Friday, July 25, 2014

How Pitt compares to others as far as signing 4 and 5 star prospects

For the sake of comparison, the number of 4 and 5 star prospects (Rivals) for a select group of programs in the 2013, 2014, and 2015 classes.

Alabama 51
Ohio State 39
Texas A&M 39
Notre Dame 36
UCLA 35
Florida State 34
USC 32
Tennessee 31
Michigan 29
Clemson 27
Penn State 21
Miami 21
Oregon 18
Kentucky 17
Stanford 15
Virginia Tech 13
Arizona State 11
Arkansas 11
Michigan State 11
Washington 11
Vanderbilt 10
Maryland 10
Wisconsin 9
West Virginia 9
Arizona 9
Virginia 8
Northwestern 7
Pittsburgh  7
Texas Tech 4
Boston College 3
Duke 3
Louisville 3
Iowa 2
Temple 2
Georgia Tech 1
Rutgers 1
Syracuse 0
Wake Forest 0



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Pitt needs more elite prospects to be elite program

With the current Pitt football staff recruiting a lot of 2 and 3 star caliber prospects, a lot of fans are saying that's good enough and that elite prospects often fail anyway. It remains to be seen if getting mostly 3 star players will be enough for Paul Chryst to have success, but life without elite prospects would have made the Pitt football look a lot different over the last 40+ years. Here is a list of some of the best Pitt players ever, who also happened to be elite prospects at the time they came to Pitt.

Tony Dorsett- One of the best college players ever and an NFL Hall of Famer.
Dan Marino- Hall of Famer and one of the best quarterbacks in history.
LeSean McCoy- Currently one of the biggest stars in the NFL and a possible future Hall of Famer.
Larry Fitzgerald- Maybe the best wide receiver in college football history and a definite future Hall of Famer.
Tyler Palko- Very successful career at Pitt.
Rod Rutherford- Same as Palko.
Craig Heyward- Big college star and an All-American.
Tyler Boyd- Current star and possible future All-American.
Aaron Donald- He was not lowly rated as is often reported. One of Pitt's best players ever.
Jonathan Baldwin- First round draft pick.
Dorin Dickerson- All-American.
Jeff Otah- First round draft pick.
Jason Pinkston- Good college player who also started in the NFL.
Bill Fralic- Maybe the best college offensive lineman of all-time.
Mark Stepnoski- All-American and NFL All-Pro.
Ruben Brown- All-American and NFL All-Pro. Probably future Hall of Famer.
Keith Hamilton- All-American and successful NFL career.
Tom Tumulty- Very successful college career on some awful teams.
Curtis Martin- Hall of Famer and one of the best NFL running backs ever.

Bottom line, do all elite prospects pan out? Of course not. And likewise a lot of lesser rated players turn into stars. And I have no doubt that Chryst and his staff will turn less heralded prospects into elite college players.  On the other hand, it's extremely difficult to win big without exceptionally talented prospects, too. Last season, Pitt's best two players- Boyd and Donald- were elite prospects. That's not a coincidence. More players of that caliber are needed if Pitt ever wants to be considered a national power. Without enough of those players Pitt could still be a good program, but an excellent program would probably be out of the question.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Jamie Dixon against the best coaches in the country

ESPN recently ranked Jamie Dixon a too low No. 25 when ranking the best college basketball coaches in the country. Dixon coached against twelve of the coaches ranked in front of him, and he has a record of 36-29 against them. He had a winning record against five of the twelve, he is even with four, and only three of the coaches has a winning record against him. And one of those he only met once.

3. Tom Izzo  0-1
4. Mike Krzyzewski 1-1
5. Rick Pitino 5-7
7. Bo Ryan 2-1
8. Gregg Marshall 1-1
9. John Beilen 4-4
10. Kevin Ollie 1-0
11. Sean Miller 1-0
12. Jim Boeheim 10-6
14. Tony Bennett 0-2
16. Roy Williams  1-1
19. Jay Wright 10-5

6 of the 24 coaches ranked higher than Dixon have also not been to the Final Four:

11. Sean Miller
14. Tony Bennett
15. Fred Hoiberg
17. Mark Few
22. Tommy Amaker
24. Bob McKillop

4 of those- Bennett, Hoiberg, Few, and Amaker- never made the Elite 8.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How will Pitt do in the future with how they are recruiting now?



