January 3, 2013

It’s been a while since I wrote anything about the football team (okay, it’s been a while since I had some time to write much of anything). So, time to hit the links.

Cam Saddler is back with the team and down in Birmingham. Arthur Doakes, however, is not.

Pitt redshirt sophomore Arthur Doakes , who started the final four games of the regular season at right guard, was suspended for at least one game for violating team policy, a university spokesman said Wednesday. Doakes won‘t play in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Saturday against Ole Miss, but coach Paul Chryst hasn‘t named a replacement. Redshirt sophomore Shane Johnson , who never has started a game in three seasons at Pitt, is listed behind Doakes on the team‘s two-man depth chart. Doakes, 6-foot-6, 340 pounds, had replaced regular starting right guard Ryan Schlieper , who suffered a season-ending ankle injury Oct. 27 against Temple. Doakes is the second Pitt offensive lineman suspended this season. Redshirt junior Juantez Hollins was suspended for the season before the start of training camp.

Nothing to worry about there. Why the last time there was a last-minute loss of an offensive lineman before a bowl game with little to no help behind him it was only the Sun Bowl. No reason to panic. None at all.

In other comings and goings, Pitt has two more players leaving the team.

Pitt running back Corey Davis and tight end Brendan Carozzoni have left the team and will not accompany the Panthers on Tuesday when they travel to Birmingham, Ala., for the BBVA Compass Bowl.

Davis, a sophomore from Gladewater, Texas, who was recruited by former coach Todd Graham, was fifth on the depth chart at running back and had no carries or receptions. Last season, he rushed for 48 yards on 17 carries and caught five passes for 64 yards as a freshman. He also averaged 21.1 yards on 17 kickoff returns.

Davis‘ departure leaves Pitt with only 12 players from Graham‘s 21-man recruiting class of 2011.

Carozzoni, a redshirt sophomore from Rocky River, Ohio, had no receptions this season after making four catches for 43 yards last season.

That leaves 12 players from the Wannstedt-Graham class of 2011. That, of course, opens up two more scholarships. By remarkable coincidence, both Tyler Boyd and Jaleel Hytchye are planning to announce their verbals this Saturday.

The standard storyline for the bowl games is always about seniors getting ready to finish their college careers. The usual stuff about leaving it all on the field, no regrets, all that. Well, maybe just one…

Sunseri and Turnley each said they had no regrets about their time as Panthers, but Sunseri said he often questioned what would’ve happened if Pitt had hired Paul Chryst in 2010, rather than Todd Graham.

Sunseri would have another year of comfort in Chryst’s pro-style offense, and there would have been no failed “high-octane” experiment.

“Things happen for a reason. It builds character,” Sunseri said. “We understand what it’s like to be left, we understand now what it’s like to have a coach and have somebody there for you that wants to see you succeed.”

Safe to bet that Tino Sunseri would probably have heard a little less criticism if Todd Graham had never happened. Here’s a puff piece on Sunseri in the Birmingham paper.

On the flip side to a miserable 2011 performance, Ray Graham admits he started to give thoughts about going pro last year (until he got hurt).

“Old Ray” would have been hard enough to duplicate. When he went down, Graham was Division I-A’s second-leading rusher with 958 yards through eight games. Things were going so well, Graham admitted the thought of leaving school early for the NFL draft crossed his mind.

“The way I was going, the way everything was going, it definitely would have been a decision me and my family would’ve made,” he said. “Who knows? I don’t know. It would’ve been a tough decision I would’ve had to make.”

Now he’s got one final game (and the East-West Shrine game) to help raise his stock for the NFL Draft.

Well, the good news (I guess) about the BBVA Bowl. There’s a certain familiarity with everything.

It might not make a big difference, but every little edge matters, especially in a game between two teams as apparently evenly matched as Pitt and Mississippi.

“We understand the field, we understand the locker rooms, I don’t think there’s anything new to you,” Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri said.

“I think the biggest thing about bowl games is you just have to make sure you get as much preparation up here as you possibly can. Because whenever you’re down at the bowl site, there’s so much stuff going on.”

