Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Pitt QB coach?

Jonathan Smith, offensive coordinator at Montana, could be Paul Chryst's new quarterback coach.  Smith, a former Oregon State quarterback, coached at Idaho for five seasons before becoming Montana's offensive coordinator this season.  Before that he worked on the Oregon State staff with Chryst (as a grad assistant).  Considered one of the fastest rising offensive minds in the country, he has coached under established offensive coaches Dennis Erickson and Mike Riley.  Smith, however, is best known, for leading Oregon State to an 11-1 record in 2001 while throwing to Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Today's topics- Ryan Watson and Khem Birch **UPDATE**

Ryan Watson, the excellent DT from Maryland has committed to Purdue. Considered a strong Pitt lean as of a few weeks ago, Watson changed his mind while Paul Chryst was at the Rose Bowl. Did Chryst ever call him? If not, a major failure for him. Should know soon if Chryst talked to him at all.

Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports is reporting that Pitt thinks Missouri was tampering with their former enigmatic Canadian. Missouri, on the other hand, did not ask for a release for Birch because they were not comfortable with Birch's "handlers". Who is?

Lastly, (hey they may be right sometimes) is reporting that Wisconsin LB coach Dave Huxtable will be joining Chryst's staff. Another big coup if true because Huxtable is a big time coach.

**UPDATE**  Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema says that LB coach Dave Huxtable is staying at Wisconsin.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What's wrong with Pitt basketball?

1.  Ashton Gibbs is having a subpar season.  I'm guessing the talk of Gibbs being drafted into the NBA has now stopped.  As I've said often, Gibbs can do one thing and one thing only- he can hit a wide open three when he can get it off.  That's it.  He's not a good defensive player, he can't make his own shots consistently, he's not very athletic, he's not tall, and he's not a floor leader.  To his credit, for most of his career he's been good enough at his one great skill that he was the preseason Big East Player of the Year and an All-American candidate.  But then the wheels fell off.  Gibbs' shooting went south and without that his other weaknesses have been exposed.  How bad has Gibbs been shooting from three lately?  How about 28.3% in the last seven games and 16.7% in the last four.  When your best player is playing so poorly then losses will always follow.

2.  Lack of talent amongst the upperclassmen.  Gibbs and Nasir Robinson are the Panthers two best players but let's be honest, on an Elite 8 team neither one of them starts.  Yes, I know that Gibbs is an All-American candidate, but not only would he not start on your average Duke or North Carolina team, they probably wouldn't even see the floor.  That doesn't mean they aren't good because they are, and they've both, especially Gibbs, proven over their career that they can play well against top teams.  But at the end of the day, when that's you're two best players, there's only so far you can go.

3.  Big misses on elite prospects.  I'm looking at you Khem Birch and Dante Taylor.  I know a lot of Pitt fans will never want another elite prospect now because of the failure of these two, but I won't waste my time telling you how ridiculous that is.  Taylor was overrated from the very beginning, but nobody cold think he would have been this mediocre.  He's not the most athletic player but entering Pitt he was considered a tough kid who should be an excellent rebounder and maybe have a decent amount of double doubles.  Instead he is in his third season with the Panthers and is averaging 7.9 ppg and 5.9 rpg. He's also just had one double double this season and scored in double figures just four times, with a high of just 15.

Birch was an aloof kid with a different personality that Dixon is used to.  In fact, if he wasn't hand delivered by then assistant Pat Skerry, I doubt that Dixon would have even pursued Birch since he didn't have the mental and physical toughness that Dixon desires.  But having said that, many national basketball writers I've talked to are wondering if maybe Dixon mishandled Birch.  That maybe Birch, because of his fragile ego, shouldn't have been treated like the rest of Pitt's tough guys are treated.  At the very least, Birch should have played early and often.  He's clearly better than anybody else at his position and he should have been allowed to learn on the job.  Not that Birch is some victim.  The truth is, he was at least starting and would have eventually got more and more time.  The fact that he quit makes him, well...a quitter.  And quite frankly, all the talent in the world can't help a quitter.

4.  Questionable recruiting/player development.  It's hard to say which is the problem, and to be honest, it's probably both.  But there are some players on the current roster that are starting to look like misses, or at the very least, has to make you worry that they'll end up as a miss.  Isaiah Epps is somebody that Pitt was on hard early, and offered based on potential.  Unfortunately, however, he committed two years before joining Pitt and to be honest in those two years he never developed as they had projected.  In fact, he's been at Pitt two more years and still hasn't developed into what they expected.  Cameron Wright, though just a redshirt freshman, is another interesting pickup because you wonder what the end game will be with him.  He lacks offense, and doesn't have a lot of upside, so you have to wonder what Pitt saw in him.  What's even more troublesome is that with his lack of elite talent he has still started when Travon Woodall was out with an injury.  Sophomores J.J. Moore and Talib Zanna are two more players that need to get better in a hurry.

