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January 28, 2015

We have been talking a lot about recruiting lately because, well – because that is what is going on right now and we like what we see. I think it’s been made pretty clear that we Blatherites feel what Narduzzi is doing is exciting and really pro-active as seen in the post  “They Hit the Ground Running”. I really do like what I see happening and I think that is echoed through PITT football fandom.

But at the risk of being a contrarian, and that is just what I’m going to do here, all this talk of Chryst not recruiting defensive players is pretty much either hogwash or selective memory. Here is what he did according to Rivals.com (which I think is the stingiest recruit grading website). Note that the 2012 and 2015 recruits listed are the kids who committed while he was the HC. I also included the “ATH” recruits if they ended up on defense:

2012 – seven total recruits – five on defense w/ four 3*s

2013 - 27 total recruits – nine on defense w/ six 3*s

2014 – 23 total recruits – 12 on defense w/ 10 3*s

2015 – nine total recruits – four on defense w/ one 4* and two 3*s

As stated I like what Narduzzi is doing but looking through the burgeoning hype it does look like he’s pretty much in line with what Chryst did while he was here… so far. 2016’s recruiting class will most probably be a whole different story as far as a new HC’s  2nd year recruiting goes (always better than the 1st fractured class) and I think we’ll see Narduzzi bring in some top shelf guys, depending on how the ’15 season plays out of course.

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January 27, 2015

They Hit the Ground Running

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Recruiting — Reed @ 11:40 am

We need a new thread as the last one was getting confusing between basketball, football and bar hopping… or was that the one before the last? At any rate we fans are kicking it with hundreds of comments regarding the changes in PITT football over the last month.

So, of all the issues that have been addressed by Narduzzi and staff what do you think is most important and what do you think will have the most actual impact once the regular season’s games start?  Do you feel we are in a better place (duh!)? Do you see these changes resulting in immediate impact on the field or are we a season or two away from a nice w/L record?

Which one singular thing has Narduzzi done to make you feel better about the future of PITT football?

Looking forward to your thoughts… and discussing any and all issues you want to talk about.

P/S: I’ll be at the PITT LOI Day festivities on Feb 4th. The gate opens at 5:00 pm and the show starts at  6:00 pm. I’ll be the very tall guy with longer brown hair and earring and a moustache (in honor of my idol, Dave Wannstedt). Hope to see you guys there and we can lose all our money at the casino afterward…

P/SS: Since the movie American Sniper came out everyone I meet seems to have been in the Special Forces as a sniper.  I swear to God, three guys said that to me in different places yesterday – two in Vietnam and one in  Iraq.

January 21, 2015

Now that the football coaching staff is in place, the fans are excited and recruiting is in full bloom let’s take a very early preview of who we may see playing ball out there on the field as starters for us in 2015. Paul Chryst left Pat Narduzzi with a very young roster and a younger but experienced two-deep rotation.  Most of the starters on the 2014 team were FR and SOs and sometimes the lack of experience showed up in pretty dramatic ways.

Here is who we either fielded as starters last season or I assume will fill a starting role in ’15. This is my take on it, we’ll know some more after Spring practices (not too far away) and, of course, it will be firmed up over Fall camp:

OFFENSE

POSITION PLAYER YEAR GROUP in ’15 YRS STARTING
QB Chad Voytik rsJR 1
RB James Conner JR 2
H-Back Jamar Parrish JR 2
WR Tyler Boyd JR 2
WR Dontez Ford (?) rsJR 0
TE J.P. Holtz SR 2
LT Adam Bisnowaty rsJR 1
LG Dorian Johnson JR 1
C Artie Rowell rsSR 1
RG Alex Officer rsSO 1
RT Alex Bookster SO 1

 

That setup is probably pretty much etched in stone with the exception of the WR2 spot, rsSO Jester Weah could get in there for speed and maybe the OL will mix it up a little. We scored 32 PPG last year so the skill positions will be held fast. Our new OC, Jim Chaney, won’t have a rebuilding task ahead of him, but my fear is that he won’t see what is right in front of his face and try to get fancy when non-fancy did just fine for us on offense.

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No Shortage On Experience

Filed under: Assistants,Coaches,Football — Chas @ 8:28 am

It is easy, oh so easy to pile on every negative from a former coaching staff. It’s a natural tendency. Still our team. Our school. The change brings a renewed sense of optimism. That these guys get it. That the previous group were bozos who were holding everything back.

