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February 7, 2007

Half-hour to game time.

7:40: 8-4 Pitt, Graves heading to the line fouled with 15:52 in the half. Good energy from Pitt. Thrilled to see more than just Gray getting after the offensive boards.

7:50: Pitt leading 12-4 11:51 left. Sam Young is looking very good on both ends tonight. WVU’s shots aren’t falling — right now. Need to build up the lead because they will start falling, and with the 3, they can catch up really fast.

7:56: Pitt now up 16-7. Pitt is running more to keep WVU out of their 1-3-1 and it is working. Part of the reason why Sam Young is looking so good in this game, as well.

8:01: Pitt up 18-10, 7:34 to half. Gray better adjust to the fact that he won’t get a call tonight. The refs are not giving the inside players anything.

8:14: A bad gamble on defense let Alexander score and fire up the crowd a bit. Pitt still leads 25-14 with 2:21 to the half. WVU is still struggling with their perimeter shooting.

8:19: Pitt leads 27-17 at the half. Graves had a nice drive to the hoop, but the defense didn’t give and the shot couldn’t fall to end the half. The Mountaineers only shot 3-16 on 3s and 3-9 elsewhere. They are taking — even for them — too many 3s. Pitt has struggled going 0-4 from outside, but not taking many 3s has limited that. Otherwise, Pitt has shot 12-19 from the rest of the field.

Sam Young has 8 points on 4-5 shooting and a bunch of rebounds. Gray and Graves each have 6.

Da’Sean Butler has been the only thing working for WVU. 8 points and 2-3 on threes.

8:43: Here comes the Hoopie run as Frank Young scores 5 points in a 7-2 spurt to close it to 7 points. 16:14 in the game. Gray bricked 2 free throws.

8:52: Sam Young is having his best game ever. 16 points and crashing the boards. Frank Young has cramped up.

Pitt now up 37-24 with 13:52 left. Mike Cook made a sweet little pass out of the double team for Young’s slam.

9:00: 11:20 left Pitt up 41-26. Pitt is playing a solid team game. They are feeding the hot hand — Sam Young. The defense isn’t letting up. This is such a solid game.
Georgetown just put away Louisville 73-65.

9:09: Pitt up 49-33 with 7:13 in the game. Ramon has drilled a couple 3s. The only negative in this game has been Gray not hitting any free throws.

9:18: WVU has gotten hot and like any young team, when their offense starts working, they get more intense on defense. That’s the short answer how they went on a 14-3 run to get it to 49-45 before Sam Young hit a big 3.

Then dumb mistake when Ramon and Young both went for a rebound that let Frank Young grab it and get fouled and heading to the line after the break.
3:35 left, Pitt up 52-45.

9:27: And that was it for WVU. Frank Young missed his FTs. Pitt continued the run and Gray dropped 2 FTs and now Ramon has hit 4 straight FTs.   WVU finally scored to snap an 11-0 run by Pitt.
Pitt withstood a couple hot streaks from WVU — never panicked and adjusted.

60-47 Pitt wins.

Sam Young had 21 points and 7 rebounds. Definitely a career night.

Gray finished with a 14-9 points-rebounds. The team shot 24-43, and held WVU to 16-50 shooting.

Pitt Dave Wannstedt has the official press release of the 2007 Recruiting Class.

Wannstedt officially welcomed Pitt’s 2007 class today by receiving National Letters of Intent from 25 players. The Panthers are enjoying their strongest back-to-back recruiting years since the late 1980s. Last year’s class ranked among the country’s top 15 and the 2007 edition figures to gain similar recognition.

“Today was a very satisfying conclusion to our recruiting efforts of the past 12 months,” Wannstedt said. “Our staff worked very diligently during the past year to sign a class that not only met our needs as a team, but also met our high standards as a program and university. We believe we have signed an exceptional group of young men who will help this program be successful both on and off the field.”

There are brief bios on the 25 listed players. I don’t see Brytus, the punter who transferred from Purdue listed. Justin Hargrove did make the list and is the only one already enrolled at Pitt.

