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February 8, 2007

Sorry, too many things in the real world today. Let’s see, seems that the WVU student fans know how to really live up to their image of wise, smart cheering and trying to get under the skin of opposing players.

West Virginia’s frothing student section spent a chunk of the pregame and some ugly portion of both halves last night yelling at Pitt center Aaron Gray, which was a wholly anticipated part of the typical Pitt-WVU hostilities, except that the kids were yelling the very thing at Gray that, well, how will I put this …

The thing Joey Porter says when he’s not intending to offend anybody except Kellen Winslow.

Yeah, gay slurs were plentiful in this grand old basketball theatre.

The Oakland Zoo reports the same. Good to know that if Penn State ever axes Rene Portland, she has a place to go.

For WVU it was a mix of missed shots and good defense by Pitt. At times it seemed Pitt just had to let WVU beat themselves.

Da’Sean Butler was the only bright spot for WVU. It only seems like Sam Young likes to torture the Mountaineers.

Frank Young has been struggling against Pitt for a while.

Frank Young has missed 19 of his last 22 3-point shots against Pitt, dating back to last season.

Joe Starkey  isn’t as high on this Pitt team as previous models.

Pitt turned the ball over 16 times against WVU. That really didn’t bother me because I expected Pitt to have a bunch of turnovers against WVU.

There seems to be a big of a disagreement as to the balance between the Pitt defense and the Mountaineers poor shooting. They were both there. Yes, WVU missed a bunch of easy lay-ups and putbacks. Considering how easy they were getting their way in New Jersey the previous week, that couldn’t be too surprising that they’d be spooked when actually having to work for their shots.

On the perimeter, I saw good defense that forced WVU to pass the ball along the outside more then in and out. The open looks, at least to me, from outside most of the time were rushed and impatient because the Pitt defense had kept them from getting a shot earlier.  WVU may not be an up-tempo team, but they like to get shots off a lot sooner and expect someone to get there on a cut. Pitt was keeping them outside, and forced them to take more time.

Sam Young is our best player with the ball in his hands driving to the hoop. I’ll take Young through the lane as much as anyone else in the country. 21 points on 10-12 shooting (with one awesome alley-oop thrown into that mix) adding 7 bounds and one rejection.
So after a great game to beat a rival, let’s hear what Sam had to say.

Young refused to speak with reporters after the game. He brushed past a media throng on his way to the bus not uttering a word.

Not a big deal though. I’m sure it would be a few cliche-filled sentences that wouldn’t make me think twice anyways. Levon Kendall spoke kindly of Young’s game however.

“Sam played big all night,” Kendall said. “Things were going his way, for sure. (His 3-pointer) really slowed the momentum down. They made their run, and he stepped up and knocked it down, and that kind of took the wind out of their sails.”

You didn’t need to have a PhD. in hoops to see where WVU struggled last night.

First was the shooting and their inability to connect from deep. Only hitting on 6-28 from three point range was their killer; most of the shots were bricks hitting part glass-part rim and never hitting the bottom of the net.

They also missed the target in the entertainment department.

Also what is the deal with the morbidly obese student that they drag out during timeouts to rile up the crowd? Is it funny in Morgantown to be on the fast track to heart disease at 19? I’m being legitimately serious, we may not be the classiest student section ever but how does the athletic department let that happen.

Thankfully there were no pictures to accompany this story.

If you need more reactions, glance over the liveblog Chas posted and his thoughts over at the AOL FanHouse.

Meet the Recruits, 2007 (Part 2)

Filed under: Football,Players,Recruiting — Chas @ 10:53 am

Well, Tony Tucker didn’t get more attention for signing, but two different papers recapping the ACC signees listed him as the “miss” or “one that got away” for Maryland and Virginia Tech.

Pictures of signing day at Milford Academy with LeSean McCoy and Aundre Wright.

Jabaal Sheard actually made Pitt sweat his LOI despite signing it.

Defensive end Jabaal Sheard probably had the most difficult time making his decision. At 11 a.m., he signed a letter-of-intent with Pittsburgh instead of Arizona. But Sheard refused to fax the paperwork immediately, waiting until nearly 4:30 p.m. before making it official.

“It was a tough decision,” Sheard said. “I wanted to think about it some more. I liked both schools, but it came down to my bond I had with the coaches [at Pittsburgh].”

Hey, once it gets sent there’s no going back (easily).

Greg Gaskins was part of a group from the York area signing LOIs.

