Welp, a couple days off for the Pitt players. Fan Fest on Sunday. Now back to work for a week to get ready for Florida State.
Hope lots of people attended FanFest. I debated loading the family for a day trip to the ‘Burgh, but instead used this last weekend of no football or basketball in a final manic fit of yardwork and brewing. All so there is nothing interfering with the weekends from here on out.
I’m a touch bitter I won’t make it to the opening game. The reality is harsh. Pitt-FSU wouldn’t start until 8pm, so get there early to see friends and a little tailgate before heading to the pressbox. Assuming the game finishes sometime around 11. Post-game presser and stuff until around midnight. Perhaps try to post something. Drive back home (roughly 3 hours). Maybe sleep an hour or two before starting the day, getting the kids up and to school. Then to work. I just can’t see pulling that off without falling asleep at the wheel somewhere. I’m just going to have to settle for watching at home this time.
Okay, on to the stories.
Okay, as most heard or read, James Conner scared the crap out of coaches and fans on Thursday.
The Pitt running back situation appeared to take a turn from bad to worse Thursday when freshman James Conner landed awkwardly on his left shoulder after chasing down safety Jason Hendricks, who had intercepted a pass. Conner yelled in pain and trainer Rob Blanc immediately tended to him, strapping an ice pack to the shoulder. He did not practice for the rest of the day. There was no update from coach Paul Chryst, but Conner tweeted shortly after practice, “Shoulder is good!” Conner had been the first running back on the field since starter Isaac Bennett injured his right knee Aug. 10. Bennett worked without a leg brace for the second consecutive day, but he did not participate in the scrimmage portion of practice.
Can we at least wait until the season begins before there are crushing injuries to all hope?
Related, the ACC does have an injury disclosure policy… sort of (story is from last year).
Two days before conference games, ACC schools are obligated to release lists of their injured players.
Of the six power conferences, only the ACC has a league-wide guideline this year for reporting injuries. But there are concerns about how it works, mainly that nothing can be done if a coach chooses not to comply.
“Coaches sandbag,” Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “There ain’t no wondering. That’s just part of being a coach.”
And North Carolina coach Larry Fedora compares discussing injured players to giving the opponent a peek at his playbook.
But ACC Associate Commissioner for Football Operations Michael Kelly believes the process works, and most coaches agree. He says the coaches have enough respect for each other to follow those guidelines.
“Ultimately, if it’s found not useful or if they’re not being used the way the coaches feel is good for them, then we likely would adjust it or change it,” Kelly said. “But I think it’s really been out of the respect they have for each other and the respect they have in terms of how they share the information with the media is why they elect to renew it each year. It’s something we’ll keep talking about.”
The league classifies its injury guidelines as a “framework” for exchanging information — not a policy subject to enforcement, Kelly said.
So, yeah in a conference with Nick Saban disciples (Jimbo Fisher), Mike Gundy paranoids (Larry Fedora) and stone silent responders (Al Golden). Well, Paul Chryst is going to fit right in with operating within this “framework.”
Back to freshmen who can or will see action this year, there will be more than a few beyond Conner.
Tight end Scott Orndoff of Seton-La Salle is one of several freshmen who might help this season but also are building what they believe will be a solid program for the next three years. “Amongst ourselves, we talk about it,” Orndoff said. “Look at what we’re doing now, (but) wait until three years from now. We’re the authors. It’s up to us.”
Pitt also has several freshmen and redshirt freshmen — wide receiver Tyler Boyd, offensive tackle Adam Bisnowaty and kicker Chris Blewitt are among them — who likely will be starters from the outset of this season. “Guys came in with the attitude, ‘I belong here and I can play with you guys.’ ” Orndoff said. “A lot of them are going to earn starting spots, and that’s pretty exciting for our team.”
Not to mention Jaymar Parrish at fullback/h-back, Gabe Roberts at center, plus Shakir Soto over on the defense. Oh, and of course Dorian Johnson.
Johnson isn’t starting at right tackle — T.J. Clemmings has nailed down the job with hard work and the type of physicality Pitt’s staff likes — but he said [Offensive line Coach Jim] Hueber told him this week that he probably won’t redshirt.
“Coach Hueber told me, for right now, the plan is not to redshirt,” Johnson said. “Unless it gets halfway through the season and I’m not getting enough reps. He doesn’t want me to waste a year.”
Johnson said the news was “exciting.”
“I wasn’t sure where I stood until (Wednesday),” he said.
Hueber said Johnson is making good progress.
“He is on the fast track to be alive in there,” he said.
And that still doesn’t seem like the end of it. When Pitt was recruiting Tyler Boyd and taking many trips out to Clairton to check on him, they offered several of his teammates and close friends. Despite Clairton’s winning and winning and winning in recent years, they are Class A which inevitably produces questions about the true talent on the squad.
So when Titus Howard was offered early in 2012 and verbaled that spring, there was plenty of speculation (including by me) that part of why Howard was offered was because of his close relationship with Tyler Boyd. That same view was taken with the late offer to Terrish Webb. That it was to solidify Boyd’s verbal. It now appears that they are doing everything to show that their success at Clairton was not all Boyd and being in the smaller high school classification.
“I give them credit,” Pitt coach Paul Chryst said. “They’ve come in, they’ve got a great work ethic to them, obviously talented enough to earn those, but the moments aren’t getting too big for them.”
Both seemed likely heading for redshirt seasons as training camp opened, but they have made enough plays and steadily have risen up the depth chart over the past three weeks. Tuesday, each had an interception in team drills.
Howard has even moved up to working with the first team at cornerback in nickel situations over the past few practices.
“I wasn’t really expecting to be running with the ones this early, but they’ve got me in there with the ones and I’m actually doing a pretty good job, I’m guessing,” he said. “So hopefully I keep it up.
“My confidence level is through the roof right now. I feel like I had a great camp.”
Webb is not likely to make it on the field this year at safety — barring injury. But that he is in the discussion at all is surprising. Even with the shuffling of players from saftey to linebacker, there was still a decent level of depth at safety for this year.
For all the talk by Coach Chryst about wanting to redshirt kids, this class is anything but. I realize it is no small reflection of the dearth of talent and depth at several positions. But it can’t hurt for recruiting to point out that there are lots of chances to be on the two-deep right away if you are good enough.
Defensive Graduate Assistant Spencer Whipple is nothing but a spy watching the defense.
Sure, he is jotting down notes as [Defensive Coordinator Matt] House goes into the details of a new coverage of a different blitz package. That’s Whipple’s job as a defensive graduate assistant, and he enjoys the process of working with Pitt’s first-year defensive coordinator.
But when House isn’t looking, Whipple flips his notebook around and starts jotting down something else.
“Every once in a while, we’ll install a coverage or install a blitz and sometimes I’ll discreetly take my notepad out and flip it around to the other side and start drawing up an offensive play to see how to beat it,” Whipple said with a laugh.
Whipple’s not taking sides against the family, so to speak; he just can’t help it. The son of an NFL offensive coordinator and a former quarterback himself, Whipple’s brain is still wired to offense, so while he’s working with House and Pitt’s defense this year, there’s a duality in his thought process.
“You always play that game, that chess match in your head, and it works both ways,” Whipple said. “Being able to see both sides of it has been really cool for me.”
I think if Dana Holgorsen had to spend more than five minutes thinking about football from a defensive perspective while driving, he’d get into an accident. Hmmm.