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February 17, 2017

The only surprise in the firing of Mike Mark Gottfried from NC State was the timing. With only a few weeks left in the season, NC State made Gottfried’s lame duck status official.

The list of names possible for NC State range from the obvious: Archie Miller. To the jump before pushed: Tom Crean. To the absurd: Greg Marshall or Chris Mack. To other alum: Vinny Del Negro. To random natives of North Carolina: Kelvin Sampson.

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February 16, 2017

It’s stale news, but still worth hitting.

Coming back to work for a third Pitt head coach, Charlie Partridge takes over as Defensive Line Coach.

Charlie Partridge, a renowned Florida recruiter who previously served as a Pitt assistant from 2003-07, will return to the Panthers’ staff as defensive line coach, Pat Narduzzi announced.

Partridge rejoins Pitt after serving the past three seasons as head coach at Florida Atlantic University. Prior to FAU, he was an accomplished assistant at Arkansas and Wisconsin.

“I’ve been a big fan of Charlie’s work for a very long time,” Narduzzi said. “I remember watching his defensive lines at Wisconsin and really admiring how they played. Charlie’s players reflected his high energy and passion. He’s an incredibly bright coach who is an excellent teacher and knows how to develop players.”

The opening sentence of Pitt’s press release sums up the hiring.

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February 5, 2017

Surprisingly Sims Out

Filed under: Assistants,Coaches,Football,Hire/Fire — Chas @ 11:01 am

It broke on twitter via Richie Walsh for KDKA-TV. And quickly confirmed by other outlets.

Defensive line coach Tom Sims is no longer with the team, according to a source.

Sims, a defensive tackle at Pitt who was a sixth-round draft pick in 1990 after his senior year, played in the NFL until 1996 with the Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts.

Pat Narduzzi hired Sims, 49, back to his alma mater from Youngstown State in 2015 when Narduzzi took over as Pitt’s head coach.

With national signing day now in the rear-view mirror, and four defensive line recruits officially in the fold, Narduzzi will look for a new assistant to coach that position.

Narduzzi also said Friday morning on a conference call that when the NCAA approves a 10th assistant coach for Football Bowl Subdivision programs, which it’s expected to do in April, he will most likely add to the defensive staff.

From a coaching standpoint, this comes as a surprise. I thought Sims had been doing an excellent job considering injuries and lack of depth on the D-line.

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February 2, 2017

This Year’s OC is…

Filed under: Assistants,Coaches,Football,Hire/Fire — Chas @ 8:27 pm

…hello, Shawn Watson.

Shawn Watson, a 35-year coaching veteran who owns an extensive and accomplished record overseeing offenses on the collegiate level, has been named offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Pitt by Pat Narduzzi.

Watson previously served as offensive coordinator at Texas (2014-15), Louisville (2012-13), Nebraska (2007-10) and Colorado (2000-05). He also has head coaching experience on his résumé, serving in that capacity at his alma mater, Southern Illinois, from 1994-96.

Watson joins the Panthers from Indiana, where he spent the 2016 season as an offensive quality control assistant before being named the Hoosiers’ quarterback coach. His Pitt appointment serves as a reunion with Narduzzi. The pair previously worked together on the late Randy Walker’s staff at Miami (Ohio) from 1990-92.

“Shawn Watson was one of my first mentors in this business,” Narduzzi said. “He sat me down as a young coach and taught me how to work with wide receivers in my first full-time job at Miami in the early 1990s. Ever since that time, we have always talked about being able to reunite on the same staff again. I’m really thrilled that the time has finally arrived and he’ll be joining us at Pitt as our new offensive coordinator.

“Shawn is, first and foremost, a wonderful person and father,” Narduzzi added. “As a football coach, he is extremely knowledgeable, an excellent recruiter and will be a tremendous strength in the quarterback room and offensive staff room. I’m really looking forward to having Shawn and his wife Anita join us in Pittsburgh.”

I think most Pitt fans will concede that their first reaction to the name, was hardly, “Oh, hell yes!”

But it shouldn’t have been, “Oh, shit!” Either.

The latter would have been reasonable only if the name had been Scott Loeffler.

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December 15, 2016

I know the premise might piss some off as too flippant, but I can’t disagree that Pitt coaching searches are a bit of a pip. A groundhog day thing full of crazy rumors, angst and a bit of self-loathing.

So, yeah. Matt Canada took the OC position at LSU. More money and a higher profile job. Calling it a “lateral move” is either ignorant or an attempt to cheap shot Pitt. I favor ignorance in this case.