Pitt certainly will have its hands full with extracurricular bowl events once they arrive. Mornings will be spent practicing at Hoover High School – the same location the Panthers practiced last year – and afternoons and evenings will feature events like a trip to the Civil Rights Institute, visits to a children’s hospital, a comedy club and a bowling night.

Kind of reminds me of an annual grade school field trip to the local historical site. Been there. Seen it enough times. Know the place. Nothing new, but it sure beats being stuck in the classroom all day.

If Ole Miss doesn’t like the cold, maybe it helps Pitt. But, they don’t seem too bothered to practice in it at the moment.

Ole Miss players endured temperatures in the upper 30s and overcast skies on Wednesday for their first off-campus practice in preparation for Saturday’s BBVA Compass Bowl at Legion Field.

Most of the Rebels’ workouts in Oxford, before a week-long Christmas break and after, were inside their indoor facility.

The last workout, on New Year’s Eve, was in the stadium.

“It’s good for us to get out and get a practice in this type of weather. It’s a little colder here than it was the other day at Vaught-Hemingway. It’s different on the quarterbacks and receivers, the specialists especially,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said.

Practicing in the cold means the Ole Miss defense looks sharper than the offense. Since the defense doesn’t have to worry about handling the ball. At the same time, the gameday temp is expected to be in the low 50s. Not the 30s they are practicing in at the moment.

Just about every team member wore compression gear from head-to-toe during the practice, held on the campus at Birmingham-Southern, and more than a few huddled for warmth.

It made for a cute scene, unless you’re a quarterback trying to get ready for Saturday’s BBVA Compass Bowl (noon, ESPN).

“Bo (Wallace) was not himself today, Barry (Brunetti) and all the quarterbacks,” coach Hugh Freeze said. “The ball is a little harder, slicker and for receivers and specialists it certainly was a different game.”

The Rebels are gutting it out with Bo Wallace at QB. Wallace has a hamstring problem and a bum shoulder that may require off-season surgery.

Let me state how much I want to see us turn the corner and beat Ole Miss. Here why it will not happen today. Maybe in a few years but not today. Ole Miss is a energized program. As younmaynor may not know they have been bad the last 3 years. The new coach has them excited and believing in themselves. I see them on TV a lot and they play with passion and heart because they bought it. Most SEC teams have looked flat, etc. I think it’s because they had good seasons and didn’t get up for the games. Needless to say the mighty SECmhasnt looked good. I think that wont be the story with Ole Miss under Freeze. They have solid talent but the programm is excited to make the turn and it shows. Look at ticket sales and that is huge. The support of the program is big where we have a few thousand fans that will go to the game. It’s all about where a program is and where they are heading. Tis Ole Miss team had LSU beat and close with Tex AM. If you are a betting man this is easy money in my opinion. Hopefully we can pull it out but I don’t see Chryst having the talent, gameplay to do so this year. I hope I’m wrong but at the end of the day we have Tino as our QB. Go Pitt!

Comment by Upittbaseball 01.05.13 @ 9:59 am

wbb, Yes, western PA isn’t the epicenter of the nation’s football talent, as once was, but we still have good talent in the area. From a recruiting standpoint, it’s the local players with whom Pitt has the best probability of getting. So you absolutely have to after them as a priority. Getting the top talent from Florida to come here is a more difficult task. We still need to go after them none the less. For the most part, the Florida players that you would a shot with, will be those flying under the radar. So you take a few more chances with sleepers or players who need refinement. I think the Panthers need to do a much better job locally in western PA and Ohio and re-establish links in New Jersey and Maryland. Dave Wannstedt got a lot of players from New Jersey. In addition to that, Pitt needs to look in Florida, for players who have talent and are receptive to playing here.

Comment by Justinian 01.05.13 @ 10:00 am

did you guys check out the designs on facebook from the graphic artist from pitt? he has a bunch of cool designs for pitt that would be a welcome change as we head to the acc.

Comment by pittisit37 01.05.13 @ 10:10 am

The top kids in Florida will not choose Pitt over UF, Fla. St. Miami, LSU, Bama, etc. we need to get the 2 stars and the kids that were passed up. Teddy Bridgewater left and where did he go? l’Ville to play for Strong and his Florida roots. We need someone with Strong ties, a Floridian, to connect with both parents and kids alike. We also need that same thing here in Texas. These are the talent hotbeds.

