masthead.jpg

August 21, 2014

Comings and Goings

Filed under: Football,Recruiting,Transfer — Chas @ 12:09 am

Well, the euphoria of a nice recruiting get lasted all of 24 hours. Is this where we are supposed to gnash our teeth and mutter or whine about not being allowed to have nice things?

Welp, start with the older and positive news. The depth at running back will continue to swell as Pitt got a verbal on Tuesday from Darrin Hall out of Youngstown.

The four-star running back announced his decision in front of a group of 20 family members and friends at Buffalo Wild Wings, where he donned a Pitt hat over that of Michigan State and Kentucky.

“It’s good to get it out of the way and now I can focus on becoming a great leader for my [Fitch] team,” said Hall, who’s beginning his senior year.

Hall said he was leaning toward Pitt last week and after a visit on Sunday, he ultimately decided the Panthers were the best choice for him.

He didn’t talk to the Pitt coaching staff about early playing time and said that wasn’t something he was worried about.

“I know they have some young backs, but I’m ready to work hard and earn my spot,” he said.

Hall’s parents, Camille and Darrin Sr., were seated next to him when he made his announcement, but said that was as close as they got to the decision making process.

“He made it on his own,” said Darrin Sr. “He made the decision and he chose to stay close to home and I was glad of that.

“I’m glad that played a factor in his decision and I love the choice.”

His mom was happy her son made his decision not solely on football.

“I’m very excited about it,” she said. “I’m more excited about his education, that’s first and football’s secondary, but overall I’m just very happy.

Hall is a near consensus 4-star running back (only 247 has him at 3-stars).

(more…)

August 17, 2014

There were some nice efforts and results by all the defensive units, and I’ll address those but overall today the defense built “The Great Wall of Water Street” and didn’t let much offense trickle through.

Specifically, the defensive two deep up front against the running game made everyone breathe a little sigh of relief, especially in light of this being “Year 1 Perfectus AD”.  The starting four defensive linemen from left to right were DE Durham, NT Mosley-Smith, DT Render and DE Soto. Those guys overall looked good in the ‘live’ actions, stuffed the run and got good penetration on some passing plays.  Backing them up were MacLean and Blair at DE with Moody and Jarrett in the interior.   All eight kids played solid ball as I saw it and as each day passes the staff should be feeling better about this unit.

One brighter spot was that Darryl Render had some real “wow” moments with his quick off the snap play.  Jerry DiPaola of the Trib hits it on the head in this article about Render and while I wouldn’t say anyone going to forget our award winning Nose Tackle from last season, Render is starting to develop a reputation of his own.  He intercepted a pass on an athletic play and was constantly beating his guy for run stoppage. He’ll be a very good DT for us this season and later on as he’s a JR who had some nice game experience over the last two seasons.  We’ll have a solid two years of him on the line and that is a good, maybe great, thing to have.

Backing him up is Justin Moody, who as a rsFR is 6’3” and 280 (bigger I’d guess) lbs and can move for that size.  He was a solid 3* DE in HS and was the 20th ranked player in the state of PA. He’s fun to watch when he gets in and has a great wing span to get RBs coming through the line.  Hate to say it but he’s the type of talent, to my eye, who could also be a good OL if needed down the road but Chryst does like them taller.   He had a nice sack on Anderson where he got into the backfield in a blink.

(more…)

August 11, 2014

To start, and because you are already bored at work, here is a good piece from the NCAA website onFR Chris James’ introduction to college football and how he’s approaching it.  Watch the video on that page also, its a fun look at the freshman.  Pay attention to LB Brian Popp and DL Connor Dintino and tell me they don’t look like football players.

A little ‘look behind the scenes’ at some rules that are pertinent this time of the season…

Even though readers of The PITT Blather are already the most intelligent college football fans there is always something else to learn.  I was wondering the other day about exactly how a university’s athletic department and football staff strike a balance between what is required by the NCAA and how to best make use of the limited allowed time they can use to impose football preparations onto the players.