5.  Lack of elite guards.  It sounds crazy with an All-American candidate and by this time I'm no doubt getting criticism for trashing Gibbs.  The truth is, I think he's a good player.  But if you want to have a truly elite team, and that's why where here right, then you need really good guards and Pitt doesn't have that.  Of Pitt's five guards, none are a true point guard.  None.  Even though four of them are point guard size and the one who is two guard size can't shoot.

6.  Lack of size and athleticism.  With Woodall in the lineup, the starting five goes 5'11", 6'1, 6'4", 6'5", and 6'9".  And of those four the only one that really can be considered any kind of top flight athlete is the 5'11" Woodall.  Gibbs, Patterson, Robinson, and Taylor are average athletes at best.

Summary-  Of course, I could go through like a statistician nerd and show you how the defense isn't as good, the offense isn't as good, the rebounding isn't good, etc., but it all comes down to personnel.  With the right personnel, all of those other things will take care of themselves.

At the end of the day, Pitt got to this point because of some poor choices in recruiting.  But the truth is, that happens with every program.  The only thing unusual about this situation is that it took Dixon so long for it to happen to him.  If you miss on your two big supposed stars, as Dixon did, you are obviously going to have a dearth of talent.  But that's about to change.  Center Steven Adams and point guard James Robinson are two missing pieces that will get Pitt back on track.  That's if Dixon plays them.  If he plays Woodall over Robinson, and Taylor or Zanna over Adams, then he's just going to have another subpar season, and this time he will deserve much more criticism.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Okay this is getting bad

Notre Dame stinks and still had little trouble with Pitt.  It looks like this may not be salvageable.

I'll write why the team is so bad tomorrow but for now, just the basics.

Ashton Gibbs continues to show little offensively with 12 points and no three pointers.

Travon Woodall had no points and was 0-5 from the field, including 0-3 from the line.

Talib Zanna led all Panthers with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

Dante Taylor had 4 points and 4 rebounds.

Pitt shot 1-15 from three.  So much for recruiting all of those three point specialists.

Somebody named Alex Dragicevich led all scorers with 22 points.

Can Panthers land four PA superstars for 2013?

Robert Foster, Central Valley HS (Monaca) WR-  By now, any self-respecting Pitt fan knows that this is the best player in the WPIAL and the state, not to mention one of the top in the country.  In fact, I'm guessing he will generally be considered among the top 25 prospects in the country- at least.  Because he has the whole package- speed, height, hands, athleticism, and actual football ability- he will get offers from everyone.  Expect the SEC powers, the Florida schools, USC, Oregon, Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State, and anybody else you can think of to offer him.  So why Pitt?

1.  Well, first of all, he is not enamored yet with any other school.  Usually if an elite kid from the area doesn't go to Pitt, it's because he has a particular fondness for someplace specific, usually Penn State, Ohio State, Notre Dame, or Michigan, but it could be anywhere that for whatever reason he really wants to play there.  Foster doesn't have that yet. He doesn't even know that much about Urban Meyer, believe it or not. In fact, Pitt is the only school that he's very familiar with and even though all of his contact with Pitt has come during the Todd Graham regime, he has been at the school often and knows a lot of the players.

2.  While visiting Pitt for Panthers games and a camp, Foster said he loved the campus, likes Pitt, and likes that it's close to home.  And this was with the previous staff (who incidentally told him he was like family).

3.  His cousin is Pitt starting linebacker Todd Thomas and one of his close friends is Rushel Shell.  Plus, according to Chandler Kincade, Foster has been in a group of Beaver County kids, along with Shell, who said they would love to stay home and play at Pitt together.

4.  Pitt was his first offer and he says that gave him the confidence to be a better player so the offer was special to him.

5.  His mother lives in Philadelphia and his dad works long hours, so the person who helps him most in recruiting is Central Valley assistant coach Adam Caltury, who is only five years older and is also friends with Foster.  Caltury played at Monaca with Foster's older twin brothers, but they aren't around either, so Foster is practically part of Caltury's family (though Foster's father works often, they are still close).  When Foster and Caltury talk recruiting they agree that Foster should go where it feels like home.  What better place to feel like home than where his dad, mentor, and friends are?

