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July 13, 2015

Now is the time, before football is being practiced and scrimmages played, where we fans like to sit down and compare what we have seen in the past from Pitt football and then speculate how the new kid on the block is going to handle his first time at the rodeo.

Our new kid is Pat Narduzzi, a first time head coach and a football mind that should fit right in with the Western PA football traditions of an aggressive and strong defense. The thing is that we can’t really look at his individual history, most recently as the Defensive Coordinator at Michigan State University, and see that for as successful as he was it doesn’t predict his success as a new head coach.

What we can do though is look backwards 18 years to 1997 when the first of our last three coaches who had at least three seasons under their belts at Pitt was hired.  That guy is Walt Harris, a second time HC who did a stint as the HC at Pacific University out in California.

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July 9, 2015

Having written for this many years, you do get a feeling for certain things. Recognizing certain signs of the coming season. The media coverage goes from reviewing last season, to focusing on the coaches, to recruiting, to the big picture previews of the coming season. Then in the final month you have the player pieces and watch lists for awards followed by local media previewing the local teams.

I’ve taken to skipping watch list stuff in the last few years simply because they are little more than lines in bios for players and that’s about it. The Rimington Award for best Center — for instance — features a Syracuse player who never started. Alex Officer is on the list and he might not even play center on the O-line for Pitt. You get the idea.

Last week, with more than a month or so from the start of training camp, the player profiles have been increasing.

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July 8, 2015

Here are some small PITT football issues that have been in the media lately.  The one I saw first and am personally most concerned about is the possibility of WR Juwann Winfree sliding from Maryland, where he had gotten suspended twice, over to PITT.

The move comes just nine days after Maryland Coach Randy Edsall suspended Winfree indefinitely for violating the school’s student athlete code of conduct. It was the second time in eight months that the troubled Winfree had been suspended by Edsall, who also banned the freshman wide receiver for two games last November for violating the same policy.

He played in eight games as a freshman, catching 11 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns. His best game came against Michigan State shortly before he was suspended last November, when he caught four passes for 80 yards and a touchdown.

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July 6, 2015

Yesterday we looked at the four of the last ten QB recruits we have landed and it wasn’t that pretty.  Today we’ll look at the last six QBs and because they are more recent, less Pat Bostick in ’07, we’ll probably remember more of what they did or failed to do for the team.

Remember we are looking at recruits and not transfers or walk-ons and the scores awarded are based on what they did as QBs here at PITT and not how they may have contributed in other way such as playing defense as in Gonzalez’s case.

Anthony Gonzalez, 2010 – This kid was loved by the PA HS football fans and PITT made a hard push to get him onboard beating out other schools like PSU, FSU, Oregon, Clemson and  Maryland for his services.  After taking a redshirt his first year Gonzalez played a lot on special teams and sparingly at QB. In line with his dual-threat reputation coming out of HS DW had him run the Wildcat a few times as a rsFR.

Of course, as is the inevitable fate of PITT QB recruits it seems, he ended up on defense in 2012 where he found a home and played well for us at the strong side linebacker position. Here is what Gonzalez thought about all the moving around from QB to H-Back to Safety to SLB.

Guess being suspended twice from the team didn’t hurt his playing chances much.  The first time was for a drug bust and second for being a bad boy.  I wonder if that is the first time a PITT player has been suspended by two different head coaches as this involved both Graham and Chryst.  Maybe he’ll make it into our record books based on that.  I don’t think even Elijah Fields pulled that trick off.

SCORE: C

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July 5, 2015

(Folks, this is a two part very large article that I split up to make more manageable. Part 1 now and Part 2 tomorrow).

While I was driving around with my wife today I mentioned the dig Chas gave me about recruiting and ‘stars’ being a favorite topic of mine in his last post.  About five minutes later she turned to me and said “Then why don’t you write an article about the last ten quarterbacks PITT recruited and see how they stack up?”

So here they are in full glory. The last ten HS QB we recruited to play at PITT, not the last ten QB to have actually done it. I didn’t include transfers like Peterman and Savage not actually recruited or ’14 class recruit Bertke whom we haven’t seen play yet. The recruiting class is listed first. Read ‘em and weep….

