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August 12, 2012

This morning we posted a scrimmage article about the offensive side of the ball, so let’s take a look at what when on with the defensive side.   My first  impression is this, we may not have a lot of experienced depth in the defensive 11 but our starters are going to be very talented.

I’ve had some real doubts about the staff moving Tyrone Ezell’s from DT to DE given his big size.  He’s 6’4” and 300 lbs and I wondered if he’d have the quicks and speed rush a good DE needs to have to get to the passer and set up containment.  Our two star DEs in the past years were much leaner with Greg Romeus being 6’6” and 270 lbs and Jabaal Sheard coming in at 6’4” and 260 lbs.  Those guys could get up and get out very quickly.

Forget about any problems you may think we have with Ezell on this score, he’s as quick as Aaron Donald out there and gets right into the QB’s face very fast.  He knocked down three passes today, two in the first series of the scrimmage and he came around off the backside to tackle RBs  like a flash.  He’s not a fat 300 pounds by any means and with his motor’s governor on overspeed he’s going to be very effective out there.

Our front four did well with Ezell, Donald, Bryan Murphy, who was splitting 1st team reps with T. J. Clemmings at the other DE spot, and with Jack Lippert, who played well at the second DT spot.  Lippert is battling K. K. Mosley-Smith for that position so Smith has to get healthy (thinner) and get right with the staff ASAP.  (I have to chuckle as I write this because of the strong opinions I expressed in the ‘Scrimmage 1-Offense’ post earlier today.  Hey, I predicted Jack Lippert was going to be our starting Center two years ago).

LaQuentin Smith went out early with an injury so I didn’t get a chance to see how he’d do at one of the DT spots after moving from LB to DE to DT in one year.  He gained 55 pounds since being recruited in 2011 so I supposed the least you could say is that he’s dedicated enough to drastically morph his body in a short time.

The line was getting good penetration and both Sunseri and Anderson had to be able to move and throw the ball.  This aggressive defense is going to be hell on the immobile QBs we faced.  Against the run they weren’t as impressive but I think that is due to the fact that our running game is going to be very good this season.

I think the same yardstick can be said about the linebackers.  Our RBs ripped off some big runs but that was due to the fact that they are pretty damn good RBs.  Yesterday the LB substitutions were pretty numerous and Todd Thomas didn’t practice at all.  Nick Grigsby, Eric Williams, Shane Gordon, Joe Trebitz and especially Manny Williams all rotated in and played pretty well.  Honestly they were kind of hard to tell apart at field level.  Ejuan Price seems to have floated down the depth chart.

Shane Gordon is a tough kid.  He got flat knocked out, laying face down like Wiley E. Coyote after falling off a cliff.  Stone cold out.  I was standing behind Ray Graham and he said “Shane’s a beast, he’ll jump up” and about five seconds later that happened.  Like he all of a sudden woke up and there was string on his back pulling him to his feet.  Gordon had absolutely no idea where he was or what he was doing of course but it was obvious as soon as he could put two thoughts together he wanted back into the lineup.

Let’s get this issue out of the way also.  Dan Mason is not going to be in the two deep this season and maybe not even on the 3rd string.  He just physically can’t do it.  However, if he plays at all I think it will be on goal line stands because he can shoot straight ahead and he’s still a beast out there.

His story is a great one, it is inspirational and he needs to be on the team even if only as a role model. On a personal note I dislike the use of the word “miracle” when it’s used in reference to what Dan Mason has been able to accomplish since his terrible injury.  To me, that’s an insult to Mason himself after the long hours of hard work and pain he endured to be able to suit up and get back onto the field in the spring. I understand he gives all credit to his God, that is his humility and is refreshing in of itself, but Mason did the hard work himself.  All that said, it’s pretty obvious he isn’t in this staff’s plans for the future.

The DB s and Safeties all played pretty well.  Some stood out like Layfaette Pitts who seemed to be in on almost every play for a while there. He’s going to be battling Michigan transfer Cullen Christian for one of the starting DB slots.  Ray Vinopal has good field awareness, closes quickly and doesn’t hesitate to put the other players into correct field placement for different defensive calls.   Bam Bradley leveled some excellent hits on ball carriers also most notably knocking the crap out of Rushel Shell on a sideline run.

