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July 29, 2014

Live and Die On the Line

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 6:49 am

This is no great secret. As important as it will be for Chad Voytik to develop quickly at QB. As much as there are big questions about who will be the second and third WRs to take some of the coverage away from Tyler Boyd. As curious as I am to see how James Conner looks. It all starts on the O-line.

Chad Voytik isn’t going to have much success (or avoid injury) if the O-line isn’t giving him a chance. Conner or any of the other running backs can only do so much if the O-lines isn’t at least producing some sort of opening for them to hit.

Health is the concern for the offensive line — as it is throughout the team — but there is a reason to have optimism.

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July 27, 2014

Reading over the last two posts Chas wrote about the 2014 PITT football team I’ve been having a great time with the over 200 comments you guys left on them.  They show just how very ready we all are for PITT training camp to open next week and for the season to start soon afterward.  I’m just as anxious to get the ‘real life’ stuff happening and to jump in with both feet as anyone.

I’ve waited on writing another piece until the 2014 PITT Football Media Guide came out so that I at least can provide some truthful info to go with my opinions that I’ll lay out in this post, and please  remember they are my opinions unless I preface an item with “This is a no bullshit…”.  I’ll try to mix and match both though.

As to the comments on those two last articles; there are pretty detailed reasons we fans have for why we’ll probably either suck or be great – but no one seems to explain why we’ll probably be 7-6 again, or maybe 8-5 with a good bounce or two.   That’s pretty much where I am at this point of the offseason without having had my ‘boots on the ground’ as I will soon at a couple of the camp practices coming up.  Now, that projection can change either way once I see how the kids are doing during practices so nothing here is etched in stone.

Here are some of my thoughts on the offensive side of the ball going into the season.

I’m not as high on the expectation for quarterback Chad Voytik as some of us are. Yes, he did well in the bowl game and that showed me that at least he isn’t a deer in the headlights.  But beyond that I’m not convinced that he’ll match the level of play our last two QBs gave us in 2012 & 2013.  That’s right, I’m including Sunseri’s productive season of 2012 – what are you going to do about it?  That said I’m also not as panicky as some are in case Voytik gets hurt out there.

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July 25, 2014

That Cautious Optimism

Filed under: Football,Prognostications — Chas @ 9:11 am

Tyler Boyd got left off the  pre-season 1st team All-ACC squad. For what it’s worth, Phil Steele did the same in his annual preview guide. I wonder how much of that is a “disrespecting” of Boyd or a belief that his numbers will drop with increased focus and Chad Voytik at QB. Either way, it isn’t a huge thing beyond additional motivation. As should be the fact that no Pitt players outside of Boyd were even in the second team.

You would think that a team that apparently has only one “sure” star player coming into the season wouldn’t have much in the way of expectations.

And yet, there seems to be a lot of positive views to Pitt. The two deepest previews of college teams have surprisingly upbeat takes. The ones that look at the make-up of the squad and the deeper numbers like where Pitt is heading.

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July 23, 2014

What Is the Defensive Identity?

Filed under: Football,Tactics — Chas @ 6:49 am

This is something I’ve been turning over in my mind for the past week.

I know the identity of the offense. It is being built from the line out. A big, bruising line that will pave the way to run and give plenty of choices for the QB. There’s speed among the receivers. It is obvious that Head Coach Paul Chryst and OC Joe Rudolph has a vision for the offense that they are implementing.

I don’t know that I can say the same about the defense. I don’t know what the long-range goal of Chryst and DC Matt House are with the defense. Is it simply that they relied so heavily on Aaron Donald or centered so much around his talent that they haven’t implemented their longer term plan? The role in the secondary is changing completely from last year’s soft coverage to more pressing (not, a bad thing, but it is a complete shift).

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July 22, 2014

2014 ACC Football Media Days

Filed under: ACC,Conference,Football — Chas @ 6:48 am

I’m not sure why the ACC starts media day on a Sunday. Other than to make it as clear as possible to BYU  that they will never receive an invite. I mean, it doesn’t seem like a bad deal for the media. Prepare the stock “Five things for ACC Media Days” column in advance. Show up on a Saturday to the nice resort hotel. Get one free night to party and have a good time. Nurse the hangover. Put the digital recorder on the podium and let those stock questions flow to the players.

