masthead.jpg

October 18, 2014

(This is a weekly series of articles entitled “Monday Morning Quarterback”.   I will try to post them two days after the football games are played so as to have our wilder emotions under control by then.  It will be my take on the positives and the negatives we saw happen and a chance for commenters to agree or disagree and to add their own thoughts.)

We met the Virginia Tech Hokies on the turf at Heinz Field on a rare nationally televised Thursday night game and came away with a very satisfying 21-16 win.  It was a close game and one that even to most optimistic of PITT fans had to doubts about as the 4th quarter unfolded.  The win puts us at 4-3 on the season with a 2-1 ACC conference record that is just about what we figured we’d have at this point of the season.  It is safe to say that we needed to start the second half of the season with a conference win if we want to have any chance at a Coastal Division championship.

POSITIVES

1.  Our defense, again. When you hold a team, any team, to 26 yards rushing on 21 carries (1.2 ypc) and 2 of 14 on 3rd and 4th down conversion tries you are playing excellent defense.  That is the kind of stout play that results in low scores for the other team (16 points with three FGs) and a win.

(more…)

October 3, 2014

Pitt Lands Jordan Whitehead

Filed under: Chryst,Football,Recruiting — Justin @ 1:53 pm

Pitt just landed what is at worst the second biggest commitment of the Chryst era in Jordan Whitehead. The four star cornerback from Central Valley (Monaca) chose Pitt over Ohio State, Penn State, and West Virginia. Whitehead is rumored to will be enrolling in January and could push for a starting position as a freshman. Also important is that Whitehead ends the run of bad luck in Beaver County for Pitt.

Celebrate the victory today and hope for another tomorrow, Pitt fans.

*Quick edit, the early enroll isn’t a rumor now, it’s confirmed.

September 23, 2014

(Note:  For some time I’ve been wanting to do a separate piece on Chad Voytik, his recruitment and what he was like in the camps and practices leading up to his winning the starting job.  This is that article and I’ll remind readers that if what I write isn’t a solid fact like a statistic or a direct quote then it is my opinion.   That said, here are Voytik’s current statistics:  He has started all four games and has a 3-1 record; He’s passed 48 completions in 79 attempts (60.8%) for 534 total yards and 133.5 ypg along with 5 TDs & 3 INTs for a 130.83 QB efficiency rating.)

 Now is the time, with four games into the 2014 regular season behind us, that we should take a minute to review the question marks we had going into this year and we all felt that QB play was the biggest of those.  Let’s look at the background and history that brought Voytik to his starting position at PITT and while we do that let’s also remember that Voytik has been in the program for over two years and is a first year starter at QB.

After attending some of the 2012 spring practices, and watching Voytik in practices and scrimmages since then, I’ve paid close attention to his play and skills because it wasn’t too hard to figure out that he would be our starting QB  sooner or later.  Sunseri was going into his last season at PITT back in ’12 and we had Trey Anderson as the only other valid QB on the roster for ’13.  Tom Savage wasn’t on PITT’s radar screen yet so the field was open for Voytik to fleet to being a rsFR starter in ‘13.

(more…)

September 12, 2014

(Note: This is a follow up article to the topic of discussion we all have been having about James Conner playing on defense)

Scarf  In a separate post’s comment section  our long-time commenter Wbb and I have been bandying back and forth about the coaching staff’s experiment of planning to play SO James Conner at Defensive End at certain times this season.   This has been an interesting and contested topic of conversation since the 2014 Spring Practices when the move was semi-formalized and talked about publicly.  We PITT fans will remember that Conner played a few downs on defense during the Bowling Green bowl game where he got in but had no tackles.  Let’s look at where the staff stands on that now and what we might see in the future.

