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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.

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