September 13, 2012

Running the Links, 9/13

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s),Recruiting — Chas @ 9:32 pm

Another week getting away from me. Back flaring this week, not helping.

Let’s run the links.

A couple pieces on the tailbacks. One on Rushel Shell getting his first action. As the star running back in HS, he was never wasted with blocking, so he’s having to learn the hard way.

No wonder: Shell ran for a state-record 9,078 yards in high school on a team that seldom threw.

“I didn’t know what a protection was coming in here,” Shell said. “It was rough at first, but I’m really getting a grasp of it now.”

Then an article on Ray Graham getting closer to feeling like himself, with a  second half also about Shell learning/getting his first action.

“My explosiveness, I feel like it ain’t there right now. The stick shift, I need to get in four gears. I feel like it’s coming and coming as the games go on.”

After that 50-yard run, Graham came out and freshman Rushel Shell took Pitt’s next two carries. Shell and Isaac Bennett combined for 13 carries for 55 yards Thursday, and that may just be the key to Graham’s recovery — having two capable backups to handle the load when he needs to rest.

“Three is always better than one,” Graham said.

Graham does know to say exactly the right thing about sharing carries.

What makes Graham’s rushing numbers — as well as that of Shell and Bennett’s — impressive is that it is happening despite an O-line that has been lousy. But the O-line swears it will improve, because they are taking their lousy play personally. As opposed to before when they were viewing it from afar and just kind of thinking about playing better.

A few articles noting that Coach Chryst is off to a rough start. But, hey, Chryst is having fun trying to figure this out. And he’s staying positive.

Shockingly, a second straight week in the “bottom 10.” Because many things are ugly.

7: Pitt is No. 108 in scoring? The Panthers have been awful across the board, losing by two TDs to Youngstown State and then getting blown out on the Thursday night stage by unranked Cincy. They still can’t pass protect; they can’t consistently run; they have been inept at stopping the run and making matters worse, they’re No. 108 in turnover margin.

So you are saying there at least 9 other teams that haven’t gotten a single interception or fumble as well. Awesome.

Heading into Saturday’s game, Frank Beamer has respect for Pitt. The question is, will he still respect the Panthers afterwards?

Best reason to be at the game, rather than watch on TV? Not having to keep hearing references to Beamer Ball.

Stability at VT. Instability at Pitt.

Todd Thomas is still not ready to play, but it appears that VT might be down a couple starting linebackers as well.

Redshirt [senior] Bruce Taylor dressed for this past weekend’s 42-7 win over Austin Peay but did not play. Beamer said his status for the Pittsburgh game is uncertain because, “when you get those ankles, some times they take longer than you expect.”

Beamer didn’t sound optimistic about getting linebacker Tariq Edwards back, either. The redshirt junior has been recovering from offseason surgery to alleviate pain caused by a stress fracture in his shin that required an additional procedure during training camp. He only returned to practice last week and is “working his way back.”

Both are the starting linebackers in the VT 4-2-5 defense. So, if the O-line can get any kind of hole, there are possibilities for good runs if — if — Oh, wait, the whole theory fell apart with the idea of the O-line opening up holes

Walt Harris was a West Coast guy, but he is still hanging out in Pittsburgh.

Former Pitt coach Walt Harris stopped by practice yesterday, and I spoke with him today for a story I’m working on for later this week. He commended the current Pitt players for their determination sticking through such trying times with all the coaching changes, and said he plans to be around practice and whatnot to support the team this year.

“I admire what the team has done, and I really have a lot of respect for Paul and his staff,” Harris said. “That’s really why I’m coming to practice, because I respect the staff and I’m a Panther. I come out, and I don’t think anybody knows who I am. I just want to be there.”

I still think Harris, Rod Rutherford and any other Panthers available from the 2001-03 teams should be hanging out on the sideline on Saturday. Just on the off-chance that it confuses Beamer and Foster as to what year it is.

Also a lot of recruits are going to be there. Including Dorian Johnson (maybe), Tyler Boyd, and even a 2014 QB (Insider subs.) not named Chandler Kincade. He is Andrew Ford from Cedar Cliff. He’s getting a lot of interest from schools but no offers yet.

