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May 22, 2016

I was trying to decide what I wanted to put up on a rainy Sunday afternoon (at least rainy here in MD) and saw a great Sports Illustrated article written in Oct 1962 by a previous Pitt Chancellor, Dr. Edward Litchfield, about the national debate if Grant-In Aids (athletic scholarships) were a good thing to have on college campuses.

This intro below is a personal bit about why this article strikes my fancy.  The article itself is the other audio bar.

Here is the body of the article – excuse the small mistakes if you will, I’m not a professional at this.  I especially like the contrasts between Litchfield’s descriptions of Pitt athletics then and today’s state of college football.  There are some great points made here – especially some timeless ones that hold true today.

Hope you enjoy it!

“Camel Driver” – try putting that on a kid today!  I also love that we stole almost a whole opposing team –

Far back in 1903, for example, out-university felt mortified to have been defeated two straight years by the football team of little Geneva College. Football in those days seldom made much money at the box office but many colleges recruited passionately, simply because they found defeat unbearable. In the wake of our losses to Geneva, corrective action was deemed imperative and there seemed only one surefire way of seeing to it that we beat Geneva the next year. We took it.

We lured to our campus most of the Geneva players and the following season, 1904, defeated Geneva 30-0. During the balance of the decade Pitt football teams lost only 13 of 71 games. Now what sort of boys were they, do you suppose, that could be proselyted so frivolously? Because many of them have passed on, we were able to trace only 17. Of that number, four were physicians, five dentists, two attorneys and one a Ph.D.

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May 21, 2016

Here is the Peak’s PantherLair podcast on the Trib’s website – he talks about the uniform roll-out and other things.  But specifically about what a ringing success the whole day was for Pitt athletics – from social media to returning players to the event itself in the evening.  He also talks about how the Pirates don’t give a crap about Pitt at all… as we read in Chas’ piece earlier.

He also addresses the current facilities improvements and what was done by previous FB HCs.  I like the fact that this administration is dedicated to long range upgrades and it’s starting to come to fruition.

(By the way – remember what Peak says here about Narduzzi’s using comparisons to other football programs when asking fans and boosters for $$$ to renovate the facility’s meeting rooms, weight rooms, etc… Pitt football does not exist in a vacuum and we have to play catch up to keep up with programs that have forged ahead of where we are now when you read the last part of this article.)

Chris Logue of Pitt Nation Sports always has interesting articles and is a damn good wordsmith. Here he writes about the QBs, or not, of the future for Pitt.

“Despite the success from a Pittsburgh standout and the myriad of congratulations the star (Phil Jurkovec) received after his commitment, it seemed like a dumpster-fire moment on Twitter from “Pitt-faithful.” Oddly enough, mostly aimed at Pat Narduzzi’s immediate “inability to recruit” after an incredible wrap to his 2016 class and the praises that sealed that envelope. Phil Jurkovec

The story that remains in the middle of the announcement, for myself at least, is everyone seems to have forgotten about Thomas MacVittie, a prized steal for Narduzzi last season.

To state that MacVittie did not produce the same attention through his senior season as Jurkovec had through just his sophomore season is excruciatingly obvious. But, the two may be more similar on the field than you may think.

Its a good read and should bring some of us back from the brink.

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May 15, 2016

We did an article about this last year but here is a follow-up piece by Sam Werner of the Post-Gazette addressing Pitt’s new athletic logo that is to be unveiled on Wednesday (no big surprise that it is the Script PITT from the 1980s) and how it does NOT represent the University as a whole…  a visual reminder here:

Pitt TE coach tweets photoshopped Swimsuit Issue cover

From Werner’s article:

“If the athletic department is the front porch, then the Pitt script logo, set to be re-introduced as the school’s primary athletic mark at a Petersen Events Center unveiling Wednesday, is a sign on the front of the house.

Often times, though, that sign may not represent every room in the house.

Like Pitt, many universities across the country have developed distinct university logos separate from their athletic marks, as they try to strike a balance between the visibility athletics can provide and the academic pursuits of the greater institution.

“Most of the time, the rationale is that, look, we have two different products here,” said Antonio Williams, a sport and fitness brand researcher and assistant professor at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind. “We don’t necessarily want to take away the academic rigor and prestige from the university side by associating with athletics. There may be certain liabilities by associating yourself with athletics.”