‘13   Tra’von Chapman     4*    12th     PC;  Dismissed from team ;

‘12   Chad Voytik               4*    4th      TG;  Currently starting QB

’11   None, Nil, Zilch, Nada, No Way, No How

’10   Mark Myers               4*    11th     DW; Now at Div III John Carroll

’10   Anthony Gonzalez     3*    12th     DW; Rushed 8/36 & 1 TD ; LB

’09   Kolby Grey                3*    28th     DW; Played defense, C&W Singer

’08   Tino Sunseri             3*    24th     DW;  PITT’s 3rd leading passer

’08   Greg Cross               3*    NR       DW; No passes; 5 runs for -3 yards

’07   Pat Bostick                4*    6th      DW; FR starter, spot work after

’06 – Kevan Smith           2*    NR     DW; 37/67 for 419 yards and 1 TD

’06 – Dexter Davidson     3*    32nd    DW; Redshirt ’06; gone in ’07, no PT

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July 3, 2015

Heading out this afternoon to see family. Unless something big happens, I’m not going to be getting back on the computer until Tuesday.

Going to pull a few tabs I’ve been meaning to hit (two for quite a while).

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July 2, 2015

Jaryd Jones-Smith Out For the Year

Filed under: Football,Injury — Chas @ 9:54 am

Well this was a bummer of a press release.

Pitt sophomore tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith, expected to contend for a starting position on the Panthers’ offensive line, will miss the 2015 season due to a right knee injury.

Jones Smith (Voorhees, N.J./West Catholic [Pa.]) sustained the injury during an offseason conditioning session. He was a significant member of Pitt’s offensive front last year as a redshirt freshman, playing in all 13 games and making three starts.

“We are incredibly disappointed for Jaryd,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said. “Our entire team will rally behind him as he works to overcome this challenge. Jaryd is a great young man and a tough competitor. Even though he is sidelined this year, he is going to remain an important member of our team this fall.”

It was expected that Jones-Smith would take man the right OT spot this season. It’s a tough, tough break for Jones-Smith. For the Pitt offense it hurts, but it isn’t that devastating.

Jones-Smith was a solid recruit (3-stars, offers from Arizona, NC State, Michigan), but not considered a linchpin to the O-line’s future. He developed much quicker than expected, and at times was one of the best O-linemen not named T.J. Clemmings on the field last year for Pitt.

If there is one thing that can be pointed to as a clear plus for the Paul Chryst period, it was the work done to build real depth on the O-line. Something not seen since… I don’t even know for sure.

Aaron Reese was named his back-up on the 2-deep coming out of spring practice. There are other options, though, that would require a little bit of line shuffling.

…redshirt freshman Alex Bookser, who played tackle at Mt. Lebanon, but was Pitt’s right guard this spring.

Moving Bookser would create more movement on the offensive line, with sophomore center Alex Officer possibly moving to guard and senior Artie Rowell regaining his accustomed spot at center. Rowell missed most of last season with a knee injury, but he could be ready for the start of training camp Aug. 10.

With a new coaching staff, I’m not as sure what they will do. Chryst and staff, I think would put Rowell back at center (if he’s healthy and ready), with the plan DiPaola laid out. Not sure what Narduzzi will do.

The good news is that there are options, and actual time to figure this out. It didn’t happen in season. It didn’t even happen in training camp. There will be some competition in camp to get the best five on the line.

Bits & Pieces; 7/2/15

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Players,Recruiting — Reed @ 8:26 am

Time to catch up on some media articles and podcasts about PITT football that have gone public over the last few days:

First off AD Scott Barnes has been doing some rounds of pretty detailed interviews with media outlets.  Good, that is exactly what we need at this point in time leading our upcoming season.

Here is a great piece by the University’s Pitt News who apparently got a nice chunk of Barnes’ time to answer a bunch of pertinent questions.

Of course two topics jump out.  One is timely and the other is timeless:

TPN: In light of Tyler Boyd’s recent incident, how high of a standard do you think college athletes in general should be held off the field?

ADSB: We will hold our student athletes to a higher expectation due to the front porch they sit on, and that’s more of in terms how they conduct themselves publicly, obviously, and the quality of people they are and the quality of people we recruit… 

Hmmm, that sounds familiar.  We talked about that on here the day after Boyd’s arrest. There is this interesting Q&A also.

