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May 27, 2015

What a great day yesterday. It seems like we are learning about each other and each other’s families more and more on here.  It was a nice day for me and the feedback on the article made my ego run more rampant that it usually does.

Back to football though, that’s what we are here for.

PITT has sent out a press release on the new renovations going on in the Southside Football facilities. Here is the advertisement and the link takes you to the actual website.:

Renovations

As it is and will be for some time it eventually ties into donor giving.  The levels are listed and it is a good cause for us PITT fans.  I’m donating one month of the salary I get from Chas for my writing on The Blather.

Even if we media types can’t get into the actual fall camp practices and scrimmages we’ll be able to get into the facility.  So, next time I get up to Pittsburgh I’ll take photos.  If anyone else has access before me feel free to snap some and send them to me and I post them.

Here also is a May 16th article by Sam Werner of the Post-Gazette that I’ll link to again.  It is a background piece on the facility renovations.  I’m not sure about this quote from Narduzzi though:

As far as the aesthetic part of the renovation, Narduzzi even admitted that’s not for the players currently on Pitt’s roster.

“It’s obviously something visual where you go in, look it and go ‘Wow, this is beautiful,’” he said. “It’s not about the beautiful factor for the kids currently in our program. The beautiful factor is for the guys that are walking through those doors on recruiting visits.”

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May 24, 2015

On That Day…

Filed under: Admin,Alumni,Coaches,Football,Good,History,Honors,Players — Reed @ 11:30 am

As the years’ calendar turns to the end of May and the start of what we all see as the spring and summer season, or as we PITT football fans say “the time when no football things are happening” one date always jumps out at me.

It’s on that day our Memorial Holiday falls.  In addition to the store sales, reunions, parties, parades, and picnics Memorial Day also holds a meaning that strikes a deeper and more significant cord in many of us.  You all know that I’ve reference my professional life as a military officer before.  Because that career and my experiences serving in that capacity filled almost my whole adult life, from age 22 until I retired four years ago, it is the lens in which I see, think and feel almost everything through.

So while woolgathering yesterday to try to figure out the next thing to write about Pitt football it occurred to me that I’ve never done a separate Memorial Day piece and that is because it seems to have nothing to do with PITT football.  But after some serious reflection I do believe Memorial Day and the University of Pittsburgh, in all their respective facets, have deep ties and are intertwined both historically and in the present.

Many Pitt fans have friends and relatives who have served in the Armed Forces at some point, or maybe they themselves have.  PITT students fought in our Civil War in the 1860s… on both sides.  Early in the 20th century some of our grandparents who attended or were affiliated with the university volunteered to serve and were sent to Europe during WWI.  Many of our parents, aunts and uncles had their PITT educations interrupted to join the fight in World War II.  My father, two of my aunts and an uncle went directly from being students at PITT into the military then overseas to Europe and China-Burma.

Of course my mother, an younger woman, stayed home and attended PITT until my dad came back from the war and they could get married in Heinz Chapel in the shadow of the Cathedral of Learning.  A scenario repeated thousands of times across college campuses I’m sure.  It is true thatThey also serve who only stand and waite”.

PITT had many other students and alumni who served and some who gave ‘the last full measure’ as Lincoln so eloquently stated.  There has never been a war or an armed conflict without PITT personnel involved.  Here are just a few examples.

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May 19, 2015

You have to say one thing about our new Head Coach; he knows how to work a room.

PITT hosted a Pat Narduzzi Alumni Meet and Greet evening in Washington DC last night and approximately 220 PITT Alumni and fans showed up for the festivities.

20150518_190402

(Note: here is a late addition of all the photos taken by the PITT media department of the event – pretty interesting and try to play “Where’s Reed”  Hint: I’m taller than everyone else.  Look at photos #26, 46, 55 and 56.

It was a nice evening and was intended as an avenue for PITT to re-awaken the alumni – athletic department connections. There is really no telling how well that went over, I’m sure PITT will contact the attendees later to further the money side of the equation. It was very well produced, people were happy to be there, and Narduzzi used his oversized image and personality to get a good and excited feeling going with everyone to take home when they left at 8:00.

The plan was set up like this.  Schedule the evening in late May when DC is starting to really heat up so that in addition to the high temperatures you also get the springtime mugginess that permeates DC.  Then, arrange to have most of the event outdoors; the check-in line (with a five minute wait),  two  tables with PITT advertisements and information publications, a table of PITT shirts and hats for sale and two other tables with the ‘light appetizers’ which were actually substantial and well presented.