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May 4, 2016

The Cardiac Hill blog is running a “Bracket of Pitt” series that has  ‘all things Pitt” subjects listed much like we see during the college basketball NCAA tournaments.  Here is how they describe what they are going to do:

“The Cardiac Hill Podcast has a new segment; the Bracket of Pitt. It’s a 64-item bracket of everything Pitt. People, places, things, etc., basically if it has anything to do with the University of Pittsburgh, it’s in. I’ll be hosting the tournament primarily with Jim Hammett of Cardiac Hill. We’ll post the first episode here (and on SoundCloud) tomorrow with me & Jim discussing the bracket and you can vote for the matchups @CoreyECohen on Twitter; one vote per person. Each week we’ll put out a new episode discussing your results and advance the bracket accordingly! Let’s make some May Madness here at Cardiac Hill, we can’t wait to debut the #BracketOfPitt!”

This sounds like an original and fun idea and will fill up some of the Pitt sports dead time from now until the football Fall Camp opens up in early August.  Here is what the bracket looks like as a snapshot but click on this link to see the details.

Cardiac resized

Guess The Pitt Blather didn’t make the cut.

September 1, 2015

It’s Tuesday and we have to get off our collective asses and figure out where we are going to meet so we can put faces to internet handles/names…. and for you guys to buy me many drinks.

Here is what I see our options are:

Our prospective waitstaff

Our prospective waitstaff

Tilted Kilt

353 N SHORE DR
PITTSBURGH, PA 15212

 Northshore RiverPros: Women servers almost unclothed (see above); close to Heinz

Cons: Small side area to overflow into – but it is covered in case of rain.

Tilted Kilt Bar

Tilted Kilt Bar

Bettis Bar and Grill

393 N SHORE DR
PITTSBURGH, PA 15212
(412) 224-6287

Pros: Has a big outdoor area that we can all meet in if the main bar is too crowded; short walk to Heinz.

Cons; Gets very crowded

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August 4, 2012

Another Tradition Dies in Oakland

Filed under: The 'Burgh — Chas @ 7:47 am

Ah, Bates Street. Home to 3 am staggers, stumbles and vomit. That stretch of impoverished student housing and road conditions that necessitated avoidance if at all possible. Perpetually under some form of rebuilding that never seems to finish

What’s that? The City of Pittsburgh did what to it?

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July 9, 2012

Gateway’s Looming Self-Destruct

Filed under: Football,The 'Burgh — Chas @ 8:20 am

I didn’t grow up in Western Pennsylvania. The WPIAL doesn’t hold any special meaning for me, other than being a vital part of Pitt recruiting. So I don’t stay up on all the intrigue and battles over transfers within the league. I would have no idea who coaches which teams if someone asked. But from the very beginning of this blog, there has been one exception. One coach and one program that even I kept some glimmer of awareness. Gateway and Terry Smith.

Smith and Gateway were very successful on the field. More importantly to this site, he would regularly turn out not just Division 1 recruits, but highly sought D-1 recruits. And while Smith was a former Penn State wide receiver, he was always looking out for his own players interests. Not trying to steer them to PSU or away from Pitt.

So to see tweet  late yesterday night that Smith could be fired from Gateway was a stunner.

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July 7, 2012

More Lot Shrinkage

Filed under: Football,The 'Burgh — Chas @ 9:12 am

A post over on Cardiac Hill points out that within a few years, surface lot parking for Pitt games will once more shrink. Unfortunately, this has always been the plan since the whole idea was more development on the North Shore.

It sucks. I get the economics of it. Between the stadiums and casino, there has always been this plan to create more buildings in the area. Try to form mixes of entertainment/restaurant venues with some new office space. Personally, I’m not sold on the economic model, and all too often all these development projects do is shift entertainment money from one area of the city to another. But I digress.

The parking garages don’t let you grill — even on the roof. Urban tailgating has always been a bit more of a challenge, but it’s becoming more difficult in the ‘Burgh.

The goal is clearly to push fans coming to sporting events to go to the local bars and restaurants rather than bring their own stuff and tailgate. The problem is that standing or if you get to a place early enough, sitting, in a local bar or restaurant is not the same (to say nothing of the cost).