Susquehannock’s Chaz Powell is headed to Penn State, while York High linemen Richard Muldrow and Greg Gaskins are going to Big East schools — Muldrow to Rutgers and Gaskins to Pitt.

Powell (6-2, 185) and Gaskins (6-4, 290) made their verbal commitments last summer, while Muldrow (6-8, 285) made his decision about a month ago.

Powell was a first-team Associated Press all-state selection as a defensive back in Class AAA, while Gaskins got a similar honor on the offensive line in Class AAAA. Both Gaskins and Muldrow are expected to play on the offensive line in college, while Powell is slated to play in the defensive back
field for the Nittany Lions.

Gaskins was a first-team all-league selection in Division I at offensive tackle, while Muldrow was a second-team Division I selection at offensive tackle.

Just about every recruiting class ranking had Pitt with the best class in the Big East. This one from Rivals.com.

Headliner: Running back LeSean McCoy is the every-down running back that Dave Wannstedt covets and needs in his offense. McCoy has excellent vision and great balance.

Sleeper: Tight end Jordan Gibbs has a huge frame. The 6-foot-7, 290 pounder has excellent feet that will likely make him a talented tackle in a few years.

Overview: After his second full year, Wannstedt has put together another impressive recruiting class. McCoy, the No. 9 prep player in the country, is the centerpiece. However, he’ll be surrounded by a lot of talent. Quarterback Pat Bostick and fellow running backsGreg Williams, Shariff Harris and Henry Hynoski will help add depth with McCoy[/db]. Players like Maurice Williams, Aundre Wright, Dom DeCicco and Kyle Hubbard should allow the Panthers to stretch the field in the future. On defense, the line got a major upgrade with defensive end Tony Tucker and tackle Tommie Duhart.

Bob Lichtenfels of Scout.com also does an article for the Johnstown paper.

Say what you want about the Pitt Panthers and their record during the past two seasons under Dave Wannstedt, but there’s no debating the man’s ability to recruit top athletes.

Today will mark Wannstedt’s third signing day and his second top-15 class in as many years.

Speaking of Mr. Lichtenfels, the Washington Post had a very good article about all the work and effort he puts into his job.

Signing day is over, but the stories are there. The local papers for the kids have the stories, and hopefully I’ll find them all. Seems that because Pitt had so many commit early — and not waiver — there wasn’t as much coverage.
Tristan Roberts hopes to be contributing to the defense as soon as possible. He also has some academic goals.

And as for in the classroom‚ Roberts was looking into becoming a chemical engineering major. He said that he is heading out in the summer to get some credits out of the way and that most of the course work for the major does not start until sophomore year.

“Hopefully I’m used to college by then‚” Roberts said.

Rich Roberts‚ Tristan’s father‚ noted that academics was a big part of the selection process.

“Our emphasis for him as far as him going to college and going to next level was academics‚ that was the No. 1 choice‚” he said. “We fought off Columbia‚ fought off Princeton‚ those guys are I-AA. Again‚ academically they’re strong‚ but financially it was a whole ’nother thing.

“We got to the point where we really got comfortable with the program at Pitt. They have a very strong academic program‚ they have a very good support system built into the academic level as far as athletics. We felt he wasn’t going to be left hanging there.”

Sherod Murdock decided to inject some fake drama into his signing day.

Two hats sat on a table in front of Middleton defensive back Sherod Murdock, one with “Pitt” printed on it, the other “Alabama.”

“But that was just for a little fun,” said Murdock, wearing his Pittsburgh hat. “You know, after everything that happened.”

Murdock orally committed to Alabama only to change his mind after Mike Shula was fired in December and later replaced by Nick Saban.

“I didn’t get that much attention” from Saban, Murdock said. “After I visited Pitt, I knew that was my new home..

He had hoped for more excitement — or at least envisioned a lot more originially — but reality was far different.
Line help, line help, line help is what Pitt needs. They got some more like John Fieger.

Fieger, meanwhile, took a lot of the pressure off himself before last season even kicked off by committing to Pitt. The 6-6, 280-pound standout was one of four offensive linemen signed by Panthers head coach Dave Wannstedt, whose recruiting class was considered among the finest in the Division I-A ranks.

The three other offensive linemen recruited alongside Fieger are all from Pennsylvania: Greg Gaskins (6-4, 280) of William Penn in York ; Chris Jacobson (6-3, 285) of Keystone Oaks; and Dan Matha (606, 310) of Erie McDowell.

Fieger, the anchor of Upper Perkiomen’s line the past two seasons, was listed among the Top 100 prospects by several recruiting services. He hopes to help get the Panthers back on a winning track after they ended last season with five consecutive losses to finish 6-6 overall.