In a nutshell the staff’s intent of having Conner play DE was to insert him on defense during situation specific needs, mostly 3rd down passing plays, where he could use his size (6’2″ & 250 lbs), his speed (4.4) and his strength to rush the QB.  This isn’t that farfetched as Conner played DE very well while at McDowell High School in Erie, PA.  Supposedly he was recruited by PITT to play that DE position, although I don’t believe that.  Just because a recruiting site labels a player “DE” doesn’t mean that’s what he is.

The fact that Conner ran for 1,680 yards and 21 touchdowns on 155 carries, an impressive 10.8 yards per carry, his senior year at McDowell was the factor in Chryst’s decision to place Connor at RB as soon as Conner set foot on campus and to keep him there in the backfield all of last season.   Personally, I think Conner was always targeted to be Chryst’s ‘Big Back’, like those he had at Wisconsin, all along.

(more…)

September 11, 2014

On Saturday, September 13th our PITT Panthers will take on the FIU Golden Panthers on their home turf in Miami, FL at FIU Stadium (20K seating).   FIU, a university with 37,475 students, is in Conference USA (CUSA) and has a 1-1 record at this point in the season.  They lost their opener to Bethune-Cookman 14-12 then went on to beat a NEC member school in Wagner University by a score of 34-3.  FIU is coached by an old NFL head coach Ron Turner who took over from Mario Cristobal a year ago.  In Turner’s first season with FIU they posted a 1-11 record and just missed getting into a bowl game.

The Golden Panthers are returning 10 starters on offense and seven on defense. They are coming off a poor 1-11 year in 2013 where their losses were by an average score of 37-10!  Phil Steel’s forecast for them is four wins and eight losses and you can see that they have a way to go to be competitive at this level of college ball.

So far this season FIU looks like a team with two identities, a poor offensive team with a solid defense to go along with it.  On defense they are ranked pretty well nationally with: 6th in Scoring defense (8.5 ppg); 9th in total defense; 17th in passing defense (134.5 ypg) and 26th in rushing defense (91 ypg).  That is some fine defensive play even considering the level of competition they had.

(more…)

September 6, 2014

First off, what a fun game to watch!  Things clicked on both offense and defense and mistakes were kept to a minimum.  That is the recipe for winning football games and that is just what we have seen in our two games so far. The fact that last night it happened against a higher caliber team than last week’s opponent is cause for a bit of relief also.

ON OFFENSE

Right off the top of my head I have to acknowledge the fantastic job the offensive line played last night.  They opened up space at the line of scrimmage for Conner to get through so that he could bull his way around in the second level. They protected Voytik very well giving up zero sacks and gave the young QB some time to make decisions on passing plays.

Since an offense is really only made up of two things, running and passing, that good work they did was critical.  Plus they did it with injuries and shuffling of players.  The fact that in their third year Chryst and Hueber have big, talented bodies to plug-n-play on the line shows me all I need to know about Chryst’s OL recruiting.   In just two full recruiting seasons he’s brought in more OL talent than I can remember in a long time.

(more…)

September 3, 2014

Honors And More O-Line

Filed under: Football,Players,Recruiting — Chas @ 7:15 am

He only played in the first 21 minutes of the game, but it was enough for James Conner to be named the ACC Offensive Player of the Week. 14 carries for 153 yards and 4 TDs will do that. Though, I am kind of surprised Tyler Murphy of BC didn’t get it. Or FSU’s Jameis Winston — out of reflex.

I did not know the ACC also did an Offensive Lineman of the week, but that went to senior OG Matt Rotheram. The O-line made sure that Pitt had 0 runs for a loss and there was not a sack of Chad Voytik.

(more…)

August 28, 2014

Blue Hens In-Depth

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s),Players,Recruiting — Reed @ 6:02 am

Here’s a bit more background on our first opponent of the 2014 season… the DELAWARE BLUE HENS!!!!

Delaware is a  member of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) which is made up of smaller schools located on the eastern seaboard from Massachusetts to South Carolina.  Included in that list is William and Mary who PITT used to play sometimes back when I was in school in the mid-‘70s.  Great campus there BTW – right in Colonial Williamsburg.

