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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 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving and Senior Notes

Filed under: Football,Players — Chas @ 12:47 pm

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Hope you are enjoying it with friends, family and those who make you happy. I have been doing little things in preparation for the full-blown day of cooking (and maybe a bit to drink). The way things work out this time of year, we can’t travel to be with the entire family, so it is just the wife and kids. Which is much more peaceful, but we do miss out on the fun (usually) chaos of a house full of family.

There’s a game on Saturday, and I’m taking my son to it. He went with me to the spring game and had a great time. It just hasn’t worked out most of the season, but I promised him his first game this year so it is do or die time. On that note, does anyone have a couple extra tickets they aren’t using? Dragging him to the pressbox doesn’t seem like a good idea. I don’t think I can sell him as my intern. That means I have to pick a couple up. I know it won’t be hard to get a couple, but I might as well ask here first.

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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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October 12, 2016

Position Switching and Redshirts

Filed under: Football,Players — Chas @ 9:51 am

Focus of today. Primarily some pieces on tackles and the secondary.

Stories today looked at the position changes for Brian O’Neill and Shakir Soto. In no small part owing to their game against Georgia Tech. Both have been thriving all season, but they really shined this past weekend.

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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 2, 2016

Less than 24 hours until I hit the road to Pittsburgh. The familiar giddiness is building. A smile creeps over my face as I think about it. I’ve missed this.

Think the Pitt coaches are hammering home to the players about what nearly happened to Tennessee against Appalachian  State last night? The risk of taking a team likely, simply because they are FCS? Without any doubt.

So what’s news?

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September 1, 2016

At some point I will have to do a post on Big XII expansion, simply because it has not failed to amuse me this entire spring and summer. It is just so perfect, though, that a conference named for 12 with only 10 members would announce “6 to 8 finalists.” Yet, the list actually goes to 10, 12 or even 13.

Anyways…

The year was 1998. My first year as a season ticket holder. I wasn’t unrealistic. I knew it was going to be a struggle that year. 1997 was loaded with seniors and 1998. Well, 1998 was bad. We got an idea in that first game as Pitt struggled to beat Villanova 48-41. One of two wins that year and 0-7 in the Big East.

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August 31, 2016

The two topics covered in the news regarding Pitt.

This has to be one of the best parts of being a head coach. Getting to reward walk-ons with scholarships. These are kids that either took a chance on themselves or needed to be at the school because of family or some deep desire for that particular school. They earned the scholarship for the work they have done since coming into the program.

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June 21, 2016

Recruiting Stars & Pitt Players

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Players — Reed @ 3:18 pm

Here is a post I had in draft form and forgot to put up.  I did it before that “Art of Recruiting” series of last week.  Discuss-able info as far as stars awarded and Pitt player – present and past.

YR Player Position Stars Nat’l Rank Top 3 Schools
2003 Larry Fitzgerald WR 4* 15 OSU
2003 Andy Lee P NR NR
2006 H. B. Blades ILB 3* 32 Auburn, Iowa State, VA
2007 Scott McKillop ILB 3* 31 Nebraska, PSU, VT
2007 Jeff Otah OT NR NR Pitt
2008 Scott McKillop ILB 3* 32 Nebraska, PSU, VT
2009 Dorin Dickerson TE 4* 8 (ATH) PSU, Michigan, Tennessee
2010 Jabaal Sheard DE 3* 23 Auburn, AZ State, RU
2013 Aaron Donald DT 3* 37 Akron, RU, SYR
2014 James Conner RB 3* 26 (DE)                YSU, Ohio, E. Michigan
2014 T. J. Clemmings OT 4* 16 ND, PSU, Florida
2014 Tyler Boyd WR 4* 12 ND, PSU, Wisconsin

This is an interesting list I think.  As I was looking up the All-Americans I also jotted down the lower rated kids who have become either stars or real solid producers for us.

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June 19, 2016

PA won the annual Big 33 football game yesterday – forgive the PSU slant with the link but apparently this is the best coverage I can find… (neither of the two major PGH papers had a word on it at the time I wrote this)… even though it looks like Pitt recruits contributed also.  But with three TDs (in only 67 yards) he gets the lion’s share of the publicity.

Our DB Damar Hamlin  did well also.  Pitt had six on the roster compared to PSU’s two.

