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July 15, 2014

Slow Build

Filed under: Chryst,Coaches,Football — Chas @ 6:49 am

In Year 3 of Chryst, I don’t think there is yet a settled answer on Coach Paul Chryst. Some may have made up their mind about him one way or another, but I am definitely not one of them. There’s plenty I do like about him: the way he runs the program, the actual coaching, the message, the way he is building the team from the lines out. And there’s plenty that — to be kind — that I question. His hiring practices and recruiting being the biggest.

I think that unless Chryst had stayed at Wisconsin and taken over directly from Brett Bielema, he was going to be doing a full rebuild no matter what program he took over. He would have been determined to make the program the way he wanted. Even if it meant tearing some aspects down. That just seems to be the kind of coach he is. Given the state of Pitt when he arrived, that was fine.

The piece in the P-G today was a very positive one on the way he has been building the team and relations back for Pitt football. We all know the story by now. The coaching chaos. The lost recruiting classes. The mass transfers.

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June 25, 2014

Isn’t it great that when all else fails we revert right back to discussing the apparently seminal topic of what wins college football games.  Of course it is the recruiting season, and recruiting season means star gazing, so let’s have at it.

Back in the spring of 2012 I did a three piece series on here about how recruiting stars equated to peer production – that is how many stars did leading college producers have and what the 1st and 2nd string All-Conference (BE and ACC) players had when they entered their respective college programs.  Just for fun, and especially if you are bored, here they are in sequence… remember to read the comments also as there was some spirited discussions back then too.   They are a bit lengthy but you guys can handle it.

So here they are:   Hitch Your Wagon to a Star,   Hitch Your Wagon II and Hitch Your Star III – ACC .  I don’t have the time or inclination to do all that research again to update to the 2013 results but I have a feeling the findings might not be that much different now and probably aren’t year to year.  Why?  Because unless you are running a huge, heavily financed football program such as the perennial Top Ten finishers do then your recruiting is going to look much like those posted results we see from two years ago.

To me there are two requirements as important as recruiting to building a winning football program. First and foremost you have to have a Head Coach and his chosen staff who get the best possible production out of the players on his roster, regardless of the players’ star factor.

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June 18, 2014

Marlon “Smoke” Williamson was introduced as a new Pitt assistant coach yesterday.

“We are excited about Marlon becoming a member of the University of Pittsburgh community and I know he is ecstatic to be coming aboard,” Dixon said. “As a former point guard with strong knowledge of the game, Marlon will help us in recruiting, scouting and player development. We are fortunate to have a coach with his well-rounded background. Marlon is also extremely excited to be a part of our staff considering his family ties to Pittsburgh.”

The former YSU point guard is openly ambitious and perhaps a little cocky.

“Actually, my pursuit is to become a great assistant coach right now. In the future, I want to become a head coach,” Williamson said. “When you say ‘great assistant,’ you have to fill a lot of bullets. Recruiting is definitely one, but I don’t want to be singled out as just a recruiter. I can get in the film room and break down Xs and Os. The relationship with the players is a huge factor for you as a coach. It’s much easier to play for someone you respect and love versus someone you just play for. That’s what I want to strive for as a professional in this business, being able to relate to the coach, co-workers on the staff, as well as the players and their parents.”

So, like [UMass Coach Derek] Kellogg before him, Williamson made a move to put his career in an upward trajectory.

“This is a big step,” he said. “When you talk about the University of Pittsburgh and ACC, you’ve got to go get players first. Our position as assistants is to put Coach Dixon in a position to be great. I look at coach Dixon as a legend. I don’t think he hired Coach Knight or Coach Barton to be mediocre. We want to give him the tools that he can go coach those guys. Our goal is to win the last game. Why not us?”

These are not bad things for a young assistant.

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June 16, 2014

It’s been something of an open secret for at least a week or so. One of the lead candidates to join Jamie Dixon’s coaching staff has been Marlon “Smoke” Williamson. An assistant coach on the UMass staff.

