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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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September 19, 2014

James Conner Has Some Focus

Filed under: Football,Players,Puff Pieces — Chas @ 7:42 am

It’s been quite a week for James Conner and media attention. But he is trying to ignore it.

After Conner rushed for 177 yards against Florida International, he broke another Tony Dorsett record, this time for most yards by a Pitt back in the first three games.

Conner trumpeted the achievement, placing a photo on Instagram. It didn’t take long for his phone to ring. It was Aaron Donald, Pitt’s highly decorated former defensive tackle, who knows a little bit about how to handle fame.

“He said to me, ‘Just stay focused and just play ball,’ ” Conner said. “ ‘Those individual awards will come. You can’t worry about that now.’

“I listen to every word he says. I’m not thinking about that stuff anymore.”

Conner took Donald’s advice one step further and decided to take a break from social media.

“People have negative things to say,” he said. “If I keep thinking about that, it will throw me off my game.

“I figure time spent on Twitter could be spent in the weight room or in the film room. I’m glad (Donald) reached out to me.”

Still, there has been a good deal of media attention this week. And the thing that I keep seeing in these stories is a very different kind of focus. One that seems to be on a big picture of his future and an unshakable confidence.

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November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Hope your day is a relatively low stress affair.

Just some basketball links I need to clear through.

Finishing up the loose ends from the Legends Classic.

Coach Jamie Dixon is making no apologies for doing this tournament, even if the competition was a bit lacking.

Though the Panthers are no longer in the Big East, Dixon said they will always try to play games and in events in the New York City area because it is good for recruiting and an area Pitt fans enjoy going to.

“We have asked to be in New York whenever we can,” Dixon said. “We like this type of environment. I told the guys before the game, ‘Do you understand that we’re playing in an NBA arena, NBA locker rooms and practicing on the Brooklyn Nets practice court?’ We have a lot of alumni around here, we have had a lot of players from around here, so coming here fits us in every way.”

The Legends Classic is run by the Gazelle Group. All three of their early season tournaments — Legends, 2K Sports Classic and Black Rock Gotham Classic — are NYC based tournaments. Pitt and Coach Dixon have made an effort to work with Gazelle Group for that reason. They want to play in NYC when possible. Gazelle Group operates 3 of the 5 tournaments in the area.

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June 8, 2012

Steven Adams Tours Pittsburgh

Filed under: Basketball,Players,Puff Pieces — Chas @ 10:20 am

Here’s a puff piece on Steven Adams getting a tour of Pittsburgh.

 

May 3, 2012

Coach Paul Chryst is still a relatively blank canvas. Sure he’s been an outstanding Offensive Coordinator, but we have no idea how he will translate to being the head coach. We can project. We can believe. We can hope. But we don’t know.

Neither does anyone else. And one of the primary time-killers in the spring and summer months for college football media are lists. Best coaches, best hires, best players by position, etc. Then you can break them down by conference.

That’s where we are at right now. Lists.

Athlon, usually one of the first-to-the-market publishers of preview guides has a rather bizarre ranking of the Big East Coaches. Why is it bizarre? Consider that it includes the present members for the upcoming season, but also tosses the future members as well. This despite being a list just for this year. That means it is a list of 15 coaches rather than 8. Er… I realize expansiopocolypse can be confusing and convoluted, but this just seems silly.

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November 27, 2011

A puff piece from New Zealand on Steven Adams and the long-range plans to go to the NBA.

After an outstanding junior career and one season in the New Zealand’s domestic competition, Adams will leave on the start of that journey next month. McFadden, who has helped guide his progress so far, is determined he won’t go off the tracks like so many before him.

“If you’re 18 with a million dollars in your pocket, that could be disastrous,” warns United States-born McFadden. “He needs good advice and people he can trust around him.”

The support group that has coalesced around Adams in New Zealand seems to have done an outstanding job. The natural cynicism  (at least from me) would be to cast a jaundiced eye towards it all as merely a bunch of people trying to get in on and protect the potential money train. But the long-term structuring with Adams. From getting his education. To deciding on having him go to college in the US rather than going early pro in New Zealand or Europe suggests otherwise.

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November 18, 2011

All peaceful on the football front this week. I like to think that it is a purposeful calm. Devote all healing energies to Lucas Nix. Put Tino Sunseri in a zen (or semi-hypnotic) state where he can breathe and re-establish that mind-body connection so he doesn’t forget all the things he is supposed to do — set the feet; get rid of the ball before the count of 3; and never, ever attempt a pass longer than 15 yards. Meanwhile, Greg Gaskins is looking in a mirror repeating the following over and over, “I’m a good offensive lineman. I’m good enough for the Big East. I really can pass block. And goshdarnit, Tino likes seeing me on the line.”

Aaron Donald gets a puff piece as he has emerged as a force on the D-line. Now leading the team in tackles for loss, sacks and QB hurries.

