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August 12, 2012

Scrimmage #1 – Offense

Filed under: Football,Media,Players,Recruiting — Reed @ 10:08 am

I attended PITT’s first training camp scrimmage today and, while no one told me it would be actually chilly in PGH this morning, I came away with a lot of things to discuss and to share my sometimes strong opinions of what I saw.  Here are some of my first, quick observations:

–        I walked over to the practice field behind Chris Jacobson and Matt Rotheram.  “Lumpy” Jacobson is listed this year at 6’2” and 295.  Rotheram literally made him look small by comparison.  He’s 6’6” and 330 and looks every bit of it.  I made it a point to watch Rotheram carefully at his Right Tackle position and he moves very well for a mid-sized mountain range.

–        Rushel Shell is surprising huge for a RB.  Not overly tall and listed at 6’0” & 215 (more like 225 I think) he’s built like a fullback and he carries a lot of weight below the waist so his legs are like tree trunks.  I was thinking I’d see a stereo-typical RB out there and I saw a tank.  On the other hand Ray Graham, who lists at 5’10 and 190 lbs isn’t anywhere near that weight in my opinion.  He is skin and lean muscle , bones and a hip goatee but don’t be fooled – he’s a small RB.  I wonder if the NFL has any RBs built as slightly as he is especially in the legs.

–        I stood next to Dorian Johnson for part of the scrimmage.  He’s a tall guy but nowhere near the bulk size of the existing PITT lineman.  He did stay for the whole three hour scrimmage and seemed to be having a good time talking with people.  At one point I ended up standing next to him and after a play where a DE knocked down a pass I said “We’ll there’s an open offensive line spot for next season“.

As to the offensive play on the field I felt the kids played well and were engaged in what they were asked to do.  It was a busy day with getting 183 plays done, in part thanks to the cool football weather, and there was no down time from 9:15 until 12:00 but I didn’t see any confusion out there.  The 1st and 2nd string kids got a lot of action while the 3rd team played sparingly today but did get a few series under their belts.

Everyone wants to know which side ‘won’ the scrimmage and usually, at this point in training camp, the defense is ahead of the offense.  It appeared that would be the case after the first few series.  However, the offense more than held their own this morning IMO.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.  Tino Sunseri was accurate on his passes in hitting his receivers on both short and deep throws. Now, he’s been good in practice before so take it with a grain of salt.  I’ll say this though, he and the rest of the offense looked very comfortable out there running a normal huddle-up offense without the confusing bells and whistles we saw last season.  It is going to be a much better paced and more level offense fielded by PITT this season.

The passing game, from both the starter Sunseri and QB2 Trey Anderson was effective and went to a lot of different receivers. Chad Voytik got very little time out there today.  I’ll say this about Voytik and sit back and wait for the arguments.

Anderson is the 2nd string QB because, at this point, he’s a better QB than Chad Voytik.  He isn’t out there because “the staff is thinking about redshirting Voytik” or because Voytik is a true freshman just learning the playbook.  From what I saw today and from discussions with some people who have watched every practice, Anderson just has better physical talent and knowledge than Voytik does at this point.  The best thing for Voytik would be a redshirt and not just to learn the offensive system but to get better in his required QB skills.  I was a bit surprised at his passing yesterday and remarked on it which is how the above discussions took place.  While I understand he’s new to college ball his pure passing skills just aren’t at the level they need to be for him to run an offense, played at the higher level of speed and intensity then he’s experienced in the past, for this 2012 season.

For the PITT fans that are penciling him in as a possible starter this year or are of the mind that we should play Voytik just to get experience for 2013 I’ll say this:  Sunseri and Anderson will be taking the QB1 and QB2 reps this year with Voytik running the scout team; Savage will be our starting QB in 2013 and rsSO Voytik will be in honest competition for the starting slot with rsFR Tra’von Chapman and FR Chandler Kincaid for 2014.  There is no ‘he’s a lock’ situation for Voytik being a starter at PITT, he’ll have to scramble to win the starting job.  I feel that this is a case of the fan’s expectations of a player far outweighing the staff’s… it’s happened before.

On the WR front, Shanahan sat out this scrimmage but today, as in the spring practices, Cam Saddler was a primary target. Saddler can work free and is making hard catches and if he stays healthy I think he’ll be a top receiver for us. At one point late yesterday the offense was sloppy in lining up for the huddle and Saddler yelled “Get the damn huddle right!”  He doesn’t hesitate to show leadership out there.

Devin Street was in-synch with Sunseri also and had some nice plays with good yards after the catch. Remember that Street had 28 catches for 409 yards in the final five regular season games last season – he’ll pick up right where he left off.