The only thing missing was the Red Cross station where one could get intravenously re-hydrated due to sweating every drop of water out of your body. A lot of the attendees parked outside of DC and took the Metro in and that four block walk on hot concrete was a killer.  It was nice later in the evening though and no matter how talented Narduzzi is he really can’t control the weather.

But honestly, the place was well arranged and attractive and because PITT rented out a smaller conference room at the most famous and expensive hotel in DC, The Willard, space was at a premium so they adapted well to the size allotted.

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May 16, 2015

PITT’S 2015 SEASON-OPENING GAME WITH YSU TO KICK OFF AT 1 P.M.
The Panthers are already slated for two ESPN national telecasts.

PITTSBURGH—Pat Narduzzi will make his Pitt head coaching debut when the Panthers host Youngstown State on Sept. 5 at 1 p.m.

The opening kickoff time was announced by the Pitt Athletic Department today. The 2015 season marks the 126th in school history.

Narduzzi has multiple ties to YSU and the city of Youngstown. His father, the late Bill Narduzzi, was the Penguins’ head coach from 1975-85 and was inducted into the YSU Athletics Hall of Fame.

Pat was an all-state performer at Youngstown’s Ursuline High School, leading the Irish to the Steel Valley championship and Ohio state playoffs as a senior in 1984. He was a starting linebacker under his father as a freshman at Youngstown State in 1985 before transferring to Rhode Island, where he was a three-year starter for the Rams from 1987-89.

Youngstown State will also have a new coach on the sideline when it visits Heinz Field. Bo Pelini, who spent the past seven years as head coach at Nebraska, was named head coach of the Penguins in December.

In addition to the season-opening start time, the Atlantic Coast Conference announced that Pitt’s Oct. 29 home game with North Carolina will be an ESPN Thursday night national telecast and kick off at 7 p.m. The Panthers’ Nov. 27 game with Miami at Heinz Field has been earmarked for either an ABC or ESPN telecast. The kickoff time for the game with the Hurricanes is TBA.

Narduzzi enters his first season at Pitt with 17 returning starters at his disposal, including All-America running back James Conner, the reigning ACC Player of the Year, and dynamic wide receiver Tyler Boyd.

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May 12, 2015

(Taken from the original as linked, see endnote.)

All-Draft teams for five top college football programs

By Mike Huguenin

After breaking down how conferences and major college programs have fared in recent NFL drafts, CFB 24/7 set out to answer a more hypothetical question: Which five schools would field the best 22-player starting lineups using only draft picks from the past?

A few ground rules for this top five:

1.  To make the list, a player had to have entered the NFL as a draft pick — no undrafted free agents or guys who played in the NFL before the draft began. (We bent the rules a bit on three guys who began their careers in the AFL.)

2.  All things being equal, we gave more value to a middle- or late-round pick who hit it big. It’s possible that a fourth-round pick, for instance, shows up on our list instead of a first-rounder. First-rounders are supposedto pan out, whereas teams hope a fourth-rounder produces. But don’t fret: The majority of players who made our list were indeed first-rounders.

3.  We picked an actual starting 22, which means some Hall of Famers did not make our list.

Four of the five teams we’ve selected probably won’t be a surprise. Three of the five are long-time powers, and one is a relative newcomer to the scene (17 of the 22 players selected were drafted in the 1980s, 1990s or 2000s). The other, while it hasn’t been nationally relevant in a while, has pumped out numerous stud players, and definitely belongs.

A lot of big-name programs didn’t make the cut. We discuss them at the end; for the most part, they fell short — frankly, way, way short — at one key position.

Here is our top five.  Feel free to disagree — and we know you will.

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May 11, 2015

They Keep Rolling In

Filed under: Coaches,Players,Uncategorized — Reed @ 9:01 am

There is a palatable sense of excitement surrounding the hire of Narduzzi and his staff and with the way Narduzzi and the PITT admin have used the social media, new technology and good old fashioned flesh pressing to make that happen. This is making the ramp-up to August and the beginning of fall camp where personnel issues will shake out and then onto the actual season, a time when our collective hopes and wishes may start to come true.  However…

Maybe it is because we have not much else to talk about or maybe it is because this staff keeps adding players we don’t expect to see onto the roster but there has been a lot of talk about Narduzzi’s ‘recruiting expertise’ and his ‘desire’ on here and the message boards.