Here is the final AP top 25 for last season, with what their Rivals rankings in 2009, 2010, and the average of the two.

1. Florida State: 2009- 7  2010- 10 Average 8.5
2. Auburn:  9-4- 6.5
3. Michigan State: 17-30- 23.5
4. South Carolina: 12-24- 18
5. Missouri: 40-21- 30.5
6. Oklahoma: 13-7- 10
7. Alabama: 1-5- 3
8. Clemson: 37-19- 28
9. Oregon: 32-13- 22.5
10. UCF: 66-56- 61
11. Stanford: 20-26- 23
12. Ohio State: 3-25- 14
13. Baylor: 55-39- 47
14. LSU: 2-6- 4
15. Louisville: 77-48- 62.5
16. UCLA: 14-8- 11
17. Oklahoma State: 36-31- 33.5
18. Texas A&M: 22-17- 19.5
19. USC: 4-1- 2.5
20. Notre Dame: 21-14- 17.5
21. Arizona State: 30-35- 32.5
22. Wisconsin: 43-88- 65.5
23. Duke: 51-72- 61.5
24. Vanderbilt: 71-61- 66
25. Washington: 68-28- 43

Now compare this to Chryst's recruiting classes of last year (44th) and this year (38th).

USC 2.5
Alabama 3
LSU 4
Auburn 6.5
Florida State 8.5
Oklahoma 10
UCLA  11
Ohio State 14
Notre Dame 17.5
South Carolina 18
Texas A&M 19.5
Oregon 22.5
Stanford 23
Michigan State 23.5
Clemson 28
Missouri 30.5
Arizona State 32.5
Oklahoma State 33.5

PITTSBURGH 41

Washington 43
Baylor 47
Central Florida 61
Duke 61.5
Louisville 62.5
Wisconsin  65.5
Vanderbilt 66

One thing that immediately comes to mind is that most of the seven below Pitt are not traditional powers. Washington, Louisville, and Wisconsin have had good stretches at times in their histories. Baylor, UCF, Duke, and Vanderbilt are clearly more dependent on their respective head coaches. Baylor is likely only strong as long as Art Briles remains, and the same goes for Central Florida with George O'Leary. Duke and Vanderbilt are probably even precarious as top 25 teams, especially since James Franklin left Vanderbilt.

Bottom line, on paper Chryst is theoretically recruiting well enough to be a top 25 in the next few years.







Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Pitt basketball targets for 2015 and 2016

Now that Smoke Williamson has been added to the fold, things are looking a little differently for the Pitt check list. I will update as things change. This is not every player that Pitt is pursuing, but rather the the best prospects that they currently have a chance with.

2015:

Damon Wilson, Our Savior New American School (Centereach, NY)- The 6'5" guard has already committed to the Panthers and there's no reason to think that will change since he was recruited by Brandin Knight. Wilson continues to get good reviews this season. His scoring still needs to get a little better though he does have some good offensive skills. Wilson's defense and quarterbacking skills are his real positives. He is very skinny and long which helps him see the floor, play defense, and get into the lane. He is also very savvy and clutch at the end of games.

Jarred Reuter, Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, MA)- This is a kid that Pitt fans would love. A big, rugged 6'8" 240 pound power forward that could also play center, Reuter also has a very nice skill set for a big man. He's basically a tough guy with skills, and he plays hard and tough on every possession. The Massachusetts native was good enough a few years ago to get very early offers from Florida, Indiana, and UConn but he got out of shape and didn't progress like many expected. So the offer list you see on recruiting websites may not be his actual offer list. For instance, Florida and UConn no longer have committable offers for him. But he's since had a bit of a resurgence and picked up offers from Pitt, Indiana, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Cincinnati, Seton Hall, South Carolina, Temple, LaSalle, Kansas State,

Cheick Diallo, Our Savior New American School (Centereach, NY)- Obviously this is the one special player on the list that could change everything for Pitt. At one point many thought that the Panthers were the favorite. Now that the 6'9" Diallo has had a huge summer, the competition is getting even more brutal. When schools like Kansas get involved, basketball prognosticators immediately think a kid will go there, and usually they do, but it's my understanding that Pitt is still very much in the thick of it with Diallo.


