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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 26, 2015

Copied from the Pitt Website… 

James Conner talks to ESPN’s Andrea Adelson:

I love the way he list every other player on offense as the reason he won the ward in 2015 then says “I play a small role“. What a genuinely good person.

JAMES CONNER TRIES FOR RARE ACC PLAYER OF THE YEAR REPEAT

By Andrea Adelson

PINEHURST, N.C. — James Conner broke records, pounded opponents and had one of the most prolific seasons in Pittsburgh history, a school known for its remarkable running backs.

Yet, he was not chosen to repeat as ACC Player of the Year. The preseason honor went to Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, who earned 23 more votes than Conner, who rushed for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns last season.

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July 25, 2015

Whether it is the schedule or the learning curve of a first-time head coach or the voluminous questions on the defensive side of the ball, the prognostications that can be found in the numerous preview guides — and the ACC pre-season media poll — have not exactly been raising expectations for Pitt’s upcoming season.

Let’s take a look at the various prognostications.

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July 24, 2015

Talking to a third party can be good therapy. Especially as the long, empty, offseason has continued it’s plodding pace. You can crystallize some thoughts. Realize a few things. And generally get out of the echo chamber.

So, I want to thank Pierson of TheKeyPlay for reaching out to me for a pre-season Q&A exchange. I get to unload a little on their site. Wait, that came out wrong. I get to write some things out that have been percolating, and we get some insight into the hopes and fears of the Hokies in 2015.

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July 19, 2015

Looking at Last Season’s Passing Game

Filed under: Football,Players — Reed @ 3:36 pm

The WR award issue and decision are over and in the past.  For at least a few weeks, hopefully, we can concentrate on discussing rising JR WR Tyler Boyd’s skills, career production and his worth to the team in the coming season in advance of the real life football things that start happening in the fall camp.

We all agree that Boyd’s true freshman year was an excellent outing for him and contributed greatly to Pitt’s seven wins  He made his name nationally known by his strong production and his acrobatic and sometimes just plain amazing catches.  In the table below are the results of his first year when he was a true freshman in ’13 along with his second season in ’14.

SEASON QB REC YDS AVG LNG ATT YDS AVG YPG TD
2014 Savage 78 1261 16.2 53 12 63 5.3 97.0 8
2013 Voytik 85 1174 13.8 69 11 108 9.8 90.3 7

In ’14 his scoring as a receiver was rather small potatoes at eight TDs when compared to our running game’s 35 TDs.  Of course it is expected that a team’s rushing will produce more TDs but when  we take into account Boyd’s skills and catching ability we expected to see much more contribution in that area.

Those eight receiving scores put him in the 38th spot nationally in TDs and was 32nd in receptions per game.  Both sort of surprising given the talent and his yardage production.

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July 18, 2015

Yesterday we had a discussion on The Blather regarding WR Tyler Boyd being dropped off the Biletnikoff Award watch list because of his arrest and it’s circumstances.  The fact that he hasn’t been convicted or anything yet was raised as a counter to that decision. However, the Award committee has separate criteria/standards/rules that they are applying here, just like a university or any other formal institution.  As such they don’t have to wait or even care about a conviction.

Being legally convicted of some transgression are a civil and/or criminal judiciary matter, not a non-legal institutional one.  The difference is that universities and their football programs apply discipline and sanctions as they see fit.  Hence we have suspensions and even dismissals which are based on internal and NCAA rules and not the local criminal laws.

There is a solid basis in the award committee making this decision, as the criteria is pretty straight forward:

5. The candidate must display leadership and self discipline; and he must have a significant, positive impact on his team’s success.

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July 16, 2015

Conner on Doak Walker list

Filed under: Football,Honors,Media,Players — Reed @ 10:44 am

PITT’S CONNER NAMED PRESEASON DOAK WALKER AWARD CANDIDATE
The junior tailback has earned plenty of preseason praise.
                                                                                           

PITTSBURGH—Pitt junior tailback James Conner received yet another preseason accolade today with his inclusion on the watch list for the prestigious Doak Walker Award, annually presented to the nation’s top running back by the PwC SMU Athletic Forum.

This is the third award to name Conner (Erie, Pa./McDowell) to its watch list. He additionally is a preseason candidate for the Maxwell Award, which honors the college player of the year, and the Wuerffel Trophy, given to the player who best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.

The 6-foot-2, 240-pound Conner additionally has been named a preseason All-American by Athlon Sports and Phil Steele.

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July 15, 2015

July 15, 2015

PITTSBURGH—Three Pitt football players—offensive lineman Adam Bisnowaty, running back James Conner and quarterback Chad Voytik—were named to the watch list for the Wuerffel Trophy, known as “College Football’s Premier Award for Community Service.”