It’s even worse when you are bringing your kids with you. In a parking lot, you can keep the kids a little more entertained. It’s a little less structured. They can run around. Do stuff, and still let you still have a beer and some conversation. I’m sorry, I’m not bringing my 10-year old daughter into the Tilted Kilt before the game.

That means for families especially, but for an increasing number of people, the ongoing shrinkage of room to tailgate is encouraging people to come as close to the starting time as possible or just bag the game and stay home.

Unfortunately, the only way this trend will reverse is when it reaches a point where Steeler fans reach a point where they start skipping the early arrival tailgating because of the hassle and cost.

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December 15, 2011

For oh, so many reasons.

The obvious is that he will manage to be the 4th Pitt football head coach in just the last 12 months. Yeah, yeah, 62 years for 2 PSU coaches or whatever.

That’s not why the next coach has it so bad.

The fan base is at an all time low in terms of  just coping. Expectations are low, and I’m willing to bet so are the willingness to hear any excuses.

All that talk about how Pitt is now a basketball school and blaming it on the move to Heinz Field and no on-campus stadium. Bull.

It’s about the W-L.

There’s a belief. There’s hope. There’s an expectation with Pitt basketball of success. When was the last time you truly felt that about Pitt football? Not just for the season, but the next few years? I mean, you could look back on the previous couple and then look ahead and say, “yeah, it’s happening.” Instead, it’s been, “this year could be the breakthrough to start something… I hope.”

Coming into 2011, I thought Todd Graham was going to have a rough time if Pitt didn’t win right away. Partially because of the way he pushed and promoted high expectations. But because the media wasn’t going to play as nice as they did with Wannstedt at first.

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December 5, 2011

This is the second challenge from Volvo for the Biggest Fan in the Big East. I got a lot of great feedback when I posed the topic last week. The losses of so many old haunts had me step out on the porch and pour one out for the collective losses. The Decade, Calicos, Zelda’s, CJ’s, Thirsty’s, Upstage, Electric Banana, Syria Mosque, Graffiti, and so many  others — all gone.

When my wife and I were still dating, we took a trip to Pittsburgh for a weekend. A friend was graduating from law school, and there was already plenty of reminiscing happening with my friends. As we were driving around on the second day there, I was pointing out another place — along with an anecdote of why I mentioned it — she asked me, “Why do all of these stories start with, ‘One night we were so…’?”

“Um, just the good ones,” was the only response I could offer.

And she still married me.

Here’s the question as a refresher.

Pick 5 or more things that you have to do when you return to you’re Alma Mater (places to see, best bars, best food, cool places on campus etc.).

The trick is “have” to do versus time to do. There’s only so many places you can go to have a bite or get a drink in a day — or even two. Still, when I have a chance to be in Oakland for a little while there are certain things I feel that must be done or that I get ticked that I missed a chance to do.

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November 10, 2009

Pittsburgh Mayor Ravenstahl has apparently joined in the whole national recognition for Pitt thing, by declaring Friday “Turn it blue day.”

The Panthers, ranked as high as No. 8 in the country, will face the Fighting Irish in front of a soldout crowd and national ABC television audience. Pittsburghers are encouraged to wear their Pitt Blue on Friday to get ready for the game.

Fans should also wear their Pitt Blue to Heinz Field Saturday night as Pitt and Pittsburgh are showcased to the rest of the country.

“This weekend, let’s `Turn it Blue’ and show our support for our own hometown team as they take on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame,” Ravenstahl said. “We’ll have the eyes of the nation watching us, and I’m confident that with the talent we have this season and with the support of Pitt fans, our team will be successful. Go Pitt!”

What a sweet gesture. I’m sure that this more than makes up for the dickish attempt by the Mayor — after winning reelection — to impose a 1% tuition tax on college students in Pittsburgh to cover the budget shortfall. I’m sure the students will just embrace him now.

I’m guessing Ravenstahl won’t be making a public appearance at the game.

May 19, 2009

It is disturbingly stark at the moment. Any story regarding Pitt basketball is filled with puffery and positive vibes. Pitt football stories at this point, well just a little less upbeat.

Trying to get some things caught up.

Coach Dixon gets some more love from his time in NYC.

Dixon wants more. He wants to see Pittsburgh accomplish what Connecticut did. And he believes everything is in place to make that happen.