On the special teams there were some problems with punts by Matt Yoklic over his first few tries but then he settled in and boomed some.  Layfaette Pitts had a very nice punt return.  Jones and Saddler were on the kickoff return teams and Kevin Harper hit all his field goal attempts.

That’s pretty much it in a nutshell as far as personal observations of the defense goes.  I have to admit as a typical fan I am much more concerned with watching how the offensive players are doing out there and only notice the defense when they make a great play.

Some general notes:

People around the program call DC Dave Huxtable “The Pirate” because of his salty language.  He doesn’t hold back out there when he sees something that displeases him.  At the same time he was quick with praise when a kid does something well also.

At one point late in the scrimmage, when the players were getting tired,  a lineman jumped offside and Paul Chryst yelled “OK, it’s late in the practice, you’re tired and want to give up,  is that it?”  You could hear a pin drop after that outburst.

It looked to me like the staff got the work in they wanted to.  With 183 plays run they have a lot of film to watch and decisions to make before Scrimmage #2 on the 18th.  This is how training camp plays out.  The first week is getting a feel for what you have, the second week is firming up the two deep and the last two weeks are for using that two deep to get ready for the season opener.

I had a chance to talk with Kevin Harper’s parents for a good bit also.  Apparently Kevin has had his outgoing and goofy personality since childhood.  This video?  It’s the real Kevin Harper.

Breaking news @ 10:02 PM:  PITT just had a new recruit commitment from Luke MacLean, a Rivals three star OLB out of Grand Blanc, MI.





FRANKCAN & TXPanther–I think you are missing a major consideration There is a huge difference between getting a commit with only MAC offers in August (particularly when such a kid has an offer based on how he impressed in summer camp) as opposed to getting one in December or January when the pressure may be on to complete the recruit class.

IMO, the August commit has an offer because the coaches liked what they saw with their own eyes. That means they consider that kid better than a typical MAC recruit and they wanted to lock him up before he possibly attracted other major interest later in the fall.

This is entirely different than when they get commits from kids with only MAC offers after most major programs have had a chance to see them play their senior seasons and have decided they truly are only MAC material.

There are plenty of kids with excellent ability to play at the next level who weren’t first stringers in high school through junior year for a variety of reasons (lack of early physical maturity/growth, playing for an extremely strong program where you have to wait your turn, simply being behind your HS’s star senior at your position, or were injured, etc.). Many of these kids first chance to attract attention is at pre-senior season summer camps. As a result, they have been ignored by many big-time programs because those programs focus their efforts on the pool of players who were starters and stars as HS juniors.

For me the bottom line is that I just don’t find it plausible that this coaching staff is so desperate this far from LOI day (February 2013) that they are offering true MAC-level only talent; or players they view as long-shots to pan out. Rather, since it is only August, I have to believe they are offering guys they are convinced are as good as many guys with better offer sheets and more stars who just happened to be fortunate enough to be first stringers their Junior year in HS.

Comment by pitt1972 08.14.12 @ 2:05 pm

Star ratings do matter it has been proven over and over again. But that is not to say that there are not individuals who over or under achieve. But having more 4 stars gives you a better chance to succeed. I was more worried when the class was ranked around 61. Even if Chryst could really coach em up by their senior year would would be looking at a team ranked in the 40s. Now Rivals has them rated 35. If you coach them up you could be looking at a top 25 team in a few years. Add Johnson and Foster and you could have a very highly ranked team in a year or two.
There are different ways to sell. Some guys are “one call closers”. Some are more methodical, making the recruit comfortable first, answering any questions and helping them to make the decision. Maybe that is what we have in Chryst.

Comment by Houston Panther 08.14.12 @ 3:38 pm

I am in sales. A one call close is the true objective of any sales person – just go to any sales seminar. One call closers win much more of the time and will be much more successful in their careers.

Comment by rayhpgh 08.14.12 @ 4:02 pm

Starters and key contributors:

Tags – Toledo & Towson

Gruder – Rice & Western Michigan

Cory King – Bowling Green & Minnesota

Dion Lewis – Miami (OH) & Tulane

Isaac Bennett – Tulsa & ILM (?)

