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March 22, 2017

Digging in the Offense

Filed under: Football,Players,Practice — Chas @ 7:33 am

It’s Pro Day today in the Southside. The donuts are available.

Perfect time to start catching up on spring practices from the weekend and yesterday. Let’s look at a couple of the things regarding the O-line and running backs.

I have to admit. It still feels odd to be positive about the offensive line. It has been ingrained in me for the past 15 + years to worry about the holes. Changes. Depth. Yet, this is the second straight year where the O-line has me feeling good about things.

Not that there isn’t flux. There’s position changes. A guy who moved over from defense that could possibly be a starter. Brian O’Neill has moved from Right Tackle to Left Tackle to replace Adam Bisnowaty. O’Neill has the talent and athleticism to handle the move. Plus, it is a position that will make him that much more desirable when he decides to head to NFL (no rush, on this, Mr. O’Neill).

It’s true when the optimist says four experienced players are back.

• Senior Alex Officer, 6-4, 335, has played center and right guard at Pitt, but he took repeated snaps at left guard last week in an effort to replace Johnson.

• Junior Alex Bookser, 6-6, 315, hasn’t moved from right guard, where he started all 13 games last year.

• Senior Jaryd Jones-Smith, 6-7, 325, started three games at left tackle in 2014 and missed the entire ’15 season with a knee injury. He now is taking snaps with the first team as O’Neill’s replacement at right tackle.

The new guy is former defensive tackle Connor Dintino, who is learning to play center.

It’s too soon for Dintino to consider the job his to lose, largely because coaches could decide to move Officer back to center, where he has made 23 of his 36 consecutive starts the past three years.

Dintino, 6-3, 310, is a fourth-year junior, but he only flipped to offense a year ago. He’s fortunate because he lines up next to Officer and Bookser, who also has center experience.

“I’m the young pup,” Dintino said. “I’m getting all the knowledge I can from both of them.

“Anyone can get (the center job). Everyone just has to keep working in spring ball. It’s where people go up the depth chart, go down the depth chart.”

Offensive line coach John Peterson said he likes Dintino learning the position in the stress-free spring environment.

“He’s a strong, powerful guy who is learning the details of offensive line play, transitioning from the defensive line and still growing with the details of playing offensive line,” Peterson said.

Sticking with the offense, Qadree Ollison is resurgent.

“I don’t know what word you want to use, want or need,” he said, “but I do want to get back to that (2015 level), even better than that.”

He said he prefers not to talk about that season or last year, when his yards per carry fell from 5.3 to 3.8 on 33 carries.

“It’s in the past,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do to change that. I can just focus on right here, right now.”

Narduzzi has a depth chart buried somewhere in his office that changes regularly during the spring. Given his 1,000-yard season, Ollison might be on top of it. The trick is to stay there.

The spring is all about competition, catching the coach’s eye and painting a favorable picture he might recall when training camp opens in August.

Even that is no guarantee. Davis or Sibley might arrive and look like the best of the bunch. Over the past decade, first-year freshman running backs have had success at Pitt, stretching from LeSean McCoy to Dion Lewis to Conner.

For now, Ollison and Moss are setting the pace.

Ollison, by all admissions came into last spring on the complacent side. It cost him then, and the whole 2016 season. There was open speculation by fans and the media that he might transfer after being buried on the depth chart last year and the talent that is coming this fall. Instead, Ollison is working harder.

When he thinks about the ups and downs he has encountered so far in his college career, Ollison always tries to remember something Pitt’s associate strength and conditioning coach, Freddie Walker, once told him.

“Be prepared to have a bad day,” Ollison keeps in mind. “He said it’s going to come. Bad days are kind of just inevitable, so be prepared to have one.

“What makes a great player great is how they bounce back from those bad days. If you let that bad day affect you, then you have two bad days. If you let that one affect you, then they just pile up on top of each other and you don’t get better that way.”

With a new year beginning, as the Panthers wrapped up their first week of spring camp Saturday with their first practice in pads, all Ollison wants to do is get better.

Put me in his corner right now, for hoping he earns the starting job. He’s stuck with it. Redoubled the efforts and is setting the tone at that spot.

I saw a blurb in one of the papers yesterday from Powell that reaffirmed his Ollison’s commitment but Powell also pointedly said that Moss was now neck and neck after Ollison being the clear leader even the day before. It also sounds like Hall will have an uphill battle.

I think this will be a battle all through camp. Who is hungrier?

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 03.22.17 @ 8:07 am

No reason not to have two 1000 yard guys.

Comment by gc 03.22.17 @ 9:08 am

I read that also. It is spring and way too early to speculate about RB, especially since two 4-stars are coming in.

Comment by wbb 03.22.17 @ 9:14 am

Off topic … I raised this on the other blog … by why does everyone in the world think Crosby’s goal last night was a back-hand?