I mean, it is media day. It isn’t really about the media any longer, as we saw from the 4-day long SEC event. It is about marketing the conference to everyone else. It is about getting the fans ready for football season. It is the starting point to coverage for the new season.

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July 17, 2014

Pitt got a verbal from another big offensive lineman. Tony Pilato — no, not this guythis guy.

In the last few months alone, the big offensive lineman from Hempfield took a pair of spring visits, attended the Panthers’ prospect camp in June and returned for another visit a week later. So when Pilato finally made his commitment Thursday, the decision was a natural one.

“I just think it was a really good process with them,” Pilato told Panther-Lair.com. “All the coaches were really genuine and they’re all great guys; I really enjoyed spending time with them and the players. When it came down to it, it was the right fit for me.

“I think it really felt natural with Pitt. I just wanted to take my time and consider all my options. But they offered me first and that was a big thing, and t was just good with them. Toward the end of the process, it just felt right with them.”

As has been the trend with Pitt’s O-line recruits in the Chryst regime, Pilato is a big ‘un at 6-7 and 310 pounds or so.

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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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July 11, 2014

Football Notes, 7/11

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 6:48 am

Hard to believe the work up to football season is coming quickly. Conference media days in less than two weeks. School media days. The flurry of before the beginning of training camp articles. The insane parsing of the meaning of every padless practice. Good times coming soon.

At the ACC media days, Pitt will send Tyler Boyd and Ray Vinopal as the player reps. It’s been quite a while since Pitt sent a non-senior to media days.

The majority of the tabs for football are player focus pieces. Time to blow through them.

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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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Recruiting and Ranking

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 6:37 am

It’s been well established that Coach Paul Chryst does not find recruiting to be one of his favorite things. His approach has annoyed, puzzled and infuriated plenty in just a short time.

At times he can be slow to offertalent. Ostensibly based on wanting to see them in a camp or meet with them first. Yet, he’s jumping right on that sophomore QB/punter in Wisconsin.

That’s just a side bar. The issue is that the players he gets to commit  — by and large — are not highly starred. A good chunk are players with their biggest offers from MAC schools and lower tier major conference teams.

Like it or not, the recruiting rankings are more than simply guesses. It’s why there is more excitement when a 4- star or so player gives a verbal.

For every Aaron Donald or J.J. Watt that rises well above his star ranking out of high school there are more like Jadeveon Clowney overall in the NFL Draft. Especially versus the total number of 4- and 5-star recruits in each class. The recruiting sites do a better job than we like to admit.

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June 24, 2014

Three More In the Fold

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 8:37 pm

Over the weekend Pitt pulled a verbal from Florida. Today two more were added. Chryst really likes June.

First up, running back Sekai Lindsey verballed over the weekend.

[Sekai] Lindsay, who attends Melbourne Palm Bay High School, joins defensive back Malik Henderson of Hallandale Beach, Fla.

Lindsay, 5-foot-10, 205, is rated a three-star prospect by Rivals.com. He also has offers from Cincinnati, Florida International, Georgia Tech, South Florida, Temple, Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina State and Georgia Southern.

Lindsay is also considered a 3-star running back by 247. Scout.com has him at 2-stars and ESPN.com does not have an evaluation on him (and mixed up his name). Still, some decent offers do offset the star situation.

Today, saw two more verbals.

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June 17, 2014

And The June Commits Continue

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 8:31 pm

A definite position of need. Defensive tackle is a spot Pitt needs to bring in some players. Today, it looks like Pitt got a good one in Kraig Howe.

Howe visited Pitt three times in the last year, with two visits in the fall and another unofficial visit this spring. After the spring visit, he spoke very highly of the Panthers.

“Pitt has been one of my favorites for a long time; really, since I got that offer,” he said after the visit. “They were my second offer and they’ve always been up there with my favorites and top choices, and this visit was really a boost for how much I could see myself playing for Pitt and going to school in Pittsburgh and playing for these coaches. I can see myself fitting in well with program and the defensive scheme and the school and the city. It’s all clicking.”

