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.
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.