Still a big game tonight. Backyard Brawl, basketball edition. Going to hit this quickly.
Pitt is a 3-point favorite, which is a mild shock to me. It’s going to be harder to have the freshmen jolted by the first time the musket goes off, when it’s revealed as part of the deal in the paper the morning of the game.

The layoff is still an issue. Pitt will have to very likely whether a slow start against a team that plays much better at home then on the road.

The Hoopies have reloaded and stepped up far faster than expected.

It will be very interesting to see how the match-up of the 1-3-1 goes with Gray, when there isn’t a big Center that can step out as far as Pittsnogle could. Pitt hasn’t won in Morgantown since the 03-04 season (6-22 all time at the Concrete Toadstool).

Ron Cook continues throwing off my equilibrium with a column lauding Antonio Graves.

Post-WVU Programming

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Media,Recruiting,TV,Wannstedt — Dennis @ 4:28 pm

If you need something to do after the West Virginia game (take note that it starts at 7:30, not the usual 7:00 weeknight time) then this might be something to tune in to.

Thought that Pitt football fans would find this interesting. Tonight on the Nightly Sports Call on Pittsburgh’s CW (10:35 PM/Channel 15/Comcast), they plan on doing a show dedicated to National Letter Of Intent Day and will concentrate heavily on Pitt’s Class of 2007. Someone from the show tells me that parts of the show will include live interviews with Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt, a live interview with Pitt’s #1 recruit QB Pat Bostick, interview with Pitt’s #1 local recruit offensive lineman Chris Jacobson and Mike White of the Post-Gazette will appear on the show.

NLI Day Already Cooking.

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 2:34 pm

(8:01): That’s right. The commitment lists are starting to get checked. I’ll probably keep this post at the top of the blog for at least the morning to early afternoon, so there should be other content below.
Scout.com has checks in place for signed LOIs for

Tristan Roberts

Dan Matha

Max Gruder

Pat Bostick

Rivals.com doesn’t have anything yet. This tends to go back and forth.

UPDATE (8:21): Rivals.com now lists Bostick, Gruder, Matha and Roberts as signed.

UPDATE: (9:00): Rivals.com has a bunch more

Shariff Harris

Kyle Hubbard (Ha! Butch Davis didn’t lure him to UNC)

Greg Williams

UPDATE (9:33): Rivals.com has now added John Fieger. Scout.com hasn’t had any change to its check-offs.

UPDATE (9:36): Scout.com updated it’s check-off to a total of 7, but Rivals.com apparently is winning the race to declare signed LOIs. The following are now listed as well:

Tommy Duhart

Anthony Jackson

That puts them at 10 signed LOIs.

UPDATE (9:57): Rivals.com has added two more and they are good ones for the lines
Myles Caragein

Chris Jacobson

Personally, I don’t expect McCoy to sign until sometime after noon.

UPDATE (10:20): Scout.com has almost caught up to Rivals.com in confirmed LOIs. The only one they don’t have matching is John Fieger.

UPDATE (10:29): Maurice Williams has been added to the signed list by Rivals.com.

UPDATE (10:35): Boy, Rivals.com must be really plugged in today to the Pitt recruits or something.

Henry Hynoski

Brandon Lindsey

That puts them at listing 15 signed LOIs. 8 more on their list still to sign not including Sheard.

UPDATE (11:07): In a move of questionable value — other than to save their servers I guess. Rivals.com has done the following in the last 20 minutes with their commitment list.

Rivals.com Limiter

I’m registered, but not a subscriber since I never want to be accused of stealing “premium” content from either site (oh, and I’m cheap).

So, that means Rivals.com will no longer be checked for updates on recruits faxing in their LOIs. It’s their site, their business. I think it’s rather dumb, for getting broader attention and the eventual subscriber.

I’m guessing it wasn’t an easy decision, but more driven by the strains on their servers. Better to serve those who pay rather than crash the whole thing. At least that’s the charitable view of it.

UPDATE (11:13): Okay, this is kind of funny. Go here and at least for the moment you can see the Pitt commit list from Rivals.com. According to the list you can now add:

Dom DeCicco

LeSean McCoy

Go ahead and break out the party hats.

