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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 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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June 8, 2016

(Yesterday we had Part 1 of this recruiting article where we addressed a couple of pertinent question about the business.  This Part 2 continues that and we’ll have Part 3 on Thursday to wrap up…)

3.  Is it only the players who have to be convinced to go to a certain school?

The answer to this is a resounding no!  Every Pitt player’s family, mostly parents, I have talked to said that the coaching staffs probably spent as much time selling their school to the family and recruit’s HS coach as they did with the recruits themselves.

After all that is why they do “in-home” visits.  On those trips the staff doesn’t necessarily need or want to talk to the recruit so much as have the family hear them talking to the recruit.  A good recruiter will have already had many, many conversations with the player before an at-home visit. Walking into the home itself is when showtime begins.

Here is an interesting website that covers recruiting from a family point of view.  Covering in-home visits the author, a past college football staff coach says this:

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June 7, 2016

After I posted the podcast Saturday, and we since we have had our discussions about where Hill and Pugh should play, I started wondering more about the more human parts of college football recruiting.

We all pretty much know the NCAA rules and regulations behind the recruiting process with the official and non-official visits, verbal commitments, dead and quiet periods, Letter Of Intent day(LOI), etc…  But I began to scratch my head and ponder just what a head coach and recruiting staff really look for in recruits.

I have a good friend here in Maryland who is a legendary head coach in Maryland (Baltimore) High School football, Roger Wrenn.  He was in the football coaching profession for 43 years and retired with 14 city championships to his credit.

One thing to understand about Coach Wrenn’s position in high school ball here in Maryland is that Baltimore County football is taken as seriously here as WPIAL football is in PA.  Way above what the PGH City League is like in fact and national reputation.

I’ve talked with Coach Wrenn extensively on the subject of recruiting and he firmly maintains that the ‘best’ college HCs look at raw talent and character combined first.

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June 6, 2016

Recruiting and QBs

Filed under: Football,Players,Recruiting — Reed @ 7:22 am

3* QB Kenny Pickett has become the latest Pitt recruiting verbal for the 2017 season.  He had previously committed to Temple University then got a better offer and took it.

From the Trib:

“Kenny Pickett of Oakhurst, N.J., on Saturday became the first quarterback in the Class of 2017 to verbally commit to Pitt.

A three-star recruit according to Rivals, Pickett is ranked No. 22 overall — and the No. 2 quarterback — in New Jersey. An announcement on a Twitter account bearing Pickett’s name confirmed the news. Pickett, who verbally committed to Temple earlier this spring, also has offers from Boston College, Buffalo and Connecticut.

Pickett (6-foot-3, 191 pounds) threw for 1,796 yards with 19 touchdowns and three interceptions last season. He is considered a dual-threat quarterback and ran for 336 yards and five touchdowns.”

Also Sunday’s Pitt camp brought us a verbal from unranked LB Cameron Bright out of Alabama.  Good for us and for them.

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June 4, 2016

Saturday’s Podcast; June 4th

Filed under: Football,Players,Recruiting — Reed @ 9:05 am

Who says he can’t throw long?

Here is the promised weekend podcast – #2 in the series so far.  I touch on Cavanaugh, Hill to DB, University of Pittsburgh itself, uniforms and some other stuff.

After looking at the previous quarterback inductees in College Football’s Hall of Fame I have to backtrack a bit on Matt Cavanaugh’s chances to be enshrined.  See the College HoF’s website here, compare his career (without the Pitt blinders on) and make your own decision.  I still think he’s on the outside looking in but who knows…

I found this interesting bit by meddling around on the Internet – it is the NCAA Statisticians Manual for 2015.  Want to know what the details are and how stats are actually measured then check this out.  Mind boggling – I figured they pretty much just watched the games and figured crap out.

BTW – QB Bob Griese went to Purdue.

 

June 2, 2016

We’ll take a lead for some of the discussions of the last week or so and discuss the Pitt QB situation, both present, future and some past.  I said in a comment “Its been a long time since Pitt had a star QB” and it truly has – certainly none in the last decade and that’s an eternity in college ball when rosters and starting lineups changes regularly.

