August 17, 2014

There were some nice efforts and results by all the defensive units, and I’ll address those but overall today the defense built “The Great Wall of Water Street” and didn’t let much offense trickle through.

Specifically, the defensive two deep up front against the running game made everyone breathe a little sigh of relief, especially in light of this being “Year 1 Perfectus AD”.  The starting four defensive linemen from left to right were DE Durham, NT Mosley-Smith, DT Render and DE Soto. Those guys overall looked good in the ‘live’ actions, stuffed the run and got good penetration on some passing plays.  Backing them up were MacLean and Blair at DE with Moody and Jarrett in the interior.   All eight kids played solid ball as I saw it and as each day passes the staff should be feeling better about this unit.

One brighter spot was that Darryl Render had some real “wow” moments with his quick off the snap play.  Jerry DiPaola of the Trib hits it on the head in this article about Render and while I wouldn’t say anyone going to forget our award winning Nose Tackle from last season, Render is starting to develop a reputation of his own.  He intercepted a pass on an athletic play and was constantly beating his guy for run stoppage. He’ll be a very good DT for us this season and later on as he’s a JR who had some nice game experience over the last two seasons.  We’ll have a solid two years of him on the line and that is a good, maybe great, thing to have.

Backing him up is Justin Moody, who as a rsFR is 6’3” and 280 (bigger I’d guess) lbs and can move for that size.  He was a solid 3* DE in HS and was the 20th ranked player in the state of PA. He’s fun to watch when he gets in and has a great wing span to get RBs coming through the line.  Hate to say it but he’s the type of talent, to my eye, who could also be a good OL if needed down the road but Chryst does like them taller.   He had a nice sack on Anderson where he got into the backfield in a blink.

Ahhh, the position of Nose Tackle; let’s get to it so the fans can stop the self flagellation (it’s OK to look) over the loss of The Great One. What we saw yesterday was not what we’ll see in the opening game as there are injuries, not serious, to the two-deep guys.  Mosley-Smith and Jarrett both got just a small bit of action during the drills stage then sat down then on some plays Moody stepped to help that position depth out.  Because of those injuries, unknowns such as rsFR Jeremiah Taleni and true FR Connor Dintino got a lot of the work during the drills and scrimmage.

Taleni made his presence know by bottling up the interior, along with making some tackles.  He’s already 6’2” and 295 as a young guy but he’s a Hawai’i boy and will get bigger and wider… he’s waiting for you Haole offensive lineman to try to get past him, but be careful when you do.  Seriously, I see him being really good at NT in the future, think Haloti Ngata good, even though Ngata’s a Tongan but why split hairs.

I talked about Dintino last week in my pre-scrimmage defense article and he also looked the part out there yesterday, even as a 1st year kid.  There are two kids on defense who positive chatter is building about.  First is Avonte Maddox (more on him later) and then Dintino who may well be in that DL rotation by the end of the season.

The linebackers played well in both run and pass defense.  Starters Thomas and Gonzalez are going to be fine as the returning weak side linebacker and strong side linebacker. Galambos has found his spot in the middle and has played well. I’m less and less concerned about middle linebacker than I was before the camp.  Here is a feel good story about his young life from the P-G.  He didn’t necessarily stand out yesterday but was rotated out to give Caprara some scrimmage time.

The WLB and the SLB 2stringers acquitted themselves very well yesterday.  Bradley can move up to a starter’s role if needed and play any position.  Remember the other day when Chryst singled out Quentin Wirginis for selected praise?  There was a real reason for that and we saw it again yesterday when Wirginis rotated in at WLB behind Thomas.

I counted at least two tackles for Wirginis but it is his speed to get all over the field that is impressive.  He’s one of those players who always seem to be near the football at the end of the plays because he takes the first step in the correct direction.  He’s another under the radar type HS kid Chryst finds as Wirginis too was injured during the whole of his senior year with a broken ankle.  Get that?  He misses his whole SR year; PITT watches his JR year film,  invites him to their recruits camp and offers a scholarship right away.  This kid could be the steal of the 2014 recruiting year if he keeps progressing as he has.