“The one thing we haven’t done that the elite programs have is win a national championship,” Dixon said Wednesday at Garden, where he was the featured speaker at the Frank McGuire Annual Coaches Seminar. “We’re at the point now where kids like to say they’re being recruited by Pittsburgh.”

According to Scout.com, Pitt ended up with the 14th best recruiting class in the country and 3d best in the Big East behind Villanova and UConn.

Shocking to learn that UConn skimps on academic compliance staff. Pitt has the largest compliance dept in the Big East.

Redshirting freshman Dwight Miller talks to his hometown newspaper in the Bahamas about his first year.

Journal: In terms of your skills, since leaving The Bahamas what areas have you improved mostly?

Miller: I think I have improved on my on the court IQ and I know more about what is gong on during the game and what I need to do to help my team. I have also been working a lot on my outside game because of the system we play at Pitt. It is one based around forwards and I most likely will be playing the four (power forward) that would require me to be able to play inside and outside.

Journal: Do you think you will be in the starting line up this year or would you be willing to come off the bench?

Miller: I feel pretty confident that I would be in the starting line-up, but then nothing is guaranteed. You have to go and work for it. We lost four starters this year, so pretty much that’s four open spots to be filled and you just have to go in there and play hard for the spot.

He’s got a lot of work ahead of him to have a shot at starting. He’s going to get minutes, but starting still seems like a stretch.

Meanwhile, Pitt’s solitary recruit for 2010 might spend a year of prep school fairly close to Pitt.

Epps will be 19 in August and too old to play his senior year in New Jersey. He is seriously considering attending Kiski School, a prep school in Saltsburg near Indiana.

Anthony Cheatham, recently hired as Kiski School’s new basketball coach, said “there is a strong chance” Epps will enroll at Kiski. Cheatham said Epps is expected to visit the school tomorrow, along with Shaquille Thomas, a standout 6-6 junior forward at Mountain State Academy in Beckley, W.Va. Both Epps and Thomas are ranked among the top 100 players in the country for 2010.

Of course the article also says that Kiski doesn’t do scholarships (only financial aid) and costs around 36K for a year. So, that could be a factor.

A little love towards the local Pittsburgh hoops scene on the upswing.

Part of the reason for that is in fact the success of Pitt basketball, which has helped raise the sport’s profile in the city. DeJuan Blair was the team’s first homegrown star in 20 years. And his high school teammate D.J. Kennedy has been a two-year started at St. John’s.

But you’ve probably never heard of another real driving force behind what I hope is a budding hoops renaissance in Pittsburgh: Daryn Freedman, who two years ago brought the venerable Hoop Mountain National Exposure Basketball Camps to town and also began running the Basketball Stars of America AAU program.

Freedman, a disciple of John Calipari’s, spent nine years as a Division 1 Assistant at UMass, University of Memphis, Northeastern and Duquesne, and four years working in the NBA with the New Jersey Nets and Philadelphia 76ers. Now he is back in Pittsburgh running camps and building the city’s grassroots AAU program, which had been seriously lacking. His NCAA experience also provides him with a network of college basketball coaches around the country, giving his players a higher recruiting visibility as well as access to better instruction.

No mention of J.O. Stright and his AAU team. I’m guessing there might be some, uh, friction between them.

April 29, 2009

A strong finish by Talib Zanna to his season and his subsequent performance in senior all-star games has boosted him into Scout.com’s final top-100 rankings. He goes from unranked to #63 and 4-stars. Dante Taylor finished the rankings at #16.

Meanwhile, the still too early list of top-25 teams has an update by Andy Katz. He drops Pitt in at #24.

The Panthers re-emerge in the rankings despite losing the top three scorers/leaders off their Elite Eight team, Sam Young, DeJuan Blair and Levance Fields. The rotation of four guards — Jermaine Dixon, Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown — should be a tough matchup in the Big East. The key will be how quickly newcomers up front — namely top-five power forward Dante Taylor — develop into productive posts.

Locally, the Hill District rec center reopened with much hoopla.

While part of the ceremony was dedicated to the reopening of the center, a major reason for the gathered crowd was the “celebration of legends” ceremony, which included the unveiling of a banner commemorating each honored individual’s high school jersey.

Among the many “legends” honored were former Pitt stars Darrelle Porter, Sam Clancy and DeJuan Blair as well as all-time Pittsburgh greats such as the late Robert “Jeep” Kelley, Petey Gibson, Major Harris, Warner Macklin, Karen Hall, Maurice Lucas and Darrick Suber.