I do not see it that way … it was done with his right hand, on the right hand side of his body using a forward motion.

Comment by wbb 03.22.17 @ 9:26 am

Not unexpected but Damon Wilson to transfer

Comment by wbb 03.22.17 @ 9:27 am

The only disappointing transfer was Manigault.

Good to hear that Ollison is motivated.

Article about Miles Sanders putting on weight, wonder if it will make him slower? Barkley still the guy for one more year.

Comment by gc 03.22.17 @ 9:36 am

This may be the hardest year to predict Pitt Football performance. We have the usual issues of new coordinators and replacing team leaders plus we have the best offensive year in recent history to live up to. We also have a defense that could not shut teams down when we needed them.
I am going to take the positive outlook with more depth at multiple positions than we have seen in decades. The schedule is tough overall but not too difficult in the ACC which really counts if our goal is the Coastal Championship.
Pick 9 wins!

Comment by scriptrules 03.22.17 @ 9:37 am

wbb – I saw Crosby’s goal live, and several highlights, I dunno, I always thought the back side of the stick constituted a backhand, not sure of the technical definition. Either way, fantastic stuff by a truly great one.

And thanks for the note on Damon Wilson, seemed like a great kid, but he never really looked like he had the skills to play either guard position at this level, so I think that’s good he’s moving on. On the other hand, Manigault never got a fair opportunity to play, so his move was a bit more puzzling, unless there were practice, motivation, or other issues which we’re not privy of. Looked like he could’ve been good if he worked at it, who knows.

Comment by 1618mt 03.22.17 @ 9:56 am

(sorry if this has been recently discussed)

….any news about future of WR Robert Foster ??

Comment by The Truth 03.22.17 @ 10:51 am

I would still like to know about that shooting guard recruit from Toronto. He was supposed to be pretty good, and now there is another guard spot opening up. Damon Wilson was a 4 star, I believe. Can’t figure out why these kids never developed when there was so much opportunity at the guard spots. I agree with the comments on Manigault, cannot understand why these guys didn’t grab the obvious opportunities

Comment by VoiceofReason 03.22.17 @ 11:10 am

VOR – I’m just a fan, not a bb coach, but in my opinion, its not about development with regard to Wilson and Kithcart, its about ability. In other words, Wilson was badly over-rated, he was a poor shooter, and didn’t have a good handle, and you can’t play PG or SG in the ACC if you can’t create or shoot at the guard position. I’d say Kithcart was overrated as well as a high 3-star (I think); why? because he couldn’t shoot either, and in fact he was an atrocious foul shooter as well, which makes life almost impossible as a PG in the ACC. So I’d say that neither guy was an ACC guard, regardless of there so-called stars. This is not a knock on them personally, its just about talent, at least in my opinion.

And if you are asking about Marcus Carr (I think he’s the Toronto guard), then there is a lot of good info. out there about him and game footage. He sounds like a good one. Lots of info. out there, game footage, etc.

Comment by 1618mt 03.22.17 @ 11:40 am

If Brad Wannamaker or Gary McGhee transferred out after the first year or two, we all would have said BFD! In fact BW was a turnover machine as I recall.

I agree that both Wilson and Kithcart were underwhelming but sometimes it takes a while for the light to go on, and for them to catch up with the game. I think confidence has much to do with it, especially when coming into an environment to discover that you are no longer the quickest or the strongest.

Comment by wbb 03.22.17 @ 11:47 am

Part 2 … hopefully Thompson and Carr turn out to be better. I just wasn’t ready to give up on the other 2 just yet

Comment by wbb 03.22.17 @ 11:50 am

wbb – I know what you mean, but big men take longer to develop and Jamie had pretty good luck in this area with guys that stayed in the program. In Wannamkaer’s case he came in with really good athleticism and toughness, and he had a handle, his shot came later. Typically, guards that can’t shoot don’t suddenly develop into good shooters in their Junior or Senior years.

Comment by 1618mt 03.22.17 @ 12:11 pm

wbb — regarding the backhand/forehand, it has to do with the curve of the stick. Hockey is opposite of how you would hold a baseball bat. Most right handed players actually use a stick that appears to be left handed…meaning the blade is on the left side of their body when they are holding the stick. The stick is held with the dominant hand at the top of the stick and the weaker side/hand is at the lower end of the stick. They do this for multiple reasons, but primarily because when you need to hold the stick with just one hand, you let go with the lower hand (weaker side), and control the stick and puck with the top hand (stronger side). It also because you use the top hand more during wrist shots, so having the stronger hand/arm at the top of the stick allows you to generate more speed on wrist shots.

