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August 14, 2014

First Scrimmage Question Marks

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Players — Reed @ 4:49 pm

I’m driving up to the camp’s first scrimmage on Saturday morning and here are the issues I’ll be paying close attention to while I’m there:

How consistent are Running Backs Qadree Ollison and James? Because we probably won’t play both freshmen, which one will be redshirted?  More importantly, where in hell is the “U” in Ollison’s first name?

How many reps does Conner get at Defensive End?  Chris Peak is reporting that Conner has been getting snaps on defense in the two minute drills.

How will Voytik respond with full time pressure from the defense? (I hope the scrimmage is full contact to get him ready for reality.)  How much protection is he getting?

How is Isaac Bennett coming along from his injury?  In the last practice I attended he was getting his share of reps.  Also, how many snaps does Ibrahim get?  I think Bennett’s becoming an afterthought in our fan’s minds but he’ll most probably be in the top three RBs.

Who will be our top three RBs going into the opening game against the Delaware Blue Hens?  Will one kid separate from the others?

How well is Offensive Line doing in their run blocking?  The young RBs are breaking some big rushing plays in practice so it has been pretty good so far.  Do they have the speed as some of our past RBs?

How are all the DE’s competing and who will be rotating in there on the two-deep, who gets dizzy and who doesn’t?

How are Caprara & Bradley positioning themselves for that MLB spot behind Galambos? Are they tough enough for that position?

Are the DBs playing more aggressively now?  Are they giving up big plays if they miss an INT or breaking up a pass?

How is our new punter Ryan Winslow doing with his directional punts and hang time?  Along with that, who are the personnel on our punt coverage team and how effective are they?

Those are the main issues for me.  Let me know in the comments section if there is anything you’d specifically like me to address and I’ll try to remember to do it.


Fun Stuff Reed!

Comment by gc 08.14.14 @ 5:16 pm

Reed, please find out how Paul Zeise is doing and if he’s OK with the switch to hoops.

Comment by steve1 08.14.14 @ 5:34 pm

Good list, Reed. I’m sure the LT position will be interesting to watch now that it’s been reported that J. Jones-Smith is getting some reps with the first team.

I’m interested to see how Mitchell and Ryan Lewis are worked into the secondary.

Comment by JAM05Pitt 08.14.14 @ 6:30 pm

Who is playing on the special teams?

Comment by alcofan 08.14.14 @ 6:31 pm

Good list Reed — I’d be interested in your view on how all the WRs not named Boyd look. Also, how much separation is there between Voytik and Anderson — sounded like it was pretty close as per your last review. Who has better command of the O and who looks like a gamer?

Regarding your RB questions, can’t imagine Conner won’t be the bell cow this year, unless one of those frosh is really a budding superstar, ala Shady, Dion, or Ray.

Comment by Matt N. 08.14.14 @ 9:14 pm

Also, love hearing how good Maddox looks so far — talk about good timing. If Pitts plays like he did last year, no reason to wait until next year to start Maddox…sounds like at least we might have a pretty damn good nickel or dime back (Back, not bag, back).

Comment by Matt N. 08.14.14 @ 9:18 pm

Reed, would love your opinion on how the team passes the “eye test” before, during and after the scrimmage.

Comment by Pittman4ever 08.14.14 @ 9:45 pm

Are all the backs holding onto the ball, or is fumbling going to be a problem?

Comment by Tackle made by Hugh 08.14.14 @ 10:02 pm

I would like to know if they use the TEs more in the passing game. We have a lot of talent there and they can be a great safety valve for QBs under pressure. I’m also very interested in the DE playing time and production. Soto, Blair, MacClean etc.

Comment by PittHW 08.14.14 @ 10:39 pm

1. Conner will probably spend just a few plays at DE, unless they go specific situations to get him some work. I really think this DE is being greatly overplayed by the fan base. He’s likely getting reps @ DE in the 2 minute drill because he is not in that offensive package, so it’s an ideal time for him to play D.