Howe had offers from BC, Northwestern, Iowa St. and Illinois. 247 ranks him as the the 53d best DT nationally (Rivals.com says 37th and Scout.com has him 45th). He is a 3-star recruit by every site.

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Quick Hits, 6/17

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 6:29 am

Summer camps. The reasonable thing is to find a decent day camp relatively nearby. As long as they don’t get hurt or abused it is all fine.. Dump the kids and run. But not these days. No. My wife has to find camps that enrich them. That offer chances for them to do activities they actually want to do. Obviously it means more money. It also means hauling them even further out of the way. So, somehow with summer vacation we are actually leaving the house earlier and I am still getting to work later. I know. I know. First world problems.

I’m sure everyone read the wonderful Father’s Day piece on Paul Chryst and the impact of his dad George. The part that just struck me as pure Paul Chryst came when it got to the stuff about getting Bo Ryan — the present Wisconsin basketball coach — to come and be the head coach at Wisconsin-Platteville.

Ryan, who took Wisconsin to the Final Four this year, hasn’t forgotten. When asked to comment for this story, he said: “Anything for George Chryst and Paul Chryst.”

Paul said Ryan and his father were different on many levels but the same in their core values of hard work and loyalty.

Ryan had “that East Coast flash, confidence, swagger,” Paul said. “My dad was more of what you would picture as a Midwest offensive line coach. It was a pretty neat relationship.”

Only Paul Chryst. Only he could consider Bo Ryan to be flash and swaggy.

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June 15, 2014

More Speed Added

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 9:25 am

There is an emerging theme to the recruiting class. Let’s call it what it is, “get faster.”

The latest addition to the speed force is Tre Tipton.

“I was thinking about it and me and my mom and my coach all talked, and we just said Pitt’s the place to be,” Tipton told Panther-Lair.com. “I called Coach (Paul) Chryst and I told him and he was excited. He said he can’t wait to start working with me.”

Tipton had been favoring Pitt for a long time – he was a fixture at the Panthers’ home games at Heinz Field last fall – but it was the two-day visit this past week that pushed him over the edge, since he spent those two days with current Pitt players, and that ended up being a major selling point for Pitt.

“It was the players and the people; they’re all so together, all so close-knit,” Tipton said. “The players are what sticks with you from the whole experience; they’re the ones who will mean the most when you’re there. I know that the guys that are there are the right ones for me; them and the coaches are the best ones for me.

“The coaches are of the best guys you can ever talk. They understand the process and what every young man has to do to be successful, and they’re like fathers to every guy that goes there. Everything just seems right at Pitt. I wanted it to feel like a family and ball out for four years with a family. They’re the ones for me.”

As a junior at Apollo-Ridge last season, Tipton, 6’1″ 170, caught 44 passes for 697 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. But it’s not just his scoring ability that led the Pitt coaches to offer him.

“They said I could be a very good fit for them,” he said. “They said they know I’m a hard-worker and wherever I can fit in, I’ll be able to play there. They said they think they can utilize me all over the offense.”

Tipton was also a standout defensive back, but it is clear that he wants to be on the offensive side of the ball.

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June 10, 2014

A Couple More In the Fold

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 8:18 pm

Pitt has added a couple verbals to the 2015 football class. I know this is a stunner, but they are on the offensive side of the ball.

Over the weekend, Pitt added a QB (hands off, Vanderbilt!).

Malvern Prep’s Alex Hornibrook, a strong-armed junior quarterback, committed Saturday to play at Pittsburgh. He visited the school Friday and Saturday with his parents, and threw during one of the team’s camp sessions.

“Everything just felt right,” he said. “The campus is amazing, my interaction with the coaches was great, and it’s somewhere I could easily see myself playing.”

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound southpaw, who chose Pitt over Connecticut and Rutgers, added that he is excited about the Panthers renewing their heated rivalry with Penn State beginning in 2016.

Hornibrook is a consensus 3-star QB. He is also strong academically with an offer from Yale.

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