It is almost like rocket science when you look at everything that has to take place to maintain the athletic and academic career of the student-athlete.  But, to me, it is something that has to be formalized to ensure college football doesn’t lose its basic traditions.  Here is an basic overview of the rules.

If you are interested in the minutia of the NCAA regulations regarding what is required and allowed for college football programs this website explains it well.  You’ll have a headache after reading it.

Here is a nice companion piece for those of us who wonder what really goes on with the players between the football seasons, this is a great article written by a guy who was an All-SEC tight end.  It’s informative and entertaining.

(more…)

August 10, 2014

Earlier we discussed the overall feel and looks of the offensive players, staff and program at the first full pads practice.  Now I’ll try to give you my impressions of the defensive side of the ball.

I always think it’s a bit crazy to say “The Xs are ahead of the Ys so far” because in limited time, and watching from ground level, it is hard to make that call so I won’t do that.  What I will do is address the separate units and some specific players’ production and results, and make some opinionated predictions.

Defensive Ends – I paid more attention to the DEs than the interior DL during this practice, mostly because the idea of moving Conner over to fill in any talent gap we may have there is in rampant discussion.  My feeling now is that we might be fine at that position as is because I think we have some really good raw talent there.  Dave Durham is Dave Durham and he’ll be no better this season than last; he has a skill ceiling that has been reached.  But the other DEs we have are looking pretty good and that’s encouraging.

The DE two deep yesterday was as follows:  Soto with rsFR Luke MacLean as his back up on one side with Durham and Blair on the other.  At first glance that isn’t murder’s row.  Durham and Soto, who was 2nd string last year, are returning guys with game experience.  The two we lost from DE last year,  Murphy and Lippert are certainly replaceable by even average players and not to be rude but “see you later”.  Soto has moved over to the right side as a starter and it looks like both Luke MacLean and Rori Blair will get early playing time as the 2nd stringers.

They are both very young and not super rated recruits.  MacLean was a 3* and Blair was a 2*. However, if you look back at a couple of our past DEs who played as freshmen; 2* Greg Romeus and 3* Jabaal Sheard, and watched them play you can see how things could work out now.  Both those veterans excelled as soon as they got to PITT and each progressed to being a star DE here. Here’s a taste of how MacLean played in HS.  Also some Rori Blair highlights,  along with his position coach Palermo on Blair’s recruitment.

Let me say this about FR Rori Blair; make no mistake, the only reason he was listed as a 2* recruit was because of the stroke he had  prior to his senior year in high school.  He’s a 6’3” kid who is a solid 230+ pounds; is bull strong and quick as hell. He was impressive during his reps yesterday and I’ll go out on a limb and say he’ll surpass Devon Cook or anyone else to be Durham’s back-up at some point during the season.  I also wouldn’t be shocked if he even bettered that and started at one point.   He’s one of those players who the chatter about his play will keep getting stronger and stronger the more camp and the season progress.

Luke MacLean made some great plays out there also and he’s another DE youngster, a rsFR who checks in at 6’5” and 260 lbs; a readymade monster waiting to be unleashed! What I noticed about him yesterday was his good strength in forcing his way through blocks on one play, then using technique and speed in beating his Offensive Tackle to apply outside pressure on the QB on another.

3* FR Shane Roy is another kid who had us scrambling around to find his name on the roster after he made some fine plays.  He’s another big kid at 6’4” and 245 pounds and I was impressed with his speed off the ball.  He’ll probably redshirt this year but he’ll be a big part of the defense in the future.  So, I really think we’ll see a lot of PT from MacLean and Blair this season along with rsJR Devon Cook getting equal time in the field also.  I’m not down on Cook, I think he’s played well in spots in the past and he’s a pretty good ballplayer but I’m just very impressed with Blair and MacLean.

rsJR Nick Grigsby was getting reps at both LB and DE so he might be one who the staff feels his experience will help at the DE position.   At 6’1” and 220 he’s undersized for DE though and that might be a problem, especially if the coaches want more muscle at the position, but he’s got the speed and tackling ability to be successful also.  His will be an interesting issue to watch. (more…)

August 9, 2014

This is going to be a long 1st of two articles so pour yourself a drink and get comfortable… I know its morning so make it a Bloody Mary, Screwdriver or Baileys in your coffee… Yinz guys are drunks anyway so just embrace that and enjoy.

