September 18, 2013

More On The New Guys

Filed under: Football,Players — Chas @ 7:38 am

A couple focus stories in the dailies today.

Manasseh Garner is really happy in Pitt’s offense.

Thoughtful and soft-spoken, tight end Manasseh Garner was not trying to brag Tuesday when he was asked to describe his duties in the Pitt offense.

“Linebackers, cornerbacks, safeties, I feel like, personally, you line me up against anybody and I’m going to win,” he said.

Strong words from Garner, a Brashear graduate who scored a touchdown against Florida State, his first game at Pitt since transferring from Wisconsin.

Garner, a junior, has much to prove in his remaining time, but at 6-foot-2, 230-pounds he combines the requisite size and speed that attracts attention from opposing defenses and has the potential to confuse them.

Especially when you consider how Pitt offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph uses him — splitting him out like a wide receiver and lining him up tight against the linemen to block. Garner said he’s a receiver 40 percent of the time

“That’s something that is really in his wheelhouse,” Rudolph said of lining up wide, “and he adapts to it easily.”

Versatile. That’s probably the best way to describe Garner. What’s great is his versatility is being used. It isn’t just trying to fit him into one mold. It is taking advantage of what he can do when the situation calls for it.

It is amazing that when he was recruited out of high school he was expected to play on the defense. Either as an outside linebacker or a defensive end. Great hands. Knows what he is doing in the offense. Yeah, his athleticism would be welcome on either side of the ball, but he is a real weapon on offense.

Meanwhile, we learn that Pitt had decided to play James Conner at running back even before the depth at the spot dropped precipitously.

…a year ago pretty much every school recruiting Conner was doing so for his pass-rushing ability.

As his senior season at Erie McDowell progressed, though, it became pretty clear that he had the skills to play running back in college. As the Pitt coaches watched his tape, Conner became their standard for other running backs they thought about recruiting.

“We began to watch him, and he had a want-to to play that position,” offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said. “We had a need as we were going down. He really became the benchmark for ‘Do we need to sign another guy? Are they better than what James is?’ ”

By the end of the season, Conner had rushed for 1,680 yards and 21 touchdowns. In December, Rudolph told him that he would join the Panthers as a running back.

“I was pretty excited,” Conner said. “I had been playing it ever since I was younger.”

Which makes the training camp comments from Coach Paul Chryst that James Conner, “earned the right to stay at running back” another day, a sign of how much he likes having his own private joke on the media.

If you look at the Wisc RBs over the past several years, they seem to like the bigger ones … i.e, Ironhead > Dorsett. (not that they would turn their head to a talent like TD)

But this staff seems to be very specific as to what they recruit. Very big OL, big RBs, tall athletic QBs (remember, Voytik was Fraud recuit).

Defense is more of a mystery but there is an article in today’s Trib that points out that Pitt’s LBs are a bit undersized and the DC is OK with that.

Comment by wbb 09.19.13 @ 6:14 am

I can think of one very good running back who ran upright.

Eric Dickerson !

For the kido’s:

He was selected in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft, and played professionally for the Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Raiders, and Atlanta Falcons of the NFL. During his NFL career, he rushed for over 13,000 yards. He holds the NFL’s single-season rushing record with 2,105 yards, set in 1984.

Comment by EMel 09.19.13 @ 6:51 am

Agree Reed,

Bennett is only playing at 75-80% imo.

He’s not a Ray Graham for shiftiness however he is probably faster once in the clear. (when he’s 100%)

Yea they could have Savage throwing the ball to the RB’s, etc. To increase his completion %. However you when you have a cannon like him, it’s pretty tempting to throw the ball downfield.

And then add in the Tyler Boyd factor of being on the receiving end and it becomes even more tempting.

Other than throwing to Tyler, I’d like to see us get the TE’s more involved. Garner is a mismatch for just about every defender and Holtz will just run you over after the catch. And Orndorf is already a factor as well.

Like to see Pitt keep it rolling and put up at least 40 on Duke. Who’s defense hasn’t played anyone yet with a balanced offensive attack.

Comment by EMel 09.19.13 @ 7:02 am

Who is going to the game in Durham this week ?

First Drink is on me.

Also who knows anything about a close good bar to their stadium ?

Been on the websites, see there is a cluster on Perry Street, which must be the student scene.

Would prefer a more mature alumni type cocktail lounge/bar. Any info is appreciated 🙂

Comment by EMel 09.19.13 @ 7:07 am

Think I found a good place.

It’s a Cigar Bar, love it already. haha

And it seems to have a lot of my favorite Bourbons.

Couple Blocks from Stadium on Main Street

Sold !

link to

Comment by EMel 09.19.13 @ 7:21 am

The up side potential of this Pitt offense is large. Conner will only get better with playing time. Savage is maturing into the QB that he needs to be with game experience and do you think that he is enjoying putting the ball up for grabs when he throws it to Boyd???? The strength of this offense will prove to be the OL and the TEs as the season progresses. Once the WR corps starts getting the respect from opposing secondaries, watch how that opens up the underneath patterns involving the tight ends.

