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March 31, 2007

Yes, Herb Pope — a once Pitt recruit — was shot.

I don’t know what to say. I was happy that he didn’t sign with Pitt, and the thought that it might do him some good to have a fresh start from so many of his entourage and hanger-ons deep in the Southwest was a reasonable wish.

He has had a horrible past year from the standpoint of perceptions. He got tossed out of an AAU Tournament game. He nearly transferred — again. He finally signed with New Mexico State to the relief of many. Then there was his behavior after Aliquippa blew the lead in the final 3:50 of the Class AA PIAA championship game.

I hope Pope has a full recovery. I hope he can still play ball at New Mexico State. I really hope that he finally realizes that his basketball talent won’t excuse all the other things he does with his life. The bullets that tore through his flesh like any one else, are about the most physical representation of not being invulnerable or that special.

Shameless Cross Promotion

Filed under: Basketball,Bloggers,liveblog — Chas @ 1:41 pm

Not much news on Pitt. Hope a lot of students went to “Blue Chip Day.”

The only story was on the Center position. I’m betting Vangas will be the starter. Bachman is still learning and it just seems that he is going to need more time with that ankle.

This evening, of course will be the Final Four. I’m going to be providing the live-blog for the games at AOL Fanhouse tonight around 6. Michael David Smith (also of Football Outsiders) will also be adding additional posts and thoughts as the game goes on.

This means pacing myself on the beer. I will be starting with Chouffe Houblon Dobbelen IPA Tripel. It’s a Belgian I picked up yesterday. Given the high alcohol content (9%) and the flavor, I should be able to go at a slower tempo.

After that, it will be nursing the New Castles.

March 30, 2007

Hey, everyone. On the road today. This post coming to you from a Whole Foods (free Wi-Fi) in Dublin, Ohio (Columbus suburb). I generally have nothing against the ‘burbs (especially since I live in one) and I don’t have that knee-jerk elitist complaint of cookie-cutter shopping, eating and development. Well, let’s just call Dublin the exception that proves the rule. Jeez, this place makes my teeth hurt from grinding them. From their faux-historic downtown (that isn’t fooling anyone) to this hideous development off of Avery-Murfield Rd. (I think it’s called Avery Square) that insists on trying to make the whole shopping development looks like brick house condo developments — to the point that even the signage has to blend. Which actually makes it damn impossible to locate stores at many points of the day with sun glare because reddish-brown signs against brick tend to blend. Urgh. Sorry, just needed to vent.

Not much happening anyways. Dorin Dickerson’s ankle is hurting so he’s out of practice. Bill Stull is slightly ahead of Kevan Smith to no one’s surprise. The big thing will be this weekend’s “Blue Chip Day” for recruits.

Elijah Fields is going to have to work on shedding a reputation.

“He’s got the natural athletic ability that you look for in a great football player: He’s flexible. He’s fast. He’s strong. He’s explosive. He runs. He jumps. He’s tough,” said new secondary coach Chris Ball, who coached All-Americans Lamont Thompson and Marcus Trufant at Washington State. “He’s got all those things that you just can’t coach in kids. He’s got all the tools to be a great one, but the great ones learned the defense and applied it, so he’s got to be able to do that part of it.”

What Fields struggled with was the off-field transition from WPIAL Class A at Duquesne, where he was the state’s 2005 Player of the Year, to life in a major-college program at Pitt.

No one is at all questioning his talent. What they are questioning is his head and heart. Probably the latter more then than the former. Does he want to learn what to do? Does he want the greatness that so many seem to believe he could achieve? He is in a program and a higher level where he can’t just coast on his athleticism and float around doing his thing. He has to know assignments and work within the unit.

March 29, 2007

Right after the UCLA loss, Coach Jamie Dixon was about as down as he gets about losing. His quote

“It feels like a loss, and a bad one, a disappointing end-of-year loss,” Dixon said after a 64-55 defeat Thursday to Howland-coached UCLA in the West Regional. “I’m trying to remember the 29 wins. I only seem to be remembering this loss.”

And if you saw the press conference, you could see how hard it was on him to lose that game.

So, now a week later Mike Prisuta takes his run at the team losing in the Sweet 16. He seems particularly bothered that Pitt and especially Coach Dixon would mention the good side to this team.