This is an interesting bit about SYR recruit Joel-El Shaw… apparently he thinks coaching staff’s words don’t carry much weight:

At first, Jo-El Shaw almost balked at the opportunity to represent Pennsylvania in the annual Big 33 Football Classic. It was at the first team-wide practice in April and the Pennsylvania coaches figured Shaw would play fullback since that’s how he’s listed on the roster.

“I told them I was going to go home,” said Shaw, now a Woodland Hills High School alumnus. “I told them, ‘You can go find somebody else, because I ain’t playing fullback.’ ”

To what ought to be no one’s surprise James Conner is still giving back more than he receives…

Conner was honored at a dinner hosted by his oncologist, Dr. Stanley Marks, on Friday night at the Field Club in Fox Chapel.

Not only was Conner honored with the award, which is given annually for the past 30 years to a cancer patient, it was re-named the James Conner Courage Award, Marks said.

“James is the first recipient,” Marks said.

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June 15, 2016

Here is a detailed and in-depth look at the Panther football program under Pat Narduzzi.  It was written yesterday by Bill Connelly of SB Nation  and is a wealth of historical and present (and future) info about where we have been and the direction he thinks we are going into the 2016 season.

Here is an opening salvo to get your attention:

As fans, we have plenty of funny tendencies. If you raise the stature of our program just enough to break our heart with high-stakes losses, we will resent you for it.

It’s funny (if you’re not a Pitt fan, at least) to look back to the end of the last decade.

Under Dave Wannstedt, Pitt pulled off one of its most significant upsets, in 2007 (taking down WVU in Morgantown to prevent the Mountaineers from advancing to the BCS title game), then went 9-4 and 10-3 over the next two seasons. The Panthers went 8-5 in 2010, giving them 27 wins over a three-year period for the first time since 1981-83.

And Wannstedt resigned under pressure, hated by a large portion of Pitt fans.

But I’ll disagree – unless he thinks I am the only Pitt fan whose opinion matters I don’t think Pitt fans hated Wannstedt at all.  It was more like they were so disappointed with all the crap that went on back in 2010 and his inability to outright win a BCS bowl bid in his six years as head coach that any sort of a change was a relief.

But let’s not put binders on as this writer has – there were a hell of a lot of Pitt fans that didn’t want to see DW go at all.

Aside from that this is a fantastic read.  It is a breath of fresh air to read someone state the true comparisons between Chryst’s time at Pitt and Pat Narduzzi’s first year.  We fans are infused with a lot of Narduzzi’s energy and exuberance so we look at last season with an overly positive view.

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June 13, 2016

The Pitt News weighs in with two articles.  The first is regarding the rise in Pitt’s season ticket sales:

Pitt’s athletic department announced in a letter Tuesday morning that 93 percent of season ticket holders have renewed their subscription for the upcoming football season.

On top of that, Pitt has sold almost 10,000 new season tickets, putting the University on track to break the school record for season ticket sales — a goal Athletic Director Scott Barnes set in February.

This is an interesting fact – the excitement generated after the 2002 season when we went 9-4 under Walt Harris produce a record for sales.

Pitt’s all-time record for season ticket sales is 53,775, set in 2003. According to the letter — which both Barnes and head football coach Pat Narduzzi signed — the school expects to actually break the record in August, when the majority of undergraduate student ticket purchases occur.

I went back to look at what that might have been the reasons for that and wanted to see if there were other factors than the winning record. I think what goes into making fans excited is not just winning seasons. I have said on here many times that one of my favorite seasons was the 2007 one where everything that could be thrown in our path to stop progress was… and we still felt it was a great ending when we beat WVU 13-9.

I remember very clearly that after the dust settled on that year we fans were excited to see what 2008 was going to show us.  Of course we wanted to see LeSean McCoy in action again. That is one of the main attractions when looking forward; to see how your favorite player’s career is going to turn out is a powerful motivating factor for fans to attend games… along, of course, with that all-important W/L record.

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June 12, 2016

Surfing the message boards I saw the following on Rivals.com.  It is an interesting article put out by SB Nation’s Football Study Hall regarding HC Pat Narduzzi’s defensive schemes at Pitt.

This is the lead into the article and I think he hits the nail right on the head regarding our pass defense:

“The most difficult positions to fill in the Narduzzi secondary are probably the boundary corner, free safety, field corner, strong safety, and star LB (space-backer) in that order.

The latter two positions of strong safety and star are the tip of the spear for this defense, these guys are set to up make plays and put pressure on the offense, which is what defines this scheme. Their aggression and freedom isn’t possible without the play of the former three defenders who have to establish the “no-fly zone” so that the strong safety and star can spend their time hunting down running backs.