In all, 18 people were honored and will have their banners hanging in the newly remodeled gym forever.

“I’m only 19. I don’t think I am old enough to be a legend,” joked Blair, who was one of three of the honorees who spoke to the crowd.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, who was the guest speaker, said it was an honor to be a part of the program, especially since he has heard so much about the history of Pittsburgh basketball and all of the legends, and that this gave him a chance to meet some of them.

“I had met some of these guys before,” Dixon said. “I always get frustrated when I hear stories about what it used to be around here in terms of basketball because, as the Pitt coach, I wish it still was. But I think down the road here it can be a great place for basketball once again, and DeJuan is a guy who could very well be looked at down the road as the one who got it back started again.

“I had no idea all of these guys were going to be here. This was just something special. And like I said, I’m just humbled that they’d ask me to be a part of it.”

The Ammon Community Center was closed since 2004. It cost some $600K to reopen.

Here’s a pretty good interview with DeJuan Blair. Good news, it appears he actually finished his semester at Pitt.

Jonathan Givony: A couple weeks ago, when you declared for the draft and were asked to explain why you’re not just testing the waters, you said something along the lines of, “I’m an internet freak, I go on all the draft boards, nobody’s got me going in the second round, that’s almost a guarantee for me. Were you being serious with that comment?

DeJuan Blair: No, that was just, there was a little hostility coming from the crowd, there was a lot of tears watering up. If you were there, everybody laughed, so it was kind of a little joke. I actually don’t go on the internet. I was told that question was going to come up, I shouldn’t have said it, but I was just trying to liven up the room a little bit.

Jonathan Givony: What’s the best thing that you learned in your two years playing for Jamie Dixon?

DeJuan Blair: To be coachable. To be coachable and listen. If you call him and ask him, you know, and to be respectful also. He taught me a lot of stuff on the court about adapting to college, being respectful and coachable, because NBA coaches will be on you, just like he do, you just gotta learn to deal with it like you deal with everybody. He taught me a lot.

Jonathan Givony: What kind of NBA player is Sam Young is going to be?

DeJuan Blair: I don’t know, he’s going to be a tricky NBA player. You don’t know until Sam starts playing, you never know. He’s a workaholic, but you never know what type of a player he’s going to be, probably an excellent player, but you don’t know.

September 11, 2008

Loosened Local Scribes

Filed under: Fishwrap,Football,Media,The 'Burgh — Chas @ 12:13 pm

You know what I like about the Q&A with Paul Zeise of the P-G and the blog/reporter’s notebook of Kevein Gorman of the Trib.? They are the places where you get a better sense of their opinions on things and where their biases are. Bias is not inherently bad. It is unavoidable. We all have it, from our experiences, life and everything else. Reporters pretending they can go into some sort of hypnotic, Robert Heinlein “fair witness” state is self-deluding.

Gorman’s post from the other day could be considered dumping the notebook. Just getting all the extra notes and thoughts from the past week plus out at one time. Lots of good stuff.

I’ve been hard on the defense, because I just haven’t seen what I expected from them. Also, with the Wannstedt approach to games, the defense has to be great for Pitt to win. Gorman also saw the defense as less than stellar so far.

Some signs that Pitt’s defense wasn’t all that impressive:

Buffalo’s 15-play, 73-yard scoring drive that spanned six minutes, 54 seconds and gave the Bulls a 6-0 lead with 1:59 remaining in the first quarter was its longest scoring drive since a 16-play, 80-yard drive against Miami last season. That’s Miami of Ohio, not Florida.

Buffalo tailback James Starks, whom Wannstedt said might be the best back the Panthers face this season, finished with 97 rushing yards on 20 carries (or 4 yards more than McCoy on the same number of attempts). It was the highest rushing total by Starks against a BCS opponent. His previous high was 66 yards at Auburn.

And the week before versus BGSU, the Falcon offense was 4-4 in the redzone. There are issues, and it can’t all be pinned on injuries at linebacker. Eric Thatcher comes in for some direct criticism.

He also makes an interesting observation on Wannstedt.

“…We didn’t sustain for 60 minutes. The second game, we did. That was the theme all week in practice. I put together a few gimmick things for them and did some things during the week to really try to illustrate and emphasize that it really is a 60-minute game, regardless of who we’re playing and what the score is.”