The things I’m hear most often are that “this staff knows talent” and “this staff wants to win right away.” I get the win right away concept with him, although someone has yet to show me a HC who didn’t want to win right away. But I’m shaky on those other attributes we are attributing to him.

The real kicker is this. How do we know that “this staff knows talent” when every kid they have brought on board the roster by themselves so far has either been listed as 3*s or below or are regurgitations from others teams?

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May 2, 2015

Clemmings Draft Info

Filed under: Football,Players — Reed @ 5:08 pm

CLEMMINGS SELECTED BY MINNESOTA IN NFL DRAFT’S FOURTH ROUND

PITTSBURGH—Pitt offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings was selected in the NFL Draft’s fourth round on Saturday by the Minnesota Vikings.

Clemmings was the 110th overall pick in the draft. Initially projected as a first-round prospect, he fell to the fourth round after being recently diagnosed with a foot stress fracture.

With his selection, Pitt has now had at least one player chosen in 14 of the last 16 drafts. Clemmings is the first Pitt player in 25 years to be drafted by Minnesota. Defensive back Alonzo Hampton was a fourth-round pick of the Vikings in 1990.

A relative newcomer to the game, Clemmings played only two seasons of high school football at New Jersey’s Paterson Catholic. At Pitt, he began his career as a defensive end before moving to offensive tackle prior to his junior season.
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April 19, 2015

Let’s get the general atmospheric stuff out of the way first.  It was a fantastic weather day at 80o and sunny with enough breeze to cool the skin and blow away the scent of the bullshit being thrown around in conversations… in other words a perfect football day for a Spring Game.

The Station Square Riverhound stadium was jammed packed with fans wearing Blue & Gold and who were very involved in the day’s events.  PITT officials had said that they would allow the first 4,000 fans into the venue, a number which I was a bit skeptical of seeing, but the reality is they squeezed 5,300+ into the seats, standing room only spots and under the bleachers where a lot of moms and kids ended up because of the shade.

You guys know I don’t go off the deep end with positivity or expressing things in bold stokes but I will say this in all honesty, of all the scrimmages and spring games I have attended this was the only one with a true electric atmosphere in the alumni rooms, the sidelines, the media areas, the stands and most importantly with the coaches and players involved.  It buzzed all afternoon.

This wasn’t a case of just great logistics and advertising the football program for more season ticket sales, although it served that purpose also I’m sure, but it created a genuine excitement in the fans due to the numerous changes we have had since last Dec 26th when Narduzzi was hired. Interestingly enough the students and the fans in the stands actually stayed put until almost the end of the game and then left early only because the parking lots were jammed and there was a traffic jam in store.

Also, and maybe more importantly, there were beers to be had in the bars nearby afterward.  The athletic Media Department has done a very good job of highlighting the changes and using its resources to drum up interest and excitement for the 2015 season.

No, fans wanted every bit of PITT football they could get yesterday and PITT gave it to them.

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April 17, 2015

Spring Game: What to Watch For

Filed under: Football,Narduzzi,Players — Justin @ 7:24 am

The rosters are set. Blue vs. Gold. Fitz vs. AD. Voytik, Boyd, and Conner vs. everyone else…wait, huh? The setup of the teams is a bit odd. The seniors were divided into two teams and they took turns drafting from each position group in a snake style draft. For example, at WR, Team Fitz took Tyler Boyd, then Team AD took Dontez Ford and Zach Challingsworth, then it continued on from there. Basically, it’s a bunch of mini-fantasy football drafts. By drafting this way, it ensures one team doesn’t end up with 3 QBs and 1 WR like it could if they did it straight up. The downside is we won’t see the first team offense or defense in one piece. That will make evaluating results a lot more difficult because a starter could be up against a walk-on and thus the result may not be indicative of much. Will this be fun? Yes.  The football nerd in me prefers to evaluate though.

It’s odd, but I’m not eager to see Tyler Boyd or James Conner. I know what those guys bring to the table. I don’t now what Reggie Mitchell can do at safety in the new scheme. I don’t know how much the offensive line will miss Rotheram and Clemmings on the right side. There are a few big position battles like WR and the entire LB corps. These are the types of things I’m eager to have answered, but some of them will be hard to see in the game.