Crosby shot the puck from the right side of his body, which is his backhand side, and off the back of his stick. Lifting the puck to shoot high on the backhand side of you stick isn’t easy when you have both hands on the stick…it’s nearly impossible with only one hand on the stick. I’ve never seen anything like it before…absolutely amazing goal.

Comment by Smack 03.22.17 @ 1:57 pm

smack, for righty the dominant hand is at the bottom of the stick. opposite for a lefty.

Comment by goalie44 03.22.17 @ 2:33 pm

@wbb – in hockey, for some reason, backhand refers to the part of the blade used not the position of the hands themselves. Go figure. Must be a French Canadian thing.


Comment by Pitt Dad 03.22.17 @ 2:37 pm

oui pitt pere… lol. backhand hence the name is when the back of the hand..duh is leading the shot if that makes any sense.

Comment by goalie44 03.22.17 @ 2:41 pm

and that is the bottom hand.

Comment by goalie44 03.22.17 @ 2:42 pm

@smack, i re-read your post, you are correct. watching crosby’s goal he used the non-curved part of his stick to score, ie the back of it. playing goal is opposite, for most goalies you hold the stick with your dominant hand for obvious reasons. too many pucks the head..

Comment by goalie44 03.22.17 @ 3:01 pm

Goalie44 — no worries…my son plays goal so I get your perspective. I’m right handed and have always played with a right handed stick, but found that I should be using a stick that is typically recognized as left handed.

Comment by Smack 03.22.17 @ 4:20 pm

James Conner elected not to run the Forty again at today’s Pitt Combine.

4.65 apparently a number he is OK with.

Will Pitt’s TD King get drafted? I say yes.

If I had to pick, I would say Philadelphia in the 4th or 5th.

Comment by PittofDreams 03.22.17 @ 6:23 pm

As for those still wearing the Pitt Uniform…

Redshirt Freshman Weaver has made MAJOR strides by dedicating himself to the Weight Room.

He LOOKS the part. If he can play it… WATCH OUT!

Comment by PittofDreams 03.22.17 @ 6:31 pm

Smack, Your son picked the best position!! Teach him to have a short memory though. Lol.

Comment by Goalie44 03.22.17 @ 6:50 pm

Hey 1618mt- The player I was thinking about is named Brazdeikis. See this link: link to
He seems like the read deal. Does anyone know if he is coming to Pitt?

Comment by VoiceofReason 03.22.17 @ 8:17 pm

In case some of you had not noticed you clicked on Pitt Blather / FOOTBALL so if you want to get into the penguins ,Pirates or even BB take it somewhere else!

Comment by Pitt60 03.22.17 @ 9:44 pm

Last I checked pitt 60 there is not much going on in either football or basketball. Just skip over the comments that don’t interest you.

Comment by Goalie44 03.22.17 @ 11:19 pm

For the bball issues for Damon, I will go a different way. He is physically talented. Psychology of sport indicates that he and Luther had zero confidence, which hindered their play. Confidence is on the coach in my opinion. My theory about coaching is that when your player has a bad game, you praise him for anything you can. When they have a good game, you beat em up so they concentrate on small things they did wrong. Both inspire confidence for the next game.

Stalings berated Luther when he was having a bad game. Its easy to rip people when they are down and harder to praise them for doing something good, but psychologically it works.

Same can be said about JD. If you recall, many a kid would get pulled if they missed a shot or made a turnover. That instills NO confidence the next time they are in there. Wake Up head coaches! Take some sport psychology classes and then practice what is taught.

Comment by Huff 03.23.17 @ 10:27 am

Huff, I get what you are saying – but a ton of the “big” coaches do the same thing as Stallings. Heck Bob Huggins is very similar with his rants and swearing and screaming at players. Only difference is his teams win more than they lose. I’ve seen Pitino lose it on some players many times before. KS isn’t the only one who acts this way.

Comment by JJ 03.23.17 @ 11:01 am

JJ – You hit the nail on the head- winning. If you’re losing and acting inappropriately (for example, ignoring your injured player in preference for cursing out a guy that made a mistake, or yelling ‘I’m going to bleepin’ kill you’), then the inappropriate behavior is magnified. But if you’re winning, in the example you gave, maybe adultery followed by a systemic problem of on campus strippers for your team may all be tolerated (just don’t let it happen again ;)). I’d like to see us hire a coach that does a good job and also represents the university well. I’m a fan and I’m entitled to that opinion/expectation. I understand different fans have different expectations. I do think Stallings could ‘get by’ with his borderline behavior if does a better job of coaching (you know, what he was hired for…), and if he took responsibility for unacceptable performances instead of throwing everybody under the bus. Maybe at 57 years of age, all of a sudden, a light will go on and we’ll see everything come together… I will say this, it’s a bit early to judge, but I do have more confidence in KS’ recruiting ability than I had with Dixon.

Comment by 1618mt 03.23.17 @ 12:34 pm

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