PA won the annual Big 33 football game yesterday – forgive the PSU slant with the link but apparently this is the best coverage I can find… (neither of the two major PGH papers had a word on it at the time I wrote this)… even though it looks like Pitt recruits contributed also. But with three TDs (in only 67 yards) he gets the lion’s share of the publicity.
Our DB Damar Hamlin did well also. Pitt had six on the roster compared to PSU’s two.
At first, Jo-El Shaw almost balked at the opportunity to represent Pennsylvania in the annual Big 33 Football Classic. It was at the first team-wide practice in April and the Pennsylvania coaches figured Shaw would play fullback since that’s how he’s listed on the roster.
“I told them I was going to go home,” said Shaw, now a Woodland Hills High School alumnus. “I told them, ‘You can go find somebody else, because I ain’t playing fullback.’ ”
Here is a detailed and in-depth look at the Panther football program under Pat Narduzzi. It was written yesterday by Bill Connelly of SB Nation and is a wealth of historical and present (and future) info about where we have been and the direction he thinks we are going into the 2016 season.
Here is an opening salvo to get your attention:
As fans, we have plenty of funny tendencies. If you raise the stature of our program just enough to break our heart with high-stakes losses, we will resent you for it.
It’s funny (if you’re not a Pitt fan, at least) to look back to the end of the last decade.
Under Dave Wannstedt, Pitt pulled off one of its most significant upsets, in 2007 (taking down WVU in Morgantown to prevent the Mountaineers from advancing to the BCS title game), then went 9-4 and 10-3 over the next two seasons. The Panthers went 8-5 in 2010, giving them 27 wins over a three-year period for the first time since 1981-83.
And Wannstedt resigned under pressure, hated by a large portion of Pitt fans.
But I’ll disagree – unless he thinks I am the only Pitt fan whose opinion matters I don’t think Pitt fans hated Wannstedt at all. It was more like they were so disappointed with all the crap that went on back in 2010 and his inability to outright win a BCS bowl bid in his six years as head coach that any sort of a change was a relief.
But let’s not put binders on as this writer has – there were a hell of a lot of Pitt fans that didn’t want to see DW go at all.
Aside from that this is a fantastic read. It is a breath of fresh air to read someone state the true comparisons between Chryst’s time at Pitt and Pat Narduzzi’s first year. We fans are infused with a lot of Narduzzi’s energy and exuberance so we look at last season with an overly positive view.
This is the lead into the article and I think he hits the nail right on the head regarding our pass defense:
“The most difficult positions to fill in the Narduzzi secondary are probably the boundary corner, free safety, field corner, strong safety, and star LB (space-backer) in that order.
The latter two positions of strong safety and star are the tip of the spear for this defense, these guys are set to up make plays and put pressure on the offense, which is what defines this scheme. Their aggression and freedom isn’t possible without the play of the former three defenders who have to establish the “no-fly zone” so that the strong safety and star can spend their time hunting down running backs.
As it happens, the Panthers are returning their boundary corner Avonte Maddox, free safety Terrish Webb, and strong safety Jordan Whitehead but are looking for players to step up at field corner and space-backer.”
Well, most likely that field cornerback will be true FR Damar Hamlin after the dust settles during fall camp. At least that is what the pundits (and myself I suppose) think. He’s highly rated at 4*s and had offers from across the country. If we are looking for another, or different, newcomer to take that spot then 4* FR George Hill could fit the bill also. We discuss him a lot on here, our mysterious commenter Pitt of Dreams can’t envision him anywhere but at running back. However, needs must and if the staff wants him there they will put him there.
(Here is the last of a three part series on recruiting the prospective college players. We left off yesterday talking about recruits and football camps… and greyshirts, etc…)
Rivals.com Chris Peak just wrote about the Pitt “Senior Elite” camp that we held last Sunday… here is an excerpt:
The Pitt coaches had positive feedback for all three local linebackers, as they did for Canton (Oh.) McKinley’s Kadeem Trotter, who was as impressive as any of them. The same goes for Buffalo (NY) Bennett’s Isaiah McDuffie, who is committed to Boston College (and was previously committed to Syracuse). And there were a few more who stood out, but I think you’re getting the picture: the linebackers were pretty good, and there are probably a few in that group who could be offer-worthy.
So here we have a recruit at our camp, Isaiah McDuffie, who has already committed to two different schools yet he’s paying his own way to attend a camp where he wants to get noticed by yet another school. This is how it’s done these days.
A lot of fans and a ton of schools want the NCAA to adopt an ‘early signing’ policy in football like they do in basketball. Last year the Conference Commissioners addressed the issue and punted it to at least this summer. The gist of the proposal is that the schools would have the ability to have recruits sign an LOI as early as December of the recruiting year so they can ‘lock down‘ the kids they really need.