There’s still a lot to look for even if the focus needs to be on individuals instead of units. Here are the things I’ll be watching: (more…)

April 16, 2015

In-Between #14 and Other Notes

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Players — Reed @ 9:30 pm

Pitt Spring Practice #14;  April 16, 2015

It seems a bit like a broken record but the fact that after each practice Mike Caprara figures prominently in the discussion is pretty surprising.  At this time last April he wasn’t on anyone’s radar for playing time at all let alone being a starter.  Let’s keep an eye on him and Bradley during the game and see if we get any hints as to what shakes out at the beginning of Fall Camp with those two.

Neither the P-G or the Trib have any coverage of the last actual practice up yet but here are the links to their PITT Football pages so you all can check it first thing at work tomorrow, and remember to check the beat writer’s blogs also..  I’ll be on the road so this will be my last coverage also until the after-game report is done.

Tribune-Review

Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Also, here is a nice older article from the university’s Pitt News on the relationship between Chaney and Voytik.  I can’t remember if I had posted this before or not.

Pitt Live Wire Feature

Prior to Saturday’s Pitt spring football game, Coach Pat Narduzzi held the First Annual Blue-Gold Game Draft. See all the “highlights” and reaction in the following video:  Blue-Gold Spring Game Draft.  It truly looks like everyone had a blast doing it and I’d have loved to have been a fly on the wall there. Good team bonding and a great culinary incentive.

A reminder that Pitt greats—and NFL stars—Larry Fitzgerald and Aaron Donald will serve as honorary coaches on Saturday. “Team Fitz” is the Blue squad, while “Team A.D.” will be in Gold.

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Spring Game Roll Call & Notes

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Players — Reed @ 8:22 am

First, the Panther Spring Game Draft has been completed and here is a set of photos proving that even a .500 ball team can still have fun.  Also, here is the front page of The Pitt Live Wire Blog which has more tweets and stuff about said draft.  Apparently there is some wagering going on between the people involved.  From Jerry Dipaola…

Then the Trib follows up with Marty Stewart writing a nice article on DB Dennis Briggs.

Sam Werner of the P-G chips in with another Spring Game overview.

Time to get serious if we want to try to meet other Blatherites at the Spring Game.  I’m driving up from MD for it and will have media credentials that will allow me to roam the sidelines during the scrimmage.  With that I will be assigned parking in the West Lot probably closest to the stadium.  I’ll park there but will wander to wherever anyone wants to meet and I really want to get together if possible beforehand.

I’ll be driving a silver Prius Wagon (I know… but at 45 miles to the gallon I’ll take the jokes) and will be the tall (6’6″) guy with a mustache and wearing blue “Coast Guard” ballcap.

Here is the venue website  and here is an overhead view of the stadium and parking lots.  They are advertising taking 4,000 fans into the stadium. I’m not sure how but the place holds 3,500 seats.  I also am wondering if we’ll really pull 3500 fans into the stadium for the game. I hope so and there does seem to be a uptick in interest and energy among fans.  Apparently the stadium lots will open up at 11:30

Lets do try to arrange something – I’ll chip in $$$ for beer/booze and provide sparkling, even if politically incorrect, conversation.  Someone take charge and arrange something.  I’m the writer not the party planner. If we miss each other before the game then let’s pick a bar to go to afterward.

(BTW — anyone who lives in the tri-state area and doesn’t go to the game isn’t a real fan. Seriously, you’re not.)

 

 

April 15, 2015

In-Between #13 and Other Notes

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Media,Players — Reed @ 9:13 am

Pitt Spring Practice #13;  April 14, 2015

Some interesting stuff came out of yesterday’s practice. The first thing that caught my eye is LB Coach Harley talking about Caprara and Bradley. It certainly appears that not only does Caprara have a shot but that he may just win the SLB position outright.  I have heard he’s really showing leadership and FBI (Foot Ball Intelligence) out on the playing field.

Challingsworth has been in the news more and more lately and it seems he’ll be in the Top Three WRs going into the fall camp.  Good for him and he’s a local kid and a fan favorite.  Here is some of Jerry DiPaola’s article in the Trib today:

Tyler Boyd caught 78 passes last season for Pitt.  The next four wide receivers combined for 47, and that entire quartet is gone.  Somewhere in assistant coach Kevin Sherman’s “little pod” of young pass catchers, Pitt needs to find some help to prevent opponents from continually putting double-team defenses on Boyd.  It’s still early in the process — even after 13 practice days this spring — but Sherman has candidates.