This team will only get better. With all of the young guys playing, it will be fun to watch them emerge and produce as the season progresses.

Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.19.13 @ 7:24 am

I agree with Reed, need to find a way to make those linebackers respect the pass and it will really open up the running game. Call me optimistic but I have the feeling that this will be a sort of coming-of-age game for this team. IE, I think they have an idea of who they are after New Mexico, but they have a great opportunity to establish their identity as a physical team with a bruising running game and big play ability. Pittsburgh football to the core. Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Atlanta Panther 09.19.13 @ 7:41 am

EMel – What I’d like to see is more slants and crossing patterns – Savage’s arm is strong enough to hit those quickly – along with the TE’s routing just past the LBs.

Regarding Savage’s deep ball – I’d like to see Rudolph and Chryst take at least two shots downfield each quarter. Even if he only hits 50% of those that means the Safety has to be constantly thinking about it.

He’s already good on the out patterns with his arm and I know that throwing over the middle on intermediate and short routes leads to INTs but I’ll take those if 1) he hits those deep balls for large gains and 2) the run game opens up because of it.

I’ve a feeling that we’ll see Johnson in at RT sooner than anticipated. A lot of the pocket pressure Savage has been getting has been from the right side and he’s the type of QB who really does need time in the pocket to do well.

Comment by Reed 09.19.13 @ 9:01 am

I like the 2 tight end set with Holtz on one side and Johnson on the other. Set up the bulldozer.

Comment by gc 09.19.13 @ 9:43 am

Reed. I noticed that after the Va Tech game, that Shell didn’t seem to want to put his head down and get the extra yard or two. He didn’t seem to have the desire that power runners must have. Maybe that is why his carries went down. Or it could be the reverse and he was pouting. Knowing what we know now, it seems there was a lot of strange stuff going on in his head.

That is why you got to love Conner. He wants the ball and looks like he can run threw people and around them as well. As the O-line gets better and he gets his timing down we should see some good things. He has exceeded expectations already because you don’t expect that much from a freshman power back.

I also would like to see JP Holtz run over a linebacker after a catch. That would get them off the line.

Comment by gc 09.19.13 @ 10:01 am

I’ll believe Savage will include the TEs into the offense when I see 10-12 throws during a game, not just within 5 yards of the endzone. I think he’s more of a mad bomber type whose first inclination is to throw deep to wide receivers even if they aren’t as open as TEs underneath.
Connor is a Frosh so mistakes will happen, but there is no question, he’s got the potential to be a big time back over the next 3 years, couldn’t be more excited about him.
If Pitt’s going to beat Duke, their defense better play much better than it has so far. LBs and Vinapol are a big weakness, and teams will see this on film and gameplan to take advantage. No confidence in House to figure out how to overcome the obvious problem.
Duke runs a no huddle so House needs to figure out how to call his defenses and insert personnel quickly. Hope my worries are groundless but . . . .

Comment by Taxing Matters 09.19.13 @ 10:19 am

I hope House has figured out how to stop the no-huddle spread attack. He is 0-for-2 so far, but granted it was against vastly superior talent.

Personally I’d let our guys play man until they proved that they can’t and put pressure on the inexperienced QB. A linebacker in the face can make up for a lot of coverage deficiencies. But then again I’ve never actually coached a defense. (insert joke about House’s inexperience here…)

That being said, it seems to me like house favors a zone coverage scheme? Justin or Reed – any thoughts on that?

Comment by Atlanta Panther 09.19.13 @ 10:41 am

How much of a factor will our playing our first road game with such a green group be?

Comment by spiritofsection 22 09.19.13 @ 11:38 am

EMel – Im going to Durham as well.. driving from Richmond on Sat.

Whiskey doesn’t open until 6pm. I am also looking for a bar near Wallace-Wade, so any leads would be appreciated.

Comment by Joe Lawrence 09.19.13 @ 11:48 am

@ Taxing Matters, Todd Thomas has reinforced the LB corps and therefore the weakness will be decreased. Also, I’m not quite sure why but, Shane Gordon plays streaky. If he puts a good day out there against Duke, the linebackers won’t seem so vulnerable to be victimized by Duke’s inexperience QB.

Two other factors could help Pitt’s defense to dominate the Blue Devils as we did New Mexico. First, If Aaron Donald has his way with their OL, it could be a long day for Duke’s QB. Second, if Pitt’s OL continues to gel then Chryst will be able to milk our running game to the maximum. This will keep our defense fresh on the sideline for extended periods of time, which results in minimizing the need for Pitt defensive substitutions and the subsequent drop off in performance that most likely would result.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, Duke is the perfect team for us to be playing at this point in the season. Somebody else mentioned that they anticipate a “breakout” game for Pitt on Saturday. I’m not that optimistic but I feel confident that we will be all that Duke can handle on both sides of the ball come Saturday. Hopefully that will result in our second win of the season.

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.19.13 @ 1:01 pm

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