“College football’s National Signing Day is a February tradition. That’s the day recruits sign pledges to universities and commitments finally become official.
The Collegiate Commissioners Association is voting this week on a proposal that would create another three-day signing window, giving high school athletes the opportunity to sign prior to February. It’s expected to happen at some point — an early period could go into effect this year, from Dec. 16 to 18 [Update:the decision’s been “tabled,” so no early period for 2015] — and there wouldn’t be a limit on the number of recruits a school could sign during the early period.
Football has been one of the few college sports without an early signing period, joined only by soccer and water polo. Basketball’s early signing period has been considered a major success, because colleges do not have to continually recruit committed prospects once they’ve signed.”
(Yesterday we had Part 1 of this recruiting article where we addressed a couple of pertinent question about the business. This Part 2 continues that and we’ll have Part 3 on Thursday to wrap up…)
3. Is it only the players who have to be convinced to go to a certain school?
The answer to this is a resounding no! Every Pitt player’s family, mostly parents, I have talked to said that the coaching staffs probably spent as much time selling their school to the family and recruit’s HS coach as they did with the recruits themselves.
After all that is why they do “in-home” visits. On those trips the staff doesn’t necessarily need or want to talk to the recruit so much as have the family hear them talking to the recruit. A good recruiter will have already had many, many conversations with the player before an at-home visit. Walking into the home itself is when showtime begins.
Here is an interesting website that covers recruiting from a family point of view. Covering in-home visits the author, a past college football staff coach says this:
After I posted the podcast Saturday, and we since we have had our discussions about where Hill and Pugh should play, I started wondering more about the more human parts of college football recruiting.
We all pretty much know the NCAA rules and regulations behind the recruiting process with the official and non-official visits, verbal commitments, dead and quiet periods, Letter Of Intent day(LOI), etc… But I began to scratch my head and ponder just what a head coach and recruiting staff really look for in recruits.
I have a good friend here in Maryland who is a legendary head coach in Maryland (Baltimore) High School football, Roger Wrenn. He was in the football coaching profession for 43 years and retired with 14 city championships to his credit.
One thing to understand about Coach Wrenn’s position in high school ball here in Maryland is that Baltimore County football is taken as seriously here as WPIAL football is in PA. Way above what the PGH City League is like in fact and national reputation.
I’ve talked with Coach Wrenn extensively on the subject of recruiting and he firmly maintains that the ‘best’ college HCs look at raw talent and charactercombined first.
We’ll take a lead for some of the discussions of the last week or so and discuss the Pitt QB situation, both present, future and some past. I said in a comment “Its been a long time since Pitt had a star QB” and it truly has – certainly none in the last decade and that’s an eternity in college ball when rosters and starting lineups changes regularly.
Top 10 QB Commitments Since 2010
2016: Thomas MacVittie: Only 1 interception in 211 attempts his SR HS season
2015: Ben DiNucci: Redshirted this season as a freshman; Alex Hornibrook: Verbally committed to Pitt, signed with Wisconsin
2014: Adam Bertke: Redshirt freshman, never played, transferred out; Wade Freebeck: Verbally committed to Pitt, signed with Vanderbilt
2013: Tra’Von Chapman: Attended spring drills, dismissed after criminal charges, backup at Akron
2012: Chad Voytik: Started in 2014, lost starting job and transferred to Arkansas State
2011: Trey Anderson: Didn’t join team until second week of fall camp, graduated from Pitt as a career backup
2010: Anthony Gonzalez: Played a few snaps at quarterback, two-year starter at linebacker; Mark Myers: Transferred as a rsJR to John Carroll College
Man – that transfer record is brutal especially when there weren’t any star QBs in front of all those kids who transferred out before they had a chance to show what they could do after a couple year in the program.
One of the more intriguing and anticipated recruits who will land on the Southside in early August is George Hill. He is a 6’0″ 205# ATH and has earned his bona fides on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
There is a real benefit in recruiting high school football players who are listed as “ATH” (labeled as such for an unspecified position he would play in college ball). Foremost it implies the kid is so good he can play multiple positions well which is always a good thing.
Here is the Doctor who also worked very hard to help James in his battle. Thank You!!
So – A few days then the medicinal entry port comes out of Conner’s chest… then however many days it takes to heal and we are back to full contact for the fall camp.
Note especially here that Conner didn’t want any special treatment as a patient. That is he wanted to be in the cancer ward with every other patient and did what he could do to make the world a better place for them, and I’m sure their families. His initial diagnosis wasn’t good, the cancer was very large according to his Dr. and yet he was joyful and, at least publicly, calm every day.