Since Sept. 1, Ford has heard from a number of the schools already interested in him — Maryland, Notre Dame, Penn State, Pittsburgh — but several new programs have come into the picture to at least express their interest in Ford. Alabama, Cincinnati, Michigan, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Purdue and UConn have all spoken to Ford over the last two weeks.

On Saturday, Ford will make it to Pitt for its game against Virginia Tech. Much like Virginia, Ford has visited Pitt before but never for a game. Ford is looking forward to a few things on Saturday.

“The atmosphere — Pittsburgh fans are crazy — and just getting up to see Coach [Paul] Chryst and [Brooks] Bollinger and to see how they act on gameday and all that. It’ll be fun for me to see how they are.”

Yeeaaahhh. Crazy. That’s the term. Ford seems like a Virginia lean at this point, so not going to be too concerned with him. Especially with Kincade still solid on Pitt.

Gotta love Walt….I still am pissed they didn’t keep him as our head coach after Walt fired his agent. Games when Walt coached were always fun to watch and we were always in a game…of course sometimes it felt like Occam’s razor in that our wins were almost losses as well…but overall far better than the garbage that has followed!

Comment by Marco 09.13.12 @ 10:14 pm


Comment by druc 09.14.12 @ 1:44 am

Let’s try not to boo with the recruits here, no matter what Tino does. We need to put on a happy face and not scare off our future.

Comment by Chuck Morris 09.14.12 @ 6:09 am

I was hoping Walt was there to add insight about how to tear apart Bud Foster’s D. But I guess Latif Grim isn’t walking through that door…

Comment by JW 09.14.12 @ 7:34 am

Walt Harris had his faults but its obvious the guy really loved his time at Pitt. Glad to see he’ll be hanging around practices. I say hire him as the new OC next year after Tino is gone and he has a chance to work with Voytik and some of the incoming QBs.

I will always give praise to Walt for turning around the pathetic Panther program and he did it while I was in school at Pitt. I still remember the Thursday night game in 1997 when we took down a ranked Miami team. It was really a major turning point for a program that only won 15 games total in the previous 5 seasons. It was also the first time Pitt beat Miami since 1976 and our first victory over a ranked opponent since 1989. All of that hope and promise 15 years ago and now we’re getting mopped up by Youngstown State, my how times have changed for the worse.

God Bless Pete Gonzalez.

Comment by Coach Ditka 09.14.12 @ 8:27 am

Anybody see Rutgers v USF??
Can Pitt beat either team?
BJ Daniels was terrible… 15 of 33 and 3 interceptions!
Was Nova a Pitt commit for Wanny?? Same with Belton at PSU.

Comment by Joe D 09.14.12 @ 8:51 am

Joe, yes Nova was a Pitt commit.

I watched the game on and off. I think Pitt is lacking the speed and quickness of both, especially RU.

Comment by steve1 09.14.12 @ 9:16 am

Crazy? That’s really “neat” !

Comment by CompLit 09.14.12 @ 9:37 am

Yes we are Pitt fans, yes we be crazy, yes we be crazy Pitt fans! Us crazy Pitt fans thinking we can win with Tino at QB, INSANE!

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.14.12 @ 9:46 am

I am not yet on board with the conclusion of some (many?) that Pitt’s defensive problems this year are primarily due to a lack talent (as defined as a lack of speed and quickness).

I am still mostly leaning to the idea that inexperienced guys are playing hesitant and making many late or incorrect read decisions–making them appear slower and less quick than their athleticism warrants.

Hope I am right because improvement in decision making is teachable during the season, whereas speed and quickness is at best marginally improvable and then mostly as a function of off-season conditioning programs.

And even if I am right, I hope it is the inexperience factor that we are seeing and not bad coaching–because that isn’t correctable either.

Comment by pitt1972 09.14.12 @ 10:05 am

The front seven of rutgers run blitzed all night and caused problems for Daniels. Rutgers front seven are quick off the ball. Loading the box on “D” makes the OL and QB beat you. Those are two current weaknesses for the program. Ok, those have been the two weaknesses for awhile, hence the predicament.

Offensively usf looked like Pitt. Unable to run effective plays because they were out schemed. They let Rutgers dictate pace (run blitzez)and create turnover opportunities and tackles for loss. Pitt can beat a stacked box and pressure. The RB’s need to chip block every time! There is nothing more frustrating for a speed rusher on the outside, having his shoulder hit every rush. You can break the “will” of the speed rusher after 5-7 of those in a row as he will know he has a long day ahead of him.

