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July 28, 2015

We’ve talked on here about how great it is to have landed a defensive ‘genius’ as our Head Coach, especially after the rather disastrous showing by our Panther defense in some of our close losses over the past two years.  It is nice that we have a HC with a defensive bias, especially after spending three years with Paul Chryst who pretty much ignored the defense and left it in the hands of an inexperienced and overwhelmed DC in his last two years at PITT. (Surprisingly, in Chryst’s first year of 2012 with Defensive Coordinator Dave Huxtable running the defense was ranked 17th overall.  Still we pulled in seven losses.)

When looking back on our defensive shortcomings last year the low point was the knife in the neck, thrust by DC Matt House, that gave us the quick bleed-out defensive trauma in the bowl loss against Houston.

We boldly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on the strength of our Swiss-cheese defense allowing three TDs in the last 3:41 of the game.  It was apparent that our defense was so confused and upset out there trying to get them in the proper positions pre-snap was like herding cats. That game, as sadly negative as possible and even worse than the ‘Same Old Pitt’ games, will be remembered for eternity.

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July 21, 2015

In the most timely news to hit the street and anger Pitt football fans our young DE Rori Blair made a monumental mistake when he chose to smoke reefer and treat the parkway like he was in the Hot Metal Bridge 500 race qualifying rounds.  From The P-G this morning:

State police wrote in a criminal complaint that a trooper working near the Fort Pitt Bridge clocked Blair, 20, of Upper St. Clair, driving at 117 mph in a 55-mph zone March 15. That trooper pulled the car over in a left lane on Fifth Avenue in Oakland and “detected a strong odor of marijuana emitting from his breath and about his person as he spoke along with blood shot glassy eyes,” police wrote.

Police took Blair to UPMC Mercy for a blood test, which came back positive for cannabinoids, police said. They charged Blair via summons Monday with driving under the influence, driving at an unsafe speed and other violations.

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July 17, 2015

Jordan Whitehead: Safety?

Filed under: Narduzzi,Players — Justin @ 5:03 am

Chris Peak recently tweeted out that Pitt’s top incoming freshman, Jordan Whitehead, will start his career at safety. It’s an unexpected twist for Whitehead, whom many believed would compete to start at CB. With Reggie Mitchell viewed as a leader on the defense, this puts Whitehead in competition with Terrish Webb, Jevonte Pitts, and Patrick Amara for the other safety position. Amara may play nickel CB again, a role he saw playing time in as a freshman. In hindsight, this should not be a surprise though. Whitehead primarily played safety in high school and if coaches are high on Lafayette Pitts and Avonte Maddox, safety could be the quickest way to get Whitehead on the field. Depth behind those two is suspect, however.

Given Narduzzi’s defense relies on safeties to play man coverage, this could be a good segue into playing CB in 2016 after Lafayette Pitts graduates. Or perhaps Whitehead will find his home at safety and stay there. The NFL is severely lacking quality safeties and perhaps Whitehead’s best path there is roaming center field. He has the speed and smarts to handle it and if he can be a physical presence at the D1 level a lucrative career could await.

As I mentioned earlier, depth at CB is suspect, which is my main quibble with this move. Behind Maddox and Pitts, only Patrick Amara and Ryan Lewis have seen any playing time I can recall at CB (other than Reggie Mitchell of course). Lewis has not exactly had success at in limited snaps CB and Amara will be fighting to start at safety opposite of Mitchell. This places a lot of pressure on freshmen to fill out the depth chart, a move Pitt fans know has had disastrous results in the past. I will trust the coaches here until proven otherwise given their impressive track record coaching the defensive side of the ball.

In other news, ESPN’s David Hale makes the case for Pitt as a darkhorse contender in the ACC Coastal. David makes the same argument many Pitt fans have: the offense is really good and with Narduzzi in town the defense has to be better. David points out a simple fact of Pitt’s defense: when they were bad, Pitt lost.

When its defense held its opponent below its season average yards-per-play, Pitt was 6-0. When it didn’t, it was 0-7. That’s pretty astonishing, given that the Panthers had an offense that was more than capable of putting up enough points to overcome a bad defensive game or two. Still, it never happened. Every single time Pitt allowed an opponent to have an above-average game offensively, it lost.

His logic is sound but he mentions that Pitt has demons that defy statistical odds. That’s the thing with Pitt: we always find a way to grab a loss from the clutches of victory. Narduzzi was part of a culture change at MSU and if he’s to succeed at Pitt beyond the mediocrity we’ve experienced the past 30ish years, that’s the biggest hurdle.