I’d like to take a second and mention someone who most fans don’t know. Mike Gallagher from Erie, PA is much like a surrogate father to Conner. He himself has had multiple physical problems that stemmed from a sideline hit in a college game he was covering for his local newspaper… so he was a great role model and support – as was Gallagher’s family I’m sure – during this entire process.
Mike Gallagher and James Conner are two of sports success stories and I’ll say a big Thank You! to Mike also for all he has done, not just for James, but anyone he has come in contact with. I met Mike last fall and he and I had a long conversation about many things – not all Conner or football related. With guys like Mike involved, even if just on the outskirts, of Pitt’s football program we are in great shape.
One last Conner bit:
Anyone who has watched the sun set over Lake Erie can attest to its beauty.
Two years ago, 15-year-old Meghan Gallagher couldn’t see it from her hospital room at UPMC Hamot, where she spent three weeks getting treatment for a kidney ailment. And that bothered her friend, James Conner.
During one of his regular after-school visits, Conner decided to do something about it. He knew how much Meghan loved going to the beach and watching the sun set with her father Michael. So he picked Meghan out of a hospital bed, cradled her in his massive arms and set her down in front of a window.
“The sunset relaxed her mind,” Conner said.
Kind of says it all…
Two days ago the Trib had another Chris Peak Podcast, this time with Ken Laird, and they start out talking about the Pitt-Penn State game’s kickoff at noon on Sept 10th and the accompanying bitching done by Pitt fans. This is a good listen to have on at work in any event:
I’ll say now, and fans may not like it, that the Pitt-Penn State game is important to the state of PA but other than that – and for the rest of the nation – the game is like any other.
It certainly wasn’t like that in the past. Back when both teams were at the top of the ranking regularly this match-up was an event. Now however we are two programs that college football fans have a short memory about.
Here we have an example of what I do when I’m bored. I was thinking about Pitt’s history, uniforms, Pitt-PSU and all the previous doings of Pitt football that we like to discuss on here and came up with the novel idea of … talking about recruiting.
With the above discussions by Peak and Laird about the departures of players and the numbers game to get down from the current 87 (with recruits coming in) roster players down to the mandated 85 bodies I wonder not only who the next two guys to go are, but also, as they discussed in the podcast, which players from the ’16 recruiting class will be prepping at a secondary high school (like Fitzgerald, McCoy and Dion Lewis did) or will be taking a greyshirt.
I was trying to decide what I wanted to put up on a rainy Sunday afternoon (at least rainy here in MD) and saw a great Sports Illustrated article written in Oct 1962 by a previous Pitt Chancellor, Dr. Edward Litchfield, about the national debate if Grant-In Aids (athletic scholarships) were a good thing to have on college campuses.
This intro below is a personal bit about why this article strikes my fancy. The article itself is the other audio bar.
Here is the body of the article – excuse the small mistakes if you will, I’m not a professional at this. I especially like the contrasts between Litchfield’s descriptions of Pitt athletics then and today’s state of college football. There are some great points made here – especially some timeless ones that hold true today.
Hope you enjoy it!
“Camel Driver” – try putting that on a kid today! I also love that we stole almost a whole opposing team –
Far back in 1903, for example, out-university felt mortified to have been defeated two straight years by the football team of little Geneva College. Football in those days seldom made much money at the box office but many colleges recruited passionately, simply because they found defeat unbearable. In the wake of our losses to Geneva, corrective action was deemed imperative and there seemed only one surefire way of seeing to it that we beat Geneva the next year. We took it.
We lured to our campus most of the Geneva players and the following season, 1904, defeated Geneva 30-0. During the balance of the decade Pitt football teams lost only 13 of 71 games. Now what sort of boys were they, do you suppose, that could be proselyted so frivolously? Because many of them have passed on, we were able to trace only 17. Of that number, four were physicians, five dentists, two attorneys and one a Ph.D.
Here is the Peak’s PantherLair podcast on the Trib’s website – he talks about the uniform roll-out and other things. But specifically about what a ringing success the whole day was for Pitt athletics – from social media to returning players to the event itself in the evening. He also talks about how the Pirates don’t give a crap about Pitt at all… as we read in Chas’ piece earlier.
He also addresses the current facilities improvements and what was done by previous FB HCs. I like the fact that this administration is dedicated to long range upgrades and it’s starting to come to fruition.
(By the way – remember what Peak says here about Narduzzi’s using comparisons to other football programs when asking fans and boosters for $$$ to renovate the facility’s meeting rooms, weight rooms, etc… Pitt football does not exist in a vacuum and we have to play catch up to keep up with programs that have forged ahead of where we are now when you read the last part of this article.)
“Despite the success from a Pittsburgh standout and the myriad of congratulations the star (Phil Jurkovec) received after his commitment, it seemed like a dumpster-fire moment on Twitter from “Pitt-faithful.” Oddly enough, mostly aimed at Pat Narduzzi’s immediate “inability to recruit” after an incredible wrap to his 2016 class and the praises that sealed that envelope.
