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August 30, 2016

Special Season

Filed under: ACC,Football,Narduzzi,Schedule — Justin @ 12:00 pm

I noted this on twitter a few days ago, but I wanted to expand on it a bit further. 2016 could potentially be a special season for Pitt. All of the elements are there: experience, leadership, talent, depth, coaching, and opportunity. The national spotlight will be on Heinz this Saturday with the return of James Conner and it won’t leave with Penn State visiting the following weekend. Back to back road trips against ranked teams, Oklahoma State and UNC, pose big challenges.

Hypothetically, what if Pitt starts 4-0? A win over a rival and two ranked teams on the road plus the emotional angle of Conner would make the national media nuts. That would lead to a top 15 ranking with the easiest stretch of the schedule ahead.

Why is this not crazy?

Experience:

On offense, eight of eleven starters are a junior or senior. The same amount of experience is on the defense and that excludes the most talented player, Jordan Whitehead. The only position that lacks proven experience is WR and there’s no talent shortage with that group. The most important position to have experience, QB, is led by senior Nate Peterman.

Leadership:

Has Pitt ever had a quieter camp? The only bad news was the players who can’t play for medical reasons, something nobody could have prevented.  A lot of that comes down to the character of the team and their leaders.  Not to continually dwell on Conner, but he has inspired his teammates and was widely respected prior to his diagnosis. Ejuan Price has seen this program go through a lot and took advantage of his sixth year for a reason.

Talent:

The offense will be led by a former ACC Player of the Year. The defense will be led by a sophomore safety with NFL written all over him. The offensive line has at least two NFL caliber players on it (Bisnowaty and Johnson). While Pitt doesn’t have the talent FSU or Clemson has, the gap could be overtaken by experience and execution. There will be more than one draft pick next year, that’s a guarantee.

Depth:

Other than QB, there isn’t a single player on this roster without a viable plan B in the event of injury. That’s not to say there wouldn’t be a drop, but Nate Peterman is the only player that couldn’t be schemed around in the event of an injury. Even Conner or Whitehead could get hurt and their respective units could work around it and still be successful. That’s not taking away from their talent, but praising the abilities of the players and coaches around them.

Coaching: Pitt went 8-4 in the regular season last year without a single senior who was drafted. The best player, James Conner, missed all but a quarter or so of the first game. A QB switch was made before conference play began. There wasn’t a single player on the roster that saw a record better than 7-6 during their tenure. How about some credit to the impressive coaching jobs done by Narduzzi’s staff? The entire staff, minus a change at OC, returns to Pitt in 2016.

Opportunity:

Pitt has four opportunities in September to earn national attention, each bigger than the previous. The national media would love for Pitt to be a highly ranked team led by James Conner. Don’t underestimate the effect of media attention. It can keep players motivated, put fans in the stands, and help recruiting. What would Heinz Field look like against Marshall if a 4-0, top 15 team came back after a tough road trip? The last thing those fans witnessed in person was a win over rival Penn State.

I’m not saying it will happen. I’m saying it’s not crazy. OKST and UNC will be favored to beat Pitt, but neither is unbeatable. Clemson is the only team I have reservations about. But, even with a loss to Clemson, Pitt will still control its destiny in the ACC Coastal by beating everyone else. All of the pieces are in place for a special season, notably the emotional edge James Conner brings to the table. 9-3 or 10-2 and an ACC Coastal title? That’s a hell of a year two for a team that has only seen 10 wins once in my 30 years of life.

One prediction about this team that I’m positive will come true: they will never make it easy on an opponent.





Great job Chas! Now I am pumped. How can you not root for JC and this PITT team? Let’s win the first couple games and then revisit this thought!

Comment by Jason 08.30.16 @ 12:24 pm

Welcome back Justin! T h e Blather is officially Back! Looking forward to your articles again!

Comment by wally 08.30.16 @ 12:42 pm

Defense …. this is what will hurt us from joining the big boys. Aside from our DEs and safety, we are slightly above average at best.

I agree that a ball control offense utilizing our talented RBs running behind our talent OL can make up for a lot of ills, but if (1) we have to score in a hurry, (2) commit more turnovers than our opponents, (3) defend laterally against speedy RBs or (4) defend vertically against WRs and can’t pressure the QB, we can be a in load of trouble.

Comment by wbb 08.30.16 @ 12:46 pm

Chas, So glad you are back. I had terrible fantasies about what happened to you when you disappeared. Thankfully the rumors of your demise have been greatly exaggerated. (Sorry for botching my theft of your quote Mark Twain.)
Justin I love your article. It is a true fan’s article. It is optimistic and it is reasonably possible! I do have enormous respect for Reed’s articles. They are mostly objectively data driven and are wonderful journalism. I have learned in my 78 years on this planet that there can be alternative futures and optimism can help us get to the best one. Oh hell, I’m just a diehard glass half full Pitt fan (since 1948-Pitt 21 Indiana 14.) H2P

Comment by OPFM 08.30.16 @ 4:45 pm

Great stuff, I love this site

Comment by steve1 08.30.16 @ 5:57 pm

Breakout players this season. Ford, Henderson, Hendrix & either Camp or Watts.

Returners who’s stock skyrockets this season, Conner, Whitehead & Orndoff.

The OL will dominate. Peterman will prove to be more than adequate. With just a little luck we knock off penn state plus somebody we’re not supposed to beat. That will be good enough to at least get us noticed nationally.

First things first, wallop the Wildcats! Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.30.16 @ 6:57 pm

If we don’t know how good Pitt’s defense is thru the first 2 games. Since one opponent is a FCS and the other one is Pedo State, we will after game 3 in Stillwater.

The Cowboy’s Senior QB can really fling it. They avg’d 40 ppg last year. 14th in the nation.

Comment by Emel 08.30.16 @ 7:08 pm

Lovin’ it Chas! Let’s go PITT!!!

Comment by RMT 08.30.16 @ 7:48 pm

Glad to have you back Justin! Hopefully, ball control on offense will be our D’s best friend! Can’t wait for Saturday !

Comment by PittPT 08.30.16 @ 8:06 pm

I just noticed that Tipton has gone from 170 to 190 lbs. Maybe he will be another breakout receiver. No longer a skinny kid.

Comment by gc 08.30.16 @ 8:43 pm

It appears that Pitt’s defense has weakness at both cornerback positions. This will not be helpful at Okie State or any games played against spread offenses. I hope I am proven wrong in this.

Comment by Grizzly1 08.31.16 @ 8:05 am

Great article, Justin and its great to see you back, Justin and THANKS Chas for coming back as well. I read the Blather most every day although I don’t comment very often. Hope to see everyone at the game on Saturday. We plan to be there and cheer loudly! Hail to Pitt!!

Comment by Panther Fan in Hoopieland 09.01.16 @ 7:20 am

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