July 13, 2015

Now is the time, before football is being practiced and scrimmages played, where we fans like to sit down and compare what we have seen in the past from Pitt football and then speculate how the new kid on the block is going to handle his first time at the rodeo.

Our new kid is Pat Narduzzi, a first time head coach and a football mind that should fit right in with the Western PA football traditions of an aggressive and strong defense. The thing is that we can’t really look at his individual history, most recently as the Defensive Coordinator at Michigan State University, and see that for as successful as he was it doesn’t predict his success as a new head coach.

What we can do though is look backwards 18 years to 1997 when the first of our last three coaches who had at least three seasons under their belts at Pitt was hired.  That guy is Walt Harris, a second time HC who did a stint as the HC at Pacific University out in California.

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July 8, 2015

Here are some small PITT football issues that have been in the media lately.  The one I saw first and am personally most concerned about is the possibility of WR Juwann Winfree sliding from Maryland, where he had gotten suspended twice, over to PITT.

The move comes just nine days after Maryland Coach Randy Edsall suspended Winfree indefinitely for violating the school’s student athlete code of conduct. It was the second time in eight months that the troubled Winfree had been suspended by Edsall, who also banned the freshman wide receiver for two games last November for violating the same policy.

He played in eight games as a freshman, catching 11 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns. His best game came against Michigan State shortly before he was suspended last November, when he caught four passes for 80 yards and a touchdown.

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July 6, 2015

Yesterday we looked at the four of the last ten QB recruits we have landed and it wasn’t that pretty.  Today we’ll look at the last six QBs and because they are more recent, less Pat Bostick in ’07, we’ll probably remember more of what they did or failed to do for the team.

Remember we are looking at recruits and not transfers or walk-ons and the scores awarded are based on what they did as QBs here at PITT and not how they may have contributed in other way such as playing defense as in Gonzalez’s case.

Anthony Gonzalez, 2010 – This kid was loved by the PA HS football fans and PITT made a hard push to get him onboard beating out other schools like PSU, FSU, Oregon, Clemson and  Maryland for his services.  After taking a redshirt his first year Gonzalez played a lot on special teams and sparingly at QB. In line with his dual-threat reputation coming out of HS DW had him run the Wildcat a few times as a rsFR.

Of course, as is the inevitable fate of PITT QB recruits it seems, he ended up on defense in 2012 where he found a home and played well for us at the strong side linebacker position. Here is what Gonzalez thought about all the moving around from QB to H-Back to Safety to SLB.

Guess being suspended twice from the team didn’t hurt his playing chances much.  The first time was for a drug bust and second for being a bad boy.  I wonder if that is the first time a PITT player has been suspended by two different head coaches as this involved both Graham and Chryst.  Maybe he’ll make it into our record books based on that.  I don’t think even Elijah Fields pulled that trick off.

SCORE: C

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July 5, 2015

(Folks, this is a two part very large article that I split up to make more manageable. Part 1 now and Part 2 tomorrow).

While I was driving around with my wife today I mentioned the dig Chas gave me about recruiting and ‘stars’ being a favorite topic of mine in his last post.  About five minutes later she turned to me and said “Then why don’t you write an article about the last ten quarterbacks PITT recruited and see how they stack up?”

So here they are in full glory. The last ten HS QB we recruited to play at PITT, not the last ten QB to have actually done it. I didn’t include transfers like Peterman and Savage not actually recruited or ’14 class recruit Bertke whom we haven’t seen play yet. The recruiting class is listed first. Read ‘em and weep….

‘13   Tra’von Chapman     4*    12th     PC;  Dismissed from team ;

‘12   Chad Voytik               4*    4th      TG;  Currently starting QB

’11   None, Nil, Zilch, Nada, No Way, No How

’10   Mark Myers               4*    11th     DW; Now at Div III John Carroll

’10   Anthony Gonzalez     3*    12th     DW; Rushed 8/36 & 1 TD ; LB

’09   Kolby Grey                3*    28th     DW; Played defense, C&W Singer

’08   Tino Sunseri             3*    24th     DW;  PITT’s 3rd leading passer

’08   Greg Cross               3*    NR       DW; No passes; 5 runs for -3 yards

’07   Pat Bostick                4*    6th      DW; FR starter, spot work after

’06 – Kevan Smith           2*    NR     DW; 37/67 for 419 yards and 1 TD

’06 – Dexter Davidson     3*    32nd    DW; Redshirt ’06; gone in ’07, no PT

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July 2, 2015

Bits & Pieces; 7/2/15

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Players,Recruiting — Reed @ 8:26 am

Time to catch up on some media articles and podcasts about PITT football that have gone public over the last few days:

First off AD Scott Barnes has been doing some rounds of pretty detailed interviews with media outlets.  Good, that is exactly what we need at this point in time leading our upcoming season.