2. There ain’t no way, no how, under any conditions that they should make the QB’s live. What in tarnation do you think happens to this team if Voytik should go down with a season ending injury? I’ll give you a hint – it starts with about 4 & ends with about 8.

3. The RB situation is interesting, but I doubt we’ll get anything definitive in this 1st scrimmage.

4. I would really like to know how all the LB’s shake out behind the top 3. Obviously, Bradley is the #4, but where do Grisby, Caprara, Porchia & Poker fit in?

I would also like to know who is on the kick coverage teams. I understand that Coles & Grigsby have been the gunners.

Comment by Spirit of 76 08.15.14 @ 4:12 am

All very good observations. Maddox indeed has been getting raves and would have to expect he will see the field quite a bit this year with the lack of depth at CB. On the other hand, we are stacked at TE, and agree that they can become an integral part of the passing attack.

Just remember …. we haven’t gotten to the 1st scrimmage yet, so things can change in the next two weeks.

Comment by wbb 08.15.14 @ 6:28 am

I just want to know everything about the defensive line. I’m very excited to hear about blair, maclean, jarrett, moody, render, etc.

Comment by shady1 08.15.14 @ 6:35 am

Maddox helps fill a position of need, at the very least adding depth.

The O-Line is very interesting. Hueber tried to stop controversy, Chryst did just the opposite. Lighting a fire. Good to see who responds. Will probably need more than 5 guys to get through the season, so great to hear we have depth.

Running back also very interesting. Conner, Bennett, James, Ibrahim, and now Ollison in the mix. I don’t think that is too many. Guys will get dinged during the year. Not sure why people think we need to redshirt one of the two running backs, there is still Briggs and more to come next year.
Will Bennett’s shoulder hold up? Conner missed games last year and got hurt in spring practice, Ibrahim is not an every down back and the other two are freshman. I see them all getting carries. Best case scenario, the freshmen tear it up so Conner can play even more downs at D-End.

The mix of offensive plays will also be very interesting. We all think Boyd must get more touches. Other receivers will be open because the focus will be on Boyd. We have great tight ends and backs that can catch and run. Voytik can also run when there is an opening. Plus we have 4 or 5 running backs. What is the game plan?

Comment by gc 08.15.14 @ 6:55 am

Since I will be on the road to D.C. (Potomac) tomorrow morning, I will post this a day early.


Going to visit my nephew, his wife and kids. Taking me out to dinner tmrw nite, brunch on Sunday, and for a bit of irony for myself……..

first Pirate game attending in several years,

will be in an away ball park!!! LOL

Comment by Dan 08.15.14 @ 8:34 am

I don’t know if either of these things will be apparent from a controlled scrimmage, but going inot this season I’m interested to see (1) how much the offense has been modified to take advantage of Voytik’s mobility, and (2) if the special teams have improved significantly since a special teams coordinator has been designated.

Comment by SteveS 08.15.14 @ 8:38 am

Nats ballpark is nice but not much around it. Eating at park not cheap. A few street vendors are best food deal. Take metro. Parking ok if you get there early. Go Pirates.

Comment by Frank MD 08.15.14 @ 9:03 am

Thanks Frank MD! Think my nephew said we’ll drive in, and he did mention early.

That’s really his wife talking, because she doesn’t do stress and late!!! LOL

Which is ok with me!

Comment by Dan 08.15.14 @ 9:44 am

Call me crazy, but I would love to see our offense struggling both running the ball and protectind our quarterback who gets often harassed by the pass rush.

Intra squad scrimmages are always a double edged sword. Both the offense and defense need to show growth during camp, but I’m much more concerned about the DL, both interior and the ends than I am about any position on the offense.

If the defensive troops have their way in this scrimmage, that will convey to me that we have some of these young untested players stepping up their game to fill some large vacated holes on the DL.
Early development of the DL will be important in order to deal with the veteran OL that they will be facing in just three weeks against Boston College. And the BC game will be an early litmus test to how good this young team is going to be in the early season as well as providing this young team with some valid confidence early if they can come home with a win.