2016

Mustapha Heron, Sacred Heart HS (Waterbury, CT)- Just like Diallo, people are predicting he'll go to Kentucky despite the fact that Kentucky hasn't even offered him. One prediction on a national website even has him going to Kansas State (Kansas State?!?!).  Here's the facts. As of now, Heron has never expressed an interest in anybody but Pitt. He doesn't even talk about anybody but Pitt. And when he does talk about Pitt he says he loves the coaches and the players. Yes, until he signs with Pitt nobody can say for sure that he will end up a Panther. The only school that I can see him theoretically changing his mind for is Kentucky, and that's only if Kentucky goes all out for him, something they have shown no signs of yet. In fact, they've been offering other guards. And then Heron would actually want to go to Kentucky, too, something that may not happen. Bottom line, a lot would have to happen for Heron to go anywhere other than Pitt and so far there are absolutely no signs of that happening.

As for him as an actual player, the 6'4" Heron can play the one, the two, or the three in college, and he's so developed already that he will be an instant impact player in college.

Maverick Rowan, Lincoln Center Performing Arts Charter School (Midland, PA)- The 6'7" sharpshooter has already committed to Pitt, and he's considered so committed to the Panthers that no others schools even call him anymore. He silenced the last of his critics this summer by scoring against the best prospects in the land. He will probably be a three at Pitt, and he should score a lot of points. Top 50 caliber player.

Kassoum Yakwe, Our Savior New American School (Centereach, NY)- Offered by the Panthers a long time ago, the 6'7" power forward is a highly athletic rebounder and shot blocker. He had an injury plagued season but he's still being pursued by Pitt, as well as the likes of Kansas, Syracuse, and Villanova. Best friends with Diallo, so whoever gets Diallo may also get Yakwe.

Omari Spellman, MacDuffie School (Granby, MA)- The Panthers just offered the 6'8" 240 pound power forward yesterday, and they aren't alone. Spellman is already well travelled. He went to two different high schools in New York, before spending this past season in Ohio. He recently transferred to MacDuffie since eligibility issues due to transferring may have cost him his senior season. A big kid who can move out and hit the jumper with ease, Spellman is a top 40 talent with offers from West Virginia, Cincinnati, Villanova, Virginia Tech, Seton Hall, Iowa, Florida, Miami, and Wake Forest.

Bruce Brown, Vermont Academy (Saxton's River, VT)- The Boston native was already checked out by Bill Barton, who is also recruiting talented KJ Santos at the school, but Smoke Williamson is also very familiar with Brown, who was offered by UMass when Williamson was there. A strong 6'3" SG with great defense and great hops, Brown is a fast riser. Pitt hasn't offered yet, but they've been in contact. Michigan, Minnesota, Wake Forest, Xavier, and Boston College are some of his early offers.

Corey Manigault, Paul VI HS (Fairfax, VA)- Pitt knew about him before Williamson arrived, but he was offered by Williamson at UMass so this is a kid that both Williamson and Jamie Dixon like. Dixon himself called him a few days ago to check in on him. The 6'8" nephew of playground legend Earl "The Goat" Manigault, he tells me that he is projected to be 6'10" and that he already has an incredible 82" wingspan. So far he's all potential, and hasn't been a force yet in high school, but he's somebody that has the potential to explode.