Here is a great piece by the University’s Pitt News who apparently got a nice chunk of Barnes’ time to answer a bunch of pertinent questions.

Of course two topics jump out.  One is timely and the other is timeless:

TPN: In light of Tyler Boyd’s recent incident, how high of a standard do you think college athletes in general should be held off the field?

ADSB: We will hold our student athletes to a higher expectation due to the front porch they sit on, and that’s more of in terms how they conduct themselves publicly, obviously, and the quality of people they are and the quality of people we recruit… 

Hmmm, that sounds familiar.  We talked about that on here the day after Boyd’s arrest. There is this interesting Q&A also.

TPN: How much do you think Pitt’s struggles to fill up Heinz Field for football games are part of the nature of having an off-campus stadium? How much of that do you think can be improved with improved amenities and fan environment at the games?

…and crickets on the stadium part of the question.  Nothing.  I think the Chancellor stated what he stated about never seeing an on-campus stadium in his tenure at PITT so this administration steers clear of the issue. Barnes spoke a whole lot on the new Fan Committee however.

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June 28, 2015

The Chicken or the Egg?

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Players,Recruiting — Reed @ 6:34 pm

After getting two more recruits;  4* WR Ruben Flowers and unranked as yet ATH Marcus Ffrench, we have had a lot of follow up discussions about past and present recruiting on here.  Well, here are another couple of thoughts about recruiting we can chew on over the weekend.

I think we all agree that Paul Chryst had some pretty specific strengths and weaknesses when it came to his recruiting.  He seemed to have been right on target with his offensive scouting and then getting commitments from kids who have helped us move the ball and score points over the last two years:

RBs Conner, James, Ollison, Hall and Parrish at FB;  WRs Boyd, Jennings (good get, too bad) and Zeise along with Holtz and Orndoff at TE. His recruiting what looks to be like the complete OL two deep this season is a great job also (fingers crossed).

So, on that side of the ball he’s leaving Pat Narduzzi with a well stocked cupboard with good players he and his staff recruited.

Where the weakness has been, or where we perceive it to have been (more on that in a second), is in his lack of ability to recruitment of talented defensive players and, given the way the defense faltered in key moments last year, that sure seems to be the case.

But wait a second! Let’s discuss the age-old football question of “Do you win ballgame with Xs & Os or Jimmies & Joes?

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June 26, 2015

Two New Commits

Filed under: Football,Narduzzi,Recruiting — Justin @ 12:03 pm

Now that we have official confirmation of the latest Pitt verbal, I can post who the two newest Panthers are. First up is Maurice Ffrench (not a typo), a WR/DB from New Brunswick, NJ. Ffrench was a recent prospect camp attendee and the coaches liked what they saw, so they put a ring on it extended an offer.

There was speculation yesterday and some unconfirmed reports that WR Ruben Flowers was the second commit, and the news just officially broke. The Lima, Ohio product chose Pitt over several B1G schools and Kentucky. The 6’4″ Flowers is the eighth verbal to Pitt’s 2016 class and the fifth in the month of June.

 

June 25, 2015

I knew Pitt had a lot of players getting some off-season surgery, but I didn’t know it was this many.

[Pitt Coach Jamie] Dixon, who has three players out with surgeries and at least five others recovering from previous surgeries or nagging injuries, said the changes to NCAA rules also played a part in the decision.

“The rules have changed to where you could only have two players from one college team on each of the summer league teams,” Dixon said. “That sort of made it difficult with only so many Division I players available to have the kind of competitive league you are looking for.

“Hopefully, it is something we can revisit for next year, but, for this year, it just didn’t seem like it was going to be able to work out.”

Josh Newkirk earlier followed by James Robinson and incoming transfer, Sterling Smith, recently had off-season surgies.