Ronald Jones – GA Southern, Marshall & Citadel

Jevonte- Pitts – PITT and 0 others

Josh Brinson – PITT and 0 others

Those last few players will get playing time as FR and SOs this season.

Comment by Reed 08.14.12 @ 5:23 pm

TX Panther – I should, but just can’t give up. You and Frank keep missing the point. The point is, no one on this blog has any idea of:
1 – what the 2013 class will be and what it will be ranked until Feb 2013.
2 – even then we won’t have any idea how the “stars” will align until they are coached up and play the game.

What we ARE beginning to know is:
– Ezell/Donald are beasts
– Price and Hale continue to disappoint
– Holtz and Pitts look to be the real deal
– We are stuck watching Tino the Terrible for 12 long painful games while he is Tino Terrific in practice
– And the OL has a chance to be good but can’t afford ANY more injuries

Can we now start talking about the Pitt Panther team playing in less than a month?

Comment by Taxing Matters 08.14.12 @ 6:57 pm

Yes, but let’s keep the Tino talk to a minimum. I am hoping that Pitt can win the Big East despite him.

Comment by TX Panther 08.14.12 @ 7:41 pm

@Houston Panther–Taxing matters has a good point–even star ratings, to the extent they matter statistically, are provisional until after the senior HS seasons are done. They do change (in both directions) based on the fall HS season. Believing a player isn’t or can’t be very good because he doesn’t have a 3+ star rating in August (a significant number of players haven’t even been scouted yet) is not a reasonable conclusion to reach because the data to support such a conclusion is incomplete and insufficient. Your point has far more validity in December-January-February than it does now.

Comment by pitt1972 08.14.12 @ 7:48 pm

All this debate over a “soft verbal” with rumors of questionable academics is pretty amusing, don’t you think?

In addition, Mr. Connors apparently has stated he will be making other visits and, still further, it is rumored that if he gets a Michigan State offer (where his HS buddy is going)he will switch his commitment.

Comment by pitt1972 08.14.12 @ 7:54 pm

OK how many times on here when we took myers part
did you all say to drw and me myers only had offers from pitt and bowling green.
you have all used that to make your point.

all so how many times when we recriuted some one good have i hard you all say he had offers from ohio state and penn state and iowa and we beat them out and he came to pitt how wonderful.

so in outher words when you all want to use a players offer it is ok but when tex panther or i do the same thing we are nuts.

so only you all can do that use the offer a player gets but we cant.

Comment by FRANKCAN 08.14.12 @ 8:16 pm

Gentlemen, gentlemen with all the negative pub PITT has gotten since forcing DW to resign, I would say if we end up with a Top 35 class or so, that would be pretty good(didn’t know Rivals had us that high). As we knew going in that PC wasn’t a Johnny Majors or Jackie Sherrill or even a DW on the recruiting trail.

However what we have learned in this process is this: that PITT did out recruit Wisconsin over the last decade, yet Wisconsin got much better results on the field. And those results were in a better conference to boot.
Therefore that leads us to this conclusion; Wisconsin’s coaches were better at “coaching them up” into a better team than Pitt’s coaches were.
That certainly has to do with the stability and the continuity that has existed since Barry Alvarez took over as coach and then became AD.

And we now have several of Wisconsin’s better coaches at Pitt, with the most notable being Chryst, Huxtable and Rudolph. And they were able to bring in a guy with loads of O-line coaching experience, Huebner after losing Bostad.

So me personally I’m almost willing to give Chryst a pass this year on the recruiting end, however if we stay in the Top 35 and are fortunate enough to land Foster and maybe a few more, that would be pretty good in my mind. (again keeping in mind the near Titanic like disasters that have befallen Pitt since DW was forced out)

I am slightly concerned that nobody is on the staff yet with any Southern connections. As Randy Edsall was quoted as saying, the ACC is a much more speed oriented league than the Big East and we saw some of that when our best Pitt team in the last 30 years (the 10-3 2009 team) had a difficult time in the Muffler Bowl against a slightly above average middle tier ACC, North Carolina team. That same year we also got beat by a lower tier ACC team that year, NC State.