To this day, I don’t understand how a coach who so detests gimmicks on the field – such as the Wildcat offense – uses them so frequently off the field.

Heh.

As for his knock on the student section from the BGSU game,

Which makes me wonder where the student section was a week earlier, when Pitt needed some support while trailing Bowling Green by 10 points with 11:52 remaining in the fourth quarter. Does the student section really need a song to be played to stir up some interest in cheering for the home team?

There’s an easy answer to that. The team and the coaches gave the fans nothing to believe at that point. Pitt was being shut out in the second half, while BGSU had scored two more TDs. Everyone recognized what was happening and that the team was going to blow that game. Fans cheer when they believe. Whether it is believing they can hold or rally, the fans need to believe.

I’ve been to enough sporting events to recognize when fans believe or not. When they don’t believe, it’s just not possible to get that energy to do anything more than half-heartedly, briefly, or at best desperately get behind the team. Nothing Pitt was doing on either side of the ball suggested they were going to do anything. Their body language on the sideline was screaming that they were lost. Fans could see and feel it.

And that is the lead-in to Zeise’s rant.

And the fact that it has been discussed so much on blogs and message boards and even talk radio should tell you the sorry state of where the Pitt football program has fallen. I mean, we’ve spent the past three seasons discussing everything — recruiting rankings, marketing schemes, song selections, logo changes, the ridiculous whining about the script helmets — EXCEPT winning football games. It is not a good thing that all of these things are discussed so much all the time and it is more proof that Pitt really needs a long run of winning games because the fan base is really getting restless.

Look, I know some of you get angry with me because I like to poke fun at these kinds of silly gimmicks and these long drawn out discussions about logos and uniforms but I’ve been saying this for years: The best — and at this point as fans are out of patience, the ONLY — marketing program or plan that will put people in those seats at Heinz Field is WINNING FOOTBALL GAMES WITH SOME DEGREE OF CONSISTENCY.

Period.

The athletic department’s marketing people have done a great job with the hand they’ve been dealt but they have gotten absolutely no help from the team and ultimately that is the only thing that matters in this market, particularly for a team that is trying to compete with three professional franchises for media attention as well as fan dollars — if you win and produce a good product, they will ultimately come to watch. Heck, thankfully even the Pirates are starting to find out that concerts, skyblasts, bobbleheads and fireworks are no longer enough to keep people interested in coming back to the ballpark.

So again, as Al Davis says “Just win, baby” and all of this other stuff will go back to being a part of the meaningless sideshow to the main event, which should be the actual football played on the field.

No disagreement. Ticket sales were up this year and they sold out in 2003. As much as lower prices helped, the primary reason was that the expectations were there for the team to win.

The only thing I will say in defense of the discussions is that they tend to come up during bye weeks. Slow news cycles. You know, when there is no game to discuss. So the topics available drift to other things.

Back to the other stuff.

Q: Why is Oderick Turner so inconsistent and looking so disinterested at times? I thought he came from an NFL family (his father played in the NFL). Shouldn’t he know how to play with more passion and intensity?

ZEISE: Being the son of an NFL player only means your dad was a good football player. It doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t take the lessons you learned from him and put them into practice. And when I watch Oderick Turner play it is somewhat frustrating to me. He has all the talent he needs to be a big-time player, I just don’t get the impression he really loves it that much. There are times he makes big plays, but he leaves so many big plays on the field every game he’s become somewhat of an enigma. You contrast the way he approaches things with that of Derek Kinder, who loves to play and it is easy to see if you just watch him run around out there. He plays with heart, with passion – he really goes after it every play. Turner still hasn’t developed this kind of consistency and I fear he might not ever get it.

Turner seems to have everyone frustrated. In a way the comparison with Kinder reminds me of Louisville’s two receivers from last year: Mario Urrutia and Harry Douglas.

Urrutia looked like a game-breaking receiver. He had natural talent, size, strength and speed. He lacked heart and desire, though. Short-arming receptions, shying from contact and just lacking effort at times. Especially compared to Douglas who, while shorter and not as fast, had more desire and you knew would do whatever it took to make the play — and he did.

Urrutia frustrated Cardinal fans while Douglas was embraced and beloved.

On the subject of Bill Stull going deep, he somewhat defends him.