The story that remains in the middle of the announcement, for myself at least, is everyone seems to have forgotten about Thomas MacVittie, a prized steal for Narduzzi last season.
To state that MacVittie did not produce the same attention through his senior season as Jurkovec had through just his sophomore season is excruciatingly obvious. But, the two may be more similar on the field than you may think.
Its a good read and should bring some of us back from the brink.
It is a good read and thought provoking but I wonder if Chris took a detailed look at what our geographical recruiting ‘gets’ have been over the last five years. After reading his article I started to wonder if indeed it was more important to spread out Pitt’s recruiting targets or to concentrate on landing more of the higher quality local (meaning Tri-State area) high school players.
Here is our “Out Of Area” (OOA) recruiting over the last six years. I used the years 2011 until 2016 to survey because that was when we had Steve Pederson as our athletic director for most of the years and had lower limits on our recruiting budget.
OOA / %
Key OOA Recruits
13 / 62%
FL (3), TX (3), MD, DC, TN, OK, NY, AL
Mosley-Smith, Jones, Steve Williams
6 / 40%
WI, NY, MD, WA (2), TN
Roberts, Lewis, Voytik
9 / 33%
NY (2), WI (2), HI, MI, NJ, MD
Ibrahim, Blewitt, Officer, Taleni, Weah
10 / 43%
MI (2), NY (2), FL, IL, DE, CT, VA, NJ
Ollison, Folston, O’Neill, Maddox, Hayes
5 / 33%
CA, TX, NJ, DE, FL
Brightwell, Edwards, M. Henderson, Q. Henderson
12 / 50%
FL (4), NJ (2), NY (2), VA,(2), IL, NC,
Watts, Pine, Ffrench, Campbell, Miller, Camp
However, getting distant players isn’t the end all be all to success at Pitt as we have seen the results of those recruits actually play out on the field, but sometimes it does help. If you look at the 2011 recruiting class of Todd Graham’s and then look at where they are now there are few still with the team. Out of the 13 players from far away 10 of those didn’t last at least four years in the program.
There were a few reasons for this and on was that because Graham was stuck with a decimated class after Wannstedt was fired he went after marginal players who he was recruiting during his latter years at Tulsa. Regardless – a 77% attrition rate is horrendous. Granted many of them were purged when Graham left, then Chryst was hired with the mandate from the administration to get rid of those dead weight and marginal players.
Not to make a shabby pun but the issue of concussions in football has reared its ugly head again.
There was an initial and prompt backlash toward Pat Narduzzi for what seemed to be a cavalier attitude towards the enormous problem of the effects of concussions on football players.
However, there was also the correct rollback by the media once the actual quotes, and Narduzzi’s intent, became clear. There are a lot of media pieces about this but I think Craig Meyer (Werner’s sub) in his P-G Red Shirt Diaries lays it out the best. Maybe that is because he was the reporter who asked Narduzzi the actual questions about the meeting’s discussions about the subject:
From Meyer: “I followed up by asking what the concussion discussion centered around and what kind of things they talked about. Were they talking about how to handle concussed players? Or how to possibly spot and diagnose whether a player has one?
Narduzzi’s response at that question was at first worrisome – mostly because readers and the pundits didn’t take the time to really cipher what he actual said. Here is the quote:
“Hopefully coaches aren’t doing that. We’ve got a major problem in college football if coaches are diagnosing. There was a neurosurgeon who came in and explained some of the data and how they need to get more data so they can make decisions. I think when you look at all the results and all the talk, I think it’s media hyped. They’re talking about how they need to get more data and feedback on really what it is that’s causing these injuries.”
ACC meetings started yesterday and the big topic that the media (and fans) wanted addressed: ACC Network. Still as clear as ever, which is not even a little.
But to the surprise of no one tracking this saga, ACC commissioner John Swofford plans no public enlightenment during this week’s league gathering at Amelia Island, Fla.
Swofford told the ACC Digital Network’s Jeff Fischel that he remains “very focused” on a sustainable television path for the conference. This he did without mentioning over-the-top (OTT) outlets such as Netflix and Hulu, and partner ESPN’s bleeding of traditional cable subscribers and subsequent personnel cuts.
“We think we’re in a really good position for the long-term,” Swofford told Fischel. “We’ve just got to make the right decisions and time things appropriately.”
“I don’t know that there will be public clarity,” Swofford said of this week. “I think we will move further down the trail of where we’re headed, without question. … We’re really just not going to have a whole lot more to say until we reach a point of saying something definitive. It takes some patience with that, but we’ll get to a good place, I’m confident.”