Top 10 QB Commitments Since 2010

2016: Thomas MacVittie: Only 1 interception in 211 attempts his SR HS season

2015: Ben DiNucci: Redshirted this season as a freshman; Alex Hornibrook: Verbally committed to Pitt, signed with Wisconsin

2014: Adam Bertke: Redshirt freshman, never played, transferred out; Wade Freebeck: Verbally committed to Pitt, signed with Vanderbilt

2013: Tra’Von Chapman: Attended spring drills, dismissed after criminal charges, backup at Akron

2012: Chad Voytik: Started in 2014, lost starting job and transferred to Arkansas State

2011: Trey Anderson: Didn’t join team until second week of fall camp, graduated from Pitt as a career backup

2010: Anthony Gonzalez: Played a few snaps at quarterback, two-year starter at linebacker; Mark Myers: Transferred as a rsJR to John Carroll College

Man – that transfer record is brutal especially when there weren’t any star QBs in front of all those kids who transferred out before they had a chance to show what they could do after a couple year in the program.

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May 31, 2016

One of the more intriguing and anticipated recruits who will land on the Southside in early August is George Hill.  He is a 6’0″ 205# ATH and has earned his bona fides on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

There is a real benefit in recruiting high school football players who are listed as “ATH” (labeled as such for an unspecified position he would play in college ball).  Foremost it implies the kid is so good he can play multiple positions well which is always a good thing.

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May 30, 2016

Happy Memorial Day to all who served, their families and our Active Duty members serving today.  Today is a when our thoughts should turn to more serious things other than sports and college football.  Let’s wish for safe passages to our current service members both home and abroad and give a hearty thank you very much to all who have served in the past.

One personal note: When you think of our service members and the missions they undertake remember that what our citizenry sees publicly is the tip of the iceberg of what their responsibilities and duties really are. It truly is a 24/7/365 job and let us also appreciate that at any moment their phone may ring and they could be on a flight within the hour to anywhere in the world to keep us safe and healthy.

Bravo Zulu to all!!

But hey- we are also Pitt football fans on this Memorial Day so here goes –

Everyone loves talking about the upcoming Pitt -Penn State game that will be played at Heinz Field on September 10th.  It will be a noteworthy game in many ways – first time the teams met since we beat them in 2000; a PSU coach who may be on the hot seat sooner than later; bragging rites for recruiting the state of Pennsylvania, and last, but not least, in Pitt fan’s books – James Conner’s return to playing in a big game.

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May 26, 2016

Here is the Doctor who also worked very hard to help James in his battle.  Thank You!!

So – A few days then the medicinal entry port comes out of Conner’s chest… then however many days it takes to heal and we are back to full contact for the fall camp.

Note especially here that Conner didn’t want any special treatment as a patient.  That is he wanted to be in the cancer ward with every other patient and did what he could do to make the world a better place for them, and I’m sure their families.  His initial diagnosis wasn’t good, the cancer was very large according to his Dr. and yet he was joyful and, at least publicly, calm every day.

I’d like to take a second and mention someone who most fans don’t know.  Mike Gallagher from Erie, PA is much like a surrogate father to Conner.  He himself has had multiple physical problems that stemmed from a sideline hit in a college game he was covering for his local  newspaper… so he was a great role model and support – as was Gallagher’s family I’m sure – during this entire process.

Mike Gallagher and James Conner are two of sports success stories and I’ll say a big Thank You! to Mike also for all he has done, not just for James, but anyone he has come in contact with. I met Mike last fall and he and I had a long conversation about many things – not all Conner or football related. With guys like Mike involved, even if just on the outskirts, of Pitt’s football program we are in great shape.

One last Conner bit:

Anyone who has watched the sun set over Lake Erie can attest to its beauty.

Two years ago, 15-year-old Meghan Gallagher couldn’t see it from her hospital room at UPMC Hamot, where she spent three weeks getting treatment for a kidney ailment.  And that bothered her friend, James Conner.