Keep an eye on Josh Brinson this year also.  He got a lot of work in the spring and has been very productive so far in this camp also. He’ll be the sleeper of the WR corps along with Brandon Felder and Ronald Jones I think.

I was really impressed with the Tight End work today.  Hubie Graham was his normal reliable self and caught a few balls,  Drew Carswell ran in more of an H-Back role today and did well so I’m looking at him as not being a true 6th OL blocking and receiving TE this year.

Who really jumped out was J. P. Holtz.  We’ve read media reports about how he’s a ‘man-child’ out there because of his build (6’4” & 245) and such but what he really is is just a damned good TE.  He makes catches look effortless with his soft hands and his drive blocking is very effective.  On one play he caught the ball about five yards deep, turned down field and put a juke on a LB that was worthy of a much smaller TB.  He’s a real football player, much in the same mold as Nate Byham but with hopefully a lot more passes thrown his way, and he’ll probably see the most playing time of all the true freshman on the roster.

Our running game is playing out like this.  Chas put up a nice article about Ray Graham coming back from injury the other day and we got 137 comments on that post.  It’s obviously a huge issue for PITT’s offense and for us fans this season.

I hate to rain on the parade but I advise forgetting about Ray Graham being anywhere near his 2011 self for a long while.  He was in for the first few pre-scrimmage practice series and while he went at it hard it was pretty obvious that he’s not going to be physically ready to play at full opponent speed.  At least it looked that way to me and others on the sidelines.  If he plays regularly it will be at least a few games into the season I think.  That isn’t to say he won’t contribute and end up being very productive this year but I think the realistic timetable for that to happen isn’t in line with our wishful thinking.

But not to fear PITT fans.  Paul Zeise hit the nail on the head when he said that Isaac Bennett is “the best tailback” we have right now.  Brace yourself but that means of ALL the tailbacks.  Bennett showed us the ‘wow!’ factor in the spring with his ability to find gaps and break to the outside, but watching him in a full speed scrimmage situation he is even more impressive.  He’s strong through the line and then dips a shoulder and goes.  On sweeps he doesn’t hesitate and gets the corner before the defense almost every time.  Before you know and either way there is a good chance on each play he’s down the sideline for a big gain.  I don’t think there was one play yesterday that he didn’t gain positive yardage. It’s going a bit out on a limb to compare Bennett to Ray Graham because Graham has a great track record behind him, but don’t be surprised if Bennett is the next star RB PITT has.  Don’t be fooled by his 2011 58 carries for 237 yards with a 4.1 ypc.  He’ll be worlds better than that this season.

Malcolm Crockett is working for that 3rd RB slot (or maybe 2nd depending on Graham’s knee) had a nice few runs, one a long TD, today also as is Rushel Shell.  I wrote above about Shell’s physical make up and his running style follows that.

He ain’t a scat back by any means and the yards he’ll get will be by physically winning the first battle then getting extra yardage into the secondary.  He’s not your ‘shake and bake’ back like Graham is.  Shell seems to have an heightened awareness of the developing pressure that all good RBs have and today he made positive yardage on about every carry.  He had one run down the sideline where he put his head down went and after the closing LB.  He pretty much got the snot knocked out of him but it showed he means business out there. He had an early short field series where he carried the ball on every play and then went in from five yards out.  His running style may lean more towards Ironhead Hayward’s then Tony Dorsett’s if you get what I mean.

All this is well and good but none of it happens without the guys in the OL being able to do their job.  I felt that if you were to ask which aspect of offense play the OL was best at yesterday I’d say the run game.  They were quick off the ball and aggressive and it showed by the number of big runs our backs had.  Yesterday they played in the meat and potatoes of a physical offense that PITT had pre-Graham and that the PITT lineman love to play.

As far as pass blocking?  I thought they held their own there also but you have to factor in that we may have the quickest defensive front four this season than we’ve had in a long time.  Heuber rotated players in and out of the 1st and 2nd teams all morning because, as in any training camp, he’s trying to get the ‘best five’ out there.  Honestly, at this point and with so many different combination of OL out there it was hard to gauge how good they will be.  The future scrimmages will be much better weather gauges for how the OL is going to pan out.

One last note.  This coaching staff is true to its word when Chryst said that he’d run an open football program.  Every spring practice was open for the media and guests and all the training camp practices will be also, save a couple for the staff and players to work on special plays.  That is 180 degrees different than last year’s training camp where the media and guests weren’t allowed at the practices.  It makes this fun as hell actually – the atmosphere yesterday was all around fun and up beat (except when the staff was reaming out players)  and didn’t have that feeling like if you said anything you’d be told to keep quiet.

