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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
It is a good read and thought provoking but I wonder if Chris took a detailed look at what our geographical recruiting ‘gets’ have been over the last five years. After reading his article I started to wonder if indeed it was more important to spread out Pitt’s recruiting targets or to concentrate on landing more of the higher quality local (meaning Tri-State area) high school players.
Here is our “Out Of Area” (OOA) recruiting over the last six years. I used the years 2011 until 2016 to survey because that was when we had Steve Pederson as our athletic director for most of the years and had lower limits on our recruiting budget.
OOA / %
Key OOA Recruits
13 / 62%
FL (3), TX (3), MD, DC, TN, OK, NY, AL
Mosley-Smith, Jones, Steve Williams
6 / 40%
WI, NY, MD, WA (2), TN
Roberts, Lewis, Voytik
9 / 33%
NY (2), WI (2), HI, MI, NJ, MD
Ibrahim, Blewitt, Officer, Taleni, Weah
10 / 43%
MI (2), NY (2), FL, IL, DE, CT, VA, NJ
Ollison, Folston, O’Neill, Maddox, Hayes
5 / 33%
CA, TX, NJ, DE, FL
Brightwell, Edwards, M. Henderson, Q. Henderson
12 / 50%
FL (4), NJ (2), NY (2), VA,(2), IL, NC,
Watts, Pine, Ffrench, Campbell, Miller, Camp
However, getting distant players isn’t the end all be all to success at Pitt as we have seen the results of those recruits actually play out on the field, but sometimes it does help. If you look at the 2011 recruiting class of Todd Graham’s and then look at where they are now there are few still with the team. Out of the 13 players from far away 10 of those didn’t last at least four years in the program.
There were a few reasons for this and on was that because Graham was stuck with a decimated class after Wannstedt was fired he went after marginal players who he was recruiting during his latter years at Tulsa. Regardless – a 77% attrition rate is horrendous. Granted many of them were purged when Graham left, then Chryst was hired with the mandate from the administration to get rid of those dead weight and marginal players.
(When I say lighter I mean from the last FB article)
Here is Chris Peak’s latest podcast from the Trib-Review that he recorded last night and posted today. There is always something interesting in these podcasts and I find myself constantly rewinding to make sure I get exactly what he’s saying.
Here he (tries to) list his Top five players on the Pitt roster going into the fall camp. He mentions how some players work out right away; SO S Jordan Whitehead for example, and some others take a year or two to develop.
Surprisingly he mentions 3* recruit WR Aaron Matthews as someone who was overlooked by fan’s expectations of who will make an early impact this season as a true FR… then says Matthews may not play this year (??). That reference is in context to WR Juwann Winfree bagging out at the last moment. Remember the Winfree of the suspension at Maryland, then over to CC, then pledged to Pitt, then off to Colorado?
But Peak feels that true FR WRs Flowers and Ffrench (sounds like good ’cause and effect’ on a date, eh?) are more likely to see playing time this season than any other FR WRs. He also mentions (now) SO WRs Quadree Henderson and Tre Tipton getting some PT early on last season and, in Henderson’s case at least, doing pretty well through the year. Even though Henderson contributed mostly on Special Teams he showed the speed and talent which could push him up the depth chart at WR.
Well, if Dan Marino demands it then it should happen. He wants the Pitt-PSU series to resume (from the Trib):
“Why wouldn’t Penn State want to play us?” Marino said Wednesday. “To me, it would make sense.”
Pitt and Penn State will renew their storied rivalry over the next four seasons, starting Sept. 10 at Heinz Field. Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes said last year that Penn State officials have shown no willingness to extend the series beyond 2019. The teams haven’t met since 2000.
But Marino knows a way to put the series in serious jeopardy.
“We just have to beat them the next four years, and they definitely won’t renew it,” Marino said.
Here are two podcasts by Chris Peak of Rivals.
The first which was recorded on May 5th is about Twitter and Tweets and how they can bite people in the ass.
Tyler Boyd wasn’t selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, but he went to sleep Thursday comfortable and confident his NFL career will get started Friday.
Boyd was joined by family, friends and teammates in a crowded suite at the Omni William Penn, Downtown. Among those seated with him while he watched the draft was former Clairton coach Tom Nola, ex-Pitt teammates Terrish Webb and Titus Howard, and Pitt running back James Conner.