Williamson is an interesting choice, and not exactly what was expected. He’s a Youngstown State grad and his ties in recruiting are more midwest. Especially the Detroit area as he is reasonably tight with the AAU program known as “The Family.”

Williamson had spent the previous nine years working with The Family, an AAU program in Detroit, Mich. where he served as President of Youth Operations and Head Coach.

Williamson’s duties with The Family included opponent scouting, practice scheduling, monitoring of the athletes’ academic progress and counseling them on educational programs.

Some of the top players to emerge from The Family include Joe Crawford (Kentucky), Jordan Crawford (Indiana & Xavier), Chris Douglas-Roberts (Memphis), Draymond Green (Michigan State) and Malik Hairston (Oregon).

Both Matt Steinbrink at PantherLair and Chris Dokish have been tweeting about Williamson being a lead candidate, and today ESPN’s Jeff Goodman also tweeted it.

The upside is that Williamson is young — about the same age as Brandin Knight — and ambitious. He has AAU ties, which are a definite plus. The negative is that he’s still fairly new and has not shown track record of bringing talent yet. Plus his base for recruiting ties is not an area Pitt has mined — and has some stiff local competition with Michigan and Michigan State.

June 7, 2014

The offseason for coaches isn’t simply about recruiting and going to AAU events and camps. It’s about getting out in the community and speaking. Whether it is something very worthy like a school that helps those with special needs. Or heading out on the alumni club circuit.

For Coach Jamie Dixon the other thing that needs to be settled is finding a new assistant coach.

Dixon arrived at the breakfast only eight hours after returning from a Nike coaches event in the Caribbean. He said it was a pleasant trip, joking he didn’t even mind that Florida coach Billy Donovan was on his return flight.

Thursday was a busy day for Dixon, who said he planned to interview two candidates for the coaching vacancy on his staff created when Barry Rohrssen left for Kentucky.

Well, at least that situation is getting closer to resolution.

June 5, 2014

That seems to be what is happening. Everyone is watching. Everyone is waiting to see what is happening over the next couple of weeks.

With a decreasing number of players expected to leave the Pitt program this year — thanks to the stability created by coach Paul Chryst and his staff — and 49 added in the past two recruiting classes, expect this year’s group to be the smallest since Chryst welcomed 16 in 2012.

Meanwhile, coaches and officials are making plans to host about 300 high school players this weekend and next at Pitt’s UPMC training facility on the South Side for the Paul Chryst Football Camps. This is, generally, where many players make up their minds, but where they also get plenty of instruction from members of the Pitt staff and other coaches.

The next two weekends are so important to the long-range growth of the program that Chryst is skipping ceremonies at Wisconsin-Platteville on June 13 where his late father George will be honored for three decades of service as coach and athletic director.

The attrition over the first two years is not uncommon. Now it is a matter of not just being more selective, but getting the kids to decide Pitt is their best choice.

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June 3, 2014

Who Are The Other 24?

Filed under: Basketball,Coaches,Media,Mouse Monopoly — Chas @ 7:43 am

It’s only June and it is coming to this. I’m not proud.

ESPN is doing a list of the top-50 college basketball coaches in recent years. The standards seem very nebulous and hard to pin down.

We’ve been thinking about that question this offseason, looking for the best way to quantify the answer. Luckily, we’ve got ESPN Forecast. Last week, we asked a panel of nearly 100 ESPN writers, editors, broadcasters and researchers to rate college basketball coaches on all aspects of running a program, on a scale of 1-10. (The crucial distinction here is that the prompt was not career-oriented. This isn’t about legacy. It’s all about the present.) We compiled their scores and ranked the names, and now comes the fun part: The big reveal.

Right from the start there are some odd rankings — Scott Drew (Baylor at 50 should be higher based on what he has done) and Bruce Weber (K-State at 40 is ridiculously high) — that seem as based on liking or disliking some coaches as their actual performance.

Tom Crean was completely left off the list which seems ridiculous, but then, no one really seems to like Crean these days.