Next post up:  Scrimmage 1 – Defense:





Kenny,

Guess you didn’t watch any of Voytik’s two appearances on TV — since you avoided any comment about them.

That kind of misses the point since I spell out very clearly that his two games on national television were what I was basing mty critique on.

If Voytik is the next Drew Brees you can rub it in all you want. I’ll be glad to take it.

You be sure to get back to me.

Comment by PittofDreams 08.13.12 @ 12:33 pm

Shell is going to be a really fun player to watch develop over the next three-plus seasons.

Re-iterating some thoughts I’ve had on him from before as I had a chance to watch him at Hopewell (he was teammates for three years with my nephew).

If you’re looking for a good comparison, think Jamal Anderson when he was in his prime with the Atlanta Falcons. I know it’s an NFL guy, but I can’t think of a better one at the college level (though I’ve heard Maurice Clarett, and that’s not bad). He’s every bit of 6’0″, but he’s also very compact for his height, runs low when initiating contact and extremely strong in the legs.

I think Reed’s concerns above about his ability to break long runs are well-founded. Shell had enough speed to run away from defenders at the high school level. But at this level, I don’t know that he has the breakaway/separation speed that we’ve seen with McCoy or Graham.

He has the potential, though, to absolutely gouge opposing defenses for 8-10 yards at a time and not miss a beat. He IS deceptively shifty, but he’s not cut-on-a-dime quick like McCoy/Graham; in fact, I think he’d rather run over you.

He played both sides of the ball during his junior and senior seasons at Hopewell and never seemed to wear down much. And I don’t think this can be understated – his numbers during his last two years at Hopewell were unbelievable considering opponents knew he was getting the ball. Defenses routinely stacked 9 or 10 to stop him and couldn’t.

It’ll be a lot of fun to watch his development. With Bennett, Crockett and Ray Graham essentially ahead of him, Chryst doesn’t have to force him into a role he’s not ready for.

I seriously doubt he’ll redshirt; he’s too good for that. But I could see him being brought along slowly this year and used in that 3rd RB capacity. The payoff for Pitt fans in 2013 and 2014 could be incredible.

Comment by Stoosh 08.13.12 @ 1:14 pm

I hear you loud and clear PittofDreams. I also understood why you mentioned the his two appearances on TV: He did not meet you expectations as a Elite 11 four star recruit. If you want to critique a recruit on his playing at CHS with a pours Oline and new people without experience at the skill positions it is your right. You saw just two games and evidently in your view he is a bust.

But you were also ignorant in respect to Brees’ true freshman stats and of “jerk water” Cleveland TN’s population and classification. Or was this inserted to firm up your evaluation of him.

Having said the above I will get back to you in respect to then new starter. I also will go to some of CHS’ games when they play in Chattanooga to get a read on the real deal of the rumored better than Voytik QB…

Comment by Kenny 08.13.12 @ 1:34 pm

Reed i understand what you are saying but thoes
things that he could not do are the things that can be taught like looking the DB off and throwing short if you want to learn.

I just think he was lazy and did not care if he would have worked hard at it and really tried to
learn i woud bet he would still be there.

becuse you dont get rid of a 6 foot 4 230 pound QB who can put the ball on the dime at 60 yd
unless he is a fuck up and so i give you the point he was a fuck up but that was becuse he did not work hard he did not care.

but the physical part was all there just not the will to do the work that is to bad becuse he had the part that cant be taught what a waste.

Comment by FRANKCAN 08.13.12 @ 1:45 pm

Reed you are on base with your view of Shell. It is a variable which soon may be validated. I am open to either possibility because when in HS it was the other team’s main focus to limit the damage of Shell. He was big enough, strong enough and evidently fast enough to inflict said damage and he relied on it.

If I am not mistaken Dion was not that overwhelming in HS but once he got to Pitt his instincts took over. I believe in the case of Shell’s development at this level he can know longer just rely on his natural ability. He has to learn the position intricacies of RB because as he said the athletes at the FBS level are just as strong and fast as he or even more…

Comment by Kenny 08.13.12 @ 1:57 pm

Kenny,

Seems you love to take away what you want from the comments of anyone who disagrees with you.

You go man.

Comment by PittofDreams 08.13.12 @ 4:28 pm

Thanks Reed

Comment by ellicott city 08.13.12 @ 5:09 pm

No PiitofDreams I do not. I base my posts on as many facts and obvious scenarios as possible. I do not base my opinions on what a recruit’s two national TV appearances or the stars the recruiting services deem them to be. I base my posts on perceived reality and not fantasy facilitated by non-researched data.