Pitt can get by up to the Iowa game with a slowly developing offense but there are so many more questions that need to be answered with this defense.

Coach House and Co. Has much to prove, so Reed keep a close eye on the war in the trenches. I want to hear how guys like Justin Moody, K K Smith, Daryl Render, Devin Cook and my predicted breakout defensive lineman for 2014, Luke MacLean look when they get their snaps tomorrow. Those guys hold the key for Pitt’s success in the early part of our season.

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.15.14 @ 9:48 am

Doc, problem is Luke is behind Soto on the depth chart. Unless they flip Luke to the other side he is not going see much action.

Comment by pd 08.15.14 @ 10:10 am

The way our defense is in its current state, I am a little nervous how we defend the pass. While I’m not sure how the mid majors (or BC) are in the pass game, it seems to me that our opponents with the best paasing attacks are Duke, UNC and Miami .. and all are later in the season. This may be a big help.

Comment by wbb 08.15.14 @ 10:50 am

PD I think they want four solid DE’s and DT’s they can rotate. I’ll bet we’ll see more of MacLean than you think.

Comment by Atlanta Panther 08.15.14 @ 11:06 am

Great list….I’ll be interested to see if our LB’s are “fast enough”?

Not sure if we’ll be able to tell that until we get them into team competition.

Comment by The TRUTH 08.15.14 @ 11:13 am

Thanks for including Winslow on your list, Reed. Safe trip.


Comment by pmdH2P 08.15.14 @ 11:37 am

Go list Reed.

A concern I have is can our tackle opposite Clemmings – i.e., Biz or Jones-Smith – handle a speed rush? Course this is supposing that Pitt has someone who can challenge them as a speed rusher. Grigsby maybe? Blair maybe?

And does Blair look for real as a candidate at DE?

Look forward to your observations.

Go Pitt.

Comment by MajorMajors 08.15.14 @ 11:40 am

I agree with Atlanta Panther, I think the two deep, across the board on both sides of the ball, will all see at least limited snaps in these preseason scrimmages. I feel that this coaching staff will play the best, most prepared players, come the regular season. With such a young team, who those players are, at quite a few positions, remains to be seen.

Therefore, a lot of positions remain open for discussion, if only to determine who the back up will be, so the coaches have to get looks at a lot of these guys, in true live action full speed contact scrimmages, to see what they can bring to the table.

We all remember a certain Pitt QB that was a solid “practice” player but once stressed under pressure in “game on the line” situations wilted like a delicate flower under the heat of battle. We DON’T need that happening with any of the two deep on this current squad, do we?

So don’t count Maclean out too soon just because of where he is penciled in right now. Things could change in a hurry and not necessarily just due to just a starting spot opening up due to injury during the season of the guy in front of him.

@ The TRUTH, I’ll assure you right now that Thomas, Gonzales and Galambos are NOT fast enough when you consider pure athletic ability, although Thomas is no turtle when it comes to the 40. The difference this season concerning how quick these guys will be to shut down plays will be all about playing fast mentally. The difference that one year of dealing with the same defensive system in real game situations will be huge in how fast these LBs will “appear” on the field.

Often times, the difference between a LB stuffing a play for no gain or a play going for a substantial gain can be a half step. When a guy doesn’t have to think about it, when the ball is snapped, gives a veteran LB that half step advantage required to make that play. I think we’re going to be quite happy with our veteran LB group this season, but these three guys mentioned have to stay healthy for that to transpire. Once we have to go into the two deep at LB that instinctive play is lost, all bets are off then, cause then we have the same issue that we saw last year with our LBs learning a new system, too slow and it showed.

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.15.14 @ 12:55 pm

@Dr Tom

Now that you have retired, you have time to get even smarter than you were before. Good comments.

How is the golf game?


