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August 28, 2015

This is a very long one folks; enjoy it for your weekend reading pleasure.

As we all know that in any Pitt pre-season there is nothing even remotely negative written about the team, players and the coaching staff by the local media, especially with a brand new head coach such as we now have. The only straight opinions you’ll get will be from some local bloggers and maybe a recruiting website that follows the Panthers. Keep that in mind while you read this article please and realize there is certainly some good about this team to go along with the not-so good…  like the ‘good news’ media has been feeding us all preseason.

We all have thoughts about what’s positive with Pitt in 2015; here are my thoughts about what I see and feel. Earlier in the pre-season we mentioned that we would hold off on a season W/L projection until fall camp had ended.  Now is that time and here’s mine.

We are a week until the start of the 2015 season and the real beginning of year one of ‘The Narduzzi Experiment’.  We’ve been getting camp reports, scrimmage stats, leaks about this and news about that and we have all been doing what fans always do at this point. We are wondering just how good or how bad the team in going to be this year.

Every season is a blank slate to start anew, especially with a shiny new Head Coach and his eager staff coaches. Those new additions add another layer of mystery and excitement for us when looking at what will happen over the next 12 weeks.  What it does also is add a new layer of concern, and to some fans, worry because of the unknowns with the staff.

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August 27, 2015

Fall Camp – Practice #17

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Players — Reed @ 11:01 am

(Read Chas’ piece posted this morning before this one please)

It has come at last, today is the final day of the 2015 Fall Training Camp.  We’ll have one final press release regarding the practice and then we’ll get some interviews like always.  After that “Cry Havoc and let loose the dogs of speculation

What have we learned?  I have an in-depth article in draft that will address that question.  But for now here is the latest from Pitt on Wednesday’s work the team put in (after the videos and Kickoff info).

As Chas mentioned in his latest piece, last night was the annual PITT Fan Fest held at Heinz Field.  Here are the players and Pitt families with their kids interacting on a nice Pittsburgh almost-football weather evening.

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August 24, 2015

Pitt had its final scrimmage of camp Saturday and Rivals.com compiled the stats for that matchup between our Offense and Defense.  This is from a free article on their website and I thank them.  I also would like to remind all Pitt fans that Rivals.com does a superb job of following the team and the program, especially on its subscription service.  So, I give them credit and thanks for this type of detailed info.

No great surprises during the play really, it was a practice scrimmage with the ‘star’ players held out for the most part.  This last week of camp is for winnowing down the players until a two-deep lineup presents itself.  I think Narduzzi will announce that later this week.  Here are the stats from Saturday:

RUSHING

Qadree Ollison – 21 carries, 58 yards
George Aston – 6 carries, 19 yards
Stephen Ezekoye – 4 carries, 7 yards
Rachid Ibrahim – 1 carry, 0 yards
Nate Peterman – 3 carries, 7 yards
Chad Voytik – 2 carries, 6 yards
Darrin Hall – 1 carry, 3 yards

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August 17, 2015

With two solid weeks until the staff and team break out of camp and start their game week preparation for YSU it’s safe to say that we are seeing some certain things shaping up.

Of course a starting lineup hasn’t been announced yet but from the various local media reports and the Pitt Media Dept’s Pitt LiveWire website we are getting some idea of a few position battles that are getting a bit hotter as the camp progresses.

Jerry DiPaola of the Trib Review has a nice Pitt Locker Room blog article on this subject a couple of days ago and we referenced it a bit in the last article.  Here are some significant battles we should keep our eyes on.  Remember – this is how things look now on defense but with a new staff and a defensive minded HC things could change pretty drastically:

Defensive End: Right now it would be Shakir Soto and Ejuan Price as the starters; transfer Allen Edwards and Rori Blair in the two deep, along with newly minted DE James Folston rotating in. Narduzzi was waxing eloquently the other day about former LB Folston and the speed he’s now bringing to the DE position.  Folston is a rsFR who has a 4.6 40 time which is pretty good for a LB/DE but I think his jump off the snap quickness is his strength and what the defensive staff likes at that end position.

As much as I’d like to think Price will stay healthy and be a big contributor I just can’t. So for me the progress of Blair is paramount.  He gained some weight after last season and is listed going into camp as 6’4″ & 240 lbs but I wonder.  he still appears thin but who knows what kind of heart and desire he has.  Sometimes the intangibles mean a lot more than height, weight or 40 time.  Let’s hope he gets back from suspensions and works his way back into a DE starter.

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August 16, 2015

Where We Stand Week 1

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Media,Players — Reed @ 11:54 am

It’s been a full week of the ’15 training camp and other than a good look at the behind the scenes and how the logistical side of things are running let’s take a look at what other’s are saying about the past week of camp and who is doing what.

Halfway through the week Peterman was moved up to QB2 and that is for a very solid reason, he is very talented.  Looking at the 1st scrimmage stats for the two principal QBs below we see that Peterman not only held his own but did well on Saturday.  Voytik threw a Pick-6, a pass blocked by DE Blair and new DB Matt Steinbeck took it in. More on him below.  Voytik apparently completed a nice TD pass to Orndoff down the sideline on a deeper throw.  No mention of how the 73 yard TD to Jester Weah from Peterman unfolded. Either way, this is something we need to see more of in the regular season.