[And given this is and ESPN project, they have to have start the debate with this and immediately start questioning their own compilation to fan the debate.[

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May 16, 2014

Other Basketball Things

Filed under: Basketball,Coaches,Dixon,Money — Chas @ 7:42 am

So, the ACC is going to experiment with a 30 second shot clock in exhibition games this year.

“Our coaches and ADs both felt it would be an enhancement to the game in today’s world,” Swofford said. “It adds more possessions and potentially would speed up the game.”

NCAA men’s teams have used a 35-second shot clock since the 1993-94 season.

Swofford said league coaches submitted the proposal to the athletic directors during the spring meetings, and the athletic directors embraced the idea. The ACC would give its feedback on the use of the 30-second shot clock to the men’s basketball rules committee.

“That’s where the game is headed,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon told ESPN’s Andy Katz at the NBA draft combine in Chicago. “We want to be ahead of the game. We want to provide data and see what it’s like.”

Presumably, Coach Dixon is at the NBA draft combine to support Lamar Patterson.

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May 15, 2014

Not a lot left from the ACC meetings. Coaches have already been departing.

The news now shifts to bigger picture things like NCAA changes. The five major conferences agitating for more control of their own interests within the NCAA was the major talking point.

One of the big topics at the ACC’s spring meetings this week was the potential changes to the NCAA governance structure. The Division I Board of Directors recently endorsed a new model. It will be officially voted on in August and one of the primary shifts would be to give the “power five” conferences — the ACC, Southeastern, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 more autonomy to create legislation.

“The whole idea here is that you would have some permissive legislation that would allow some schools to do things but not require everybody to do things,” Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said. “So if we felt like, as five conferences, this is something we were really interested in doing, that if it made sense and we could pull it together, we could take it through the five without everybody voting on it.”

This week, the athletic directors met with Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch, one of the leaders in the NCAA’s reform efforts. The goal was to get a clearer picture of what the restructuring meant and how it would be implemented.

One of the early sticking points in the review process has been the supermajority needed for the power five to pass new legislation.

Any item would be voted on by the 65 schools, as well as 15 student-athlete representatives, and need a two-thirds majority to pass.

The support is mixed on this idea. There appears to be a split among the schools and conferences on this aspect. Some such as the Big 10 and Big 12 want a simple majority. Schools in the ACC seem to be more in favor of the supermajority. Honestly, I’m not sure on which would be the better approach. It isn’t clear to me on the details, so I can’t say which would be the way to go.

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April 24, 2014

After all the spring practices are in the books. As the long 3 month stretch of nothing but conference and NCAA rules debates, police blotters, recruiting and mindless predictions as the only news in college football stare us in the face, the ACC tosses us one last nugget. A conference call with the coaches to talk about spring practices.

You can listen to the nearly 2 1/2 hours of coaches talking vaguely about spring practices here. Coach Paul Chryst is on at roughly 2 hours into it.

Coach Chryst was asked about Tom Savage’s rise in the draft boards.

“You never know what to expect so if you said you’re surprised or not surprised you’d be wrong,” Chryst said. “He certainly has a lot of the talents and physical attributes. The biggest thing Tom hasn’t done is just play a lot of football.”

Savage transferred twice before ending up at Pitt, which Chryst said limited his visibility to NFL teams. Once they got a chance to look at the tape, they apparently liked what they saw.

“I think a lot of the buzz that comes before he wasn’t as much a part of because he hadn’t played for two years,” Chryst said. “I think what he did in the season, the combine, individual workouts, it’s been great to see. Hopefully everyone is right and his stock is rising.”

In Chryst’s seven-year tenure as Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator, the Badgers had 27 players drafted into the NFL. In two years as Pitt’s coach, he has yet to have a player taken. That will change this year, with Savage, defensive tackle Aaron Donald and wide receiver Devin Street each likely to hear their names called.

“I think for the program, it’s good,” Chryst said. “But most important you’re happy for those individuals. That’s what really makes it special.”

Or, dare we say, “neat.”