Comment by pmdH2P 08.15.14 @ 1:02 pm

Don’t know Doc — Gonzalez looked pretty quick to me last year, but FSU made everyone look slow. Thomas is a playmaker and for a true freshman chucked into the mix, I was pleased with how Galambos looked. Apparently Bradley is a big hitter and Caprera, though a bit undersized, is a gamer too…and even Vinopal is a sort of hybrid LB/DB, so I feel pretty good about the backers this year.

My big concern is the DB depth and overall talent. We will definitely find out. Maddox helps but you hate to have to rely on true freshmen in key positions, but that’s life at Pitt and not at ‘bama or OSU.

Comment by Matt N. 08.15.14 @ 1:50 pm

Seems the questions I posed yesterday about Bisonwaty and Johnson were on the money.

Coaches NOT sold on either of them right now.

Today from the Post Gazette…

… coach Paul Chryst said Thursday there might be something more to the Panthers’ offensive line shuffling. Even though the starting five have remained essentially unchanged since the start of training camp, Chryst said there still could be changes before Pitt opens the season in a little more than two weeks.

“That one’s not done yet,” he said. “We’ve got to find out who the five best are.”

Out of all of the O-Linemen, Bisonwaty and Johnson were the ones with the MOST STARS coming out High School.

Another lesson in how STARS don’t always translate to STARDDOM.

Comment by PittofDreams 08.15.14 @ 2:13 pm

But there is one pretty highly rated Recruit in the current Freshman Class that might already have the Coaches BUYING IN.

Quintin Wirginis.

Comment by PittofDreams 08.15.14 @ 2:17 pm

After having a sophomomre slump, I will be interested to hear how Lafayette Pitts has progressed.

Excellent contributions the last several days, Reed!

Comment by Joe Lawrence 08.15.14 @ 2:23 pm

Did you hear that there may be a s many of 14 Notre Dame players being kicked off due to academic fraud?

That’s what happens, I guess, when you join a conference with FSU, Miami and UNC … only these schools will cover it up

Comment by wbb 08.15.14 @ 2:48 pm

I disagree Doc. Gonzo and Thomas are certainly fast enough. They don’t have extra speed to burn but the key words are fast “enough”. Galambos is the weak think of the 3 athletically but he’s not a snail either.

Comment by shady1 08.15.14 @ 2:50 pm

correction — I may have misheard (the Fan update) .. CBS Sports is reporting 4 players

Comment by wbb 08.15.14 @ 2:51 pm

Pitt Preview from ESPN Acc Blog — note the over/under is 7.5 wins

link to

Comment by wbb 08.15.14 @ 3:04 pm

Just got my season tix. Always an exciting day because it means football is just around the corner. Pitt went with an old school look on the tix this year to commemorate 125 years. Looks really good.

Comment by Nick 08.15.14 @ 3:26 pm

Huh?? I just got my tickets with a 100 year commemorative logo on them.

Oh, wait, that was 25 years ago!! Swear it was a couple days ago!!

Comment by Dan 08.15.14 @ 3:41 pm

@pmdH2P, just playing more golf apparently is not the answer to a better overall game. I’m practicing the short game more now that I have the time and that is just beginning to pay dividends now so that I’m not constantly frustrated with continued poor results as I was a couple months ago.

Matt N, I agree with you, Gonzo got better & quicker as the season progressed. I think this happened pretty much across the board for the entire defense as they became more familiar with the schemes House was putting in place. This was very apparent with Vinopal’s play as the season wound down. Pitt’s was kind of an exception to this trend however and by his own assessment he had a lackluster year.

The style of play that Coach Douglas is instituting should benefit Pitts this year, I think. Pitts tendency is to naturally play aggressively, so pressing receivers at the line and challenging them to beat him will appeal to his mindset IMO.

That will prove out one way or another soon enough. If we see Pitts consistantly getting beat over the top, we’ll know that that experiment fizzled with him. And if that is the case the Pitt defensive backfield is going to be in a heap of trouble now with Howard already gone for the season too. Pitts has to step up his game this season.