Jordy Tshimanga, MacDuffie School (Granby, MA)- It's hard to believe that both Tshimanga and the 6'8" 240 pound Spellman are going to be on the same team as Tshimanga is 6'11" and 280 pounds. The Montreal native, who is nicknamed "La Foudre" (French for thunder), needs to get in better shape, but when he's not winded he can move very well for such a big man. He was recently ranked in the top 60 by ESPN. Pitt just called him.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Top 10 PA Prospects for 2016

So far there are ten known elite prospects in the loaded 2016 class. Even though these kids have just finished their sophomore years in high school, they are all being heavily recruited already. Others may join this group in time, but at the moment they are the group that stands above the others.


1. Michal Menet, Exeter Township HS (Reading) OT- It's rare for a sophomore offensive linemen to get a lot of major offers, but few sophomore linemen have the strong frame, quickness, and tenacity that Menet does. Only 6'5" and 260 pounds now but with two more years to add weight, and the frame to do it, that won't be a problem. Quickly gets to the defender then sticks on him like glue. Not flashy, but a natural. Early offers already from the likes of Pittsburgh, Penn State, Florida State, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Nebraska, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Penn State has to be the team to beat.

2. Miles Sanders, Woodland Hills HS (Pittsburgh) RB- Game breaking tailback at 5'10" and 190 pounds. Has elite speed and elusiveness. National level recruit that should be amongst the best running backs in the country for the '16 class. Early offers have come from Pittsburgh, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Virginia Tech, and Nebraska. Pitt usually does very well at the school but Penn State has been recruiting him hardest thus far, according to him, and the Nittany Lions may steal him out of the city. It definitely should come down to Pitt and Penn State.

3. Aaron Matthews, Clairton HS (Clairton) WR- Every Pitt fan already knows about the next Clairton phenom. The 6'5" 180 pound receiver has fantastic hands, speed, athleticism, and jumping ability.  In a jump ball situation he will almost always come down with the ball. Right now his offers have come from Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Temple, Toledo, and Akron. Pitt is the early favorite and usually when a local kid loves Pitt he ends up there, but the competition will get much tougher over the next year.

4. Brandon McIlwain, Council Rock North HS (Newtown) QB- Not really big at 6'1" and 205 pounds, at most, and he's still raw as a quarterback, but he has off the charts physical ability thanks to a rifle arm and game breaking speed. Already has an unreal offer list that includes Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Auburn, South Carolina, Clemson, Florida, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Wisconsin, UCLA, and Virginia Tech. And that's just some of them. He could end up being the next Michael Vick, but his great offer list now is mostly because of his raw physical skills. If he ever lives up to his potential, look out, but right now he's an unfinished product as a quarterback. His father played at South Carolina and they may be the very early favorite.

5. Kaezon Pugh, Aliquippa HS (Aliquippa) RB/LB- Right now he's more athletic specimen than football player, but at 6'1" and 200 pounds he has the strong frame to add more weight. He also has very good speed and athleticism. Pittsburgh and West Virginia are his offers and it will probably come down between those two.

6. Anthony Long, Bishop McDevitt HS (Harrisburg) DT- Aggressive, high energy interior lineman with a huge upside. Solidly built at 6'3" and 290 pounds, he has a muscular frame with little fat so he can get bigger. Very quick. Early offers have come from Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Temple, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Purdue, and UConn.

7. Naseir Upshur, Imhotep Institute Charter School (Philadelphia) TE- Most high school tight ends haven't perfected blocking yet, but Upshur is a unique talent that already uses his strength to destroy his opponents. At 6'4" and 225 pounds he needs to get bigger, but he has a great frame and should have no problem getting bigger. Also has very good speed and athleticism so he could factor in the passing game as well. He even could be a top pass rushing defensive end prospect if somebody wants to try him there. A lot of offers already including Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Arizona, and Arizona State.

8. Khaleke Hudson, McKeesport HS (McKeesport) S- The more I watch film of the 6'0" 200 pound Hudson the more I like him. He has the chance to be a special safety if he sticks at that position. There's always a chance, however, that he could grow into a linebacker. Great range and lays out some vicious hits.  Offers have come from Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Temple, Toledo, and Akron.