Q: Do you think the reason why Pitt doesn’t throw the ball downfield more, is because Stull is not an accurate downfield passer? The deep balls that he did throw weren’t even close.

ZEISE: No, they didn’t throw down the field that much before Stull was the quarterback, either. Certainly it is not his strength and I agree that the deep balls have been atrocious, but a lot of that had to do with timing and that is something that can be corrected. Stull just threw them up for grabs, didn’t set his feet, didn’t wait for his receivers to get into stride, just chucked them. This is something they need to work on obviously but they have two weeks to get the timing of these things down. But he threw one to Jonathan Baldwin last Saturday that showed he can do it (even though it was a half-yard out of bounce). He just needs to work on it.

When you expect to throw one deep ball per game, how much can you work on it? Given the accuracy issue, I don’t know why they don’t at least take a chance with going more to the middle on a deep pass. Well, actually I do know, the fear of the interception. Still, if you send Baldwin or even Dickerson their natural athletic ability combined with a little more room might give them more of a chance and give Stull a little more confidence in throwing deep. Plus, since Coach Wannstedt loves the field position issue, an interception on a deep ball might be as good as a punt.

The mystery of Dave Wannstedt’s personnel decisionmaking is an ongoing debate.

Q: What is the coaching staff’s aversion to playing the younger talent (ie. Ransom over all the other lb’ers)? There seem to be several options I have considered, a) loyalty to upperclassman, b) young players are not smart enough to learn their assignments, c) players were overrated as recruits or d) coaches don’t seem to be able to coach up their younger players. How do other schools across the country seem to be able to untilize freshmen in multiple roles but Nix can only play limited minutes and Baldwin is only able to run a fly pattern once or twice a game?

ZEISE: I think this is really rather simple and we’ve been through it before — everything we know about Dave Wannstedt’s football philosophy can be summed up in a few words “always err on the side of caution.” That is just how he is built and what he believes in. It is why his teams are always so seemingly conservative, it is why he punts twice from inside the 35 against Bowling Green and plays for field goals and field position — that’s just what he believes in. And the extension of that is when it comes to personnel — he favors experience because theoretically experienced guys make fewer mistakes. But that’s an NFL thing too, as you don’t, in the college, have the luxury of reloading with experienced guys since you only have them for four years (or five). I do think it is puzzling what is going on with both Baldwin and Lucas Nix but by the same token, it isn’t anything that is new or that we haven’t come to expect. It is just one of those things — if you look at the coach’s football philosophy, it is easy to understand why he’s hesitant to green light freshmen playing time.

Yes, it’s the most logical explanation. I think most fans know it. It doesn’t make it right, and the stubbornness of Wannstedt on this along with so many other things — even as he keeps losing support and games — defies reason. You would think at some point he’d actually take a look at his record at Pitt. At Miami. At Chicago and say, “Hmm, maybe it wasn’t all just injuries, bad luck and not ‘catching break.’ Maybe I need to change some things.” Apparently not.

August 24, 2008

Let’s start things off with the annual, “Western Pennsylvania high school talent is still awesome” story that is expected as high school football is getting underway (at least it has already in Ohio).

High school football returns Friday night, when bright stadium lights signal the start of a new season.

According to WPIAL veteran coaches such as Art Walker Sr., the lights also illuminate the pride associated with the teams.

“High school football here is unique,” said Walker, who won five WPIAL championships at Mt. Lebanon and one at Shady Side Academy during his head-coaching career. “And I’m not even sure it can be explained.”

Exactly where Pennsylvania ranks among top recruiting hotspots such as Florida, California, Texas, Louisiana, Ohio and Georgia, is open to debate.

“We’re probably sixth in the country,” said Earl Ceh, a former head coach at Bellevue, Fox Chapel and North Hills. “But we sure have a lot of great talent.”

With a lot of the top talent in Western PA either already committed elsewhere (Dorian Bell) or taking their time on a decision (Dan Mason), there are other players that are waiting or hoping to get an offer.

Monte Ashby at East Allegheny is a running back in the LaRod Stephens-Howling mode looking to get noticed. For attention, I guess, the article tries to make the comaprison to Noel Devine but he just doesn’t have that kind of speed.

Ashby said he’s been contacted by about 15 Division I football programs, including Pitt and Temple, but he hasn’t received any major scholarship offers yet.