I drove up to the Southside complex today, leaving at 5:00 am and getting there at 9:30 so I had 45 minutes to kill before the practice started at 10:15.  With that I had a chance to sit around, drink coffee and watch the players and coaches get out of their cars and walk into the sports complex. I tried to guess who was who but no one was wearing their jerseys… lack of pride in the program I think!

The local media outlets were well represented with Peak from rivals, Flinn from 24/7, Werner from the P-G and Jerry DiPaola from the Trib along with Pat Bostick of CBS – The Fan radio and Borghetti and Ted Feely from the SID department.  That made for some really interesting conversations regarding the staff and players that I’ll paraphrase later on in the article.   Interestingly enough though there weren’t many of the player’s family members at this practice, just a handful and a big difference from other practices.

I got into a nice conversation with Inoke Breckterfield while walking over to the practice fields, mostly about Hawai’i and the HS football there.  I mentioned to him my wife grew up on the Big Island and that I lived in Kailua and watched the Kailua HS team play every chance I could.  That is where Taleni hails from and when I asked how Jeremiah Taleni and the DL were doing he cracked a big smile and said “Doing well”.   I know Taleni’s a favorite of mine because of the Island connection and he rotated in for a good amount of reps but I think we’ll see him contribute a lot in 2015 and beyond rather than this season.

New additions to the sports admin staff is “The Drone & Drone Wrangler”.  PITT has a small concrete circle near the clubhouse that is kitted out as the Drone Pad.  They use the drone to film overhead shots of the formations and the mini-scrimmages.  At one point I saw two young guys looking all around the sky saying “Where the hell is it?”  The drone also comes in handy for missile strikes on the players dogging it out there.

(more…)

August 5, 2014

   Now that we have the player personnel issues discussed we need to talk about what I consider one of the most important aspects of a football team; the Special teams play.  Let’s look at the defensive (punting) special teams first.

   There are no other plays, save maybe a deep pass completion, that either gain or lose big yardage in one fell swoop than the kicking game.  A good punt and coverage can switch the field position of the opponent just as a deep kickoff and coverage can pin an opponent back in its own territory.  If a team can do that on a regular basis it has a huge advantage in-game and can even negate whatever talent shortcomings it might have as compared to the other team’s players.

   PITT didn’t do that last year and it hurt us. Our departed punter, Matt Yoklic, was pretty effective with his leg averaging a 20th nationally 43.0 yards per punt.  He shanked one or two kicks but overall he hid a good job as our punter both last year and seasons before.  It wasn’t his punting that hurt; it was the porous punt coverage by the punting team.  We gave up 16.25 yards per punt return which is way below the punting “Mendoza Line” and left us smack dab at 118th in the country.

   That has to change and fast. This year we’ll have highly rated rsFR Ryan Winslow as the punter. He was recruited specifically to be put on scholarship and I think that is just the way to build a key component of our defense.  Winslow came out of high school as the #4 nationally rated punter and had a chance to spend a year with Yoklic learning the college game.  I don’t recall how good Yoklic was at directional punting but I seem to remember that Winslow was doing that pretty well in camp last year. We need that skill so I’ll pay attention to it when I go up to the Southside next week.  One nice thing is that we didn’t have any punts blocked last year and that was because Yoklic was quick on the draw.

(more…)

August 1, 2014

I’ve been sitting down at the computer a few times over the last three days with fingers poised to write about PITT’s defense going into summer camp then the season and it has taken me some time to try to get a handle on what exactly to put out to you Blatherites.