The impression left by coach Jamie Dixon is that Pitt desperately wants to win more than two games a tournament and experience firsthand what all the real fuss is about every March. The trouble is, Dixon has a tendency to rationalize Pitt’s continued inability to get knee deep in the Madness, as he did on a recent appearance on Fox Sports Radio 970’s “Bendel and Benz” show.

“Schools would die to have the success we’ve had, even though that doesn’t diminish the disappointment we had,” Dixon said.

Then, why bring it up?

As for Pitt’s “success,” Dixon went over the top in assessing that when asked whether this year’s Sweet 16 exit was the most disappointing of the four in the past six years.

So, Coach Dixon goes on a radio show and defends his team and the program? That he won’t rip his players? That’s the problem? That he didn’t rend his shirt on the air and scream, “why? Oh, why can’t we win?”
I’m not sure that Dixon could win this no matter what. He said he was disappointed. He wants to win. Everyone was disappointed by the outcome. That he put anything positive on the season apparently bothered Prisuta to no end.

That’s crap. Part of Dixon’s job is to go out in the public, the fans, the alumni, the boosters and the media and sell the school and the team. Part of that is not just to talk about what you want to accomplish, but to also discuss what has been accomplished. To put it in a positive light.

This isn’t settling for some above average mediocrity. It’s selling the good in the program to date.

Taken Not Hacked

Filed under: Bloggers,Uncategorized — Chas @ 10:57 am

Hey, I can see in the comments there’s a lot of wondering what is happening with Dokish’s old blog.

I don’t know why he quit it or anything like that. I can explain some of what you are seeing now based on my understanding of Blogspot.

Dokish didn’t just quit and abandon his blog. He took it down. Deleted it. That’s why there was a 404 message for a day or two. That meant he deleted it, all the archives and the name from Blogger and the Blogspot servers. That also meant that he gave up the name on Blogspot.

He had used one of many standard templates that Blogger offers for blogs. It was not something of his.
So it is safe to surmise that someone simply set up a new Blogger account and used the old name since it was now free once more. Then they set up the blog, using the same template.

There was no hacking in this case. Simply someone taking shots at the old blog right on Blogger (and now you know why I haven’t deleted my old Blogspot site despite having all the files transferred to Pitt Blather).

While on blog stuff, a quick note in the blog roll to a new Pitt blog, Pitt Panther Fans. Be sure to stop by and say hello.

Paul Zeise has his first Q&A. He likes what he sees from some of the players.

That being said, several players have really stood out to me. Jason Pinkston, for one, can become a standout tackle. He has really jumped out among linemen and his athleticism and strength are easy to see.

Shane Brooks seems to be running harder and seems a little quicker as well — he could be a factor in the backfield, particularly since he is also getting reps at fullback.

T.J. Porter and Darrell Strong both seem to have decided it was time to try to maximize their potential and both have had an excellent run thus far in the spring.

Marcel Pestano looks like he might become a star and Derek Kinder just keeps getting better as well. Corner Aaron Berry is feisty and physical and more importantly an excellent shut down corner.

I think the thing that isn’t a shock, so I don’t know why I was hoping. Pinkston was the only one on the  line that he noted is standing out. We may be watching the QB battles and who will be the primary back. Let’s face it, though, the lines have been the biggest problem and it is just not clear how much that is changing for this year. If Pitt is going to have any success this year, the line play on both sides just has to be significantly better.

That said, it’s probably not fair to judge yet on the lines no matter how much anxiety they generate. Instead I’ll turn to my favorite negative slant on the football team — Paul Rhoads.

Q: Do you think keeping on staff and then moving Paul Rhoads from secondary to linebacker coach is a good move or not? Do you think Paul Rhoads likes the move?

ZEISE: The move gives Paul Rhoads a chance to be involved more in the run defense as well as the pass defense. This is the model that Dave Wannstedt has used ever since he has been a head coach or coordinator and everyone on the staff seems more comfortable with it. This has enabled Wannstedt to hire Chris Ball as secondary coach, and I think he has been tremendous for this team. And talking to the players and watching some of the things he’s been working with the players on, he is going to be a major asset. I have talked to a number of coaches and all of them tell me the same thing — Rhoads is an excellent football coach.