UPDATE (11:16): Hmm. The access to the commitment list on Pantherlair is available again. New theory. When the servers are reaching a critical level, they probably have some sort of tripwire for the servers to restrict access until the crunch eases. It’s only a theory, but it makes a sort of sense.

They have also added Aundre Wright to the list of signed commits.

UPDATE (11:25): Rivals.com/Pantherlair has added Jordan Gibbs to the signed list. That puts them at 19.

I’m not saying Scout.com/PantherDigest is getting hammered today, but they are only up to 13 confirmed signings.

It could be a matter of policy on confirming or it might simply be that Rivals.com/Pantherlair has a really good source at the Pitt Athletic Department.

UPDATE (11:32): Jabaal Sheard is now listed on the signed LOI by Rivals.com (hattip to DW1945). Same with Scout.com.

UPDATE (11:52): Wayne Jones of the grayshirt is now listed on Rivals.com’s list as signing on.

FINAL UPDATE (2:34): Looks like Sherod Murdock has signed along with Jordan Gibbs, according to Rivals.com.

Tony Tucker, I am getting e-mails and reading comments that he has signed and did it today on ESPNU.

There seems to be something holding up the clearance of Greg Gaskins to sign today.

Recruiting Things

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 2:07 pm

Okay, the ESPN.com/Scouts, Inc. Automated recruiting rankings (Insider subs) now has Pitt listed as #29 recruiting class. I guess the key word is “automated.” I was taking a look at ESPNU’s college signing day show, and the ticker listed Pitt as having the #17 class. So, apparently the classes as ranked by the guy in charge of Scouts, Inc., Tom Luginbill, decides a little more. His top-25 classes going into signing day is what ESPNU uses (Penn State was listed as 20, WVU at 29 — w/o Devine).

Still nothing from the final three verbals: Jordan Gibbs, Sherod Murdock and Tony Tucker.

Glad that Jabaal Sheard chose Pitt. The more help on the D-line the better.

Interesting little story about a preferred or recruited walk-on QB coming to Pitt. Strikes me as a future coach somewhere. At the very least he could end up being the place kick holder.

Recruiting Forward and Backward

Filed under: Football,History,Recruiting — Chas @ 11:34 am

Periodically, I’ve read some comments or gotten e-mails about the 2003 recruiting class — specifically how those players that changed their minds about coming to Pitt have been busts. I’ve been aware of it, but not wanted to say anything. Not because it would be petty or cheap shots (believe me that isn’t it). Mainly because their careers aren’t over at this point.

The last thing I’d want to do is be premature or, um, un-jinx things by smirking too early. Especially for a certain QB going into his senior year at a state university. Afterall, it just takes one great season and suddenly a couple wasted years and a sub-par season becomes irrelevant.
The other reason is that it, to a now receding degree, scarred me and plenty of Pitt fans about verbals and signing day. There’s still a part waiting for the last minute change of mind, and a big loss of a player. Why bring back all that anxiety?
Of course, now I have to discuss it because Kevin Gorman in the Trib has a pretty good story on it.

When running backs James Bryant of Reading and Andrew Johnson of North Hills signed with Miami, Penn Hills quarterback Anthony Morelli with Penn State, Pahokee (Fla.) cornerback Alphonso Smith with Wake Forest and Dade City (Fla.) Pasco receiver Johnny Peyton with South Florida, a devastated Walt Harris was left searching for answers of how Pitt’s potential top-25 class went astray.

“That class,” national recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said, “might have cost Walt Harris his job.”

It didn’t cost him his job — directly. What it did was further erode a lot of remaining support. The 2003 football season did more damage to Harris’ job security. The loss of the recruiting class key players essentially removed the safety net that had been there.
The implosion of that recruiting class had a decent amount to do with the swirling uncertainty of the Big East’s status in the BCS mix. Still, there was the fact that the whole thing was a disappointment on top of disappointment and Harris fell back into a defensive crouch and it was widely perceived as a “Not my fault, Walt” move.

There’s actually a comment from Andrew Johnson that, well, is bizarre.

Yet, the five who didn’t sign with Pitt proved that the grass isn’t always greener: Where Smith is the nickel back at Wake Forest, which won the Atlantic Coast Conference, Peyton played immediately at USF, but was dismissed from the team in December 2005. Where Bryant plays fullback at Miami, Johnson saw limited playing time after tearing his ACL and transferred to Akron earlier this month.