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.15.14 @ 5:58 pm

A lot of question marks for this squad, we had a QB that was talented but played behind a questionable oline, can the oline improve and can the new QB be capable?

Our d line is a huge question mark and will dictate how effective the remaining 7 will perform.

7-5 another mediocre season for a mediocre program.

I hope I’m wrong!!

Comment by WALT and THE BEAT 08.15.14 @ 6:48 pm

I wouldn’t be surprised if Flacco shows up at Heinz for the Delaware game…standing on the Blue Hen’s sideline!

Comment by pittman4ever 08.15.14 @ 7:38 pm

Looking forward to reviews from Saturday. I’ve been liking the positive vibes in camp with this young team under HCPC – seems like we have a bunch of hard working kids who want to be here.

Also, my wife and I (both Pitt alums) own a large sports auction business out of Lancaster PA and we’ve been advertising on this page to support the Pitt Blather. We have some great items up on our on-line auction Sunday night, including Dan Marino and Tony Dorsett signed footballs and an amazing Babe Ruth autograph.
link to

Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Dish 08.15.14 @ 9:25 pm

Reed, thank you!

I am interested in the high school recruits that will be in attendance. Maybe take a look for some 4 stars in attendance? Any potential flippers now that Holgy says he lies alot to recruits!

wbb – posted 7.5 by Vegas early in the week. Don’t fret. The bell curve is perfectly symmetrical between 3 wins and 11 wins. Out of the 75 schools given odds, there are approximately 20% at 7.5.

I am interested in overall team speed. I worry about Delaware because they run the spread. Safe travels!

Comment by dhuffdaddy 08.16.14 @ 12:03 am

Reed. would be interested to know your take after scrimmage on how coordinated the three levels of defense look. Especially the coordination between linebackers and defensive backs.
And how often freshmen Blair, Roy, and Trahan can get into the backfield.

Comment by mizzoupitt 08.16.14 @ 12:31 am

Regarding the RBs. IMO the staff is pretty satisfied with Conner, Bennett and Ibrahim as the top three going into the opener. Bennett has been going at full speed – will pay attention tomorrow also – and he’s no been held back by his injury.

I think Ollison will be the 5th back and will play only if necessary. We don’t need five rBs as we won’t rotate that many in. Let’s not forget Bennett had 800 yds for a 4.7 ypc average. That is excellent considering he spilt time with another back in Conner.

Again, this staff will go with a back that is both productive and experienced before sitting him down for an unknown true freshman.

I think we fans are getting the Dorsett/McCoy/Lewis syndrome when it comes to James and Ollison. We want superstars right out of the gate instead of a guy who is a good, steady producer.

Comment by Reed 08.16.14 @ 1:00 am

Dr. Tom – regarding the LB’s instinct making up for speed. I agree and that is why I stressed that being in a defensive system for a second year in a row will help with that. If they can read offensives well enough and know what their defensive responsibilities are then that is a big equalizer.

This season House knows his personnel and their strengths and weaknesses and the players know House and what he’s trying to achieve out there. Just that alone should help establish a stronger defensive foundation.

I’ll disagree with your take on Thomas’ and Gonzalez’s speed though. I think they are well fast enough for the college game, it is Galambos that might lack a bit there. However, my impression of him is that he’s a pretty cerebral player and that too can get the ‘half-step’ back as you describe.

Comment by Reed 08.16.14 @ 1:13 am

Now I’m confused, Reed. I thought we’re using a different defense this year.

Comment by steve1 08.16.14 @ 6:36 am

Reed posting at 1:13 am, then heading to the southside about 5, thats dedication.

Comment by alcofan 08.16.14 @ 7:48 am

Regarding Gonzo and Thomas … both were rated 4 star offensive players when they were seniors. Thomas was mostly a RB at Beaver Falls but was considered to project as a WR. Gonzo was a QB (athletic) but you may recall FSU wanted him as a safety. (He beat Bethel Park in 4A state title, not only as a QB … with D Street as WR … but he also intercepted a pass in his end zone on final play to preserve victory)

Bottom line … both of them are great athletes who I very much look forward to watching this year. I also believe both have a chance of being drafted this year, although they are a bit underweight for the NFL.

