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August 6, 2012

PITT’s first training camp practice,  three hours with no pads, commences at 2:45 this afternoon so hopefully we’ll get some actual PITT football news to talk about on here beginning this evening.  This will be an interesting training camp and an interesting season given that we have, again, a new Head Coach and a new offensive style of play.

Chas wrote a nice piece this morning about Paul Chryst’s peer’s opinions of who is is and what his strong points are.  Obviously we have a completely different type of HC this season than we did last season and I think we PITT fans can all agree that we’re ready for something different than we had in 2011.  We’ll begin to see that difference in earnest starting today.

So – here are some off the top of the head questions about what we may see in training camp this August…

1.  What will be the overall tenor of the practices and of the post-practice interviews?  We already know that Paul Chryst is pretty much going to stick to talking about things he’s already talked about as far as this year’s team’s prospects for a winning season so that won’t change.

But how will he sound when talking about individual players, especially the injured ones, and the incoming freshman who may get playing time?  In the spring the big difference I noted in practices between this staff and last year’s was that Chryst’s staff was much more quiet and in the teaching mode whereas Graham’s staff were screamers and cheerleaders.  I think we need the former way more than we need the latter.  If he starts showing some emotion when discussing the players themselves I think that bodes well for his projection of how the team can play this season.

2. Speaking of incoming freshman we’ll keep an eye on two in particular – Chad Voytik and Rushel Shell.  Both are highly touted high school players who are coming onto a team which has glaringly open spots for their position.  With the recent transfer of Mark Myers OC Joe Rudolph and QB Coach Brooks Bollinger are left with rsSR Tino Sunseri and SO Trey Anderson at the QB position.  Not good for a variety of reasons the most notable being that neither of these QBs have shown they can play above the mediocre level.

Paul Chryst has to get some depth here and has few options.  The fan’s favorite course would be to not redshirt Chad Voytik and get him ready to step in this season if needed either through poor play by the starter or by injuries.  That’s a tough decision for Chryst as Voytik didn’t attend the spring practice sessions which would have at least given the staff a chance to see what he’s about.  With Savage being eligible next year it could be possible to redshirt Voytik then but that is for the future – we need something done now.

The other option is to bring Gonzalez back into the QB fold which is a big step backward in my opinion as his skill set isn’t good enough to play D1 QB.

3.  What is the linebacker depth and Dan Mason’s status?  Everyone and his brother are pulling for rsJR Dan Mason to be able to get out on the field and contribute at that middle linebacker position.  He was able to suit up for the first time in two year back in April and was out playing football again.  That is the good news.  The not so good news is that if PITT fans expect to see the old lightning quick Dan Mason they will be disappointed.  His supporters, and they are many,  have a rather romantic view of what this year could be like for Mason as far as contributing to the defense.

Sorry but I’ll be the voice of skepticism here and say that it is a long shot at best that he starts and plays MLB for any length or time this year.  he just doesn’t have the mobility he did in being forced to wear that drop-foot brace.  In his stead I think we’ll see either rsJR Shane Gordon or rsFR Nick Grigsby take over that spot.  SO Ejuan Price is a candidate there I suppose but he showed flashes of being a very good pass rusher so I think he’ll stay outside.

4.   Who will win the DE and Safety starting jobs?  I think it is safe to say the Brian Murphy will be the starter at one DE position. He looked good in the spring and his reputation as an aggressive strong player is well known.  He could be the next defensive star for PITT in my opinion.  But there isn’t a starter set at the other DE spot.  We’ll see three players competing for that one in T. J. Clemmings, Shane Hale and LaQuentin Smith.  What everyone is hoping for is that Clemmings lives up to his recruiting hype as NJ’s #1 HS player and grabs that starting role but he hasn’t shown that he can do that so far.  Hale is in much the same boat as he’s never lived up to his projections either.

That leaves us with the talented but relatively unknown LaQuentin Smith who has added 55 pounds of muscle since he was recruited back in 2010.  That’s awesome in itself and is the reason he was moved from LB to DE in the spring.  This kid is young and has talent and DC Dave Huxtable may just want to get him the experience he needs right off the bat.

At safety we’ll have returning starter rsSR Jared Holley and a battle for the other starting position. rsJR Jason Hendricks had some starts last season but didn’t play consistently enough to be the automatic starter so we’ll see rsSR Andrew Taglianetti and transfer rsSO Ray Vinopal getting 1st team work there also.  Depending on how aggressive Huxtable wants his defense to be will determine who the starter is.  If he wants hard hitting and aggressive play it may be hard to keep Vinopal off the field.