TPN: How much do you think Pitt’s struggles to fill up Heinz Field for football games are part of the nature of having an off-campus stadium? How much of that do you think can be improved with improved amenities and fan environment at the games?

…and crickets on the stadium part of the question.  Nothing.  I think the Chancellor stated what he stated about never seeing an on-campus stadium in his tenure at PITT so this administration steers clear of the issue. Barnes spoke a whole lot on the new Fan Committee however.

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Jaryd Jones-Smith out for 2015 Season

Filed under: Football,Injury — Justin @ 8:19 am

According to Chris Peak of Panther Lair, Jaryd Jones-Smith suffered a knee injury and is out for the 2015 season. He will have surgery this week. Jones-Smith was set to start at RT this upcoming season. Unfortunately Jones-Smith has already used his redshirt, so he will lose a season of eligibility. Peak had this say about who could replace him:

The most likely option might be to move redshirt freshman Alex Bookser, who worked at right guard in spring camp but came to Pitt as a highly-regarded offensive tackle prospect. That scenario would probably mean a move for redshirt sophomore Alex Officer from center to right guard and a return to the starting lineup at center for redshirt senior Artie Rowell.

Other options could include junior Dorian Johnson, who started 13 games at left guard last season but played tackle as a freshman in 2014, as well as redshirt freshman Aaron Reese, who was Jones-Smith’s backup in spring camp.

This is a big loss for the team, especially given Jones-Smith was set to replace NFL starter TJ Clemmings. Thankfully the roster does have a lot of talent, albeit unproven, on the OL. This situation will be one of the key things to monitor this summer.

June 28, 2015

The Chicken or the Egg?

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Players,Recruiting — Reed @ 6:34 pm

After getting two more recruits;  4* WR Ruben Flowers and unranked as yet ATH Marcus Ffrench, we have had a lot of follow up discussions about past and present recruiting on here.  Well, here are another couple of thoughts about recruiting we can chew on over the weekend.

I think we all agree that Paul Chryst had some pretty specific strengths and weaknesses when it came to his recruiting.  He seemed to have been right on target with his offensive scouting and then getting commitments from kids who have helped us move the ball and score points over the last two years:

RBs Conner, James, Ollison, Hall and Parrish at FB;  WRs Boyd, Jennings (good get, too bad) and Zeise along with Holtz and Orndoff at TE. His recruiting what looks to be like the complete OL two deep this season is a great job also (fingers crossed).

So, on that side of the ball he’s leaving Pat Narduzzi with a well stocked cupboard with good players he and his staff recruited.

Where the weakness has been, or where we perceive it to have been (more on that in a second), is in his lack of ability to recruitment of talented defensive players and, given the way the defense faltered in key moments last year, that sure seems to be the case.

But wait a second! Let’s discuss the age-old football question of “Do you win ballgame with Xs & Os or Jimmies & Joes?

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June 26, 2015

Two New Commits

Filed under: Football,Narduzzi,Recruiting — Justin @ 12:03 pm

Now that we have official confirmation of the latest Pitt verbal, I can post who the two newest Panthers are. First up is Maurice Ffrench (not a typo), a WR/DB from New Brunswick, NJ. Ffrench was a recent prospect camp attendee and the coaches liked what they saw, so they put a ring on it extended an offer.

There was speculation yesterday and some unconfirmed reports that WR Ruben Flowers was the second commit, and the news just officially broke. The Lima, Ohio product chose Pitt over several B1G schools and Kentucky. The 6’4″ Flowers is the eighth verbal to Pitt’s 2016 class and the fifth in the month of June.

 

We are now at the time when PITT’s recruit starts to take off so we should review the different Recruiting Sites and see how they compare in their ranking systems.

As you can see below, each one is different in some aspects.  Sometimes we see that difference writ large with a single player as happened with QB Mark Myers when he was graded out by these services.  Here is Myers’ scores and stars along with our seven 2016 recruits already onboard. Note that ESPN does most of their rankings later in the game.

