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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