You jolly well know my stance on star-gazers. Their stance is based on projections like the stock market. Also they tend to be irrational in their dispensing of criticism in recruits and the recruiters whom recruit them.

Your perceived pessimism which you say is based on realism is at base your opinion, nothing more nothing less as all of us on here.

As for me being against anyone whom disagrees with me you, did you not do the same to the optimists on this board by having to explain your perceived realism pessimism.

And I take your advice and this man will not only go to some CHS but will also ask our landscaper’s son whom is a starting cornerback and kicker what he thinks of this year’s QB and how he stacks up to Chad. But of course it will be just my opinion with a smattering of facts…

Comment by Kenny 08.13.12 @ 6:14 pm

Not saying this was the case with Myers, but perhaps it could have been one of the factors.

He saw he was never going to play as long as Tino was here and then next year, here comes along another guy by the name of Savage. Surely he knew PC didn’t bring in Savage as a 5th year senior to sit on the bench next year.

Optimally a kid might not be affected by this stuff and still go out and practice hard, but not all kids are the same.

On the other hand he would have only been 1 play away from entering the game if Tino gets hurt.
And at times(most of them) Anderson looked overmatched out there. Whether that was due to his shoulder/wrist(?) injury or that he was indeed physically overmatched, is still to be determined at some point down the road. Anderson was definitely brought in last year to run a spread offense, as he was a decent enough runner off the ball fake.

In this power running Wisconsin scheme , don’t know if it calls for much or any running from the QB. Russell Wilson did run 79 times for over 300 yards last year and 6 TD’s, however I would guess most of those runs were not designed runs, but QB scrambles for positive yardage on pass plays. And again this was Russell Wilson, a tremendous athlete.

Trey does not appear to be the traditional classic drop back passer unless he grew some, whereas Myers at 6-4 230lbs was. Like Frankcan said, you can teach someone to throw short passes, you can’t graft an arm on someone without one. When Terry Bradshaw first arrived for the Steelers, he threw threw darts at 100mph at WR’s, 5-10 yds down the field, which usually bounced off the WR’s, but he could always throw the deep ball. Eventually he learned how to put touch on the ball and reduce the MPH to something that was catchable.

Not to even suggest Myers was in Bradshaw’s league, but Terry was very stubborn to work with and he too was a party animal. Yet they were able to teach him how to throw the short balls and also how to look off defenses, as he that had problem as well for the first 5 years or so of his career with the Steelers.

It just seems strange to me, that this coaching staff is content with going into the season with a very small, spread type QB, as the #2 backup QB and as Reed said….held the door open for Myers to leave. And also knowing again according to Reed, that Voytik is not anywhere close to being able to play this season for PITT, even as the backup and is most likely headed for a Redshirt.

Another question, since Myers is gone now and if indeed they redshirt Voytik, that means we’re going into the season with only Tino & Trey.
Ok say Tino gets hurt, out for season (even a game), that leaves Trey as the starter and who, who, who is the backup. Ron Vega ?? Ronald Jones ??

And with Trey being so small, him getting hurt as the starter is not beyond much reason.

Maybe we can all up Tom Yewcic 🙂

Comment by Emel 08.13.12 @ 8:15 pm

DE conner 6 foot 2 232 pounds commits to pitt
and like the lb all offers were from mac schools
although the lb did have a offer from cinnci
and the rest from mac schools.

Comment by FRANKCAN 08.13.12 @ 8:24 pm

whoops
**Maybe we can call all up Tom Yewcic

(for the younger alums, Yewcic was the 3rd string QB who had to come in for several games after the starting QB, Bobby Haygood got hurt, and was lost for the season, in the 2nd game of the 1976 National Championship season and the backup QB, Matt Cavanaugh got hurt in mid-season)

Comment by Emel 08.13.12 @ 8:32 pm

Bobby Haygood (of Georgia) was such a good athlete he also played on Pitt’s basketball team. And yes he actually played, he wasn’t just on the roster.

Sounds like another highly rated recruit frank.
(if we were a MAC school that is) haha

Comment by Emel 08.13.12 @ 8:36 pm

Unless Sunseri pulls a Stull-esque metamorphosis from slug to serviceable — okay, may be possible, but it’s a serious longshot based on what I’ve seen — then this news about Voytik not being close to ready was beyond depressing.

Because the good news is, Chryst’s offense is more like Wanny’s than Graham’s. But bad news, Tino stunk in 2010 too (the lone exception being the ‘Cuse game that year).