As stated earlier PITT is 9-0 against teams in the CAA so we really shouldn’t have much of a problem with Delaware, but one never knows.  According to the Blue Hens ESPN site the football team went 7-5 on the season and 4-4 in conference.   In their only out of conference ‘big’ game they were beaten by the Midshipmen of the Naval Academy (Navy) 51-7.  Navy was 9-4 last season so factor that in I guess.

Here are last season’s statistics breaking down the details of the season.  It looks like they could run the ball well with a 4.8 ypc and their passing game was impressive with a 62% completion rate, 240 ypg and 27 TDs.  Their starting QB, SR Trent Hurley, played in 10 games last year, completed 64% of his passes for 2207 yds and had 22 TDs to seven INTs.  He also ran the ball 62 times and if you deduct the sack yardage against him he ran for 4.3 ypc which isn’t bad.  It’s something for the defense to think about anyway.

(more…)

August 27, 2014

Do you want to know how some of that ACC money is being spent and what dividends we’ll get out of spending it?  Look no further than the growing PITT walk-on program.  Walk-ons are an interesting breed with interesting rules attached to them.

There are two different types of walk-on players; the preferred walk-on and the regular walk-on.

The Preferred Walk-on is usually contacted by the school because they want the kid on standby for whatever reason, maybe because they know a player is leaving school and they want to have the preferred walk-on in place.

But he isn’t offered a scholarship directly out of high school as are regular recruits.  They are given a promise that ‘at some time’ during the kid’s first training camp a spot on the roster will become available in the fall.  Enter the practice of many coaches not inviting back players who are entering their fifth year of eligibility or targeting players they want off the roster for any reason.  Cutting them loose allows those preferred walk-ons’ scholarships to magically appear if the staff wants to offer.

This allows the players a solid opportunity to stay on the roster, practice every day with the team thus staying in the staff’s awareness and also possibly get to travel to away games.  It is a good first step to a scholarship if they can make the grade and prove they are worth the risk.

(more…)

August 24, 2014

Now that we are at the halfway mark of Paul Chryst’s contract to be the head football coach at PITT and entering his third season in that position, it is a good point in time to step back and take a semi-detached look at where the football program was, is now and what the future looks like.

There is no real need to get into the details, weeds, swamp or muck about what has transpired at PITT after the 2009 season.  We PITT fans know the history like the back of our hand.  But, for clarity it is important to understand the situation PITT was in, why we were in it and what Chryst stepped into as his first job as a head coach.

The upshot is that when PITT offered Chryst the head job we had just run through four different ‘real’ HCs in the 13 month period after Dave Wannstedt was fired (the slowest firing in the history of football by the way).  Four head coaches in a bit over one year might have been a Guinness World Record.  Granted a couple of those HCs were blips on the radar; Mike Haywood didn’t even have time to buy any PITT gear before he was fired and Todd Graham, he of the “High Octane” offense, lasted one season before he pulled chocks and left in the dead of night. Trey Anderson said it best with this quote “I take a nap for 2 hours; wake up to find out my head coach is gone.”

We can debate forever the wisdom of firing Wannstedt after his run as the most successful coach in the last 25 years.  Then again PITT has a track record of jettisoning and/or not fighting to keep successful head coaches.  The decision making in dealing  with Jackie Sherrill right up through Walt Harris and ending with Dave Wannstedt are examples of PITT’s administration acting in ways some fans don’t understand or agree with.  Whether it isn’t offering a truly competitive salary (Sherrill) or firing for cause including issues external to football itself (Harris and Wannstedt), PITT has danced to the beat of its own drum.

Those decisions angered PITT fans royally when they happened but that antagonism has been tamped down now that we are able to look at them with some distance in our rear view mirror, you know – the rear view mirror you have with the nine national championship mini-trophies dangling from it.

(more…)

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…)

Powered by WordPress © PittBlather.com