5.  How well has  Ray Graham rehabbed his knee and how well can he play?  Everyone points to Tino Sunseri as being the critical component of our 2012 offense and his play will certainly effect our production.  However a great case can be made that if  JR Ray Graham can’t return to form this year it would be as crippling as anything could be.  His 5.8 ypc average will be very hard to make up if he’s sidelined.  SO Isaac Bennett tore up spring practices with his speed and surprisingly good open field moves and he could be a top notch runner in his own right.  The fact is though that he hasn’t had that same success on the field of play in actual competition.

Behind him we have rsFR Malcolm Crockett and everyone’s favorite HS superstar FR Rushel Shell.  Malcolm Crockett was highly thought of by the Todd Graham camp and was specifically redshirted for the future – back when Graham actually believed he had a future at PITT that is.  They were singing his praises.  However, the bald truth is that neither Crockett nor Shell have taken a snap in a college game and thus are complete blank slates.    Our RB position can be one of two extremes – either be a real strength for us if there are no injury problems or be a real concern if Graham can’t go and Bennett doesn’t live up to preseason expectations.

Obviously there are a ton of other question marks for this year’s training camp… who is going to step up on the OL; who will provide DL depth; who will be the starting WRs; which other true freshman will work their way onto the two-deep, etc… You can list your questions in your comments and we’ll try to address them as the three weeks until the Buffalo game unfold.

Note:  I am trying to get up to a few practices and the Aug 25th scrimmage if possible.  Still enmeshed in the pre-Sept 14th Daughter’s Wedding work-list though and taking the time for that much travel may be sketchy.

I just hope this coach does not drink the Tino Kool Aide and when he struggles early that some changes get made. Hopefully this doesn’t need to happen, but past results indicate it likely. I would rather go down with a young qb that might have a future than to watch the continuing saga that is Tino.

Comment by Jimbo 08.06.12 @ 12:33 pm

Here are my best answers.

1) Methodical

2) Voytik is an obvious pick, especially with Myers leaving. Despite my concerns about Voytik, I really do hope he’s the next coming of Drew Brees.

A less obvious choice will be the one freshman who jumps up and surprises. That won’t be Shell since I expect him to be solid. I’m guessing it’s a lineman, maybe Gabe Roberts. That would be a much needed surprise.

3)Fingers crossed for Mason’s continued comeback and return as a starter. Price should see playing time based upon his past performance.

4) Never count Taglianetti out when it comes to staying on the field.

5) My personal biggest concern is for Ray Graham and his ability to be 100% early in the season. His running style especially puts a premium on two healthy knees.

By the way Reed, it wasn’t Chryst who quote was posted earlier.

“Our program is going to be about winning championships.”

Still curious to know there ever was a championship won by the coach behind the quote since apparently that’s what his teams are all about?

Comment by PittofDreams 08.06.12 @ 12:34 pm

Oh – I guess I didn’t read that closely enough.

Comment by Reed 08.06.12 @ 12:39 pm

I certainly hope the freshmen live up to expectations. I wish I could read an update from the day before camp began in 1973 about the highly regarded 150 lb. freshman halfback.

Comment by JLE 08.06.12 @ 1:01 pm

So is Pitt’s D going to be a 4-3 or 3-4? I have seen both reported. Or is it a combination of different allignments?

From the spring game it looks like a 4-3.

Has anyone asked Huxtable if he has picked Dick Lebeau’s head. Our last DC did and quite frankly, why wouldn’t you.

Comment by notrocketscience 08.06.12 @ 1:41 pm

@ Jimbo, I don’t think you have to worry about anybody drinking the “Tino Koolaid”, even if you have never read a word about Pitt football over the last couple of years, the coaches only have to watch some game films to see how Tino folds up like a cardboard box under pressure. So I’m pretty sure since Sunseri has routinely been pissing in his Koolaid for about the last 25 games now, I”m quite sure that the coaches are going into this season with their eyes wide open about his past performance and future potential.

I have no doubt that Dan Mason dresses for every game this season unless he gets hurt again. Now how much he plays will be the question. Even he his playing time is limited however, I think that he will provide some leadership to this squad of linebackers by just sharing his intense attitude with the rest of the defense. Hopefully it will become contagious.

@JLE, Concerning that skinny kid from Hopewell HS back in the day of Major’s first year of “a Major Change for Pitt Football”, the preseason hype for Dorsett was subdued. As a matter of fact the whole atmosphere was kind of funky until after the first game of the season. That’s when things started to get rowdy when we realized that we might actually have something going on with Pitt football.

I was from Hopewell HS and was a Junior during that year. I knew one of the grad assistants on the team that shared with me the following story about Dorsett’s first full contact practice in pads with the team.
He said Majors was quoted after the practice off the record that, “we got ourselves a running back boys” and was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. Of course, the rest is history.