Randolph, like Graham, said Donald still needs to work on his technique and fundamentals but, along with his natural ability, his work ethic and his intensity almost ensure that he is going to be successful against any offensive line.

“Aaron has done about everything I’ve asked him to do,” Randolph said. “We wanted him to work on his fundamentals and as you can see now with his production. His fundamentals have gotten better and it shows up on game day. His work ethic and his mindset and his natural ability — he just makes plays.

“When I look for guys to recruit in the future, I’m looking for guys like Aaron Donald with that first step, that explosiveness and, on top of that, the violence in him is what I really like,” Randolph said.

“He enjoys playing the game and, to me, he is kind of a throwback. He is an old-school guy, but his first step, his attitude and temperament — those things are what make him such an explosive player.”

Donald was humble/media savvy enough to deflect a lot of credit to his teammates on the D-line.

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September 2, 2011

Lines and Leadership

Filed under: Football,Players,Puff Pieces,Tactics — Chas @ 1:26 pm

Getting harder to focus on getting the post out. I’m excited for tomorrow. Ready for the start of Pitt’s season.

Not sure if there will be a liveblog for tomorrow. With the game on ESPN3.com (i.e., the computer) I’m not sure how many people will be eager to switch screens or be using multiple computers. I’ll figure that out tonight. At the minimum there will be a open thread for comments and probably my Twitter feed, which will be active. Of course, I’m worried about my in-game Tweeting, just because of the speed of the game. Not sure how fast I can really tap stuff out on the phone while at the game. On to the links and commentary.

Team captains were named a couple days ago. I find this a welcome change from the previous approach of naming team captains halfway through the season. If you don’t know who the leaders on the team are by the end of camp and practices, then there was something wrong with the way the camp was run.

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August 26, 2011

Sunseri’s 2010 Summed Up

Filed under: Football,Players,Puff Pieces — Chas @ 10:12 am

The Trib’s Dean Kovacevic pretty much nails it down with regards to Tino Sunseri in 2010 and the overall “meh” feeling most fans had towards him.

Yes, he threw for 2,572 yards, with a 64.5 completion percentage and 16 touchdowns, respectable figures all. But … well, there was something missing, and it wasn’t easily quantifiable.

He just didn’t look like a big-time Division I quarterback.

I saw a 6-foot-2 kid playing much smaller, getting dragged down by one-handed grasps. I saw a passing form little different than when he was at Central Catholic, resulting in a lot of wobbly flicks. And in the one that maybe sticks the most in the craw, I saw a blue-chip receiver in Jon Baldwin go underutilized without the deep ball.

You can talk about the perception/belief that he was not a leader at the position that demands it. That he behaved arrogantly and petulantly towards the coaches. That it was fostered by being handed the starting position last spring without any competition — other than what was claimed by the coaches.

The article itself is a positive one on Sunseri. It is encouraging, and I am hoping it isn’t just an optimistic preseason puff piece. He just played smaller. Like the games, the moments were too big for him. That’s part of the perception that Sunseri will have to overcome this year. Well, that’s not true. Fans will have to overcome that perception.

Sunseri is in a different offense. He has different coaches, and seems to have responded well to them, what they are teaching, and the system itself. By all accounts his confidence is much higher and his game looks a lot better. We will all start getting answers in 8 days.

July 6, 2011

More link clearance time. This one on the football side of things.

More Zach Brown stuff. Nice thing for media on transfers. Everyone can talk right away about it. Coaches can talk freely.

“I’m excited about having him,” Pitt co-offensive coordinator Calvin Magee said. “I’m excited about the experience he is going to bring. He’s been in big games. He’s a big, punishing running back. Now, we have two veterans (backs) who have been in the game and understand what we want.”

Brown, who was twice voted his high school team’s most unselfish player, epitomizes what Pitt is seeking, Magee said.

“He brings a great work ethic and so much character. This is what we are preaching.”

Brown, who is from Florida, was down to Pitt or Wisconsin when he was in high school. Glad to see he gets a do-over, even if the coaches are different.

“It’s a great opportunity to play there and showcase my talents,” he said. “Plus it’s a great school academic-wise.” Brown has a degree in history.

Brown, who likely would have started the season no higher than third on Wisconsin’s depth chart, said the ability to play right away at Pitt appealed to him.

I’m sure the academics are a nice plus, but let’s be honest. It’s knowing he comes to Pitt and immediately has the #2 spot on the depth chart going into camp.

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May 11, 2011

Coach Puffery Round-up

Filed under: Coaches,Dixon,Graham,Puff Pieces — Chas @ 2:45 pm

Yesterday, SI.com had a big feature on Todd Graham taking over at Pitt (hat tip to the many, many who e-mailed and linked it in the comments).