“This will be a big season for me, and I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.

Edwards said it’s tempting to keep coming up with new ways to use Ashby in the Wildcats’ offense.

He’s around 5-8 and 165-170 pounds. Scout.com gives him 2-stars and Rivals.com has him unstarred. ESPN.com/Scouts, Inc. has a slightly mixed but generally positive review of his potential (Insider subs).

With that said, Ashby’s smooth movement skills and great elusiveness could create good mismatches in space if he lands in a spread offense. Good change-of-pace runner and a definite sleeper in this running back class. Needs to continue polishing up his receiving skills to offer scat-back potential.

Now, this offensive lineman has offers from UConn, Minnesota, UCF and Temple but is looking for a bigger program and closer to home.

Bishop Carroll offensive guard Steve Greene made a name for himself last season when he was named to The Associated Press Class A First Team all-state football team.

“Right now it’s pretty open. I still have a lot of time to decide,” Greene said. “I don’t want to rush my decision. I just want to make sure I make the right choice. I’m hoping that early in the season I can perform well and get a couple more scholarship offers. I’m hoping somebody closer like Pitt, Maryland or Virginia [makes an offer].”

When college coaches are looking at video of Greene, they see a strong, dominating and no frills lineman who will dominate most of the time.

“He’s just a pure brute blocker,” [Bishop Carroll coach Craig] Sponsky said. “He’s an old-school tough kid. He certainly needs some work technique-wise. He knows that. He wants to improve. He’s a solid kid who wants to improve.”

Both Scout.com and Rivals.com has him as a 3-star offensive guard. Nationally, Scout.com lists him as the 46th best OG and Rivals puts him at #40. Bob Lichtenfels at Scout.com ranks him as the 33d best recruit in Pennsylvania. Rivals.com puts him preseason in PA at #17. While PantherLair says #38. ESPN/Scouts, Inc. likes him well enough as an average to slightly above average offensive lineman.

Greene is a dependable offensive guard that plays hard. He is a little undersized but should grow and become stronger by the time he is a freshman in college. Consistent with footwork; rarely oversteps on the base block. Gets off the ball quickly and gets good body position on the defender but needs to play more physical. … Needs to kick step back with more urgency in order to get into power position in case of the bull rush and to pick up stunts. Greene can develop into a solid offensive guard if he plays more physical.

It has to be assumed that some of the college coaches are waiting to see something else if Pitt, Maryland and Virginia are only showing interest but not offering yet.

Meanwhile, a couple high school kids who have committed to Pitt are looking for big years to prove things.

With only five career receptions at Liberty High School and a scholarship to play collegiately at the University of Pittsburgh, Devin Street feels like he has some questions to answer this season.

“Definitely, I have something to prove,” Street, the supremely-talented Hurricanes senior, said.

“No one has really seen me play yet and they wonder how I got the scholarship offer. I’ve gotten some negative comments … it’s a little frustrating. But I plan on showing everybody what I can do.”

The 6-foot-4, 180-pounder is a workout warrior. He ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at Pittsburgh’s football camp earlier this summer and impressed the Panthers’ coaches enough to earn a scholarship offer, even with the modest statistics and the limited playing time at wideout. Street accepted almost immediately with a verbal commitment.

“No, I wasn’t surprised they offered,” he said. “I had a lot of other offers — Rutgers, Boston College, Connecticut and North Carolina State. The Pitt coaches didn’t care about stats or ratings or rankings; they know I can play.”

And locally, Will Clarke is excited for this year and having a scholarship taken care of.

The senior has been more aggressive than in past seasons. In fact, the coach said he actually was fearful that Clarke might hurt himself while flying around the ball during Oklahoma drills at the start of camp.

But there is another major difference with Clarke, and it’s actually a good thing. He will spend his college years playing football at a Division I university.

Clarke verbally committed to Pitt, and he is expected to become the first Allderdice football player to play for a BCS school since former Pitt and NFL great Curtis Martin (1991-94).

Also a tight end, Clarke is rated by Rivals.com as a two-star recruit, but his coach thinks he’s only getting better.

“He’s coming off of the ball quicker this camp,” Schmidt said. “He’s shedding blocks better than he has in the past. I think he’s having an excellent camp. We’re really impressed.”

With less than a week to go, everybody at every levelis ready for football.

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