So we need to recruit some speed from the South, I don’t care if it comes from Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas or Virginia. But we need to have someone down here(i’m in NC) to start developing some HS contacts. Cause if our best team in 30 years had trouble(a loss & a last second win) with average ACC teams, teams with much more speed like FSU, VT, Clemson, GT, Miami and others in given years, are going to reek havoc on us.

Veritas et Virtus

Comment by Emel 08.14.12 @ 10:18 pm

Frank – there is a big difference in your Mark Myers reference because you and DRW kept insisting that Myers’ lack of offers was due to his committing to PITT early and that had he not committed many more BCS schools would have offered him.

Well, I tended to disagree with that. Believe me, if a player is a legit four star, #11 QB in the country schools will continue to offer him right up to the end of his SR HS year. However, if the player is a good but not great (3*) HS player then a lot of BCS colleges will quit recruiting him after he commits and turn their time, energy and money elsewhere because there are a lot of fish like that in the sea.

The point made above about the periodic updates of the star ranks is a good one. A lot of schools don’t throw out all their offers right off the bat. A lot wait until all the summer development camps are over and the player’s SR year is finished to see how well he developed physically and talent-wise before offering.

That’s why in a lot of cases you’ll see two star kids re-ranked as three stars and start getting more offers as soon as their SR HS season ends.

The majority of the players Chryst has recruited this season fit into that category, as the majority of college football players do. Again, Chryst and staff require two complete game films from the HS coach and physically watch the kid play/camp/work out before they offer him. That is a hell of a lot more than these recruit scouting services do for two and three star players. Many time they won’t see them live or even on game films at all.

The way I look at it is if the HC and his staff go to into that much detail regarding a three star target (everyone and their brothers throw offers out to four and five star players without ever seeing them) then I’ll defer to their judgement on this matter. It’s such a crap shoot anyway when you are dealing with 17-18 year old kids.

It really is true that when the coaching staff has the targeted recruits lined up on the “Big Board” (just like NFL teams do for the draft) they don’t give a rat’s ass about stars. They have done their homework and know just what type of player they need at what positions they are recruiting for. The staff may be salivating over a particular three star kid due to positives we have no idea about and us fans are screaming for the other four star kid to be recruited who the staff wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.

Look, I firmly believe that the difference between three star play and four star play AFTER the kid sets foot on a college campus is how well he adjusts to college life and how well he is coached to play at this level.

Some coaches get the max out of their players, get them to play solidly as a team and win football games. Other coaches recruit higher rated talent, can’t seem to get the best out of their kids and squander the opportunity of having a roster of highly rated players coming together to win consistently.

Wannstedt was one of the latter, Chryst appeared to be one of the former with his offensive players at Wisconsin.

A roster full of three star players with some fours and a few five star kids is just fine with me. If you look at the majority of starting lineups in college football, except for maybe the Top Five programs, the bulk of the players were rated three star coming out of high school.

Comment by Reed 08.15.12 @ 4:57 am

Reed–You stated–“Some coaches get the max out of their players, get them to play solidly as a team and win football games. Other coaches recruit higher rated talent, can’t seem to get the best out of their kids and squander the opportunity of having a roster of highly rated players coming together to win consistently.

Wannstedt was one of the latter, Chryst appeared to be one of the former with his offensive players at Wisconsin.”

I am not certain I 100% agree with this conclusion but, I think your general premise is valid. Aside from game-day coaching decisions criticism, I think Wannstadt’s biggest problem was that his recruiting classes, although usually having good overall “star-power,” never included QBs to match the level of recruiting achieved for other positions and despite some OL individual stars there never was adequate quality depth recruited for the OL. Bottom line, Wannstadt’s recruiting wasn’t so great in terms of fulfilling team positional needs despite its overall “star power.”

More generically speaking this also points out a weakness in the recruiting ratings made by Rivals, Scout and ESPN, etc. You can have a class, or several years of classes, full of big HS stars that is (are) rated very highly but if the class or classes don’t produce quality depth at all positions for a team there will be on the field weaknesses as a result of the recruiting gaps. Consequently, some fans will conclude that coaching must be bad because of how poorly a team is performing relative to having highly ranked recruiting classes.