I guess I’ll start from the very bottom and work up. Aaron Donald is gone and he ain’t coming back.  The “All-World” winner of every major award he was eligible for gave the defense its identity and leadership last year and he’ll be missed.  That isn’t cutting edge journalism folks as I just repeated what every single PITT already knows and is nervous about.

However, I’m a firm believer that in college football  players who have been in the shadows will frequently rise up and grab the reins of leadership by their play themselves.  This is what happens when underclassmen get a year or two of experience under their belts and become starters and sometimes stars.  We’ll not see anyone specific fill Donald’s shoes, he is a once in a generation player, but that doesn’t mean the staff can’t make adjustments to minimize his absence.

What I found interesting, and a bit disheartening,  is that this week Chryst stated publicly that he  heard from some of the DL kids after the season ended that they sometimes eased off a bit knowing that Aaron Donald was going to make the plays.  Here’s Chryst’s take on that and what it was like having Donald play for him.  I wholeheartedly agree that it will ‘take a village’ as Hilary says.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

June 28, 2014

Basketball Notes, 6/28

Filed under: Basketball,Draft,NBA,Recruiting — Chas @ 7:56 am

Mustapha Heron is still a Pitt verbal.

“I’m able to focus on my game, working on my game to fit into Pitt’s system,” Heron said at the NBPA Top 100 camp. “I don’t have to worry about who’s watching me, what type of letters are coming in, what type of calls are coming in. I can just play freely.”

With that said, the departure of assistant coach and ace recruiter Barry “Slice” Rohrssen to Kentucky has had the rumor mill whirling once again. In fact, all six predictions in the 247 Sports Crystal Ball have Heron going somewhere besides Pittsburgh.

In Virginia, Heron addressed the rumors.

“I don’t pay much attention to it,” he said. “Right now I’m just working on building a relationship with coach [Jamie] Dixon, and that’s going really well.”

Is it possible he could decommit at some point?

“That’s just something I would have to talk to my family about,” Heron said. “But as of now, no.”

That’s really all he can say. He could make absolute declarations of fealty and they would still be taken with the same meaning. The fact is he has not decommitted. He has not reopened the decision and he has not gone around on even unofficial visits to other schools.

He’s heading into his junior year of high school. He cannot sign a NLI until November 2015 at the earliest. I’m not saying he won’t change his mind. I’m just not going to spend the next year plus angsting over it.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

June 18, 2014

Marlon “Smoke” Williamson was introduced as a new Pitt assistant coach yesterday.

“We are excited about Marlon becoming a member of the University of Pittsburgh community and I know he is ecstatic to be coming aboard,” Dixon said. “As a former point guard with strong knowledge of the game, Marlon will help us in recruiting, scouting and player development. We are fortunate to have a coach with his well-rounded background. Marlon is also extremely excited to be a part of our staff considering his family ties to Pittsburgh.”

The former YSU point guard is openly ambitious and perhaps a little cocky.

“Actually, my pursuit is to become a great assistant coach right now. In the future, I want to become a head coach,” Williamson said. “When you say ‘great assistant,’ you have to fill a lot of bullets. Recruiting is definitely one, but I don’t want to be singled out as just a recruiter. I can get in the film room and break down Xs and Os. The relationship with the players is a huge factor for you as a coach. It’s much easier to play for someone you respect and love versus someone you just play for. That’s what I want to strive for as a professional in this business, being able to relate to the coach, co-workers on the staff, as well as the players and their parents.”

So, like [UMass Coach Derek] Kellogg before him, Williamson made a move to put his career in an upward trajectory.

“This is a big step,” he said. “When you talk about the University of Pittsburgh and ACC, you’ve got to go get players first. Our position as assistants is to put Coach Dixon in a position to be great. I look at coach Dixon as a legend. I don’t think he hired Coach Knight or Coach Barton to be mediocre. We want to give him the tools that he can go coach those guys. Our goal is to win the last game. Why not us?”

These are not bad things for a young assistant.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

Powered by WordPress © PittBlather.com