That’s right spring practice begins in mid-March. March 17 to be exact, and culminates with the Blue-Gold Scrimmage on April 16. As usual, I will bitch about how I wish they would be like some of the other schools and not start the practices until the end of March, and have the Spring game late in April. I really will bitch, if the weather is anything approaching the misery of last spring’s scrimmage.
More in a moment, the bigger news is that Coach Todd Graham (I may not get used to typing that until the end of spring, at the earliest) has made his final hire on the staff.
His name: Randall McCray. He will handle the safeties and special teams.
University of Pittsburgh head football coach Todd Graham announced the final appointment on his coaching staff today with the hiring of Randall McCray as safeties coach and special teams coordinator.
Entering his 21st year in the collegiate coaching ranks, McCray spent the 2010 season at Middle Tennessee State, where he was the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. Prior to MTSU, he spent four years at Wisconsin (2006-09) and helped the Badgers to bowl berths each season.
In his lone season at Middle Tennessee State, McCray helped the Blue Raiders earn a berth in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. His defense ranked 10th nationally in tackles for loss (7.38 TFLs/game) and 17th in quarterback sacks (2.62 sacks/game) while featuring the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year in end Jamari Lattimore. Among Sun Belt teams, MTSU yielded the lowest yards per rush and ranked second in pass efficiency defense.
At Wisconsin, McCray coached the defensive line (2006-07), outside linebackers (2008) and safeties (2009). He was the Badgers’ recruiting coordinator his final two seasons in Madison.
Wisconsin went 38-14 during McCray’s tenure, advancing to four consecutive bowl games. The 2006 Badgers featured one of the country’s elite defenses en route to a 12-1 record and No. 5 ranking in the final USA Today coaches poll. Wisconsin limited opponents to just 12.1 points (second best nationally) and 253.1 yards (fifth best) per game that year. In 2009 the Badgers held every Big Ten opponent to less than 100 yards rushing, an unprecedented achievement in Wisconsin history.
Five of McCray’s Wisconsin players were on NFL rosters this past season, including All-Big Ten defensive lineman Matt Shaughnessy, a member of the Oakland Raiders and 2009 Pro Football Writers’ All-Rookie selection. Additionally, linebacker DeAndre Levy (Detroit Lions), defensive tackle Nick Hayden (Carolina Panthers), linebacker Jonathan Casillas (New Orleans Saints) and safety Chris Maragos (San Francisco 49ers) were in the professional ranks.
Prior to Wisconsin, McCray coached the defensive line and linebackers at Toledo from 2003-05.
That’s right. McCray was on the Toledo coaching staff that beat Pitt in 2003. Other than that, McCray looks like a solid hire. The fact that he was also recruiting coordinator at Wisconsin in 2008 and 09 is a very good sign. Especially when you look at Andy Staples at SI.com’s piece on re-ranking the recruiting classes of 2008, that puts Wisconsin at #7.
2008 Rivals.com rank: 41
2008 Scout.com rank: 26
Record since 2008: 28-11
Conference titles: 1 (shared)
2010 starters/major contributors: TE Jake Byrne, LB Kevin Claxton, CB Antonio Fenelus, C Peter Konz, P Brad Nortman, CB Devin Smith, LB Mike Taylor, OG Kevin Zeitler
Analysis: The Badgers signed a solid group of future starters in this class. The list includes Konz, the 300-pound potential NFL center who earned even more respect from me by dropping a reference to the Articles of Confederation in an interview. But the guy who puts this class over the top isn’t a signee. It’s a transfer from Central Michigan who came to Madison as a walk-on. His name? J.J. Watt. We’ll now pause and let Big Ten offensive tackles recover from the traumatic memories of all their unsuccessful attempts to block Watt, the 6-foot-6, 292-pounder who will terrorize NFL quarterbacks next season.
McCray has experience coaching all over the defense and somewhat surprisingly was lured away from a DC position (albeit in the Sun Belt conference) to be a position coach.
In other good football news, Pitt had 17 players earn all-academic Big East honors.
|Pat Bostick ^||JR*||QB||Lancaster, Pa.||Communications|
|Myles Caragein #||JR*||DL||Pittsburgh, Pa.||Mathematics|
|Pat Costello ^||SO*||DB||Greensburg, Pa.||Civil Engineering|
|Dom DeCicco||SR||DB||Jefferson Hills, Pa.||Communications|
|Kolby Gray||FR*||DB||Houston, Texas||School of Arts & Sciences|
|Max Gruder ^||JR*||LB||Charlotte, N.C.||Business Marketing|
|Kevin Harper||SO*||PK||Mentor, Ohio||Business Finance|
|Henry Hynoski #||JR*||FB||Elysburg, Pa.||Marketing|
|Andrew Janocko #||JR*||QB||Clearfield, Pa.||History|
|Chris Mike||SO*||FB||West Haven, Conn.||Media Communications|
|Marco Pecora||SO*||DB||Johnstown, Pa.||History|
|Mike Shanahan ^||SO*||WR||North Huntingdon, Pa.||History|
|Tino Sunseri||SO*||QB||Pittsburgh, Pa.||Communications|
|Andrew Taglianetti||SO*||DB||Bridgeville, Pa.||Business Marketing|
|Tyler Tkach ^||SR*||DL||Statington, Pa.||Business Marketing|
|Joe Trebitz||SO*||LB||Boca Raton, Fla.||Business|
|Matt Yoklic||FR*||P||Gibsonia, Pa.||School of Arts & Sciences|
# after name denotes three-time Big East All-Academic selection
^ after name denotes two-time Big East All-Academic selection
* after class denotes redshirt season
As for a Spring Practice preview, this is from Rivals.com.
The buzz: New coach Todd Graham was known for his high-flying spread offenses at Rice and Tulsa. He inherits a group used to playing in Dave Wannstedt’s run-first, pro-style scheme. With RB Dion Lewis, WR Jon Baldwin and LT Jason Pinkston gone, the centerpiece of the offense is Ray Graham, who rushed for 922 yards and eight touchdowns as a backup last season. The secondary will have two new starters and could be troublesome.
“Could be troublesome?” Considering how “troublesome” the secondary was last year, it will be hard to imagine it being noticeably worse.