During one of his regular after-school visits, Conner decided to do something about it. He knew how much Meghan loved going to the beach and watching the sun set with her father Michael. So he picked Meghan out of a hospital bed, cradled her in his massive arms and set her down in front of a window.

“The sunset relaxed her mind,” Conner said.

Kind of says it all…

Two days ago the Trib had another Chris Peak Podcast, this time with Ken Laird, and they start out talking about the Pitt-Penn State game’s kickoff at noon on Sept 10th and the accompanying bitching done by Pitt fans. This is a good listen to have on at work in any event:

I’ll say now, and fans may not like it, that the Pitt-Penn State game is important to the state of PA but other than that – and for the rest of the nation – the game is like any other.

It certainly wasn’t like that in the past.  Back when both teams were at the top of the ranking regularly this match-up was an event. Now however we are two programs that college football fans have a short memory about.

Jerry DiPaola has an fun blog about the complains regarding the noon start.

Here we have an example of what I do when I’m bored.  I was thinking about Pitt’s history, uniforms, Pitt-PSU and all the previous doings of Pitt football that we like to discuss on here and came up with the novel idea of … talking about recruiting.

With the above discussions by Peak and Laird about the departures of players and the numbers game to get down from the current 87 (with recruits coming in) roster players down to the mandated 85 bodies I wonder not only who the next two guys to go are, but also, as they discussed in the podcast, which players from the ’16 recruiting class will be prepping at a secondary high school (like Fitzgerald, McCoy and Dion Lewis did) or will be taking a greyshirt.

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May 23, 2016

After you have watched that take a look at this slideshow Pitt put out – you get to see the details of the uniforms up close and personal.

We have been talking a lot on here lately about Pitt’s history when it comes to our football programs and our past teams.  We have certainly climbed to the top of the heap with our 1976 championship, but we also have walked in the Death Valleys of college football.  Nothing every seems to come easy for Pitt when it comes to our football program.

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May 19, 2016

Since we all don’t agree here on The Blather and we do throw down point/counter point often, I’ll chime in on this timely football uniform change subject.  Chas likes it, Justine likes it, but…

Color me unimpressed.

I don’t actually hate what I saw.  I mean I’m not literally gagging each time I look at the football uniforms – but I’m shaking my head and drinking heavily over what I see as a lack of courage on Pitt’s part to create for us an attractive, whole and strong identity.  I’m very disappointed at the bumbling Pitt did with the football uniforms more than anything else.  More on that…

Last night Pitt put on a visually and aurally dramatic “unveiling” show to introduce the Pitt athletic department’s new logos and uniforms. I am led to understand that it was a well received show and everyone seemed to have a good time.  I didn’t drive up for it so I don’t really know, but from the video below it looks well staged I suppose.

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May 18, 2016

Tonight is the night of the new uniforms for the Pitt sports teams. Yeah us!! We’ll see the old script back at the team identifier…

“A rebranding process that effectively started 19 months ago finally will reach its conclusion tonight, as Pitt formally unveils its “new” script logo, as well as updated uniforms for its 19 varsity sports.

The return of the beloved script logo, which served as the school’s primary athletic mark from 1973-1996, will be celebrated with a public fashion show at 6:30 p.m. today in the Petersen Events Center lobby. On Tuesday, ahead of the unveiling, the university announced the renaming of its Twitter and Instagram accounts.

“We are excited to make the full transition back to the script logo,” athletic director Scott Barnes said in a statement. “Not only will this move help unify our branding efforts, it also gives us an opportunity to celebrate the amazing history of Pitt Athletics. Wednesday’s event will give Panther fans an opportunity to see some impressive Pitt apparel as well as some of the other exciting improvements we currently have underway.”

This in itself isn’t isn’t really big news – Pitt started doing this willy-nilly back in 2014.  It took two years to get Nike onboard with all the teams’ gear.  Again, the colors will not change but the graphic design of the uniforms will. The public roll-out will be done formally this evening, along with a silent auction of memorabilia and will, I’m sure, make the Internets right away.

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