To expand on some of what I said the other day. If Canada had stayed at Pitt and had similar success for just one more season he would be in the mix for head coaching jobs in the MAC, C-USA and Sun Belt. Have success at LSU for a year or two as OC. Especially in light of all their underachieving in the past 7 or 8 years and he is in being interviewed for AAC, low Power 5 conference jobs and OC spots in the NFL.

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December 13, 2016

Canada to LSU?

Filed under: Assistants,Coaches,Football,Hire/Fire — Chas @ 8:10 am

It seems that the dominoes that would have to fall for Matt Canada were no longer in place last week. Lane Kiffin did not get the Houston head coaching job. Kiffin was the favorite choice — by all reports — to be the OC under non-interim HC Ed Orgeron. Kiffin was ready to leave Alabama and they were ready for him to go.

Instead, Kiffin took a pay cut and will be the new head coach at Florida Atlantic.

Kiffin’s salary at FAU will average in the $1 million range annually, according to sources. He was making $1.4 million per year as Alabama’s offensive coordinator.

Brief digression. Recruiting in Florida is realistically tougher than ever. Forget the top tier schools there — FSU, Florida, Miami — and all the top-tier SEC schools that recruit the area. Competition for the underrated, diamonds-in-the-rough, athletic 3-star kids now has Charlie Strong (USF), Butch Davis (FIU) and Kiffin working to keep them in state. Pitt and a lot of other programs are going to have a lot more work to do if they want to pry kids out of Florida.

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December 10, 2016

2:30 PM on CBS Sports Network (hope you can find it).

Jamie Dixon looms over this game more than I want.

I’ve been doing my best to stay off that topic for a few reasons. I’d rather just focus on the season when there are actual games taking place. It’s not fair to the team and Kevin Stallings. I’m trying to give Kevin Stallings a chance to do things his way and not let too many biases influence how I see it. Constantly harping on what I think Dixon would have done. Or projecting comparisons is just not going to do any good. It’s a very polarizing topic, especially when it comes down to the players on the Pitt roster and talent. It very much has a Walt Harris-Dave Wannstedt vibe to it. Only without the hometown bias Wannstedt enjoyed.

But today. For this game. The topic is rearing its head.

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November 29, 2016

On the heels of breaking into the AP Top 25 at #24, Pitt players and a coach picked up some nice accolades.

In something that has become a regular occurrence, Quadree Henderson picked up his 5th ACC Specialist of the Week honor (yes, it is really called “specialist”).

He earned his latest award by compiling a career-high 257 all-purpose yards against the Orange, averaging an incredible 21.4 yards per touch.

Henderson averaged 18.7 yards on three punt returns (56 yards), 24.5 on four kickoffs (98 yards) and an incredible 20.6 on five rushes (103 yards). He had a 66-yard touchdown burst off a jet sweep to give Pitt a 49-21 lead in the third quarter.

Henderson’s (Wilmington, Del./Alexis I. du Pont) performance helped the Panthers achieve their highest single-game point total since 1977. His five Specialist of the Week awards are the most by an ACC player this season. He was previously honored for his performances in the Penn State, Virginia, Miami and Duke contests.

A highly viable All-America candidate, Henderson has four returns for touchdowns this season, including a nation-leading three on kickoffs. He ranks second in the country in combined kick return yards (1,121), fifth in kickoff return average (31.1) and 11th in all-purpose yards per game (159.75).

I’m assuming the ACC has a Specialist of the Year honor, which Henderson is a shoe-in to get. Along with 1st Team All-ACC recognition.

Speaking of which

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November 22, 2016

The line on this game started at Pit -23.5. It has since risen to -24.5. I wonder how much of it is confidence in Pitt versus a lack of confidence in Syracuse.

Normally the Syracuse-Pitt “rivalry” game is a time for us to make fun of the ACC for declaring this the rivalry game. Point out how neither side really views the other with deep hate in football. That the series tends to shift one-sidedly for quite a while — and right now it is on Pitt’s side.

That’s still all true. But, at least the ACC went and moved it to the end of the season when there is a chance the game could means something in terms of wins and losses.

With that in mind, it isn’t a game that should produce the usual apathy and “meh” commentary. This is a game that could get Pitt to 8 regular season wins. Another nice step in year two under Pat Narduzzi, considering the strength of schedule took a noticeable jump compared to last year (and, yes, the frustrating closeness of some losses (and wins)).

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November 4, 2016

To be fair, he did address it, but declared the topic dead to him going forward.

There was a laughable attempt to link Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi to the vacant Purdue job early in the week. It wasn’t by the media. Their only reference to Purdue was that reportedly the powers that be at Purdue were looking to go big on the hire and willing to make a financial commitment.