9. Cary Angeline, Downingtown East HS (Exton) TE- The new breed of tight end in that he's a tall, athletic pass catcher. At 6'7", the talented basketball player is a matchup nightmare.  Only 225 pounds so he needs to add a lot more weight, but that shouldn't be a problem. He seems like exactly what Pitt is looking for but they haven't offered him. Those who have offered him, though, include Penn State, Michigan State, Miami, Virginia, Boston College, Duke, Rutgers, and Temple. Penn State is probably the favorite.

10. Kobay White, Bishop McDevitt HS (Harrisburg) WR- Most receivers in college these days have to have great size to get the big time offers so when somebody like White, who is 6'0" 185, does't have that, he doesn't get the offers that some others may get. But White is very fast, athletic, and productive. Early offers so far from West Virginia, Maryland, Georgia Tech, Temple, and UConn.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Can the 2015 Pitt Panthers Football Team Be a Top 20 Team?

Quarterback: Of all of the positions this is the one that will probably most determine the fate of the Panthers in 2015. One obvious reason is because of the importance of the position in general. But the other reason is because the rest of the offense looks very good, and maybe even excellent, on paper. It's also scary for the program because if Chad Voytik doesn't succeed, there probably isn't a realistic alternative. Yes, there could always be a graduate transfer, but more likely if Voytik fails or gets hurt, the Panthers are in trouble. Adam Bertke and Alex Hornibrook can be good in the future, but it's unrealistic to think they'll be that good that soon since Bertke will probably be a redshirt freshman and Hornibrook will be a true freshman

Running Back: This is the first of many positions on offense where the Panthers will be loaded in 2015. It begins of course with James Conner, who will be a junior, and will theoretically be even more dominating. Combine him at least with fast Chris James and third down back Rachid Ibrahim and that's a good trio. Jaymar Parrish already showed as a true freshman that he's a talented fullback/H-Back so there's no reason to think he won't continue to contribute.

Wide Receiver: Probable All-American candidate Tyler Boyd combined with Adonis Jennings and Quadree Henderson? That's possible, but the latter two will have to beat out Zach Challingsworth and Dontez Ford.  That's five really good receivers, with at least one of them being a legit star. And of course others like Jester Weah, Elijah Zeise, and Jaquaun Davidson may also get into the mix.

Tight End: JP Holtz will be a senior and Scott Orndoff will be a junior, and they will have both been lettermen since their freshmen seasons. By this time, Orndoff may have developed into a star. The two alone are enough to make this a very strong unit.

Offensive Line: This has been a trouble spot for years, but Paul Chryst's recruiting may finally come to fruition. Matt Rotheram and TJ Clemmings will be gone, but the time may finally come for former top recruits who will now be veterans. Included in that mix are Adam Bisnowaty, Dorian Johnson, and Jaryd Jones-Smith. Combine them with young potential stars like Alex Bookser and Mike Grimm, both of whom will have a year under their belt at this time, and the line may finally be on it's way to good things. And I haven't even mentioned yet Artie Rowell, Alex Officer, Aaron Reese, Gabe Roberts, or Connor Hayes, any of whom could join the rotation.

Defensive Line: On paper, everybody but David Durham will be back. At end, Shakir Soto, Devin Cook, and Ejuan Price will all be upperclassmen, and I wouldn't be surprised if Soto was all-conference caliber at this time. Youngster Luke Maclean will join that mix. One of them will have to turn into a serious pass rush threat because it's been sorely lacking.

Inside, things look even better. Darryl Render, Khaynin Mosley-Smith, Tyrique Jarrett, and Justin Moody all have better than average talent. Connor Dintino and Mike Herndon are giants who will likely redshirt this season so they will also be in the mix in 2015.

Linebackers: Todd Thomas and Anthony Gonzalez will have graduated, but things aren't as dire as it seems. Matt Galambos will likely be the returning starter in the middle, and fellow upperclassmen Bam Bradley, Nicolas Grigsby, and Mike Caprara will also return. But the younger guys are especially intriguing. Rori Blair, Jamal Davis, James Folston, Quintin Wirginis, and Kevin Givens are all talented, and at least a few will be in the mix as soon as 2015. I think we will also see a few more talented linebackers added for the '15 class, too, so the days of moving safeties and quarterbacks into this position may be over. At the very least this will be a very quick and athletic group, and some of the younger guys have the potential to be physically bigger than Pitt linebackers of recent years.