Now can Shell have that kind of immediate impact on this team and coaching staff? Only time will tell. But IMO, they should use him extensively as a true freshman, cause if he is even a shadow of the player in college that he was in high school, guarenteed, he is gone after three years to the NFL. So “smoke em if you got em”, I say and see what happens.

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.06.12 @ 2:50 pm

Guys – here is a nice video of some of the players moving into Sutherland dorm for the three week training camp.

link to

Comment by Reed 08.06.12 @ 5:23 pm

As Todd Thomas said, “time for Pitt football to shock the world”, HTP!

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.06.12 @ 5:35 pm

Jock would’ve edited Holley out of the video.

Comment by steve1 08.06.12 @ 5:59 pm

The thing that scares me the most, is Ray Graham ppossibly coming back before he’s really ready. I would rather he error on the side of caution. He has a jump cut that I haven’t seen anyone else do other than Barry Sanders. Coming off of ACL surgery I would take that move out of his repetory……….at least for this year. As things look right now with Bennett and Shell coming in, there shouldn’t be any urgency or compelling reason to play him before he’s close to 100%.

Comment by Justinian 08.06.12 @ 6:05 pm

the nitters at state penn don’t get it. some board members have filed an appeal of their sanctions. guess they won’t be happy until they are the most despised school instead of one of the most despised.

Comment by pittkeith 08.06.12 @ 6:39 pm

firstly, unless voytik wins the starting job, which is very unlikely, he should and will be redshirted. not redshirting him and have him sit on the bench is foolish.

now, i want to see what freshman will step up? who changes positions and where? and how depth developes on both lines. i think bam bradley moves to mlb to give gordon a backup.

some less important questions i have how will chryst use demitrious davis? hes very athletic and FAST. will deaysean rippy move to olb? safety is stacked for years to come and hes got enough size to be a great olb in the acc

Comment by pk 08.06.12 @ 7:10 pm

No sense in hurrying graham back. There may be a sense of urgency in getting Voytik ready however.

Comment by TX Panther 08.06.12 @ 8:07 pm

After coaching basketball over a sixteen year period, I can tell all of you that it takes 2 full years to fully get over a torn ACL. I have seen many try to come back after a year, usually with tepid results at best….a re-tear at worst.Because it is the main ligament support for the knee cap, and all other ligaments are in minor supporting roles, it is a “bitch” to rehab.
Wishing Ray Graham the best but I hope he and the coaches are cautious.

Comment by Dan 72 08.06.12 @ 8:56 pm

already one position switch – tyrone ezell from tackle to end

Comment by pk 08.06.12 @ 9:05 pm

pk – the thing about a redshirt, especially for a QB, isn’t the fact that he’ll get into play or not, but it is the one position the kid HAS to practice with the 1st and 2nd teams in training camp and between games.

If he doesn’t play then he retains his redshirt, pure and simple. But if you are REALLY going to redshirt him for the season then you should ‘formally’ declare that give another QB the 2nd string snaps to be ready for playing in case of injury.

This is especially important this season with the new offense Chryst will institute. We just can’t afford to put in a QB (Anderson) unless he’s been in the snap rotation for starting. A HC has to practice the guys who might actually be called on to contribute in a pinch.

So – my take is that Chryst’ll not really redshirt Voytik and have him practice with the 1st and 2nd teams to be ready to go in case of an injury or poor play by Sunseri.

If Sunseri plays well and isn’t injured then we see Anderson in mop up handing off duty and Voytik retains his redshirt.

I’m not as enamored of redshirts as some PITT fans are. If the need is there play the kid to win ball games now. However, let’s don’t do what DW did with Lucas Nix and burn is FR year redshirt for six plays that didn’t mean anything.

Comment by Reed 08.06.12 @ 9:14 pm

A wide receiver …preferred walk-on to watch, Chris Wuestner from Carlisle HS.

Chris missed most of his Junior year due to injury and fell completely under the radar. He is 6ft 2in and 200 lbs with decent 4.55 speed.
He has a VERY STRONG work ethic and is absolutely determined to earn a scholie….WATCH THIS KID he is going to be a major sleeper in this training camp!!!!

Comment by isnore 08.06.12 @ 9:15 pm

How tall is Anderson not his listed hight how tall
is he really does any one know.
some on here last year said 5 foot 8 if that is true we could be in real trouble if he has to play.

Comment by FRANKCAN 08.06.12 @ 9:52 pm

Reed, you wrote exactly what I was thinking about after reading pk’s post. Well said, I may add.

I also am concerned about Graham’s comeback, however as PC has already stated, Graham himself will determine his progress and ability to perform, not the coaching staff, which is as it should be.

Does Graham have one more year of eligibililty left or is this year his swan song? That could push him to try to come back sooner than he should in an attempt to improve his NFL stock.