Passing Comp/Att/INT Yards % / YPA Long TDs
Voytik 11-25-1 183 44% / 7.3 62 2
Peterman 11-16-0 243 69% 15.8 73 1

 

Rushing Att Net Long Avg
Voytik 3 15 15 5.0
Peterman 7 34 10 4.9

 

Nate P scrimmage 1 Voytik Scrimmage 1

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August 13, 2015

(This is a long article so I’ll break it up into two parts)

Pitt football held its annual Media Day for fall camp yesterday and I drove up to attend.  It was an interesting day and we media types had time for as much access as allowed given the closed portion of the practices.  We had escort with us so that we can break off separately and tour the new parts of the football facility.  Thanks to Ted Feeley of the Media Staff for doing that with me and answering all of my questions.

All in all it was a good and worthwhile day with some info and ideas we have heard about Pat Narduzzi and the program reinforced and some other bits of new info coming to light with questions asked.

Because most fans don’t get a chance to see these practices and the facilities I took a bunch of photos and will take you all on a tour now and then later on in this article.  What I’ll write here are my impressions from what I learned from talking with the staff, some players and some family members.  My approach was to not repeat what the other media guys will write about,  there really isn’t any ‘football news’ to discuss in the 2nd day of camp, but to allow you guys a bit of an inside view of things Pitt fans don’t usually get to experience.

Players Meeting Room AV

Front view of new Players’ meeting room

Players Meeting Room

Comfortable as hell seating

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August 9, 2015

Pitt’s fall training camp starts today with the player’s reporting in from their time off-campus where they were tasked with finding a spot for the next new Pitt Stadium.  Serious on-field stuff won’t begin until tomorrow however when the staff and team can get on the field and start getting familiar with the new crop of players and reacquainted with the physical side of actual football.

Just as a point of info here is how the practice days will be conducted in general. A typical single practice day will go like this:

Coach Narduzzi Briefing: 9:25 a.m.

Practice Viewing/Photography Window: 9:55-10:25 a.m.

Closed practice from 10:25 until 12:15

Interviews: 12:15 p.m. (select players and assistants)

This is what we’ll see when Tuesday’s Media Day rolls around and  I’ll be up there for those sessions (more on that later):

Practice Viewing/Photography Window: 9:55-10:25 a.m.

Coach Narduzzi Press Conference: 1:30 p.m. (second floor team room)

Team Interview and Photo Session: 2:45-4 p.m. 

Some interesting things to note is that in all of the allowed two-a-day practices the evening practice is completely closed to the media.  That makes sense as no real news will be generated between 2:30 or so until they start up again in the evening. So that is the logistics behind the next three weeks of camp.

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August 2, 2015

Pre- 2015 Training Camp Info

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Media — Reed @ 4:41 pm

Here on August 3rd we are a week away from the start of the Fall Training Camp on Monday August 9th.   We’ve had all the eight months of the off-season to talk about off-season issues and, if truth be told, we all started repeating ourselves.  It has been an interesting and somewhat productive time however.  Whereas most ‘downtimes’ between seasons with the same coaching staff is somewhat boring we had the news of a new Chancellor, new AD, new HC and with that a new football staff.

That is a lot to take in and I think we all did a great job of discussing our news, thoughts, opinions and general feelings about the dramatic changes we have seen since Dec ’14.

It’s time to move on though.  Real football awaits and we’re anxious to start seeing what transpires as far as the team we’ll filed on game day goes.

First some camp administrative info.

Pitt will have a Media Day early on where we’ll have a chance to observe some practice and ask questions with hopefully a bit more access for that one day.

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July 31, 2015

SUZIE McCONNELL-SERIO SIGNS NEW AGREEMENT AT PITT THROUGH 2020-21 SEASON
McConnell-Serio guided the youthful Panthers to 20 wins and the NCAA Tournament last year. 

Serio-McConnell <<< That’s intensity!  Match that Narduzzi!

PITTSBURGH—University of Pittsburgh athletic director Scott Barnes announced today that head women’s basketball coach Suzie McConnell-Serio has signed a new contractual agreement that runs through the 2020-21 season.

Arriving at Pitt in 2013, McConnell-Serio has revitalized the Panthers’ fortunes in quick and impressive fashion. This past year she guided a youthful squad to a 20-12 record—including a 9-7 mark in the rugged Atlantic Coast Conference—and the program’s first NCAA Tournament in six years.

“Within a very brief period of time, Suzie McConnell-Serio has made a remarkable imprint on women’s basketball at the University of Pittsburgh,” Barnes said. “On and off the floor, she has Pitt on the rise and we are thrilled to announce this commitment to her and our women’s basketball program. Suzie is nationally respected as both a coach and person, and we couldn’t be more excited about her leading our program into the future.”

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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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