Maybe it’s because McCoy was up in Milford Academy in New York when he signed. Maybe it was because the drama had already played out. I’d hate to think that the Harrisburg Patriot went minimalist on the signing of one of the best ever high school running backs from the area, because he didn’t go to Penn State. Instead they used the stringer piece from Dale Grdnic that was tailored to fit in other papers in Pennsylvania.

“We need to get him here as fast as we can and get him the ball,” Wannstedt said. “I really believe that, talking to him, it’s amazing how things change in the course of a year.

“Two years ago, he’s the player of the year and is going to USC or Oklahoma, but he had the unfortunate injury and had to go to a prep school.

“Then it’s between us and Penn State, and just through relentless recruiting with our coaches and our staff, we stayed with him. He’s back healthy now, and he’s matured so much now. So he’s looking forward to coming in here and competing. He’ll qualify [academically] for sure. There’ll be no question with him.”

McCoy’s presence could make some guys move to linebacker. Greg Williams, a 6-3, 215-pounder from Naples, Fla. is a Pitt favorite, but “a lot of schools were looking at him as a linebacker because he’s so big,” Wannstedt said. “But we just have more flexibility now.”

The Grdnic piece was used by the Beaver County Times, but focused on Aliquippa star Brandon Lindsey.

“Brandon Lindsey, we’re real excited about getting him,” Wannstedt said. “We think he’s one of the best linebackers, not just in Pennsylvania, but on the East Coast. He’s a quality kid. A smart guy and a tough guy. And there’s a need there, so … he’ll have an opportunity, because of special teams, mainly, to make a contribution early.”

Wannstedt referred to the loss of senior starting linebackers H.B. Blades and Clint Session from this past year’s squad. Along with Lindsey and redshirts Dan Loheyde and Nate Nix from last year’s frosh class, Pitt brought in Max Gruder and Tristan Roberts this year. Gruder is from Charlotte, N.C., and Roberts is from Perkasie, Pa. (Pennridge).

But Lindsey stands out, according to assistant head coach Bob Junko.

“The big thing about Brandon Lindsey is that he’s a tremendous student,” Junko said. “He has well over a 3.5, and that’s fantastic. … He comes from a tremendous family with great athletic ability, and he’s going to get bigger. And with the Aliquippa football program, he knows how to win and what it takes to win championships.”

And the Johnstown paper:

One of those players who committed late was 6-foot-2, 315-pound defensive lineman Wayne Jones from Bishop McCort. Jones’ signing marks the third straight year a Johnstown-area player decided to play at Pitt. Jones follows Greater Johnstown players Scott Corson and LaRod Stephens-Howling.

“Wayne was a guy that was a little bit overweight a year ago, and when we went in there in the spring we really were unsure about where he was at,” Wannstedt said. “He didn’t play basketball last year, which had a lot to do with it, but this year we watched his tape and he’s a playmaker.

“He’s got a ton of ability,” Wannstedt said. “So, now, we’ve got a 300-pounder who’s an athlete.”

The Penn Manor Comets, it turns out are sending 3, not 2, to play football at Pitt.

Section One first team defensive end and Lineman of the Year Chas Alecxih of Penn Manor will attend the University of Pittsburgh as an invited walk-on with an opportunity to earn a scholarship.

“He went to a one-day camp (at Pitt) in the summer and they liked what they saw,” Comets coach Bob Forgrave said. “The interest they showed had a lot to do with his decision. They’re excited to get him.

“I think he’ll do real well because they run the same (defensive) scheme that we do.”

Alecxih joins Comets teammate Jordan Gibbs and former section rival Pat Bostick of Manheim Township in choosing Pitt. Gibbs, a Section One first team all-star tight end/tackle, and Bostick, a first team quarterback and Section One Offensive Back of the Year, verbally committed last year to accept full scholarships.

The Erie paper barely mentions Dan Matha and Maurice Williams signing with Pitt, except in passing.
Kyle Hubbard got little (none) attention in Cleveland for signing. The interest was mainly — as usual — about Ohio State.
Greg Williams signed — though in his Florida school most of the attention was on his teammate going to Spurrier and South Carolina — with his teammates before a group of about 200.

Running back Greg Williams said yes to part-time Naples resident Dave Wannstedt at Pittsburgh.

“He said he was coming down here for Christmas break so I decided to tell him and quite frankly he was shocked,” said Williams, who is still trying to obtain the grades to be eligible in the fall.

More to come.

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