First, observe that Zeise actually never answered the question of whether it was a good move or not to keep Rhoads. He says that Wannstedt is happy with the new approach. That Chris Ball was a great hire and will really help the team in the secondary from a coaching standpoint (I don’t disagree). Then, that other, unnamed coaches think Rhoads is an “excellent” coach. Of course, generally opposing coaches love and think very highly of other coaches who they own. The last thing they want to see is a coach they can beat tossed over the side.

March 28, 2007

Passing This Note Along

Filed under: Fans,Football,Recruiting — Dennis @ 7:08 pm

Pitt students, if you have nothing to do this Saturday, maybe you should think about attending Student Day at Spring Practice. From an e-mail from the Panther Pitt…

Hey Panther Fans,

You are all invited by Coach Wannstedt to attend a DAY AT SPRING PRACTICE!!! On March 31st, Coach Wannstedt has invited everyone to come to the south side complex and watch a spring practice. Buses will start leaving the Union at 10am and will be returning around 12:45pm. At the event, we will be touring the practice facility, having lunch, and watching the team prepare for the upcoming football season. Also, at the conclusion of the event we will be having a raffle and giving away some great prizes including SEASON TICKETS!!! Buses will begin leaving the Union at 10am, so get there early!

Also, while not required, we request that you please respond to this email or RSVP on the Facebook group so we can have an good approximation of the number of students to expect.

We can’t wait to see you there for a very exciting day!

Please RSVP to thepantherpitt@gmail.com

It’s also blue chip junior day, and if you don’t believe that these kinds of things don’t get fans attention, just look at how LeSean McCoy reacted to the great support fans showed for College Gameday in January.

Basketball in the Future

Filed under: Basketball,Players,Recruiting — Chas @ 4:32 pm

So, I see from the comments that there was some notice that Seth Davis at SI.com essentially said the obvious near the end of his column.

As good a player as I think Pittsburgh center Aaron Gray is, it will be interesting to see how the Panthers do next season without him. My hunch is they will be smaller, quicker and deploy a more up-tempo attack, all of which should be to their benefit.

It seems rather obvious when you look at the players returning, who redshirted and are coming in that Pitt will be more up-tempo.

Speaking of players coming in next year. Bradley Wannamaker was named the Philadelphia Daily News Player of the Year (Hat tip to Matt T.).

Wanamaker, a 6-4, 200-pound senior wing guard for Roman Catholic High, and bound for the University of Pittsburgh, is our choice for Player of the Year in connection with the 2006-07 Daily News All-City Basketball Team, comprised of players from Public, Catholic and Inter-Ac schools.

Roman entered the season with no one taller than 6-4, and no one remotely resembling a power forward or center. It did have Wanamaker, and his impressive combination of skill and desire and leadership, and everything fell into place.

Wanamaker willed the Cahillites to a 28-3 overall record, a surprising Catholic League title (Ss. Neumann-Goretti was everyone’s favorite) and a season-closing winning streak that reached 16 games with success (over N-G) in the championship game of the prestigious Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament, at Frostburg (Md.) State.

He averaged 17.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.1 steals.

Congrats to Wannamaker. Lots of talent coming in next season. It’s essentially two recruiting classes in one for next season since this past season’s group was redshirted.

No, Pitt has no one on the incoming class named to the McDonald’s All-American Team. I can’t say that’s completely shocking. Look at the rosters. There is only one player from NYC/NJ — Corey Stokes. He’s going to Villanova. There’s a reason Coach Dixon started shifting the recruiting emphasis from the concentration on just that area in the past year.

Then look on the rosters for the number of players from the metro DC/MD/VA area. Metro NYC/NJ is in a down cycle with talent and depending too much on one area is tough. So, while that whole NY-pipeline thing makes a nice story, it’s not particularly smart for the long-term. That’s why I was so happy last summer when it was clear that Pitt was spreading out in areas for recruiting.

In no way am I even considering diminishing the job John Thompson III has done with Georgetown — and believe me it isn’t easy to actually like a Georgetown team — because it has been a tremendous job (not to mention pointing out what a piss-poor coach Escherick (sp?) was). Still, it is worth noting the upswing in talent that the Hoyas are now recruiting in their backyard does coincide with their return to national prominence. Having JTIII and getting them to come to G-town over Maryland and the host of other ACC schools trying to get them is still a big deal.