Comment by Upittbaseball 01.05.13 @ 10:12 am

Pittisit37 – they are awesome.

Comment by Upittbaseball 01.05.13 @ 10:14 am

i agree upittbaseball and i hope the administration takes notice. the guys seems to have talent and is passionate about pitt.

Comment by pittisit37 01.05.13 @ 10:15 am

also, so excited for tino’s last game! can we retire/burn number 12 so we never have to see it worn again!

Comment by pittisit37 01.05.13 @ 10:16 am

acc comish better be pulling a rabbit out of his hat, word has it he has got the hat,or we will be on the otherside of the 65 teams looking in.alot of crazy net rumors out there, but be worried about the ones you are not seeing, come on chas, print them.sad post pittsit37.sorry no caps ,i like the pens.pitt in a slugfest 20-14

Comment by paul shannon 01.05.13 @ 10:28 am

Here’s the thing about recruiting though…Pitt is not a prestige school that can pull in blue chips on name and reputation, but it does have specific advantages, namely that there is still a rather strong albeit more shallow talent pool in its backyard. Here’s a list of schools that do not have that advantage and have done ok: Oregon, Kansas St., Boise St., Nebraska, Wisconsin, Louisville, West Virginia…hell throw UConn in there, they’ve been to a BCS more recently than we have. Point being it can be done at Pitt, with arguably less effort than at many schools.

Comment by Iron Duke 01.05.13 @ 10:30 am

Justinian, I’m certainly not saying that getting the locals isn’t important … certainly we need them as a base for the roster.

However, just look this past decade as to how good the Florida recruits (ALL who have been passed over by SEC, Miami and FSU) have been. Antonio Bryant, Greg Lee, Torrie Cox, Clint Session, HB Blades, Jameel Brady, Gus Mustkas, Greg Romeus, Shane Gordon were all passed over by the bigger southeastern schools … and these guys are just from the top of my head … I’ll guarantee there arejust as many I have forgotten.

Comment by wbb 01.05.13 @ 10:39 am

But it takes good recruiters to spot these diamonds in the rough. Does Pitt have any at the moment?

Comment by TX Panther 01.05.13 @ 10:51 am

Reed, why so serious? Listening to you, it sounds like Pitt has nothing but unranked recruits committed to the program amd little hope for snagging guys who are still in play as uncommitted.

I disagree with you on the current class NOT being good, Right now it is NOT great but it IS good in the sense that it addresses the #1 glaring weak position that has hindered Pitt historically as of late and that is at the offensive line position. Besides Dorian Johnson, Chryst has 3 other quality OL recruits on board already. Another 3 star recruit out of Philly, Jaryd Jones-Smith is another uncommitted OT that has visited Pitt and is still on the radar too.

Now with Chryst also moving TJ Clemmings over to the offensive tackle position for the Spring, this reoccuring issue of being thin on the OL seems to have been adequately addressed in Chryst’s first recruiting class.

Now I’m not real big on recruiting site star ratings for HS kids but our entire class so far are solid 3 stars across the board,,, almost. Considering guys like Tra’von Chapman, Zach Challingworth, Chris Blewitt and Titus Howard, these guys have already proven their worth at the HS level and could bloom into stars at Pitt.

Chris Blewitt is a local kid from my area down here in Washington DC and I can tell you from his play at Potomac HS, this kid is going to be money in the kicking dept for us. He has already kicked clutch 50 yard field goals when needed for his HS team. So pardon me for disagreeing with you, but this class has potential right now as it stands, even if we don’t bring in one more quality recruit.

And in considering Tyler Boyd’s situation, we already have one good Clairton player in Titus Howard a 6’2″ CB. We also have another guy, Terrish Webb from Clairton, seriously considering Pitt as well because of Howard already coming on board with Pitt. Webb is also a WR and the only reason he is a little under the radar is that he was playing in the shadow of Boyd during his HS career. So who knows, we could end up with a trifecta from Clairton in this class when it is all said and done.