Defensive Backs: There's no unit that has gotten faster in a shorter period of time than this group.  Lafayette Pitts isn't even one of the speedier players but he could be starting his fourth season. Reggie Mitchell will also be a senior, and he should help with experience. The rest of the group have serious speed, led by the Clairton trio of Trenton Coles, Terrish Webb, and Titus Howard. It's not inconceivable that all three will start. At the very least, all three will figure prominently. Speed demon cornerbacks Avonte Maddox and Phillipie Motley should figure in the mix next year as should playmaking safeties Patrick Amara and Jalen Williams. And of course if the Panthers can land a big time corner like Jordan Whitehead then that's a player that could start right away.

Kickers: Chris Blewitt proved as a true freshman that he was pretty good so theoretically as a junior he should be even better. Punter Ryan Winslow will be in his second year as the starter assuming he does well this season.

Bottom line:  The first thing you need to be a top 20 caliber team is stars in positions that matter, and in Conner and Boyd the Panthers have two potential stars. If they stay healthy and live up to their potential they could both be All-American candidates, and any team that has an All-American caliber running back and wide receiver is going to win their share of games.

As for the other parts of the offense, the wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends all look to be in excellent shape on paper. And with Chryst's offensive mind you'd think the offense could be very, very good if Voytik and the offensive line comes through. Voytik is a former Elite 11 quarterback and the offensive line has more than it's share of former elite recruits, so it's not crazy to think that both will perform well. In fact, with the pedigree of both, they should perform well. It's time to turn elite recruits like Voytik, Dorian Johnson, Jones-Smith, and Grimm into the players they are expected to be.

As for defense, the Panthers could return seven starters with Ray Vinopal, David Durham, Todd Thomas, and Anthony Gonzalez the only seniors departing. Vinopal went from being a disaster to being a solid player, but his loss will not be a big deal at all since every other defensive back returns. Likewise, the defensive line returns practically everybody.  At linebacker, Thomas and Gonzalez are good players, but there are a lot of quick, hungry linebackers behind them.

The defense has nobody that stands out as certain stars, but they should be quicker and deeper for the first time in many years so you'd have to think they will be good enough to keep the Panthers in games, especially if the offense is explosive.

It will be the fourth year of Chryst's reign in 2015, the acknowledged turning point for college coaches. On offense, he will have a former Elite 11 quarterback starting in his second year, two possible All-American candidates in Boyd and Conner, dynamic playmakers like Jennings and Henderson, a big, athletic pass catching threat at tight end with Orndoff, and a handful of former elite offensive line prospects, most of whom will be in the program for their third or fourth year.

On defense, a star, or two, or three, may emerge, but at the very least quickness and familiarity should  help the unit be at least solid. In the best case scenario, somebody like Soto turns into a sack machine, Galambos turns into Scott McKillop, Jr., and the Clairton bunch are so good that they become a national story.

Yes, those things may happen. But they don't necessarily have to for Pitt to finally return to respectability, because on paper 2015 looks like the year that respectability may return to Oakland without having to ask for miracles.

Chryst gets good players and has a good coaching staff. That leads to a good team. I've said since he was hired that Chryst will probably max out as an 8-9 win coach, and a 9 win season will probably put him around the top 20. Can he ever get into the rarefied air of a top 10 team? I honestly have my doubts. It takes a lot of things to go right for that to happen because while there is good talent at Pitt there is not great talent. Some coaches can have great teams with just good talent but those are the truly elite coaches. Chryst has yet to prove that he's in that category.  But if you have good coaches and good talent, you never know what could happen in any given season. A lot of things may go Pitt's way and you just may have yourself a magical season that will have Panthers fans happy again.