Rooting Interests

Filed under: Football,Players,Practice — Chas @ 2:07 pm

I have to admit, I’m rooting for Kevin Collier to succeed at Pitt as a primary running back. Yes, he was one of the bigger offensive recruits Pitt was able to get in Wannstedt’s first recruiting class. Yes, he’s got a younger brother who could be an even bigger blue chip player, and I’d love to see him commit as well. What I really like about Collier, though, is that he is smart and one of those solid team players. He came to Pitt as soon as he graduated (yeah, I was dead wrong about that prediction of him playing early). And he wants the team to succeed.

“I call LeSean all the time and tell him to get in his playbook,” Collier said. “I’m excited because I think all of us are getting so much better and we’re pushing each other. This is the right place for me because we run the ball. We’re all going to get a shot.

“Coaches have just been telling us — take advantage of every opportunity you get and that’s where my focus is. I want to help us win, that’s all.”

Collier wanted to redshirt last year, but Brandon Mason transferred and Stephens-Howling got hurt, so the Panthers were left with only two healthy tailbacks for several weeks.

He learned quickly that he didn’t know nearly as much about the position as he thought and he also realized he needed to work on the other duties of a running back such as blocking and catching passes.

I’m not that opposed to having more then one RB. The whole feature back approach seems overblown. Auburn did pretty well with two backs. The NFL has teams increasingly going to not relying on just one back. It’s part of the trend unless one RB is just so much better than the others — or the coach’s preference. As for Pitt and the idea that the opposition will know what or where the run is coming. Given Pitt’s running game and O-line the last few years, I can’t say Pitt should even be concerned about that problem.

With Mike McGlynn’s shoulder surgery sidelining him until at least the fall practices, Jason Pinkston has slid into his spot at right tackle.

The coaching staff is intrigued by Pinkston, an athletic, 6-foot-4, 310-pound sophomore from Baldwin. He converted from defensive tackle last season when John Bachman was lost to a broken leg and backed up both tackle positions.

“It’s going to be a real big step, to step in as a sophomore and start at right tackle,” Pinkston said. “I’m not 100 percent on my assignments, but I’m working on it to get them right.”

Although Dunn said Pinkston is “light years” away from being where Pitt needs him to be, he has the qualities the Panthers are looking for. Pinkston has shown an eagerness to learn, a willingness to work and, most importantly, the athleticism to play the position.

Um, uh. Get well quickly Mike McGlynn.

Coach Wannstedt was giving love to the linebackers.

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt praised the play of linebackers Dorin Dickerson and Shane Murray in Saturday’s scrimmage as a “positive,” then made some changes in the linebacker corps Tuesday. Murray moved ahead of Nate Nix as first-team weak-side linebacker, while Dickerson switched to second-team weak-side linebacker with Nix moving to the strong side.

“What showed up with both of them, they’re probably 25 percent of where they need to be mentally as far as learning the defense,” Wannstedt said. “But the most important qualities, the toughness and the way they run to the ball and chase the ball and the effort they give, showed they’re going to be good players.”

Boy, it’s a good thing this is the spring practices. A guy on the OL is “light years” from where he needs to be and the converted linebackers are at 25%. That’s roughly about where my optimism and expectations are right now.

Other things to note. Elijah Fields was back practicing with the team after his suspension. Some players went at each other — as the scrimmages got heated at time. That seems normal. Aaron Berry was tossed off of the field when he got into it a bit with DC Paul Rhoads. Berry apparently wanted to make a non-contact drill into a contact one. A real problem with Rhoads, since we all know how much he hates the corners having any contact.

March of Recruiting Linebackers

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 9:00 am

I keep reading about how recruiting is getting faster and faster, how Texas, USC and a bunch of other schools are already locking up verbals (yes, I know Pitt already has a couple as well). Why the hell there isn’t an early signing period is beyond me. You know the coaches want it so they don’t have to keep babysitting and hand-holding the committed recruits. The kids wouldn’t mind or else they wouldn’t make the early verbals in futile attempts to just get the rest of the recruiting schools to back-off just a little. Basketball has one. I don’t understand why it hasn’t happened. It wouldn’t slow down the increased recruiting cycle, but it couldn’t hurt.