Applying this to Pitt, my impression has been that Despite how his classes were rated, Wannstadt never had the QBs or sufficient quality OL depth, and also had too many smurf size DBs. Harris seemed to usually have had very good QBs and skill position guys on offense; but, also appeared to usually be pretty deficient in quality and depth throughout much of the defensive side of the ball–most especially on the DL–>hence the bend but don’t break style of defense usually played.

Hopefully, Chryst will be recruiting teams that are more solid top to bottom; while still having enough big play offensive stars to compete effectively with anybody (i.e., the Wisconsin model). So far, his recruiting strategy seems to be oriented that way as he seems to be emphasizing going after positions of need rather than simply going after the most “star power” irrespective of those positional needs.

Comment by pitt1972 08.15.12 @ 10:04 am

Reed i never said that abought myers my be drw did
my point that you missed is evey time we backed
him was that many on here would say he could not be good becuse he only had offers from pitt and bowling green.

my point was they used the lack of offers to make there point and you and outhers did not say they were wrong.

but when tex panther EMel and i use the lack of offecrs or were the offers come from we are nuts who dont know what we are talking abought.

you made a list of all the 2 stars who made it big and NR how abought the list of all the 2 stars and NR who were no good.

but my main point is that if you use the list of offers to show how good we are doeing it is ok.

but if you use the list of offers to show how bad we might be doeing or were the offers came from then we dont know what we are talking abought.

but even you must think we need a recruter in the ACC footprint which we dont have.

Comment by FRANKCAN 08.15.12 @ 11:27 am

FrankCan–I don’t think there is really any inconsistency in Reed’s reasoning. The list of offers thing works less well as a measure of recruit quality prior to the fall; but, better from late fall on. This time of year, it works better as a positive indicator than as a negative indicator (as I explain below).

Like any other measure of anything, the measure involving who has offered works best when it is supported by the most data and worst when supported by the least data.

So, this time of year, a great offer sheet means a lot in the positive direction because those with them already were stars before their senior HS year and are well scouted. On the other hand, not having a great offer sheet this time of year has a couple of different possible meanings. It will likely mean, for those players who have been well scouted (and many who didn’t start as HS juniors haven’t been), that they aren’t very good prospects. On the other hand, for those who haven’t been scouted, that conclusion is a whole lot shakier. A lack of offers this time of year quite often doesn’t mean the player lacks talent and potential. Often, its just that the player hasn’t been scouted. For reasons I have mentioned previously in another post above there are lots of legit reasons why a good number of players with talent and potential haven’t been scouted by this time of year prior to their senior HS season.

This changes by late fall when the HS seasons are finishing up and these players have been seen and scouted. Then, the offer sheets become more meaningful as a negative indicator–with one caveat. A guy who commits early and solidly honors that commitment from the beginning may not never get additional offers he may otherwise have gotten unless he has “blown-up” to a 4 or 5 star who other schools recruiters will keep after even when firmly told there is no interest by the player. That usually won’t be the case for guys who show solid but unspectacular 3-star ability during their senior seasons.

Bottom line–There just aren’t any easy answers to this game of deciding for certain how good (or not) a recruit is. The best a fan can do is look at how a player is rated by several different rating services as LOI day approaches and their evaluations have had their final post-senior season adjustments made. Then, based on that info (stars plus offer sheet) conclude the player probably is at a talent level that is around the average of all the ratings looked at.

At this time of year, it is a lot harder to get a good answer; but, the closest to best answer is probably from the site or sites that have actually based their early rating on an actual scouting report rather than from those giving a low rating as a default since they haven’t had a scouting report on the player.

Of course, the actual right answer ultimately can’t be known until a player has been on a college team for a good while.

Comment by pitt1972 08.15.12 @ 1:39 pm

TX Panther – With regard to the QB “who shall not be named”, from your lips to God’s ears.

Comment by Taxing Matters 08.15.12 @ 3:05 pm

[…] best linebacker this season. Definitely the most athletic. Shane Gordon has not played since the scrimmage when he got knocked out cold. Haven’t seen an actual listing of the injury, but I think it would be safe to say he’s […]


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