Comment by wbb 08.16.14 @ 12:53 pm

Just read on article on a pay site (Chris Peak, Rivals) about an NCAA rule change regarding Snacks and Meals. In short, it allows unlimited access to food for Division I student athletes 24/7. He also highlights how, while other schools are scrambling to adjust to the new rule, Pitt was already prepared. With the restraints removed many doors have opened for Pitt players to get better nutrition and better food including including the same food the Steelers eat. They have a permanent shake bar available 24/7.

I was very surprised to read of how restrictive the previous NCAA rules were for student athletes. They had less access to food than a normal student.

A very good read. Kudos to Pitt for being ahead of the curve in anticipating the rule change and being prepared.

Comment by Jeff in CPa 08.16.14 @ 1:32 pm

Werner tweets:

– defense won scrimmage (surprisingly to me) especially running

– Conner 8 for 26; James 10 for 36

– Voytik 12/17 203 yds 1 TD 1 int

– Boyd did nor play (not due to injury I think)

Comment by wbb 08.16.14 @ 3:37 pm

correction Voytik 12/27

Comment by wbb 08.16.14 @ 3:37 pm

Going to be all kinds of hand-wringing and lamentation because our team just demonstrated it is awful. We all know that our defense is very weak. And since our offense couldn’t do anything vs a bad defense our offense must also be very bad. This means we are obviously heading for a disaster this season. Might as well give those season tickets away.

Comment by pitt1972 08.16.14 @ 5:25 pm

Defense wins!

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.16.14 @ 5:27 pm

BTW, Pitt1972, in 1972 we won one game. Enough said.

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.16.14 @ 5:30 pm

I was being sarcastic.

Comment by pitt1972 08.16.14 @ 5:56 pm

according to DiPaolo, D Render did his best A Donald impression and really played well at DT. Avonte Maddox continued to impress with 2 open field tackles of Conner, who switched jerseys a few times, playing both ways. R Mitchell also impressed at DB

I’m sure Reed will have many more specifics

Comment by wbb 08.16.14 @ 6:04 pm

You keep your sarcasm well hidden, good job!

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.16.14 @ 6:12 pm

Dr. Tom–Actually, I am very encouraged by the apparent excellent defensive showing today. Like you, I believe a good defense will go a long way to ensuring success. I think we can be confidant the offense is going to be quite good. So, if we also have a good defense, we may be able to win more than the 7-8 games most expect.

Comment by pitt1972 08.16.14 @ 6:16 pm

Cardiac Hill take on today’s scrimmage

link to

Waiting for the definitive word from the Blather’s intrepid reporter – Reed.

Comment by PITT-cocks fan 08.16.14 @ 6:41 pm

There has been a lot of optimism here…certainly on reeds request for.predictions….9-3, etc. Would love to share that feeling. However 12-27 won’t get us there. Yes it is one scrimmage. But 12-27 is entirely consistent with all reports of voytik’s performance and displayed capabilities in spring practice and now the summer. People seem to expect him to click after a couple of games. I sure hope he does. But right now that seems like more wishful thinking than based on what we have seen from him since the bowl games.

Comment by DD 08.17.14 @ 7:25 am

From newspaper accounts, a pretty ragged scrimmage, IMHO. Lots of experimentation and mental errors. Will be very interested in seeing Reed’s account later today.

Comment by pitt1972 08.17.14 @ 7:33 am

Blewitt missed 4 of 8 FG attempts including at least 2 inside 40 yds. As he was 14 of 18 last year this was either just an off day or his holder and he haven’t gotten their coordination down. I wonder if he has a different holder than last year?

Comment by pitt1972 08.17.14 @ 8:08 am

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