Named after former Florida Gators and NFL quarterback Danny Wuerffel, the Wuerffel Trophy is awarded to the Bowl Subdivision player who best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.

In addition to being football standouts for the Panthers, Bisnowaty, Conner and Voytik rank among Pitt’s most active student-athletes when it comes to community service.

Bisnowaty (Pittsburgh, Pa./Fox Chapel), a junior offensive tackle, enters his third season as a starter and is a preseason candidate for the Rotary Lombardi Award (nation’s top lineman or linebacker). He is a two-time ACC All-Academic Football Team selection and also serves as vice president of Pitt’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).

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July 14, 2015

With the predictions we talked about in the comments in our last article I thought it would be fun to look back at this time three years ago and remind us all of what predictions we  made prior to the 2012 season getting underway.

This three year old article, “2102 Season Predictions”, posted in the last week of August 2012, offered five questions for the readers to respond to in the comments section.  Here are those questions with my predictions included:

What will be PITT’s regular season record, what bowl game if any and why will it be that way?  (Actual: 6-6 in the regular season with a 38-17 loss in the BBVA Compass Bowl against Ole Miss to end 6-7.)

*  I think PITT will be a 7-5 team this season, 8-4 at best and will get to some minor bowl. I think we are 3-3 after the first six games. (Reed’s)

* 9-3; We win the Big East and play in the Orange Bowl

*  13-0 with a blowout win in our BCS bowl game.

*  Pitt goes 9-3. **If Tino tanks, no more than 6-6.

*  Pitt should have the most talented team in this conference… except… well… one little 5’10” problem named Tino Sunseri.

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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 9, 2015

Having written for this many years, you do get a feeling for certain things. Recognizing certain signs of the coming season. The media coverage goes from reviewing last season, to focusing on the coaches, to recruiting, to the big picture previews of the coming season. Then in the final month you have the player pieces and watch lists for awards followed by local media previewing the local teams.

I’ve taken to skipping watch list stuff in the last few years simply because they are little more than lines in bios for players and that’s about it. The Rimington Award for best Center — for instance — features a Syracuse player who never started. Alex Officer is on the list and he might not even play center on the O-line for Pitt. You get the idea.

Last week, with more than a month or so from the start of training camp, the player profiles have been increasing.

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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

Jaryd Jones-Smith Out For the Year

Filed under: Football,Injury — Chas @ 9:54 am

Well this was a bummer of a press release.

Pitt sophomore tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith, expected to contend for a starting position on the Panthers’ offensive line, will miss the 2015 season due to a right knee injury.

Jones Smith (Voorhees, N.J./West Catholic [Pa.]) sustained the injury during an offseason conditioning session. He was a significant member of Pitt’s offensive front last year as a redshirt freshman, playing in all 13 games and making three starts.

“We are incredibly disappointed for Jaryd,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said. “Our entire team will rally behind him as he works to overcome this challenge. Jaryd is a great young man and a tough competitor. Even though he is sidelined this year, he is going to remain an important member of our team this fall.”

It was expected that Jones-Smith would take man the right OT spot this season. It’s a tough, tough break for Jones-Smith. For the Pitt offense it hurts, but it isn’t that devastating.

Jones-Smith was a solid recruit (3-stars, offers from Arizona, NC State, Michigan), but not considered a linchpin to the O-line’s future. He developed much quicker than expected, and at times was one of the best O-linemen not named T.J. Clemmings on the field last year for Pitt.

If there is one thing that can be pointed to as a clear plus for the Paul Chryst period, it was the work done to build real depth on the O-line. Something not seen since… I don’t even know for sure.

Aaron Reese was named his back-up on the 2-deep coming out of spring practice. There are other options, though, that would require a little bit of line shuffling.

…redshirt freshman Alex Bookser, who played tackle at Mt. Lebanon, but was Pitt’s right guard this spring.

Moving Bookser would create more movement on the offensive line, with sophomore center Alex Officer possibly moving to guard and senior Artie Rowell regaining his accustomed spot at center. Rowell missed most of last season with a knee injury, but he could be ready for the start of training camp Aug. 10.

With a new coaching staff, I’m not as sure what they will do. Chryst and staff, I think would put Rowell back at center (if he’s healthy and ready), with the plan DiPaola laid out. Not sure what Narduzzi will do.

The good news is that there are options, and actual time to figure this out. It didn’t happen in season. It didn’t even happen in training camp. There will be some competition in camp to get the best five on the line.

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