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It is a slow week for PITT football with the two exceptions in recruiting that Chas covered earlier.  To update that a bit here is the Post-Gazette’s Sam Werner’s article about the last three pick-ups and in his Red Shirt Diaries blog Werner lists all the recruits vitals with links to their highlights:

Bricen Garner
Safety, Central Catholic HS (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
Rivals: 2*, NR
Scout: 3*, No. 80 S
Offers: Army, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, UMass, Miami (OH), Navy, Old Dominion, Temple, Toledo
HIGHLIGHTS

Chawntez Moss
Running Back, Bedford HS (Bedford, Ohio)
Rivals: 3*, NR
Scout: 3*, No. 56 RB
Offers: Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Eastern Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Kent State, Marshall, Miami (OH), Ohio, Old Dominion, Toledo, Western Michigan
HIGHLIGHTS

Chase Pine
Linebacker, Lafayette HS (Williamsburg, Va.)
Rivals: 3*, NR
Scout: 3*, No. 86 OLB
Offers: Buffalo, California, Charlotte, East Carolina, Georgia, Marshall, North Carolina, N.C. State, Old Dominion, Syracuse, Toledo, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, West Virginia
HIGHLIGHTS

Here are a few interesting items for you all to look at during lunch…

First, I heard back from EJ Borghetti and the PITT Fall Training Camp begins on Monday, August 10th.  That gives the Narduzzi Power and Light Company 26 days to get ready for the season opener against the Youngstown State Penguins.

As we know this opponent has given us problems before when Chryst opened his time at PITT with an embarrassing 31-17 loss.  That game needs to be looked at again given the circumstances that will be surrounding our ’15 PITT team.

For one we’ll be starting a season with a shiny new head coach again, this time trotting out Pat Narduzzi in his new PITT gear for all to see. We are all looking forward to seeing that because, I believe, PITT fans across the board are happy with Narduzzi’s hiring.

One of the reasons for happiness is that it is entirely possible that PITT’s defense will be better and more effective right out of the gate as this is Narduzzi’s successful background that he made his name in.  Looking at the specifics of that past YSU game we need that.

YSU basically ran all over us that day with 202 yards on the ground. Rushing the ball 46 times wore us down… even when PITT knew the run was coming we were almost powerless to stop it as they gained 4.4 ypc.

To complement that YSU used their passing game for surgical strikes that resulted in three TDs.  It is worth noting that those three TDs came on only 14 completions for 177 yards in 24 passing attempts;  a 58% completion rate with 12.6 yards per completion which is very good.

If we allow YSU to replicate that this year I’m pulling Narduzzi’s contract.

But, truth be told, it is entirely possibly the YSU might be a stronger team this season than it was in ’12. They are coming of 8-4 and 7-5 seasons so the team knows how to win games.

But the big stroke YSU made over the offseason was hiring Mark Anthony Pelini who, in addition to being Cleopatra’s third husband and losing the whole Roman naval fleet in a sea battle against Octavian, used to be the HC at Nebraska.  “Snarling Bo” as he is called these days knows how to fire up a football team, so we can expect the Penguins to come out fighting.

Another similarity to the ’12 game is that we’ll most probably start off the season with a suspension impacting the PITT team.  Back then we had six players suddenly suspended the morning of the game, two being starters.  Whether or not you feel that had any influence on the loss, we may well be replicating that is a short form depending on what sort of discipline Tyler Boyd gets awarded by Narduzzi.

Speaking of which in one of Cardiac Hill’s Poll of the Week series they asked the fans about what punishment Boyd should get.  You can see that most favor a one game suspension which fits my view and I think the majority of guys on this blog also.

What would you do with Tyler Boyd?

  • 7%No on-field punishment(79 votes)
  • 18%Not start him in the season opener, but let him play(199 votes)
  • 42%One-game suspension(460 votes)
  • 23%Two-game suspension(251 votes)
  • 10%Suspension of three or more games(107 votes)

That is a breakdown of a total of 1096 votes as of this morning.  That is a pretty big sample for a blog to gather especially when you count the 107 PSU fans who pretty much wants Boyd’s shot at a NFL career to end by suspending Boyd “three or more games”.  It is interesting to read the 50+ comments the poll and associated article generated.

Also as something I didn’t know existed here is a Cardiac Hill’s open thread “The Pitt Stop” that they do on a regular basis.  Linked is the June 2015 edition.

As wbb mentioned in his comment yesterday PITT is reaching out to various groups to form a Panther Fans Experience Committee to solicit feedback on how to enrich the PITT athletics game day experience.  It is a good thing to do I think and something we wouldn’t have seen with our dearly departed AD.

There is a short form to fill out then a section for text where you are asked to provide your Fan Resume.  Be aware that you are limited to 750 words to describe how you would be a great fit for this committee.  Stating that you are too much of a perfectionist gets your season tickets revoked though.