RECRUIT

247 ESPN RIVALS

SCOUT

Mark Myers ‘10 86  3*  23rd 74  2*  103rd 5.8  4*  11th 3*  32nd
Butler 89  3* 5.6  3* 35th  3*
Ffrench NR NR NR
Ford 82  3* 76  3* 5.5  3* 63rd  3*
Garner 88  3* 5.4  2* 42nd  3*
Macvitte 89  3* 78  3* 5.5  3* 57th  3*
Moss 84  3* 5.5  3* 56th  3*
Pine 86  3* 5.6  3* 77th  3*

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June 25, 2015

I knew Pitt had a lot of players getting some off-season surgery, but I didn’t know it was this many.

[Pitt Coach Jamie] Dixon, who has three players out with surgeries and at least five others recovering from previous surgeries or nagging injuries, said the changes to NCAA rules also played a part in the decision.

“The rules have changed to where you could only have two players from one college team on each of the summer league teams,” Dixon said. “That sort of made it difficult with only so many Division I players available to have the kind of competitive league you are looking for.

“Hopefully, it is something we can revisit for next year, but, for this year, it just didn’t seem like it was going to be able to work out.”

Josh Newkirk earlier followed by James Robinson and incoming transfer, Sterling Smith, recently had off-season surgies.

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It is a slow week for PITT football with the two exceptions in recruiting that Chas covered earlier.  To update that a bit here is the Post-Gazette’s Sam Werner’s article about the last three pick-ups and in his Red Shirt Diaries blog Werner lists all the recruits vitals with links to their highlights:

Bricen Garner
Safety, Central Catholic HS (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
Rivals: 2*, NR
Scout: 3*, No. 80 S
Offers: Army, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, UMass, Miami (OH), Navy, Old Dominion, Temple, Toledo
HIGHLIGHTS

Chawntez Moss
Running Back, Bedford HS (Bedford, Ohio)
Rivals: 3*, NR
Scout: 3*, No. 56 RB
Offers: Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Eastern Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Kent State, Marshall, Miami (OH), Ohio, Old Dominion, Toledo, Western Michigan
HIGHLIGHTS

Chase Pine
Linebacker, Lafayette HS (Williamsburg, Va.)
Rivals: 3*, NR
Scout: 3*, No. 86 OLB
Offers: Buffalo, California, Charlotte, East Carolina, Georgia, Marshall, North Carolina, N.C. State, Old Dominion, Syracuse, Toledo, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, West Virginia
HIGHLIGHTS

Here are a few interesting items for you all to look at during lunch…

First, I heard back from EJ Borghetti and the PITT Fall Training Camp begins on Monday, August 10th.  That gives the Narduzzi Power and Light Company 26 days to get ready for the season opener against the Youngstown State Penguins.

As we know this opponent has given us problems before when Chryst opened his time at PITT with an embarrassing 31-17 loss.  That game needs to be looked at again given the circumstances that will be surrounding our ’15 PITT team.

For one we’ll be starting a season with a shiny new head coach again, this time trotting out Pat Narduzzi in his new PITT gear for all to see. We are all looking forward to seeing that because, I believe, PITT fans across the board are happy with Narduzzi’s hiring.

One of the reasons for happiness is that it is entirely possible that PITT’s defense will be better and more effective right out of the gate as this is Narduzzi’s successful background that he made his name in.  Looking at the specifics of that past YSU game we need that.

YSU basically ran all over us that day with 202 yards on the ground. Rushing the ball 46 times wore us down… even when PITT knew the run was coming we were almost powerless to stop it as they gained 4.4 ypc.

To complement that YSU used their passing game for surgical strikes that resulted in three TDs.  It is worth noting that those three TDs came on only 14 completions for 177 yards in 24 passing attempts;  a 58% completion rate with 12.6 yards per completion which is very good.

If we allow YSU to replicate that this year I’m pulling Narduzzi’s contract.

But, truth be told, it is entirely possibly the YSU might be a stronger team this season than it was in ’12. They are coming of 8-4 and 7-5 seasons so the team knows how to win games.

But the big stroke YSU made over the offseason was hiring Mark Anthony Pelini who, in addition to being Cleopatra’s third husband and losing the whole Roman naval fleet in a sea battle against Octavian, used to be the HC at Nebraska.  “Snarling Bo” as he is called these days knows how to fire up a football team, so we can expect the Penguins to come out fighting.

