anthony head coach Bob Hurley said by phone. “He can score out of the point. He really needs to think more like a point guard. He’s played so much with (St. Anthony junior) Jio (Fontan) growing up that he would move to the wing and let Jio handle the ball. Travon is not as natural at the point. He’s got to get more comfortable with the ball.”

Woodall opted to declare as a junior because he was confident in his decision and wanted to get the complicated recruiting process out of the way.

“It takes a lot of weight off my shoulders,” Woodall said. “I don’t have to worry about any college coaches calling or text-messaging me. I don’t have to worry about any of that stuff anymore. I can worry about my schoolwork and not have any distractions in front of me.”

Woodall chose Pittsburgh over offers from Rutgers, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Cincinnati, Penn State, Iowa State and Florida State. He said Rutgers was his second choice.

I should note, that he’s either gained an inch and put on a lot of weight from the summer (which at least with the height is possible) or there is a bit of a discrepancy somewhere. Rivals.com and Scout.com list him at 5′ 11″ and between 165-170 pounds. Both sites list Woodall as a 3-star recruit.
Mike Rice, Jr. has been busy on the recruiting trail.

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