Apparently one of the top-linebackers in the country is down in Washington, PA. Andrew Sweat is being wooed by all the major names.

Sweat’s phone may see more action after the release of the ESPN 150, which ranks the nation’s top high school football players.

According to the list, the first-team all-stater is the No. 11 player in the country and the nation’s highest rated linebacker.

Sweat found out the news while on a recruiting trip to Florida, the defending national champions.

“I was in Florida this past weekend when Coach (Urban) Meyer congratulated me on being the number-one linebacker in the country,” Sweat said. “At first, I thought he was like, ‘You’re our number-one linebacker.’ When he told me about the ranking, I was like, ‘Whoa. That’s pretty cool.’ There are a lot of kids playing high school football.”

The only good news is that despite sounding a bit star struck at times, Pitt is in the mix and he doesn’t plan to decide until at least June.

Sweat, whose father Gary played at Syracuse after two years of varsity football at Avella, estimates he has 28 scholarship offers and his share of interesting recruiting stories.

“I’m at Ohio State and I’m sitting at a table with Chris Speilman, A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter and a few other guys and they’re trying to get me to go to their school,” Sweat said. “I idolize these guys and I’m sitting there with them.”

He lists his top five choices as Florida, Ohio State, Penn State, Notre Dame and Pitt.

Another linebacker getting recruited hard is out of Youngstown, OH, Brandon Beachum.

Beachum said that Pittsburgh, LSU, Oklahoma and Penn State have been recruiting him the hardest. “Pittsburgh offered me in December,” he said. “That really impressed me because each coach sent me a personalized, handwritten letter. I thought that showed a lot of class. I was just there on Friday (March 23). I had a great time. I got to watch practice, which was great.

“Then I sat down with Coach (Dave) Wannstedt and had a great talk. He told me that with all of his experience, I’d be in the best position to be successful in the NFL in his hands with him coaching me…a great situation. He does have a lot of experience and knows what it takes to make it in pro ball. I like the fact that it’s only three hours away too.”

Either that’s a misquote on the distance, or he takes a very strange way to the ‘Burgh.

March 27, 2007

Around the Offense

Filed under: Football,Practice — Chas @ 10:08 am

Good news, the O-line is feeling confident and they think they’ve got something vital.

“We really only lost (center Joe) Villani and Simo (guard John Simonitis), but Joe stepped in when he was injured,” [C.J.] Davis said. “So, we’re not too bad off. We’ve got a lot of leadership in place right now. We have to keep working at it.

“With (strength coach) Buddy (Morris) here now, we all feel stronger already. It’s not going to fall together in a day, but the more we work together the more we’ll develop the cohesiveness that’s needed.”

Yes, leadership. That’s what the O-line needs to have. Personally, I’d prefer the ability to protect the QB and/or open holes for the running backs but that’s just me.

Davis noted that while it might take a little time to develop a solid rapport with Vangas, he had no doubt that the entire offensive line would be running smoothly when training camp got under way in August.

“We just have to get more used to playing with each other,” Davis said. “We’re getting all the kinks out right now, but that’s what the spring is for. When we come back for training camp, we’ll just be fine-tuning things for the season. And Vangas, he’s very similar to Villani in a lot of ways.

“Vangas is very smart, and he’s a very solid center. But we’re just a little rusty right now. We’re getting better, though, and once everything gets flowing at a good pace, we can worry about the physical part of it. So, basically, we’re working hard right now to gain consistency.”

Keep in mind that the first scrimmage the Collier was able to go 65 yards on 11 carries and the QBs were live but able to go 30-34. Even the O-line has to discount their performance against the Pitt defense.

As for the running game, RB Coach David Walker seems very content with running back by committee and situational use.

“Sure, we’d like to ride a guy, if he can handle a lot of carries,” Walker said. “But our only concern is moving the sticks on offense. Whichever running back carries the load, it really doesn’t matter to me. Right now, I think we’ll probably use all of our tailbacks and even our fullback, Conredge Collins, but we’ll see what happens when the season rolls around.”

Yeah, we haven’t heard much about Collins yet. Of course Paul Zeise hasn’t started his Q&A for spring practices to tell everyone that Collins is the big bruising kind of guy Pitt needs to use yet.