Another similarity to the ’12 game is that we’ll most probably start off the season with a suspension impacting the PITT team.  Back then we had six players suddenly suspended the morning of the game, two being starters.  Whether or not you feel that had any influence on the loss, we may well be replicating that is a short form depending on what sort of discipline Tyler Boyd gets awarded by Narduzzi.

Speaking of which in one of Cardiac Hill’s Poll of the Week series they asked the fans about what punishment Boyd should get.  You can see that most favor a one game suspension which fits my view and I think the majority of guys on this blog also.

What would you do with Tyler Boyd?

  • 7%No on-field punishment(79 votes)
  • 18%Not start him in the season opener, but let him play(199 votes)
  • 42%One-game suspension(460 votes)
  • 23%Two-game suspension(251 votes)
  • 10%Suspension of three or more games(107 votes)

That is a breakdown of a total of 1096 votes as of this morning.  That is a pretty big sample for a blog to gather especially when you count the 107 PSU fans who pretty much wants Boyd’s shot at a NFL career to end by suspending Boyd “three or more games”.  It is interesting to read the 50+ comments the poll and associated article generated.

Also as something I didn’t know existed here is a Cardiac Hill’s open thread “The Pitt Stop” that they do on a regular basis.  Linked is the June 2015 edition.

As wbb mentioned in his comment yesterday PITT is reaching out to various groups to form a Panther Fans Experience Committee to solicit feedback on how to enrich the PITT athletics game day experience.  It is a good thing to do I think and something we wouldn’t have seen with our dearly departed AD.

There is a short form to fill out then a section for text where you are asked to provide your Fan Resume.  Be aware that you are limited to 750 words to describe how you would be a great fit for this committee.  Stating that you are too much of a perfectionist gets your season tickets revoked though.

750 words might not be enough for some of you guys because when you start telling ‘Big Fish’ stories about how you are such a better fan than the next guy you go on and on and on.

The commitment is for quarterly meetings at PITT for a two year term. In other words eight times where you get to bitch and someone is actually listening.  Anyway, I suggest that you all apply for it – we definitely have some great ideas on here the PITT administration should be made aware of.

I am in the process now and it will be interesting to see the final makeup when the committee is selected.  Here is the Trib article on it.

For those PITT BB fans who are wondering what is happening the P-G’s Paul Zeise, our old P-G PITT football beat writer friend, has a rather detailed ‘catch-up’ about that program. It seems to me that the main news is that former PITT BB player Ontario Lett is joining the BB staff as a Grad assistant.

Just for something else to look at and because we talked about actually playing a football game in September here are the details and stats of PITT’s 2014 season.

 

June 23, 2015

Verbals Keep Coming

Filed under: Football,Recruiting — Chas @ 6:51 am

I’m not sure if it is his offer sheet, where he is from, or the fact that he is the third verbal in five days, that gives the recruiting a sense of momentum. Either way, there seems to be a lot of excitement from Pitt fans that Chase Pine is the sixth verbal for Pat Narduzzi and the staff.

Pine was on Pitt’s campus two weeks ago for a prospect camp. That experience gave him the opportunity to work with linebackers coach Rob Harley, and Pine cited Harley as another big factor in his decision.

“It’s the way that he coaches; he showed me video of how he coaches and when I went there, it was just like that: he’s an energetic coach and that’s what I like,” Pine said. “I was talking to Coach Harley about their defense, and it’s a defense where you really can’t do anything against it. And the fact that they’re getting good players for defense is going to make it good.”

Pine picked Pitt over a considerable offer sheet that included scholarships from Buffalo, Cal, Charlotte, East Carolina, Georgia, JMU, Marshall, North Carolina, N.C. State, Old Dominion, Syracuse, Toledo, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and West Virginia.

He said that his top three schools prior to committing were Pitt, Georgia and West Virginia, but he felt like he fit into the Panthers’ defense best.

“They want me to be an outside linebacker who plays against the run and rushes the passer and can drop into coverage,” Pine said. “And there should be a good chance for early playing time, which was important to me.”

A third of the ACC along with programs from the Pac-12, SEC and Big 12 after him.

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