Basically, boilerplate stuff from the Boilermakers.

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October 17, 2016

Upcoming Gauntlet

Filed under: Assistants,Coaches,Football,Tactics — Chas @ 7:25 am

With the win over Virginia, Pitt sits at 5-2 and gets the much needed bye week.

Star defensive end Ejuan Price missed most of the second half after leaving the game with an undisclosed injury. He was tended to by the training staff, and never left the sideline, but did not re-enter the game.

Free safety Terrish Webb also left the game with an undisclosed injury before halftime and didn’t return, and linebacker Quinton Wirginis also appeared to get banged up on a punt return.

Pitt is off until Oct. 27, when Virginia Tech will travel to Heinz Field, marking first of three big opponents on the schedule. Miami and No. 4-ranked Clemson are up after the Hokies.

“It’s perfect timing,” said coach Pat Narduzzi, regarding the off week. “I wish it was two weeks instead of a week and a half, but we’ll take full advantage of it. Our trainers and doctors will do a great job with our kids and we’ll come back fresh.”

Narduzzi rarely comments on injuries, and gave no indication of the seriousness of any of those suffered at Virginia. He simply replied “yes” to a question about whether it was a testament to get such a strong finish by the defense after a day with so many injuries.

I get Narduzzi wanting a little more time. Especially with injuries on defense. Really, though, the bye week could not have been timed any better. With a Thursday night game as the next one, Pitt doesn’t have a short week to prepare, and gets the extra couple days to rest and prepare for going on the road.

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October 8, 2016

Blewitt=Yellow Jacket Slayer

Filed under: ACC,Football,Narduzzi — Justin @ 4:47 pm

Fourth and One from their own 34. A little over two minutes to go. Georgia Tech was barely contained on the ground all day long, but most of the big gains were pitches to the outside. The Yellow Jackets opted to just go for the yard and run inside. Tyrique Jarrett said NOPE. I myself thought Georgia Tech was going to score after the long touchdown to Orndoff. The defense has blown it or come close to doing so five games in a row. Leave it to the senior nose tackle, all 335 pounds of him, to put the offense in position to win. (more…)

October 4, 2016

The status of Jordan Whitehead is still an unknown. Not listed as injured, he did not play versus Marshall. He was dressed, but without a helmet. Head Coach Pat Narduzzi refused to say anything about why he didn’t play and remains vague as to whether Whitehead will play on this Saturday against Georgia Tech.

It got downright weird in the Monday presser.

Here are the questions posed to Narduzzi Monday on the subject, and his subsequent answers:

Question: Any update on Jordan with the depth chart change?

Narduzzi: “No. It’s nothing more than what I told you [Saturday]. We hope it’ll be soon.”

Question: “You said hope, you hope what?

Narduzzi: “You guys…”

Question: “Is he practicing with you guys this week?

Narduzzi: “You’ll see tomorrow morning. You guys know I’m not going to talk about it. I’m not talking about the injuries or anything else, about anybody.”

Question: “I respect your position on that Pat, but just wondering is whatever kept him out of the lineup Saturday…”

Narduzzi interrupts: “This seems like a hot topic?”

Question, again: “Has whatever kept him out of the lineup Saturday night been resolved?

Narduzzi: “It’s never resolved is it? It’s never resolved. We’re still working on it. Next.”

And that was it. There has been no information to indicate Whitehead is injured.

So is it an injury? Is it team discipline? Is there something else?

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September 29, 2016

Basketball Head Coach Kevin Stallings is a disciple of UNC Coach Roy Williams. So it is no surprise that Stallings wants his teams to be playing at a faster pace. That has long been a hallmark of Williams’ teams at Kansas and UNC.

Pitt will attempt to up the tempo this year, and the media got an early glimpse this week.

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September 27, 2016

The Loss That Lingers

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Narduzzi — Chas @ 7:13 am

It’s been pointed out here, and elsewhere that going into the season 2-2 at this point would be a reasonable expectation for this team and having two road games against 2 preseason top-25 teams. That is true. It still doesn’t make the losses — especially the last one — any less frustrating nor does it diminish the feeling that Pitt blew it.

Head Coach Pat Narduzzi’s Monday presser, generally conflicts between a coach that wants to move on to the next game and questions based on the last one — unless the next opponent is really good. With Marshall up next, you can imagine where most of the questions went.

The transcript is abridged and questions summarized, but there was still some interesting nuggets beyond hinted, minor, unspecified personnel changes and players likely to return from injury (LB Mike Capara and at some point, perhaps DB Damar Hamlin).

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