“We’ve gotta take the good and make them great, and the great and make them outstanding,” Graham said. “We’re striving for perfection. We’ll tolerate excellence.”

After a year flush with misfortune, a spring full of such unbridled optimism may be just what the Panthers need. In 2011, it might also serve as a harbinger of things to come.

The Big East appears weak and wide open once again, with South Florida juggling quarterbacks B.J. Daniels and Bobby Eveld, West Virginia testing a partnership between incumbent coach Bill Stewart and coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen and TCU still a year removed from its conference debut. While early nonconference tests at Iowa and against Notre Dame will be challenging, Graham’s rebuilt, under-the-radar squad could make a run at the Big East’s guaranteed BCS bid.

We’ll see. But it is nice to be optimistic.

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February 18, 2011

As just about everyone is aware of by this point, Ashton Gibbs has been cleared to play for tomorrow’s Nooner at MSG.

“I was probably the happiest man in the world when they gave me the OK to play,” said Gibbs, Pitt’s leading scorer at 16.3 points per game. “I’m feeling good.”

The 6-foot-2 Gibbs, injured Feb. 5 against Cincinnati, took part in his first full-contact practice Thursday.

He said he didn’t feel any soreness after practice. And following a visit with Pitt trainer Tony Salesi, Gibbs, who grew up in West Orange, N.J., was cleared to play in his hometown.

“I went all-out (at practice),” he said. “I felt good. It’s not sore or anything. It feels normal. (Salesi) told me everything was fine.”

Gibbs, who may wear a small brace or tape his knee as a precaution, said his rehab consisted mainly of icing the knee, riding a bike and strengthening his quadriceps.

He was expected to miss 10-14 days and returned right on schedule.

“It’s close to 100 percent,” he said. “I can feel it a little bit, but it’s nothing major.”

I take it, this means he hast to return that bowtie to Orlando Antigua.

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February 4, 2011

The Bearcats are better than they were last year. They have slowly, painfully, grudgingly gotten a little better every year since Mick Cronin took over the team. The talent has improved. They have gotten a touch more consistent. Yet, they remain mired somewhere in the middle of the Big East. Somewhere in that 7th-12th best team.

Some of that is certainly attributable to the fact that the Big East is so tough and strong, and that teams at the top (and even upper-middle) just haven’t budged much.

“I refer to the situation that Mick went into as being about as close to a death penalty as there was in college basketball,” Dixon said, “because they really had no players at all once he got the job. They have gotten better every year and that is more than you can ask. Getting better every year is another rare and nearly impossible feat to do in our conference because, you need some teams to take a step backward.

“There have been a lot of teams in our league waiting for teams to take a step backward and there haven’t been too many of those.”

This year, especially, the wide swath of the middle. That encompasses the 5th to 12th teams looks so much stronger. Cinci, St. John’s, WVU, Marquette, Syracuse, Georgetown, UConn, Seton Hall. Heck Providence and Rutgers at 13th and 14th. A lot of improved teams that give tough conference battles, but don’t still find themselves near their usual spots in the conference.

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September 9, 2010

No, not the Panthers. I’m sure they are fine. Ready to kill New Hampshire, rip the wings off of flies, whatever.  I’m talking the fanbase for the home opener. Sold out season. All student tickets snatched. Now it is time to show up for the game, despite the construction and parking fubar.

Let’s run things down.

Chris Gates asks and several answer his weekly itchy questions (I really can’t call them burning, but they do irritate). He also has a Q&A with a New Hampshire beat writer.

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August 29, 2010

The offensive line, in preparing for Utah knows it will not be the same as going against the defense in camp and practices.

The philosophy for Pitt’s defensive line is to get off the ball and whip the offensive line straight up. Wannstedt’s defenses rarely blitz and, when they do, the blitzes are reserved for certain situations.

Utah, however, will bring extra guys from all different directions, and Wannstedt said he expects to see a steady flow of run blitzes, blitzes off the edge and stunts from the Utes. That is why he said he is glad the Panthers’ offensive line has had extra time to prepare for the game.

“They are similar to a lot of teams we will face in that they do a lot of fire-zone pressure and whatnot,” right tackle Lucas Nix said. “The whole thing is they will have eight [players] in the box the whole time, or at least we’re expecting that, and then it becomes a matter of picking up tendencies.

“They are pretty much an edge rush team. We will see a little bit of pressure from the middle, but, for the most part, they are going to bring strong pressure from the tight end side and try to get in the way of our bread-and-butter plays.”

Karabin added, “Since it is the first game of the year, they will come out with some different things, some things which aren’t expected, but we’re going to try and prepare for anything they can really throw at us.”

I would say the best comparison to how Utah likes to attack on defense is Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are a blitz-happy team that attacks and brings pressure as much as possible. Corner-blitzes, safeties, overloading a side. That has been the style of Schiano’s defenses and it seems much like what Pitt will see from Utah.

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