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August 21, 2007

Depth Chart Dealings

Filed under: Football,Players,Puff Pieces — Chas @ 2:52 pm

With the depth issue at safety (along with the O-line, QB and TE — but those are different topics) Dom DeCicco is already #2 on the depth chart — simply by virtue of showing up. He did get a jump on learning the system and has shown how much he has grasped it.

Pitt coaches alerted DeCicco of the potential to play early, and he responded by attending spring practices and team meetings to learn the defensive scheme.

“They made it known when I came here that I was going to have to learn the defense pretty quick,” DeCicco said. “We were thin at the safety position, so I knew coming in that I was going to have to be 100 percent concentrated all the time. They gave me a head’s up that if I knew what I was doing, I was going to see some time.”

…Even secondary coach Chris Ball was surprised how easily DeCicco gained a grasp of his job and how quickly it has translated into making plays in practice. DeCicco had four tackles, including one for a loss, in Pitt’s first scrimmage, and five tackles and an interception in the second.

“That’s rare,” Ball said, “because there’s so many checks and alignments that he’s got to remember to do. It’s not normal for a young kid to come in and be that aware and learn the defense the way he has.

“I knew he was a pretty good athlete from watching him on tape. As physical as he’s been, that’s always a question mark with those guys. Shoot, he’s not afraid at all.”

DeCicco verballed very early to Pitt and never waivered. As such, he didn’t get a lot of attention in the time leading up to or after signing day. If he keeps up the way he has started, he’ll be getting plenty of attention.

The depth chart won’t be given any official form until after the scrimmage on Wednesday. One area that will be of great curiosity will be how the depth chart looks for the wide receivers.

Despite the fact that Hill won’t officially name a starter at Kinder’s position opposite redshirt sophomore Oderick Turner, it has been pretty clear that redshirt junior Marcel Pestano is the front-runner. Pestano was the team’s third-leading receiver last season behind Kinder and Turner and has been one of the most consistent performers in spring practice and training camp.

He has run with the first team almost exclusively since Kinder went down, so assuming he finishes strong, he’ll likely be the guy on opening day.

The Panthers’ other two veteran receivers, sophomore T.J. Porter and redshirt sophomore Cedric McGee, also figure to play a prominent role in the offense, and Hill said those four players will take the bulk of the snaps at receiver.

Freshmen Aundre Wright and Maurice Williams will get opportunities.

It feels like there are all these opportunities for the offense with the talent at tailback, WR and TE. So much, though, will be riding on what happens with the O-line. It just keeps coming back to the line.

— A “marathon” negotiating session last week led to former Panther Darrelle Revis getting a deal done with the New York Jets. Aside from 1st overall pick JaMarcus Russell and Revis, every other 1st round pick had been signed. Revis has a bright future ahead of him, and SI’s Peter King lists him as a CB on his “All-Future Team.”

The Cleveland Browns thought enough of him to have him ranked as a top-five player in the draft this year — and the Jets thanked their lucky stars Revis was still there at No. 14. He’s got excellent cover skills and is a willing tackler.

CBS SportsLine predicts Pitt will finish sixth in the Big East over UConn and Syracuse.

6. Pittsburgh: Which way you headed, Wanny? Without a proven quarterback and six new starters on defense, Dave Wannstedt is on the hot seat. Watch roadies at Virginia and Michigan State. They will be an indicator of his future.

Pitt and Cincinnati in the 5/6 spots seem to be a toss up. And the comment about Wannstedt being on the hot seat is a bit premature; but it got some talk in the discussion thread.

Sports Illustrated devoted this week’s issue to previewing college football. They also have Pitt coming in at #6 in the BE with a 5-7 overall record and 2-5 in conference. Not a ton of love there — but they do give a nod to Oderick Turner who is going to be a little more widely known since he’s our top receiver right now.

— Both PSI and Kevin Gorman report that freshman offensive guard Chris Jacobson badly hurt his right knee and will need surgery. The procedure will like take place next week and though he will possibly miss the whole season, Wannstedt did not entirely rule him out for the rest of the year. Obviously, redshirting him is looking like the smart option.

— Beano Cook was a guest on Mark Madden’s show on ESPN Radio 1250. Cook, who Madden calls the “Pope of college football,” says Pitt’s home schedule is the worst it’s been since World War II. That’s not a joke — Beano knows. He also says that LeSean McCoy will see a ton of playing time this year and will make an immediate impact. I found it funny when Cook, at a young 75 years old, referred to McCoy as “Shady.” He also says McCoy will be Pitt’s running back for 3 years before jumping to the NFL.

A question that has been asked here last week, gets asked in Zeise’s Q&A.

Q: Is McCoy running all over Pitt’s defense a sign that we are going to get the same old horrible Pitt defense against a talented back?

ZEISE: Good question, and that’s one that we really won’t know the answer to until they play Michigan State the third week of the season. But the run defense has stuffed the offense pretty much the entire camp and I really think this team is better up front, so I don’t expect every play to be an adventure and every decent back look like Walter Payton every week, either. The thing about what McCoy did is a little different than what the typical back has done to Pitt — McCoy got a lot of his stuff on his own talent. It wasn’t like the D-line was dominated or overpowered, as has been the case in the past. Again, only time will tell but I am starting to think this defense is going to be better than it has been for a few years.

Well, at least Michigan State will also be breaking in a new QB (plus, while Pitt is 0-5-1 against MSU, they are 2-0 against Dantonio).

At least there’s depth on the defensive line. Now, show that they can tackle somebody.

A bit of love for Jeff Otah and Greg Romeus.

I was lucky enough never to have my car booted while at Pitt. Know plenty who weren’t so lucky. So, I actually sympathize with the USF player who got booted — and subsequently removed the boot.

The Sporting News lists Pitt for fifth in the Big East and in the “Scouts’ Views” adds this.

I think it takes ex-NFL coaches like Pittsburgh’s Dave Wannstedt and Syracuse’s Greg Robinson two to three years to adjust to the college game. They just aren’t used to seeing a lot of the stuff that goes on in college football — especially on third down. This isn’t the NFL. We don’t automatically pass on third-and-5.

Great. Another prognostication that says “wait until ’08.”

Paper Thin Depth

Filed under: Football,Injury — Chas @ 12:33 am

Well, here’s hoping Chris Jacobson has successful surgery on his dislocated right knee-cap.

Jacobson, a 6-foot-3, 285-pounder from Keystone Oaks, was the second-team left guard for the Panthers before getting injured during a pass-rush drill Saturday. Jacobson was wearing a protective knee brace when the injury occurred, Wannstedt said.

Wannstedt says Jacobson’s injury will require surgery, scheduled for next week, but Wannstedt didn’t rule Jacobson out for the season.

Sorry, I’m a little on the cautious side. Just red-shirt him now and don’t do anything stupid. Let him get a full rehab and time to heal from this.

Jacobson wouldn’t have been a starter this season unless Jeff Otah had gone down, but he was going to provide some (any) much needed depth for the O-line.
Mike McGlynn started actual practice on Sunday and took snaps at center with the second-team. He also took some snaps at left guard and right tackle, so who can be sure where he will be playing. If he plays at center, then the team will have a  very, very thin depth chart. It also means that Vangas just couldn’t do the job.

Well, here’s to hoping for some cliche gunk about how the team closed ranks and really came together rather than hanging their heads.

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