750 words might not be enough for some of you guys because when you start telling ‘Big Fish’ stories about how you are such a better fan than the next guy you go on and on and on.

The commitment is for quarterly meetings at PITT for a two year term. In other words eight times where you get to bitch and someone is actually listening.  Anyway, I suggest that you all apply for it – we definitely have some great ideas on here the PITT administration should be made aware of.

I am in the process now and it will be interesting to see the final makeup when the committee is selected.  Here is the Trib article on it.

For those PITT BB fans who are wondering what is happening the P-G’s Paul Zeise, our old P-G PITT football beat writer friend, has a rather detailed ‘catch-up’ about that program. It seems to me that the main news is that former PITT BB player Ontario Lett is joining the BB staff as a Grad assistant.

Just for something else to look at and because we talked about actually playing a football game in September here are the details and stats of PITT’s 2014 season.

 

June 17, 2015

Boyd’s first court appearance will be August 5th. PITT’s Fall Camp will start soon after that.  That timing probably doesn’t help anybody with this incident.  Lets hope Narduzzi makes his decision way before then.

An interesting thing;  I checked the Patriot-News “Pennlive” newspaper online and didn’t see any reference to Boyd’s troubles at all.  That is newsworthy because the Pennlive is smack in the middle of PSU country.  But for a smile check this article out.

Here is today’s article in the Trib on the latest Narduzzi Meet & Greet held at the Cheswick. This part is interesting…

“The Panther Prowl was Narduzzi’s idea from the outset. He initially brought up the idea to Jeff Gleim, Pitt’s associate vice chancellor for alumni relations, while at the Armed Forces Bowl in January. His plans for a $3.5 million renovation of the team’s practice facility also made it prudent to invite fans and donors. Gleim said the tour attracted more than 1,000 people to five previous sites — Washington D.C., New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.”

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June 15, 2015

Well, here is Coach Narduzzi’s first personnel discipline test… or at least the first that we know of.  Chas posted the basics, this article will look at the issue from the administrative side.

Old news by now but reports came out stating that on early Saturday morning at 2:35 a.m. our 20 year old star WR Tyler Boyd was stopped while driving and placed under arrest.  Here is the quoted Borough of Jefferson Hills affidavit on the case as researched and posted by Dean Kovacevic on his sports blog:

Your affiant, Sergeant John O’Leary, is a police officer employed by the Borough of Jefferson Hills. On June 12, 2015, at approximately 0235 hours, affiant was traveling north on SR885 in a marked patrol unit and observed a dark green black Ford Fusion bearing PA registration (I’m redacting this) traveling south on SR885 enter the northbound lane of travel and pass the vehicle ahead of it as that vehicle was turning right onto Wray Large Road. The lane change was made within an intersection immediately after the crest of a hill and the operator of the Fusion did not signal the lane change.

Affiant effectuated a traffic stop in the 100 block of SR885 and identified the operator as Tyler Boyd per his PA photo driver’s license. In conversation with Boyd regarding the violations, affiant smelled the moderate odor of an alcoholic beverage about Boyd and asked how much alcohol he had consumed this evening. Boyd said he had “two shots” but did not start drinking until after the NBA Finals game he was watching on television ended. He estimated this time to be approximately 0100 hours.

Affiant determined Boyd to be only (note: I’m guessing he said “20 years old” here) and administered a PBT that was positive for alcohol. Boyd was placed under arrest for DUI (Minor) having been deemed to be under the influence of alcohol to a degree he was unfit to safely operate a motor vehicle.

That is the nuts and bolts of it. It is pretty basic really.

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June 12, 2015

First off to assuage the gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair by PITT fans regarding our ‘late’ recruiting start we need to revisit this issue just like we do every year at this time of the offseason.  Because of that repetition I am going to be stealing some info from earlier Blather articles.

Here is a bit of info that will help to quell your fears. This table shows how PITT has ‘late’ starts every year since Wannstedt was hired back in 2005:

Year  # Before 6/12     Total Class #  Notes:
 
‘05 1 23 Wannstedt’s first partial class
‘06 5 27 DW’s first full class
‘07 2 24  
‘08 2 19  
‘09 1 20  
‘10 2 24  
‘11 2 21 Graham’s first partial class
‘12 0 16 Chryst’s first partial class
‘13 5 27 Chryst’s first full class (after purge)
‘14 1 23  
‘15 3 15 Narduzzi’s first partial class
‘16 1 (3?) TBD Narduzzi’s first full class

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