One last thing about younger LBs in these camps, sometimes lessons are learned the hard way. Jacob Craig made a nice break on a Jameel Poteat run down the right side and was in great position to make the tackle when Poteat gave him a right hip feint that sent Craig hugging air on the way to the ground.  Honestly, I expected to see Craig get up holding his crotch to see if his package was still there.  I’m sure Craig caught a hard time for that and it was very exciting to watch, but I’ll also remember that Craig was in exactly the right spot to make that tackle… and that ain’t too bad either.  The offensive team was right there on the sidelines and freaked out when that fake happened.

Our DBs are going to be fine this season and the big reason is Avonte Maddox’s outstanding play in camp so far.  He apparently is the type of athlete that, regardless of his size, a coach can insert at any skill position and Maddox would find a way to be good at it.  Yesterday he was a DB, KO returner and the gunner on the punt coverage team. He fast as anything and sticks with WRs to disrupt plays.  He played both behind L. Pitts at CB then rotated into the #1 spot ahead of Mitchell on the other side.

This is an area where the staff is still tinkering with personnel to find the right four guys and things will change, but one noticeable thing was that Trenton Coles got on the field very sparingly and that didn’t seem to have to do with any injury.

The team and staff seemed to be really upbeat through the day’s activities. I mentioned earlier this week that this is a teaching staff, especially given the youth (We’re #1! in that at least) we have both in the two-deep and on the roster.  Standing two yards behind the offensive players it was easy to see and hear what was going on and I’ll say these kids are friendly and joke around with each other constantly.  When a kid made a good play he got nods of recognition coming back to the sidelines, but when a player screwed up there were always 3-4 kids waiting to encourage him.  That’s a good thing.

These coaches aren’t ones to hang back and let mistakes pass by though – there was continual constructive criticism even if it was peppered with some choice and descriptive phrases.  The players pay rapt attention when addressed, that’s for sure.  But this isn’t a rah-rah bullshit staff as we saw right before the Chryst hire so I feel real good about them and their approach here.

How all that translates onto the field this season is a mystery but as with anything else having a staff in its second year is a big difference than their first year with the players.

The people watching had a good time and the parents were really into supporting their sons.

SIDENOTES: Visitors yesterday were Lance Markle who played FB under Walt Harris, Reuben Brown who was his teammate and is a future NFL Hall of Fame player.  Brown is thin as a normal guy and to look at him you wouldn’t believe he once looked like this.  Dorin Dickerson, he of the PITT RB to LB to TE fame and who could run out there and play today, was standing on the sideline also.  The new PITT Chancellor was there also and without SP which is the second time I’ve noticed that.  Let the rumors begin.

Finally, Wirginis’ family has owned the famous Gateway Clipper Fleet of passenger boats in the Pittsburgh rivers for three generations which I found interesting both as a retired Coast Guard officer who inspected those type vessels in New Orleans and other cities and as a PITT fan.  The Clipper Fleet are nice vessels.





Here is Darrin’s highlight tape (which I should’ve put in my last post)…

link to

Comment by Mailman 08.18.14 @ 8:27 pm

Five of those 247 guys picked PITT today.

Comment by pd 08.18.14 @ 8:34 pm

Five of those 247 guys picked PITT today.

Comment by pd 08.18.14 @ 8:34 pm

Well… that’s a good sign, then.

Comment by Mailman 08.18.14 @ 8:41 pm

If you analyze the predictors on 247, you see that all of the recent picks were for Pitt and a few off those were national guys and not just Pitt guys … these are usually good signs although it may be because he visited here just last week.

While I would never scoff a 4-star, it seems once again that we have an overload in certain positions (OL, TE and RB) but very little in others.

Comment by wbb 08.18.14 @ 8:54 pm

Yeah… as Pitt fans, we’ve learned that what we believe to be sure things aren’t always sure things.

Comment by Mailman 08.18.14 @ 9:05 pm

How many spots left 2 or 3.

Comment by pd 08.18.14 @ 9:05 pm

I thought there were like 4-5 left. But I have no idea. I don’t really follow things that closely to know for sure.

Comment by Mailman 08.18.14 @ 9:25 pm

Word getting around that Pitt is going to run the ball. Hope he comes.

Comment by gc 08.18.14 @ 9:41 pm

3 or 4 four stars a year with a solid three star class makes for a real nice team. If he was at practice and saw the offensive line, he had to leave impressed. Not sure michigan state or kentucky offer that kind of talent.

Perhaps I am wrong.