That Horrible Blend

Filed under: Football,Practice — Chas @ 8:01 am

of experience and inexperience on defense.

We all know that the team is practically starting from scratch with the linebacking corp. Given the inexperience, position changes and huge, glaring question marks at that spot it is not unreasonable to wonder if it will even be the same kids starting come the season opener. The linebacker depth chart seems to be the ripest area for some of the incoming freshmen to have a chance and really impact in the fall. I’m not wishing or hoping for anyone’s failure. I’d love to see Justin Hargrove come all the way back from his injury and the position change, not to mention Dorin Dickerson turn out to be a linebacker savant. It’s just the questions at that area — and being coached directly by Paul Rhoads — make it terrifying.

Not that I should worry with the experienced D-line up front to help.

That’s part of what makes DE Greg Romeus so intriguing. His shear athleticism and potential as he is still learning the game with only one year of high school football makes him a project with so much “upside.”

“He has the ability to make plays, and you can’t teach that,” Gattuso said. “You can’t teach a kid to jump and intercept a pass or knock it down, or to recover and run the quarterback down on a bootleg. He’s got some really good abilities that God gave him. It’s just kind of refining him with what we can give him with what was naturally there.”

Where Romeus has flashed his athleticism through the first three practices, batting down several passes and chasing down plays in the backfield, he also has struggled to adapt to the nuances of the game. Pitt’s quarterbacks used long snap counts to draw him to jump before the snap Tuesday, and he had difficulty using his hands to shed blocks.

“It’s still all new to me,” Romeus said. “Learning the plays and trying to do the basics, all the footwork, is something that’s hard for me. I’m getting used to it the more and more we practice.”

Scary with the learning curve, but intriguing nonetheless.

Then there’s the secondary. Beyond the obvious question of how much of a drop-off will there be without Darrelle Revis. The early signs are that it’s Aaron Berry’s  job to  lose  and Kennard Cox will be back on the other side. It will be interesting to see if new Secondary Coach Chris Ball does anything noticeably different with getting them ready. It’s hard to imagine the actual schemes and the kind of coverage changing with the same guy still running the full defense.

The biggest question mark is whether Mike Phillips is all the way back from his horrific ankle injury of 2005. The senior has been a team leader and very much one of the stand-up guys on the team. Last year, though, his on the field performance wasn’t there. He was a couple steps slow and looked very tentative about making cuts. Assuming Elijah Fields keeps things together off-the-field and makes his workouts, Fields will be pushing for starting time.

March 26, 2007

Aaron Gray has been put up as a finalist for the prestigious John R. Wooden Award, and although he probably won’t win, it’s still a nice thing to have happen.

Pitt Senior Aaron Gray has been nominated for the prestigious 2007 John R. Wooden Award. Gray along with 21 other Division I Men’s Basketball student-athletes have earned a place on the final ballot for the 2007 Wooden Award. For the first time in Wooden Award history, college basketball fans will be able to cast their vote for the Wooden Award Player of the Year.

Created in 1976, the John R. Wooden Award is the most prestigious individual honor in college basketball. It is bestowed upon the nation’s best player at an institution of higher education who has proven to his or her university that he or she is making progress toward graduation and maintaining a cumulative 2.0 GPA. Previous winners include such notables as Larry Bird (’79), Michael Jordan (’84), Tim Duncan (’97), Andrew Bogut (’05), and last year’s recipients, Seimone Augustus (’06) and J.J. Redick (’06).

This is the first year where fans can vote, which is complete garbage. After we found out that places like Duke and UNC have the most number of fans (most of them bandwagon), then players from said places will likely have an easier time gaining more fan vote.

If you want to join in on the voting, go here.

Line Watching

Filed under: Football,Players,Practice — Chas @ 8:46 am

What to expect from the O-line? Damned if I know. I keep reading how it’s going to be a good thing to have a number of the starters from last year back. I guess it is for the writers who don’t have to learn new names. Probably a good thing from a continuity stand point, but I remain doubtful as to how good a thing it is to have a porous O-line returning in-tact. But, there are the positive feelings.