“It’s hard to tell how everything would have worked out” if the five would have signed with Pitt, Johnson said. “I don’t regret the decision I made. It made me a better football player, being down there with better athletes. If I would have gone to Pitt, I might have just been handed the job and I would have been the same type of back I was in high school. When you get with the type of athletes and competition at Miami, you have to raise your game.”

I get not looking back with regret, but even before tearing his ACL, he wasn’t doing much with the ‘Canes. If that raised his game, then his game must never have been much before — despite his rankings by the recruiting sites.

Of course, the better thing regarding recruiting is that better days are not only here now, there’s just as much promise for next year.

The Panthers already have a head start on 2008 with commitments from Johnstown cornerback Antwuan Reed and Jones, a 6-foot-2 1/2, 325-pounder who was offered a grayshirt, meaning he would enroll full-time in January. There is a possibility he will start in August if Sheard chooses to go elsewhere, but Jones isn’t banking on it.

“They told me it’s a grayshirt unless a scholarship comes open this fall,” said Jones, who will sign a national letter of intent today. “I think it will be real beneficial. It will give me time to grow and lose more weight.”

The best day about NLI day and recruiting stuff — blind optimism.

The Latest Grayshirt

Filed under: Football,Players,Recruiting — Chas @ 9:27 am

Mentioned yesterday, Wayne Jones out of Johnstown, PA will sign a LOI to play for Pitt in 2008. The 6’3″, 315 pound Jones was first-team All-State selection last season and has been selected for the Big 33 Classic. Jones had some smaller offers and plenty of 1-AA but was happy with the choice.

Jones’ scholarship offer by the Panthers is that of a grayshirt candidate, which means he would not enroll full-time at the university until January.

There is a possibility that Jones could join the Panthers in August, depending on the status of another potential signee, Jabaal Sheard of Hollywood Hills, Fla., who is expected to choose either Pitt, Arizona State or Rutgers today.

“It wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing to be a gray shirt,” said Jones, who will sign his letter of intent today at the high school. “It would give me time to continue to get in condition and get bigger and stronger. But if it came through that I would be needed in the fall, I’d be pretty happy about that, too.”

He also liked the fact that there were a couple of Johnstown players already on the team, and others planning to come in 2008

Did you know that every time you watch the Pitt Panthers, you might actually be seeing…a NFL team coached by a guy who died over 30 years ago?

“It’s always hard preparing for Pitt because they do such a great job,” said Mountaineer coach John Beilein. “It’s like the Vince Lombardi teams. You know a bit of what they’re going to do but you just can’t stop it and it’s hard to score on them. What this team continues to have is more and more experience playing every single day as a unit with very unselfish players. That’s made them special.”

Jamie Dixon and Vince Lombardi. I’ve never made that connection before. But seriously, Beilein makes a good point. We’re going to try to get it into Gray if they’ll let us but if they want to put extra defenders on him then the guards (Levance and Graves) will do what they’ve done previously: make shots. So in that sense, the ‘Eers know what we want to do. Our execution (mainly making shots) is the key though and it’s usually very good.

They mention WVU’s surprising 18-4 record, something I looked at yesterday.

Each team takes very good care of the rock in the offensive zone and neither team tries forcing the ball through passing lanes that are either too small or don’t exist at all.

Both teams have been extremely adept at handling the basketball. For the style that they play, Pitt has a terrific 435-276 assist-to-turnover ratio. West Virginia’s is nearly as good at 386-253.

“To think that there are two teams that play so well handling the ball and passing the ball it’s pretty unique and rare and doing it in different ways with different styles of play,” said Dixon.

WVU is somewhat downplaying the importance of the game.

“Yes it’s Pitt and it’s a league game,” he said. “But we’ve just got to keep going and plodding through like we have been all year and not put any more importance on one game than another.”

Does Coach Beilein sense a loss and doesn’t want his young team getting too low if they lose to a rival? Actually, the same can be said conversely; if they were to upset us then he doesn’t want his players getting too high going into a non-con game against UCLA on Saturday.

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