When Boyd’s name wasn’t called among the 31 picks in the first round, he took the disappointment with a quiet shrug.
“It doesn’t matter what team picks me or what round I go,” he said. “I just know I’m going to take full advantage of the opportunity. I just want the opportunity to see my name come across that screen.
“I’m just trying to stay as calm as possible. I have anxiety in me, believe it or not. If not today, I’m going to do the same thing (Friday).”
Beyond Boyd, tight end J.P. Holtz and cornerback Lafayette Pitts figure to be the next most likely candidates to hear their names called this weekend, though it’s likely one or both will have to wait to try to catch on with a team as an undrafted free agent.
Holtz played in all 52 games over his four-year career, starting 48. He said NFL teams have approached him about possibly switching to fullback and he has no objections.
“I’m willing to do whatever I need to do to make a team,” he said after pro day.
Pitts also didn’t miss a game the past four years and started 51. According to Brandt, he clocked in at 4.44 seconds at Pitt’s pro day and should have plenty of offers from teams after this weekend if he isn’t selected.
If Boyd is the only Panthers player chosen, it would mark the second consecutive year Pitt had just one player chosen. Offensive lineman T.J. Clemmings was the only one to go a year ago. Pitt had three players chosen in 2014, which broke a three-year streak of having no draftees.
Shortly after a video of the segment appeared on DeGeneres’ website and on TribLive.com, Conner began receiving interview requests through Erie videographer and family friend Mike Gallagher. Reporters called from Kansas City, Denver and Jacksonville, Gallagher said.
“I had one message from a guy who wants to pitch him to Campbell’s Soup,” Gallagher said. “I responded I need him to beat Penn State first.” The NCAA does not permit college athletes to do endorsements.
DeGeneres’ producers taped an interview with Conner in Pittsburgh several days before his appearance in which he said doctors told him the cure rate for his disease is 85 to 90 percent.
“That’s more than enough for me,” he told DeGeneres. “I’d be good if you said 2 percent. It’s on. Let’s go.”
Here is the video, have a handkerchief handy for the tears…
He’s not going to have an easy time of it there if he wants to grab that starting position right off the bat but it appears to be a better situation for him to get playing time than had he stayed at Pitt.
I wrote two weeks ago about the Colonels (Colonel = Eagle; get it?) and their returning starting QB Bennie Coney who has played well there. However, it wasn’t such great play that he can’t be sat down (we heard that before on here) , but also isn’t a situation where Voytik is going to waltz in and automatically get the starting job handed to him as if there was no incumbent in that position at all.
Coney had decent stats at E. Kentucky with 225 completions in 367 attempts (61.3%) for 2471 yards. He also had a very good 23 TDs to 8 INTs ratio that showed he didn’t turn the ball over a lot. That’s about a 10:1 Completion to TD ratio and is very good. His overall QB rating was 134 and that’s OK too.
Well, you know the players had fun out there. I think the fans did too – as long as you kept the realization that is was a glorified scrimmage foremost in your mind.
As we talked about on here earlier, the way the Captains conducted the draft we fans were never going to see a full 1st team out there so neither the Blue team nor the Gold team was anything like what we’ll see going into or coming out of fall camp.
But it was a beautiful day for Pitt football and I have to say to anyone who professes to be a big fan and then decides that there are “better things to do than watch a glorified scrimmage” then too bad for you as you missed out on a great Saturday afternoon of football and having a blast with other Pitt fans.
Watch this and then we’ll address some points that I took away from the scrimmage…
The local media and we here on the Blather have been in some serious discussions about our current QB corps. The reason for that is that coming out of spring practices there is some real trepidation about who will be the back-up QB in case starter Nate Peterman goes down with an injury.
The main questions seem to be “Can Pitt recruit good quarterbacks?” and the answer is… it depends.
That’s a loaded question and really has two ways to be answered; first is can we land highly rated QB recruits and second, can we get our recruited QBs to play at the expected level or even exceed that?
These discussions led me to want to review the last 15 years of our QBs, both those we recruited and those we placed on the roster via transferring in from another program. So, I did some digging and came up with the table below.
Before you get too deep into it here are some notes on it. The ‘Year” is the recruiting class. The numbers in parentheses are the highest national recruit ranking for the QB position the player received – I used the higher of two if the player was ranked by both Rivals and Scouts.