Junior Dontez Ford appears to have won the starting job opposite Boyd (at least for now), while sophomores Zach Challingsworth and Jester Weah and redshirt freshman Elijah Zeise are chief among players competing for the No. 3 job. Challingsworth might be slightly ahead of the pack at the moment, a designation that could change as soon as Saturday at the Blue-Gold spring game.

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April 14, 2015

The Secret Leadership of Ray Vinopal

Filed under: Football,Players — Chas @ 7:18 am

One of the things that stands out to me during spring practices has been how the defensive players all seem to speak so highly of Ray Vinopal. How he was the guy everyone on the defense looked to. How he played. How respected he was by his teammates.

Jevonte Pitts:

Last season wasn’t a waste, however. Pitts said he learned by watching safety Ray Vinopal, who since has graduated.

“I’m faster and in my eyes a lot better just from learning from Ray,” he said.

And how they want to step up as leaders now that he is gone.

It’ll be good for Mitchell to have a handle on the X’s and O’s because his responsibilities on this Pitt defense likely will go a step farther.

With Ray Vinopal’s graduation, there’s a leadership void in the back end of the defense that coaches hope Mitchell can help fill.

“Ray was a great leader,” Mitchell said. “I watched him a lot last year, just seeing the little things he did to keep us motivated. I’m definitely going to try to take that role this year.”

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April 12, 2015

Pitt Spring Practice #12   April 11, 2015

First off the bat please watch this 1m45s  scrimmage highlight video.  It, I suppose, captures the best plays of the scrimmage.  If so either it was a very short scrimmage or the video camera broke down right after the scrimmage started.

At any rate it is fun to watch and they are some answers to a few questions PITT fans have been asking via their comments on here.  Here I’ll write out my play-by-play breakdown of the video:

– #29 SR RB Rachid Ibrahim inside carry for nice yardage

– #7 rsFR QB Adam Bertke pass to #41JR FB Anthony Rippole (2nd team)

– #85 SO WR Jester Weah reception

– Strong inside cut and run by #5 SO RB Chris James for a TD

– Voytik to Boyd

-#6 SR DB Lafayette Pitts with an INT in front of WR #80 SO WR Zach Challingsworth

– Challingsworth with a catch down the sideline

– Pass to Tyler Boyd on a crossing route for a TD

– #11 SO QB Nate Bossory (transfer from the Air Force) pass to #30 FR FB Stephen Ezekoye (3rd team)

– Bossory to rsFR RB Quadree Ollison for long yards after the catch TD

– Bertke almost intercepted by #38 JR DB Ryan Lewis in front of Weah

– Long TD pass from Bertke to #28 rsFR Elijah Ziese

– Zeise from Bertke in right flat

– Diving catch by Zeise from Voytik

– Voytik on a keeper down the right sideline for a nice gain

– Nice inside run by Ezekoye; waits and follows blockers for a long gain

– TD pass; Voytik to Ibrahim

– Best play of scrimmage: Quadree Ollison on a nice cut inside then speed for a 60 yard TD

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April 10, 2015

Pitt Spring Practice #11  April 9, 2015

Jerry DiPaola of the Trib-Review has a very interesting Blog piece about a cultural exchange between the PITT coaching staff and four football coaches from  the Technologico de Monterrey, a university in Mexico City.  He writes a great opening bit to start the article… When Hector Gabriel Salazer Chairez saw how the Michigan State defense responded to Pat Narduzzi, he said, “I have to meet that man.”  Well, he actually said it in Spanish.”

Some old-time PITT guys showed up for practice when Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, who held the same position at Pitt under Dave Wannstedt, visited practice, along with former Pitt coach Walt Harris and one of Harris’ trusted assistants, Bryan Deal.

He also put out an article about our favorite DB Lafayette Pitts and his outlook going into his senior season at PITT.  My favorite quote from it is this “The veteran member of the secondary is senior Lafayette Pitts, a three-year starter who can combine speed with toughness on his best days. Pitts and sophomore Avonte Maddox have been working with the first unit through the first 10 practices of the spring.

Narduzzi is quoted as saying this about Pitts: “Coaches expect Pitts to provide experience and leadership to a young group of cornerbacks that includes three freshmen and a sophomore. As such, he has been the target of scrutiny.“We are challenging (Pitts) every day to come out and be consistent,” Conklin said. “The corners can’t hide. What we ask them to do, every rep they have to be on.”

Good!  So they are seeing the same thing we PITT fans have seen for the last three years. 

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