It’s not necessarily fair or even correct, but it sure is the feelings. Especially in the change from Paul Chryst’s first few weeks on the job to Pat Narduzzi. There’s an energy.  An engagement that is happening, not seen in some time. From the hires made for the staff. To the engagement on twitter coupled with the goofy, yet confident photoshops about Pitt and where the coaches are recruiting. There is an enthusiasm for the program that is coming from the top down.

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January 20, 2015

WR Coach, New Offers, and More!

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Recruiting — Justin @ 12:12 pm

First thing’s first: Narduzzi’s coaching staff is finally complete with the addition of WR Coach Kevin Sherman. Sherman is currently the WR coach for Purude and prior to that held the same position at Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. Sherman is known to recruit the DMV region, which makes him a valuable addition to compete with the rest of the ACC for east coast targets. Here’s a list of all the commits Sherman earned over the years and you’ll see a few guys currently in the NFL like Kendall Fuller and Jarrett Boykin. (more…)

January 15, 2015

Everybody Get Social

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Internet,Media — Chas @ 9:02 pm

Or something like that. Okay you luddites that still want info, the Pitt football coaching staff is going to drag you kicking and screaming into 2010.

Sure you ignored getting on just because I am there. Or Justin. No, Reed is still a conscientious objector or something like that.

Unlike the previous staff that treated Twitter like MySpace, the new Pitt coaching staff is actively on the social side of things. Letting you know where they are out recruiting. Ready to drop code words to indicate if they met with recruits — and just waiting to find out the code words when they land one (quick example is Texas A&M Coach Kevin Sumlin who tweets out a “YES SIR” when he gets a verbal). A veritable Pat Signal.

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3…2…1… RECRUIT!

Filed under: Coaches,Players,Recruiting — Justin @ 10:06 am

The recruiting dead period is over and coaches can now visit players in person. That makes today the day for Narduzzi and company to start earning their paychecks. As Chas mentioned, recruiting was a huge emphasis when hires were made and hopefully this decision will bear fruit soon. Chancellor Gallagher gave Narduzzi a much larger budget than Paul Chryst to hire assistants and the next several weeks will should justify that.

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January 14, 2015

Before the trying to pretend he didn’t know anything about his players exchanging gear for tattoos and other services, Jim Tressel was consistently getting outstanding recruiting classes to Columbus. His recruiting coordinator for much of that time was John Peterson.

A former Ohio State offensive lineman. He had been climbing the coaching ranks as a OL Coach. First at Akron (1995-98), then at Miami (Ohio) under Terry Hoeppner until 2003. Then he was  hired to be the O-line coach at Arizona. That changed quickly when his alma mater came calling in the spring. Tressel hired him to be the recruiting coordinator and TE Coach at OSU.

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Thus Spoke Patrick

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Media — Reed @ 2:11 pm

From the latest press ‘sit-down’ Chancellor Gallagher held yesterday afternoon you have to think that his commitment to the football program is rock solid and forward thinking. There isn’t any doubt in my mind that PITT would have kept Chryst on for another year or two had he not left for the Wisconsin job but once that opened Gallagher saw what was shaping up, seized the moment and put his own plans into action.

First came the change in our Athletic Director position with the long awaited firing of Steve Pederson. This mollified almost everyone who had suffered the angst over Chryst leaving the PITT job. It was as if we fans took a collective breath and felt that regardless of who was named the new HC the future of PITT football looked brighter.

The timing of that move couldn’t have been made in a better way. It showed the strong decision making that the former Chancellor was thought to have lacked when it came to the football program. That isn’t 100% true but the fan’s perception was strongly slanted that way.

Once that firing had been made then came the personnel and financial aspect of the changes. Of course the main point has been the hiring of defensive-minded Pat Narduzzi, late of the MSU staff. This appears to be a pretty solid hire and Narduzzi has begun rounding out his coordinators and staff coaching positions. Both his coordinators have been successes at the same jobs at other schools. (more…)

January 12, 2015

Strong Move on OC

Filed under: Assistants,Coaches,Football,Hire/Fire — Chas @ 7:07 am

I’ll be throwing up an open thread for the college football playoff championship game tonight. If for no other reason, everyone can wax rhapsodic over the analysis, insight and way Pat Narduzzi sells Pitt in the ESPN Film Room on ESPN2.

In the mean time, I guess we can pour over the news of Pitt’s new offensive coordinator. His name is Jim Chaney and he has been the Arkansas OC for the past two years.

Chaney spent the past two years with the Razorbacks, calling plays in their pro-style offense. This year, Arkansas ranked 26th in Division I-A with 218 rushing yards per game. He had two running backs surpass 1,000 yards in Jonathan Williams (1,190 yards) and Alex Collins (1,100 yards).