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April 16, 2014

It’s not the same, I know.

Tyrone Haughton signed his letter of intent today, to become a member of the Pitt’s 2014 recruiting class. Haughton is a 6-9 C-F who came from the JUCO ranks.

Originally he was a 3-4 star recruit who signed to play with South Carolina. After Darrin Horn was fired and Frank Martin came in, things changed. Martin had a verbal from another big man at K-State. The player switched to South Carolina. Suddenly, the scholarship numbers weren’t right and it seems that South Carolina suddenly had a problem with Haughton’s grades.

Oh, but SC and Martin didn’t want Haughton to completely go away. Just go to prep school for a year and see how things look next year. Haughton said no thanks and went to junior college. Isn’t recruiting just a lovely thing?

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April 14, 2014

It seems assistant basketball coach Barry Rohrssen has been the rumored target to replace Orlando Antigua on John Calipari’s Kentucky bench. Granted it has been a slow week-long rumble, but everyone is presuming it will happen (and thank you KSR comment kids for demonstrating that Kentucky fans have little basketball knowledge outside their own team).

For Rohrssen it is almost a no-brainer. Kentucky is a blue-blood job with huge exposure. No, John Calipari assistants haven’t had the greatest success rates, but they get opportunities. Rohrssen obviously wants another crack at being a head coach. His odds increase being on a staff like Kentucky  This may shock some, but the money may have very little to do with it.

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February 20, 2014

Okay, I’m trying  to be back. It’s been a rough few weeks in the offline world, and a lot of the crap has been coming to a head this week. That’s why I’ve been largely silent this entire week. Hopefully I’ll get things back in order soon.

I know there’s a lot of stuff to cover. Right now, I’ll just discuss my feelings on the changes in position coaches.

To recap. Brooks Bollinger resigned from his position as QB Coach at Pitt. He is not taking a job elsewhere in D-1, but has decided to pursue a lifestyle that lets him actually spend time with his family.

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February 14, 2014

Interesting.

The move to hire Troy Douglas as Defensive Backs Coach was made official. But with it, a little bit of adjusting to the coaching duties.

Chryst also streamlined positional assignments for Pitt’s defensive staff. In addition to coordinating the defense, Matt House will work with the linebackers. Chris Haering will coach the outside linebackers and serve as special teams coordinator. On the defensive line, Inoke Breckterfield will continue to coach the tackles and John Palermo will focus on the ends.

Chryst additionally announced that Desmond Robinson, who served as player personnel director this past season, will not be returning to Pitt’s staff.

Question. When did “streamline” become popular verbiage in football circles? Living in the Cleveland area I couldn’t help but absorb the Browns-Jimmy Haslam stuff this week. Haslam kept emphasizing the front office being streamlined. There was one position eliminated (CEO spot held by Joe Banner). Two people fired, but only one position eliminated.

Now Pitt has “streamlined” essentially be completing the phase out of Desmond Robinson. Otherwise, I’m not seeing “streamlined.”

Sorry, bit of a tangent but this was bothering me.

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February 11, 2014

Since everyone is working from essentially the same news and reports, here’s what we have

Pitt’s most obvious opening is to replace Bobby Engram at the WR Coach spot. Yet, the first breaking news was that Pitt has made a play to bring Troy Douglas from Iowa State to be the Defensive Backs Coach.

Iowa State secondary coach Troy Douglas has been offered a spot on the Pittsburgh staff, but Douglas has not decided if he’ll take the position yet, according to a source.

Coachingsearch.com reported that Douglas will join the Panthers’ staff on Wednesday.

Douglas spent the last three seasons with the Cyclones. He previously worked with ISU defensive coordinator Wally Burnham at South Florida from 2006-08.

But now, Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com is tweeting that as of this morning it is a done deal.

Douglas coached DBs in the ACC for a couple years while at North Carolina. He appears to be a solid recruiter and a good DB coach. Considering the spot was essentially coached last year by a graduate assistant (love you Hank Poteat, but you should not have been put in that position) this looks to be a very good move.

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