Lack of turnovers typically means your defense is soft….and doesn’t pressure the offense. That needs to change immediately. We have seen that Pitt can give up the big play without putting pressure on an offense. I would prefer them hitting with pressure and being susceptible to the big play versus laying back and still giving it up! It’s about mindset and dictating.

Hey Rev, you ok? Haven’t heard from you on here in awhile. May be getting transferred to Columbus or Raleigh in the next few weeks.

Comment by dhuffdaddy 09.14.12 @ 10:27 am


I tend to believe that most of the defensive issues we’ve seen are related to inexperience as opposed to lack of talent.

The injury situations with Todd Thomas and Ejuan Price put the LB corps behind the eight ball to start the season, as those two had the most experience from last year and are probably the two most talented LBs on the roster. That said, I’ve seen some good things from Shane Gordon despite his struggles. I think he’ll get better and could eventually become a strong LB in this scheme as the season rolls on.

I was initially concerned with Donald struggling over the first two games, but again, that’s a by-product of the relative youth around him in that front seven. He’s been getting manhandled because the other DL aren’t doing enough to draw attention away from him. I think that’ll come as well. Ezell’s boneheaded suspension for the YSU game cost him progress on that end; both he and KK Mosley-Smith have to be more of a presence in the middle.

Clemmings and Murphy have struggled, but I’ve seen some things from them that make me realize 1) why they were so highly-ranked coming out of high school and 2) they seem to be the types of players that could really develop into impact talent as they mature. Clemmings in particular really looks the part. He looks like a player who got by in high school on ridiculous athleticism and being so much larger than everyone else. If he can get focused and really refine his technique, he could really be something. It’s there. He and Murphy are two players I’ll be watching very closely this year.

The other player who has impressed me so far in terms of early looks is Lafayette Pitts. He’s made some mistakes but that’ll happen; he’s just a redshirt freshman. But he’s good some really good speed and I love that kid’s motor, especially chasing down whoever it was against Cincy that broke a long run down the sidelines. If he progresses and K’Wuan Williams can get healthy this year, Pitt may really have something at corner next year with these two heading into the ACC.

I think this year, the defense needs to learn to play together. Everything trickles down and it starts with the defensive line. If the defensive line doesn’t get penetration or maintain containment (depending on the situation), it forces the LBs to overcompensate. When this happens, the DBs in turn have to overcompensate.

It’s a young group, it’s a young group that’ll grow up together.

Comment by Stoosh 09.14.12 @ 11:01 am


Last sentence should’ve read “It’s a young group, BUT it’s a young group that’ll grow up together.”

Comment by Stoosh 09.14.12 @ 11:02 am

In retrospect, Harris (or his agent) was right.
The hiring of Haygood confirmed it.
What Pederson has done since has not helped.

Comment by SFPitt 09.14.12 @ 11:19 am

Yes, thank you, I am fine, but my Panthers are not. Being an optimist, I find it difficult to contribute more negativity to the Blather Blogs. Oh yes, I have opinions!! Big time. I’m glad Chryst is our coach and am willing to give him time!! Sorry to give up on Tino, but I have. I though he would really be motivated this year??? Don’t know how we can stop a 6’6 inch qb for Vt. However, Gardner-Webb is just around the corner and if we don’t beat them, we won’t b eat anybody. I’m still a Panthewr and am agonizing along with the rest of the LOYALISTS!! Have a GOOD LIFE, all of you Pittites! Rev. George in Columbus, where URBAN’s Renewal plan has tjhe media on its side.

Comment by Rev. George Mehaffey 09.14.12 @ 11:28 am


I think that you are 100% correct. Placing the blame for this terrible defense on “lack of talent”, particularly when one the teams that knocked us around was D2 (anyone seriously going to tell me that YSU has more “talent” on their defense than we do?), exonerates those who deserve most of the criticism for this season…the coaches.

Comment by HbgFrank 09.14.12 @ 12:58 pm

God I hope Dorian Johnson isn’t at the game unless he’s interested in immediate playing time.

Comment by Beantown-Sean 09.14.12 @ 1:30 pm

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