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April 2, 2007

Future Pitt Players Honors

Filed under: Basketball,Players,Recruiting — Chas @ 1:53 pm

As Dennis noted earlier, 3 of the 5 players listed on the Pennsylvania AAAA All-State team are Pitt commits — only Nasir Robinson is only a verbal. And that DeJuan Blair is the Player of the Year. It’s excellent that Pitt is pulling in some of the best talent in the state. It also reflects, I believe, something of an upswing in the talent in Pennsylvania overall. You’re probably tired of hearing it, but the talent runs in cycles and the PA basketball talent hasn’t been particularly deep in recent years. There has been some talent, and even some very good players, but not a lot. Right now it seems that has changed a bit.

On the AAAA second-team is another player Pitt is very interested in. Dalton Pepper (Scout and Rivals put him at 4 and 3-stars at this point), a sophomore, who has a lot of interest and we may be hearing more about.

Although still a sophomore, Pepper has already started down the recruiting trail and figures to be among the most sought-after prospects in the country by the time his senior year comes around. Already, Pepper has received interest from Villanova, Syracuse, Florida, Virginia, Pittsburgh and North Carolina. He will attend the Nike camp in Las Vegas and play in several tournaments in what figures to be a huge summer for him.

Of course, we’ve been hearing about the Maryland and DC area talent upswing, so looking to incoming freshman, Darnell Dodson. He was playing in a Baltimore all-star game, called the “Charm City Challenge.” Dodson played on the “U.S. All-Stars” and led the team with 20 points and was named to the All-Tournament team. 16 of the 22 players on the teams have scholarships to Div. 1 schools (and a couple still haven’t decided).

Dodson, in case you forget is a 6’7″ forward who can stroke the ball from outside as well. In the Tournament, he won the 3-point shoot-out. He did get posterized in the tournament by Darrell Bryant, but…

He authored the highlight of the evening, a powerful one-handed dunk over Pitt commit Darnell Dodson on a breakaway. In Dodson’s defense, though, he was trying to chase the play down from behind and swoop in for a last-second block, which isn’t exactly commonplace in all-star games.

Imagine that, the kid tries to play defense at an all-star game. That’s encouraging.

Women’s Hoops Gets Good News

Filed under: Basketball,Injury,Players — Dennis @ 11:23 am

Coming off the best Pitt women’s basketball season in the history of the program, the team got even better news from the suits of the NCAA. Mallorie Winn, one of if not Pitt’s best player, did not play all of last year because of a knee injury. She was granted another year of eligibility however, so she will get to play this year.

Winn was recruited to Georgia Tech by Agnus Berenato, playing one season under Berenato with the Yellow Jackets. Following her sophomore season, Winn transferred to Pitt to rejoin her former coach. Forced to sit out a redshirt season due to the transfer, the December 2006 Pitt graduate had to petition the NCAA in order to receive a sixth year of eligibility, which was granted on Wednesday.

In 2005-06 she was the team’s starting PG and second-team All-Big East. Returning almost all of the team that made it to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament this past season and adding Winn, look for another tourney bid next year.

Decoding Spring Practice

Filed under: Football,Practice — Chas @ 9:45 am

You know, I’m starting to get the sense from reports that there still is no separation amongst the running backs in the scrimmage. The numbers have tended to look similar and it is just a different back each day who “looked good” or better then the others.

Shane Brooks led all rushers with nine carries for 48 yards and a touchdown, followed by LaRod Stephens-Howling (7-46, TD) and Kevin Collier (10-45, TD).

That doesn’t really say much since it is completely unclear who was doing these things against first or second team defense. Still, already this spring we’ve been told that Collier, Stephens-Howling and Brooks have all looked good during various scrimmages. Who knows? Maybe they all are performing very well. Maybe the run defense is unchanged. Either way, without any apparent separation amongst the present backs, LeSean McCoy should feel pretty good about his chances when he comes in this summer — and there may be an even stronger clamor by the fans for him to play.

Otherwise, from the Saturday practice the team was inconsistent on both sides of the ball. Nothing about that should be surprising. It’s spring drills. You expect the head coach to grouse a little about the lack of consistency and the need to improve. And you expect a lot of mistakes and unanswered questions.

John Bachman and Kevan Smith are struggling to work on the Center-QB exchange. Darrell Strong keeps getting positive reviews in the camp. Nate Byham is definitely pushing him for playing time at the TE. Eijah Fields had a nice interception as did Shane Murray.

Offense will be interesting. Pitt is strongest at TE and WR. There is depth and lots of skill there. If the QB position gets settled quickly, it will be a challenge for Pitt not to throw the ball a good deal. As much as Wannstedt wants to run, the potential with the passing game is huge. Considering the questions of the O-line, a lot of short-passing and screens might be in the future.

The ongoing one-on-one battle between Jason Pinkston and Greg Romeus is apparently worth watching. What the players seem to lack in skill and knowledge at their respective positions they are making up for with enthusiasm and hits.

Pinkston, Pitt’s right offensive tackle, and Romeus, the left defensive end, have collided nearly every spring practice session and provided a premier matchup during the Panthers’ intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday morning.

Pinkston appears to have gotten the better of Romeus, for the most part, during the past two weeks in practice, but the defensive end did have a sack, a pass breakup and three tackles during the scrimmage.

“You’d like to have 22 freshmen like that, with that type of ability and futures that they have,” Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. “They’re both going to be great players for us here.”

Both are still learning their positions and from that perspective, I would think it might be better to switch them up periodically on the 1st and 2nd teams to have them go against guys with more skill and knowledge at the position. The whole, “they’re just football players and they make plays” thing sounds good but tends to be code for raw, undisciplined and set up to be exposed when playing against someone who knows what they are doing with their hands and footwork on the line.

More Mike Cruz

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 8:26 am

A verbal commit is always a little special when it is clear how enthusiastic the kid is to want to come to Pitt. Mike Cruz definitely made it clear.

“Pitt’s been my dream school,” Cruz said. “It’s always been my favorite school.

“My head football coach (Ken Salem) told me to wait a little longer, but I couldn’t wait anymore. I wanted to make it official and let everyone know Pitt was it for me.”

He’s one of the top TE prospects, and also appears to have quite the tolerance for pain. He tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee last year and played 3 more games after that. Not necessarily the smartest decision, but damn tough.

That’s what makes the comment from his high school coach so, um, amusing.

“He has been rehabbing his ACL since the beginning of December,” Salem said. “We are trying to be very careful with him. We will be working to try to enhance his speed over the summer. The sky’s the limit for him.”

Careful in the rehab only, apparently.

Given the depth and stockpiling of talent at TE, I don’t think Pitt will be taking anymore at that position unless it is with the idea of moving them somewhere else.

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