If nobody else is ready, then I guess we must play Tino, warts & all. But I gotta ask, rhetorically, how on earth is that possible?

I’d sure like to see ABT this year, because Tino’s a lame duck, thus better to get the next guy ready facing much easier Big East competition, than do so facing the ACC in 2013.

I think we may be in for a long year. And I REALLY hope I’m wrong…

Comment by Imma Man! Im 40! 08.13.12 @ 8:44 pm

EMel we are geting some 3 star commits now but what bothers mr is that last years 3 stars had offers from outher big east schools and teams like iowa or NCS.
but this years 3 stars offers are from mac schools.

so to me that makes them low 3 stars and last year they were high 3 stars plus we had 5 players who were 4 stars last year do you see why i am worryed abought recruiting.

Comment by FRANKCAN 08.13.12 @ 8:52 pm

Frankcan – yes, those things can be taught but after two years of being taught how to play QB and his not learning the writing was on the wall.

Comment by Reed 08.14.12 @ 6:10 am

Kenny,

Seems like you may be more of a Chad Voytik fan than a Pitt fan.

But that’s OK.

Hey, I hope the kid proves me wrong and turns out to be a NFL caliber quarterback – if not Drew Brees then Chase Daniel.

Time will tell.

By the way the underclassman who showed some promise in relief of Voytik during last year’s ESPN game is a left-handed 6-2 junior by the name of Austin Herink.

Cleveland has a big test this week against Marysville who they lost to last year with Voytik 35-12.

They also have a new coach who says he plans on using the spread with the new quarterback.

Maybe you can take along a videocam and post some highlights from the game?

Comment by PittofDreams 08.14.12 @ 12:16 pm

Correction, Kenny. My mistake.

Actually Cleveland is playing powerhouse Alcoa (pop 7,100).

Didn’t want to send you in the wrong direction.

Hey, forget the videocam. Maybe you can just go LIVE.

Comment by PittofDreams 08.14.12 @ 2:10 pm

Please PittofDreams spare the time it takes you write you posts in respect to me. But then again you seem the need to validated so have at it.

Yes Alcoa is a 2A school who since 2008 has played up in 3A just as Aliqu1ppa plays up in classification. Before last season they had won 7 straight TSSAA championships. The come into last season riding on a 43 game unbeaten streak. Their streak was broken by neighboring Marryville who has won 9 TSAA championships since 2000.

I too did not want to send you in the wrong directions in respect the Maryville and Aloca football teams. Alcoa has a hard time finding out of conference games. They have beaten teams in all classifications.

Alcoa HS player Randall Cobb was selected in the 2n round of 2011 NFL Draft (pick 62) by the Green Bay Packers. He** Lynn Swann of Stteelers fame was born there in that “jerk water” town…

I never was going to video anything. I will do like Reed has and go and watch live and report back to you…

Comment by Kenny 08.14.12 @ 4:49 pm

You’re a good man Kenny.

There you go nice and short.

Comment by PittofDreams 08.14.12 @ 6:18 pm

Passed through both maryville and alcoa on the way to gatlinsburg and the smokies this summer. Very nice towns. Townsfolk were of the wild appalachian type. I can see how their kids would be good at football.

Comment by TX Panther 08.14.12 @ 10:09 pm

TX my wife and me do not care for much for either Gatlinsburg or Pigeon Ford. The only thing I can say about them is they look like a Redneck Vegas Stips LOL. We prefer to go on the other side of the mountains into NC to Robbinsville or Bryson City. Both towns are small but the scenery is awesome to say the least. There is a road running North about 5-7 mils of Bryson City which takes you to the Southern end of Smoky Mountains NP. Near Robbbinsville there are two lakes with dams which remind me of some of the lakes in the Bavarian Alps. The best part is one of them has walleye and lake trout, the other has stripers!!!

Comment by Kenny 08.15.12 @ 10:25 am

My first trip to that part of the country. I was disappointed as well with both Pigeon Forge and Gatlinsburg since they were both tourist traps with that Vegas glitz. We did rent a very nice ‘cabin’ in the woods outside town. The park was nice and the air was clean. Saw plenty of wildlife like bears and turkeys. The only thing I see down here in Texas are coyotes and dead armadillos as road kill.

Comment by TX Panther 08.15.12 @ 11:00 am

Speaking of coyotes, me and the wife had to go downtown to the courthouse to get a title for a car yesterday. Along the way we came around a curve and Brooke says “look there is a dog in the turning lane and he looks hungry” to which I said “honey it aint know dog its a coyote!” LOL!!!

Comment by Kenny 08.15.12 @ 11:16 am

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