There is another guy a DT that is leaning towards Pitt too, Kenton Gibbs out of Detroit, he is definitely in play at this point. So this recruiting game is far from over. Come LOI signing day Pitt could be flush with 25 or more recruits, all with good potential.

So lighen up Reed, especially if we snag both Boyd and Hytchye, this class should pan out just fine.

Comment by Dr. Tom 01.05.13 @ 10:52 am

Who recruits Texas and Deep South for Pitt? Who recruits Florida? Are they Texans? are they Floridians? White Guys from Wisconsin? Ex Ball Players from UF, Miami? UT, Tex AM? Do you see where I’m going with this? We need local guys from those markets that now live and coach up north. There is so much talent in those markets guys like Blades, Bryant, etc are passed up. We need to eat sleep breath in those markets. If you have. Teams of wpial kids you can’t win the MAC let alone a real Conf.

Comment by Upittbaseball 01.05.13 @ 11:04 am

Not sure why guys keep dinging Posvar and Bozik. Granted Gottfried was fired in the face of the academic standards change and the athletic programs fell into a malaise afterward. However, given that he never coached again, the fact that Gottfried left may not have been that significant. Posvar’s raising of the academic standards is in part what allows people to throw Pitt’s academic standing in the face of schools like WVU. After all, these kids are ostensibly supposed to be students first, and athletes second. It’s not supposed to be a trade school or the development league. Let the crap fall on that one!

An excerpt of the 1989 academic change:

Pitt will require prospective student-athletes to have a 2.3 grade-point average and a minimum 750 Scholastic Aptitude Test score. The NCAA requires a 2.0 average and a 700 score.

Really? That’s pretty daunting stuff.

Pitt’s last relatively significant bowl victory was in the 2010 Meineke Car Care Bowl. They beat a stacked North Carolina team that included Hakeem Nicks. NC ended up vacating wins due to academic cheating and improper benefits. That bowl victory was after Pitt essentially lost the Big East Championship at Heinz Field to Cincinnati (coached by Brian Kelly) 45-44 in the most exciting game that I have personally witnessed. Pitt effectively lost because they couldn’t cover two Mardy Gilyard kickoff returns and Pitt’s holder botched a good snap on a PAT after Pitt’s final TD. We can argue about Dave Wannstedt’s culpability in those failures, but let’s not revise history too much. Let the crap fall on that one too.

Comment by Barvo 01.05.13 @ 11:19 am

Barvo, just like blaming all of last year’s basketball woes on Woodall’s injury, many Pitt fans seem to like to blame just one person for its teams’ failures. Before it was Wanny, and now Tino for these past 2 years even though Tino won 8 games in his very first year as starter … under Wanny!!

I certainly hope that a new QB will make evrything better for Pitt FB next year …. athough my bet it would be more because of 9 starters returning on defense (note that Pitt started this year with 8 defensive starters who had very little experience.)

Comment by wbb 01.05.13 @ 11:42 am

@Dr. Tom. Thank you. Your points are well taken and correct. You guys are right about Iron Duke’s statement as well… I guess my take on that is this is a chicken-egg scenario.. .what comes first… good play or recruits. Yes recruits, and if they know they are coming to a tough team with the right energy… even if the wins aren’t there yet, then it is easier.

Today goes a long way to solidifying the foundation but you guys are right about the bottom line… need the players.

@Panther94…. yeah you are right there… I was exaggerating a little bit to make the point.

Now I understand the history from the above posts! thanks, I was watching games for 2-3 yrs before Majors turned things around… dark days indeed!

Today is the day Pitt earns its invitation to the ACC and shows everyone a new day has dawned! Good “enjoyable” football and a WIN.

Hail Pitt… Kick $$…

Comment by PittScript 01.05.13 @ 12:19 pm

no graham shuffled oline lets start blaming u know who , why wait , gets ur final cheap shots in early, pitt now 20-18.

Comment by paul shannon 01.05.13 @ 12:25 pm

Bad start for sure.

Comment by frank MD 01.05.13 @ 1:15 pm

This this like the BB game or what.

Comment by frank MD 01.05.13 @ 1:33 pm

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