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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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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 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 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 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 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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