As it happens, the Panthers are returning their boundary corner Avonte Maddox, free safety Terrish Webb, and strong safety Jordan Whitehead but are looking for players to step up at field corner and space-backer.”

Well, most likely that field cornerback will be true FR Damar Hamlin after the dust settles during fall camp.  At least that is what the pundits (and myself I suppose) think.  He’s highly rated at 4*s and had offers from across the country.  If we are looking for another, or different, newcomer to take that spot then 4* FR George Hill could fit the bill also.  We discuss him a lot on here, our mysterious commenter Pitt of Dreams can’t envision him anywhere but at running back. However, needs must and if the staff wants him there they will put him there.

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June 11, 2016

Saturday Podcast; June 11th

Filed under: Football,Players,Recruiting — Reed @ 9:12 am

Here is another installment of our Saturday Podcasts Series.

There really hasn’t been much going on with Pitt football lately – a couple of  recruits verballed  (Chris Peak’s recruiting podcast covers those and BB’s recruiting also) but mostly we have had to generate some subjects to talk about.

Today I’ll talk a bit about the recruiting articles we just had up on here and some other things, then historical subjects about what the Pitt program was like years ago and how things can make or break a team.

The reading here is from a Sport Illustrated article published Nov. 21, 193 titled “ANY OF US MIGHT HAVE DONE IT.”

After that 1982 regular season, when we were 9-2 and Becker death happened, we lost the Cotton bowl to SMU by a score of 7-3.   After averaging 27 ppg in the regular season we put up three.  That, I believe was a hangover from the preceding week.

We went 8-3-1 the next season then tanked to 3-7-1 the year after.  If you look closely you’ll see that our recruiting suffered a lot after that Becker incident also.  So many different things can affect a football program…

Note: Just as a heads up – I am zeroing in, with my daughter’s help, on figuring out how to do a conference call-in recording so that we can start a “Pitt Blather Round Table” where I would moderate and select some subject matters for two or three Blather readers to discuss and then post as a podcast.

My feelers out to Pitt fans about doing this have been well received and I think it would be nice to hear some other opinions on Pitt football other than mine.  Our written comments are great on here and generate some fantastic discussions but maybe a bit of a different forum to give and take on issues will be fun to do also.

I’ll keep all informed as to the details but keep your eyes open and I’ll be asking for test dummies soon.

June 9, 2016

(Here is the last of a three part series on recruiting the prospective college players.  We left off yesterday talking about recruits and football camps… and greyshirts, etc…)

Rivals.com Chris Peak just wrote about the Pitt “Senior Elite” camp that we held last Sunday… here is an excerpt:

The Pitt coaches had positive feedback for all three local linebackers, as they did for Canton (Oh.) McKinley’s Kadeem Trotter, who was as impressive as any of them. The same goes for Buffalo (NY) Bennett’s Isaiah McDuffie, who is committed to Boston College (and was previously committed to Syracuse). And there were a few more who stood out, but I think you’re getting the picture: the linebackers were pretty good, and there are probably a few in that group who could be offer-worthy.

So here we have a recruit at our camp, Isaiah McDuffie, who has already committed to two different schools yet he’s paying his own way to attend a camp where he wants to get noticed by yet another school.  This is how it’s done these days.

A lot of fans and a ton of schools want the NCAA to adopt an ‘early signing’ policy in football like they do in basketball.  Last year the Conference Commissioners addressed the issue and punted it to at least this summer.  The gist of the proposal is that the schools would have the ability to have recruits sign an LOI as early as December of the recruiting year so they can ‘lock down‘ the kids they really need.

Is it a good thing?  Here is a great overview done by SB Nation in June 2015 that lays the details out well.

“College football’s National Signing Day is a February tradition. That’s the day recruits sign pledges to universities and commitments finally become official.

The Collegiate Commissioners Association is voting this week on a proposal that would create another three-day signing window, giving high school athletes the opportunity to sign prior to February. It’s expected to happen at some point — an early period could go into effect this year, from Dec. 16 to 18 [Update: the decision’s been “tabled,” so no early period for 2015] — and there wouldn’t be a limit on the number of recruits a school could sign during the early period.

Football has been one of the few college sports without an early signing period, joined only by soccer and water polo. Basketball’s early signing period has been considered a major success, because colleges do not have to continually recruit committed prospects once they’ve signed.”

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