Pitt’s starting left guard for the third straight season will be 6-foot-2, 300-pound junior C.J. Davis from West Allegheny. His backup is 6-3, 290-pound redshirt sophomore Craig Bokor from Hopewell, while the backup center is 6-4, 280-pound redshirt sophomore John Bachman from Moon Area.

The other starters are 6-2, 295-pound fifth-year senior Chris Vangas at center, while 6-5, 285-pound sophomore Joe Thomas is the right guard. The tackles are 6-6, 340-pound senior Jeff Otah on the left and 6-5, 315-pound fifth-year senior Mike McGlynn on the right side.

“We really only lost (center Joe) Villani and Simo (guard John Simonitis), but Joe stepped in when he was injured,” Davis said. “So, we’re not too bad off. We’ve got a lot of leadership in place right now. We have to keep working at it.

“With (strength coach) Buddy (Morris) here now, we all feel stronger already. It’s not going to fall together in a day, but the more we work together the more we’ll develop the cohesiveness that’s needed.”

Davis and McGlynn are approaching their third and fourth seasons, respectively, as starters, while Otah and Thomas will be in their second. Vangas is a first-year starter, but he was the backup the past three. His patience and work ethic gives hope to players like Bachman and Bokor, who have hung in through several position changes in their careers.

Mike McGlynn might be questionable for a while. He had an MRI on his injured shoulder and it suggests that even if there is no major damage, he probably won’t be doing much in the spring scrimmages just as a precaution.

The third string center is redshirt freshman Shane Corson, who is still in the transition to learning the position.

Pitt offensive line coach Paul Dunn noted that there are still a couple factors that are holding Corson back a bit.

“Scott’s a ways away, but he’s our third-team center,” Dunn said. “He’s still young. Don’t forget, he’s still a true freshman and will be a redshirt freshman in the fall. So, he’s very young and has a lot to learn. So, just that inexperience is a factor, and he also needs to get in the weight room.

“His strength and agility improvement needs to increase. He’s worked hard to this point, so hopefully he’ll continue to get better physically as we go along here. Right now, though, he’s not anywhere close to where he needs to be. So, it’s a slow process for him, but he’s moving along.”

Some might believe that progress is at a snail’s pace, but Corson isn’t deterred about his situation with the Panthers.

“It gets frustrating, at times, but I’m happy with the way that I’ve progressed so far,” Corson said. “It’s just hard to learn the playbook, but in the long run I’m happy about everything. Coach says whoever sticks around is going to play, so I just have to stick with it.”

The other good news, is that he’s slimmed down a lot with the conditioning over the last two years. He came to Pitt around 315 and is now down to 285 to 280.

Cracking The Whip

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Practice,Wannstedt — Chas @ 7:38 am

Well, the nebulous, “suspended for violating team rules,” is still a vague reason, it has claimed 3 casualties this year. Tommie Campbell (Junior, Linebacker) and Corey Davis (Junior, Nose Tackle) are no longer expected to return to the team — unofficially. The third, sophomore safety Elijah Fields gets to begin attending meetings again today, and practice with the team on Tuesday.

I have to be honest, I didn’t think it was a big shock that Coach Wannstedt was serious about following team rules and staying out of trouble. His multiple game suspension of Darrell Strong last year for flipping off USF fans was a rather clear message when most schools let it go with an “apology” by the player (Syracuse and VT come to mind). For the most part, it’s not like Coach Wannstedt has been lax in kicking kids out of practice or sitting them out of games if their effort or attitude is in question. So, it’s not totally news, but in the spring practices you take what you can get.
The suspensions for all three, in part at least, stemmed from the off-season workouts overseen by Buddy Morris.

That didn’t last long. Morris created accountability among the players by separating them into groups by position. When one player missed an assignment, his group mates had to run early the next morning. A second miss required the entire offense or defense to run. A third offense?

“You wouldn’t want that,” quarterback Bill Stull said, “because it would mean the whole team would have to come.”

That, apparently, played a role in the suspensions. Some players went to Wannstedt after repeated slip-ups to demand action be taken; otherwise, they said, they would take it upon themselves.

“It got to a point that you were ready to fight the person who was missing – ‘we’re going to beat you up’ – because we were tired of running,” Phillips said. “Things got really heated because we had to run for one person. It got the message across.”

Vigilante justice in the locker room. Love it.

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