Sincerely, not Jeff Lucas or John

Comment by dhuffdaddy 08.18.14 @ 9:43 pm

Guys, if you remember after the Pizza Bowl Voytik was asked why he was so successful. He stated that Christ only ran pass plays that were designed for his strengths, which is
}throwing on the move. Thus, we already know the game day pass plays will be mainly roll outs and boot legs.

Comment by Pittman4ever 08.18.14 @ 10:51 pm

Also, for the few of you that are saying Conner will switch to full time D this season, I will kiss your @ss under the Kaufman’s clock during the Thanksgiving Day parade if that happens :>)

Comment by Pittman4ever 08.18.14 @ 10:58 pm

Conner will play more DE than people think, didn’t say full time. Just in case it is full time should I shave my ass for the occasion.

Comment by pd 08.18.14 @ 11:08 pm

Definitely foresee Conner being a full time DE in 2015.

Comment by Mailman 08.19.14 @ 12:03 am

pd, I’d consider the typical late November weather in Pittsburgh before you decide to fleece yourself.

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.19.14 @ 6:42 am

Atlanta – your points are good. The ‘judgement I’m passing’ isn’t what Voytik will do in the regular season – if you read back you’ll see that I avoid that issue like the plague… with the exception that I think it will take a few games to get his feet under him which I think you’ll agree that we could say that about any rookie starting QB.

I’m passing judgement on what I saw him do in two practices and what I saw were his strengths and weaknesses with my own eyes during those two days. These observations are all my opinions and a bit of what I’ve heard in discussions with others on-lookers. They aren’t huge criticisms of the young man but are more like ‘here is what the reality is at this point in practice vice the fans expectations’. I’ll not be surprised one bit if he has a good year this season, in fact I’m really hoping for it – but at this point I think it will take a great gameplan and a very good running game to get us wins, especially early in the season.

That said, Voytik had a better practice day on Monday than he did on Saturday so he’s up and down like a mere mortal.

You guys can’t see those comments from “Jeff Lucas” and “John” above? Maybe they are only in my head.

BTW – that ‘good practice, mediocre play’ QB being mentioned wasn’t all that great a practice player either. IMO he never should have been anointed the starter back in 2010 without a real competition. DW publicly told the media a couple of weeks after the 2009 bowl game that “It’s Tino’s Time” way before the 2010 spring practices even started. That fix was in and DW had to stick with it.

Comment by Reed 08.19.14 @ 7:07 am

so was the fix in for both Graham and PC?

Comment by wbb 08.19.14 @ 7:56 am

actually Reed, I do agree with you. I remmeber being surprised that there was no QB competition in the spring of 2010

Comment by wbb 08.19.14 @ 8:02 am

Coaches are coaches and they are all part of the coaching fraternity.

Be it DW, TG, or PC.

Somebody maybe Zeise kept telling us how great you know who was at practice. But we kept hearing that from several other sources other than Zeise.

Comment by Emel 08.19.14 @ 9:50 am

Running back Nicholas Grigsby takes a handoff from quarterback Chad Voytik on the first day of Pitt’s preseason football practice Monday at their training facility on the South Side. Writer: Werner.

Does this kid do any proof reading of his articles before publishing them. Why does the Pitt football beat get a novice ?

Comment by Emel 08.19.14 @ 10:05 am

Former Panthers:

Manziel took advantage by leading a 16-play, 68-yard drive capped by an 8-yard pass to Dion Lewis for Cleveland’s first touchdown.

And noting the NY Giants starting backfield against the Steelers last week. Both starting RB’s were former Pitt Panthers. Henry Hynoski and Rashard Jennings. Jennings had the 73 TD run in the 1rst quarter blowing past all the 1rst team Steeler defense. Always thought that kid would have been a great Pitt back had he not transferred.

Comment by Emel 08.19.14 @ 10:14 am

Werner of the PG is terrible. Should be
working for a small time newspaper.
Thanks to the PG for putting this guy
on the Pitt beat.

Comment by JR 08.19.14 @ 1:31 pm

Wbb – once a starter is ensconced at the QB position its hard to sit him down.

Backing up Sunseri in 2010 was Bostick, Myers and Janocko. In 2011 it was Anderson and Myers and in 2012 it was Anderson, and true FR Voytik.

Really, no matter how Sunseri played the coaches were going to stick with him.

Comment by Reed 08.19.14 @ 4:48 pm

BTW – Zeise was watching his son in the scrimmage on Saturday.

Comment by Reed 08.19.14 @ 4:49 pm

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