By the end of the season, Arkansas’ offense put up more than 30 points on top-30 defenses Texas and Mississippi. The Razorbacks scored 30 on the Rebels, who ended the season with Division I-A’s best scoring defense.

Arkansas finished the season 42nd in scoring offense, averaging 31.9 points per game.

Narduzzi said Saturday he prefers an offensive coordinator with play-calling experience, and Chaney fills that requirement. The move should also ensure a relatively smooth transition, as Chaney’s offense appears to be relatively similar to the one the Panthers ran under former coach Paul Chryst.

There were reportedly issues by the end of the year with Arkansas Head Coach Brett Bielema and Chaney. Chaney wanted a more balanced offensive attack, while Bielema wants to just run the football. So, from that standpoint the move for Chaney makes sense as HCPN has stated he does not want to meddle with the OC and play calling.

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January 10, 2015

Clemson dreams of being Pitt when it comes to basketball.

This will be the 400th Pitt game for Coach Jamie Dixon, as the man in charge. It is also, potentially, his 300th win. There may be some talk of that.

Dixon is 15 games into his 12th season as Pitt’s coach. The Panthers are 11-4 overall and 1-1 in conference play.

“A lot of people recognize and talk about it, but I don’t give it a lot of thought, to be honest with you,” Dixon said. “When I sit down and look at it, I might think a little differently — the numbers.

“As I think about it now, I’m just thankful I’ve been able to coach at the university that many years. It does speak to being at a place a long time.”

The emphasis has been on the speed at which it has been accomplished or in comparison to how long it took other coaches to reach 300.

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January 9, 2015

Since we are undergoing a period of changes in the athletic department and the football program in particular let’s take a look at the players who either won’t be on the roster next season via expiration of their eligibility or by virtue of being pushed ‘into their life’s work’ as the saying goes.

At this point we have no idea how sentimental or ruthless Pat Narduzzi will be when it comes to current players he is inheriting on the roster. We saw the large attrition conducted under Paul Chryst but most of those players who either left on their own (few) or were moved out (many) were mostly the type of players Chryst didn’t want to retain because of character issues or by being negative influences in the locker room.

Chryst supplemented those actions by his recruitment practice of weighing personal qualities equally with the talent and skills the recruits would bring to the team. To me it is hard to judge just how well that balance worked out. Some fans care more about the results on the field rather than any off the field issue that might occur; others feel that the players should be actual student athletes who via their play and behavior reflect positively on the university.

Below is a list of players, with their current year status shown, who will be either gone by eligibility or could be on the chopping block for the 2015 season.  A rsJR listed below will most probably be a 5th year rsSR in the Spring and as such they have that last season of eligibility. Given the rest of the roster and what we think we know about Narduzzi’s preferences in the type of player he wants (i.e. faster defensive kids) who do you think we’ll see unexpectedly gone by the 2015 spring practices.  Those practices will start in mid-March and go until the second week of April so they are only about ten weeks away. 

While we are at it let’s also take a look at which ‘players gone for sure’ guys we think will be the hardest to replace by underclassmen at their positions.  Have fun and please explain your reasoning! 

PLAYERS GONE FOR SURE

Isaac Bennett    RB    SR
LaQuentin Smith   DL    SR
Kevin Weatherspoon  WR    rsSR
Manasseh Garner   WR    rsSR
Matt Rotheram   OL   rsSR
T.J. Clemmings  OL   rsSR
David Durham   DL   rsSR
Anthony Gonzalez  LB   rsSR
Ray Vinopal  DB   rsSR
Todd Thomas  LB   rsSR
Adam Lazenga   FB   rsSR

PLAYERS WHO COULD BE ASKED TO LEAVE  (5th year)

Trey Anderson   QB   rsJR
Ronald Jones   WR    rsJR
Khaynin Mosley-Smith   DL   rsJR
Devin Cook    DL   rsJR
Nicholas Grigsby   LB  rsJR
Lafayette Pitts    DB   rsJR
Ejuan Price    DL   rsJR
Artie Rowell    OL   rsJR
David Murphy    LS   rsJR
Jameel Poteat    RB   SR (transferred in last year & is eligible in ’15)

The names have been floating out there for a couple days. I’m sure many have been getting antsy about Head Coach Pat Narduzzi naming a staff. Especially since during the Armed Forces Bowl, he indicated he hoped to name the assistants and coordinators by about today.

Instead, it was very quiet and no real concrete — or even vaguely sure — info on who would be on the staff. Something that P-G beat writer, Sam Werner addressed in his weekly chat.