Don’t rule out Bennett, Graham’s potential was still hidden behind the production that Dion Lewis put out there on the field as the starter. After Lewis went pro, look what Graham did when he was asked to do the heavy lifting as a starter. One person’s obstacle becomes another’s opportunity. Plus I’m dreaming about Shell showing up better than advertised. What a benefit for the team if he is up to handling Div I football duties right out of the blocks.

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.06.12 @ 9:58 pm

I remember going to one of Pitt’s practices at UPJ in Johnstown. All I could say was boy is this kid (Dorsett) good or what. Four years later I got his autograph in Annapolis when he broke the record.

Comment by Frank 08.06.12 @ 10:28 pm

I was in the end zone at Pitt Stadium when Tony Dorsett ran for over 300 Yards against Notre Dame. They would grind out 3 yards at a time and the Panthers would go the length of the field in four or five plays. Tony Dorsett would run for 15 yards on one play and 25 yards on the next.

Comment by Justinian 08.06.12 @ 11:44 pm

I just noticed the ACC countdown clock. Nice.

Comment by Annie 08.07.12 @ 1:01 am

Justinian, I was there with you, greatest day ever, at Pitt Stadium. Tony D holding the ball high for the fans and everyone hugging and kissing.

My expectations are low this year, lack of depth on the lines a major concern. Hoping that Chryst and the Boys are up to the challenge.

Comment by gc 08.07.12 @ 6:58 am

Looks like the big east is about to get a mega deal with NBC that might just keep the conference viable.

Comment by Timmeh 08.07.12 @ 7:08 am

Is that a big east with or without notre dame?

Comment by TX Panther 08.07.12 @ 7:57 am

Zeise said all 3 QBs are under 6 ft

Comment by wbb 08.07.12 @ 8:01 am

Regarding the QBs and height.

Sunseri is six foot.

Anderson was 5-10 last year. The good news is he looks to have grown some over the summer… both bigger and taller.

He’s listed at six foot but in reality pushing 5-11.

Comment by PittofDreams 08.07.12 @ 8:36 am


I was there too. The swing pass TD took from Cavenaugh and turned into 6 heading to the scorebaord endzone is still the sweetest Pitt football play I personally witnessed. Situation, foe, atmosphere….

Comment by sfpitt 08.07.12 @ 8:51 am

I was at the ’75 Pitt Army game at West Point. Tony was in overdrive, Army was in 2nd gear. It was actually embarrassing. Majors benched him for the final 15 minutes, otherwise he would’ve gained 400+ yards.

Comment by steve1 08.07.12 @ 8:53 am

reed, you might be misunderstanding what im saying. i think voytik will be the second string qb and he should get second string snaps in practice, but he should still be redshirted. if tino gets injured, burn his rs and play him.

Comment by pk 08.07.12 @ 9:20 am

All the QBs are short. How PITT can list Sunseri at 6’2″ is beyond me and they aren’t fooling anyone with this.

link to

I’m not sure what these schools think they can accomplish by doing this – all of them inflate player’s sixes. It isn’t as if the NFL combines don’t actually measure these guys themselves.

Maybe they believe they can keep the player from being glossed over if they post his true height.

Comment by Reed 08.07.12 @ 9:21 am

isnore, i was thinking about wuestner too! i saw his highlight tape after seeing him have a great nike sparq rating when i heard pitt was recruiting him. i can see him doing what jeff abbrederis did for wisconsin. theyre the same height and speed and abbrederis went from a walkon to one of the big tens best recievers.

another walkon that caught my eye was john guy. if you all recall he visited pitt and went to a basketball game. he was 6’7″ 290 and we all were saying to sign him up

Comment by pk 08.07.12 @ 9:25 am

Its clear Myers was a total bust and we wish him well, but frankly good riddance. Now the problem is, we do not have a D1 ready QB on the roster, and you don’t win many games with this situation, no matter how weak the competition. Maybe you can survive YSU, Gard Web and Buff, but sooner or later the QB is going to be matched against some honest D1 talent and then the joke will be over.
Tino’s not a D1 talent and his limitations are well known and many. Anderson is NOT a D1 QB in almost any scheme and definitely not in a drop-back pro-style offense. Voytik may have D1 talent, but its just not fair to ask him to be anything more than he is; a talented, unproven QB with NO experience on a team which needs leadership given how new everything is and how young the team will be.
My heart sinks when I say this, but PC either pulls the greatest magic trick in NCAA history and develops Tino enough to not be the disaster that he naturally is, or we’ll be looking forward to the ACC/2013 season by the end of the 2nd BE game.
Ugh, HTP!!!

Comment by Taxing Matters 08.07.12 @ 2:28 pm

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