Comment From KatPanther13: Has local media lost all of their connections in the Athletic Department/Football team? None of you have any scoops PG, Trib, Local Broadcast News, what’s up man?

Sam Werner: Believe me, I wish I had more information to give you regarding the coaching staff. Not as an excuse, but Pitt’s leadership is in a great state of flux right now. A new chancellor came in August, and they’re in the midst of a transition at athletic director. That means that a lot of people who used to be in the loop aren’t necessarily anymore, and people might be less willing to talk because the future of the athletic department is a little more unsettled.

Pitt has always been very hard to crack when it comes to leaks and movement. (more…)

January 8, 2015

Running through the usual list of PITT sports websites I visit every morning while I have my first cup of Joe I read an opinion piece by Joe Starkey of the Tribune Review titled What PITT Football could be that he posted on Wednesday night. I found that it mostly made sense and was well thought out, hitting on the the root of the matter of PITT football program’s mediocrity over the last 31 years and what Pat Narduzzi has to bring to PITT to change the culture of apathy on the part of the administration, students, local populace and, in my opinion, the local media as well.

Starkey opens his article with a simple declaration “It’s time for a key substitution regarding Pitt football: Excuses out. Expectations in”. That is a pretty simple stance to take and one he expounds upon later in his piece when he says:

Time will tell whether Pat Narduzzi is the guy to change all this, but you have to like the fact he is coming from a place (Michigan State) where Mark Dantonio & Co. looked at all the built-in excuses, kicked them in the face and created an entirely new culture. And did so without batches of five-star recruits. After decades of mediocrity, Michigan State has become a bastion of positivity and big wins.

That is fantastic! PITT will do it right now if only Starkey would let us in on exactly how Dantonio & Co. accomplished it! I do wonder if Starkey and PITT fans forget that sometimes ‘excuses’ can also be seen as ‘reasons’ for an outcome and vice versa. If in the past, as a lot of us believe, the PITT administration tried to create and sustain a successful football program while stinting on the financial resources to make it happen then is it an excuse that it didn’t work out or is it a reason we did what we did?

Perhaps it depends on how one looks at the University’s financial situation as a whole or maybe just the level of honest interest the Chancellor and the BoT had in fielding a successful team, which might have been even less than we saw in public. To me that is a contributing reason for the poor results we have seen over the last two decades, to others it may just be an excuse. Nothing happens in a vacuum, there are always reasons things turn out the way they do.

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January 4, 2015

I have a confession to make, with a question to go with it.

Was anyone else laughing when the buzzer went off at the end of the bowl game? Honest to God, I was and my wife couldn’t understand it (and I wasn’t even drinking or taking any Windowpane acid either).  When we went up 31-6 she turned to me and said “I guess you didn’t expect this to happen, did you?”  My reply was that there was no way the game was going to end nicely.  Not that I thought we’d lose, I didn’t, but I was sure there would be drama at the end.

When the Houston QB hit those two long completions in a row, 43 yards and 32 yards down to our 7 yard line at the 4:00 mark I was resigned to it.  Then, when Nick Grigsby grabbed his own balls instead of the football on that second on-side kick I knew we were sunk.  Silly women, she couldn’t believe what happened but we PITT fans weren’t that surprised were we?  Reading the 600+ comments in the game thread I can see that that is true.  There was much anger and some disgust but really, no one was saying ‘I can’t believe this happened‘ because deep in our hearts we knew it could.

That’s why I’m not even parsing the game that was played.  It doesn’t matter who did or didn’t do whatever whenever.  IT JUST WAS.  As PITT fans we ‘get’ that.

And perhaps that was Fate’s way of saying “Boys, it is time for a completely clean slate for 2015“.  The Chancellorship changed, the old AD was shown the door,  the head coaching job turned over and I believe all the staff coaches will be gone this week.  Perhaps in the long run, and especially given our recent four year history, this kick in the nuts loss is the perfect way to make us sit back and clear our own minds as far as being a PITT football fan goes.

I’ve decided not to have any expectations whatsoever with Narduzzi and the new people he’ll bring in.  I firmly believe we have a 50/50 chance of being ‘Same Old PITT” as we do with winning lots of football games.  I’ll take things day to day and will walk the “Show me!” line as the off season goes by and the games begin.  I look at PITT football with tabula rasa; a blank slate to imprint with facts and opinions as things unfold and not before.

Anyway, I had a great time writing and conversing with everyone on here during the ramp up to and then the playing of 2014’s games.  We’ll have just as much fun, hopefully more, starting today for the new 2015 season.

Chin up boys and HTP!

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