6.  His favorite player is Larry Fitzgerald.

Patrick Kugler, North Allegheny HS (Wexford) OG-  Will probably be the No. 2 player in the state, behind Foster, and should be one of the top offensive line recruits in the country.  In fact, he already has about 20 offers, including Miami, Florida State, Stanford, and Virginia Tech, and that number will go up the longer he's on the market.  So why Pitt?

1.  This one is easy.  His dad, Sean Kugler, just happens to be the offensive line coach for the Steelers.  Let's see, he can stay home and be taught by offensive guru Paul Chryst and offensive line master Bob Bostad, who Coach Kugler no doubt thinks are excellent teachers.  Bottom line, why leave when you have the best  right down the road?  Seems hard to fathom that the Kuglers will see it any other way.

2.  He called the hiring of Chryst "awesome" and said that it should help bring back some of the nastiness to Pitt football.  The same can be said of Kugler.

Tyler Boyd, Clairton Area HS (Clairton) WR/S-  If possible, he may be even more explosive than Foster in high school, though admittedly it's in a smaller classification.  His recruitment should be interesting because he's in Class A, and those level of players rarely get a lot of offers, but that should be very different for Boyd who is already being looked at heavily by the likes of Notre Dame and USC.  So why Pitt?

1.  Obviously Pitt has locality on their side and already have on their roster Boyd's former teammates Manny Williams and Kevin Weatherspoon, and will have incoming freshman Trenton Coles next year.  Boyd has stated that he is worried that past Clairton players have not done well at Pitt, but the new staff can of course tell him that was with a different staff.

2.  His stepbrother is Tyrique Jarrett, who just happens to be the Allderdice lineman who is committed to play at Pitt next year.  Boyd's mother is married to Jarrett's father.  They don't live together because Jarrett lives with his birth mother, but Jarrett's full brother, Devante Gardlock, does live with Boyd's mother and Jarrett's father.  They'll be a test on this later.

Adam Breneman, Cedar Cliff HS (Camp Hill) TE-  The only one of the four not from the Pittsburgh area, but he would still be a huge get.  He's the new breed of pass catching field stretching tight ends that cause major matchup problems for defenses.  For that reason, Breneman already has offers not only from Pitt, but also Penn State, Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, Virginia, Florida State, Miami, South Carolina, and Stanford.  Needless to say, the competition is brutal and will probably get even more brutal.  But Breneman hopes to commit next summer, before his senior season begins, so maybe Pitt can get him before the competition gets even more fierce.  So why Pitt?

1.  He's already been to Pitt and enjoyed it, though it was when the Graham staff was there.  Of course he's a very nice kid who is grateful for all of the attention coming his way, so he pretty much says nice things about everybody.  But he's from the Harrisburg area and if he wants to stay close to home, he's not going to play at Temple or Maryland, and Penn State, once unofficially considered one of the favorites, has to be considered a long shot at the moment.  He knows Pitt is just a three and a half hour drive away, and it's the perfect opportunity for his family to see him play.

2.  Is there a better fit from a football perspective than Pitt right now?  I've talked about the new breed of pass catching tight end and there's been nobody more responsible for the current trend then Chryst who has four of his tight ends playing in the NFL currently and a fifth who is on his way.  Bottom line, Chryst is considered the man if you're a tight end and I don't see why this won't make Breneman extremely excited about the possibilities of learning under the best.

Summary:  Let me say first that I am not saying Pitt will get all, or even any, of these four wonderful prospects, but I can say without a doubt that the first time in many, many years the Panthers have a legit shot at some program changing in-state players.

The two with the most local ties are Foster and Boyd, but the other two, Kugler and Breneman, couldn't be better fits, and I'm sure if they don't know it now they will know it once the new Pitt staff gets to them.

If the Panthers can land these four then the Chryst reign will start off in grand fashion.  A future offense of Chad Voytik, Rushel Shell, Robert Foster, Adam Breneman, Adam Bisnowaty, and Patrick Kugler is potentially phenomenal.  Plus, it could potentially make Pitt such a power that future classes may fall into place accordingly.

Of course, this is the best case scenario and all just speculation right now, but with Penn State having their problems, and with all four of these players having legitimate reasons to play for the Panthers, it's not crazy to say that the 2013 Pitt class has the potential to change everything for Pitt.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bob Bostad- New Pitt Offensive Coordinator

According to sources close to the situation, Wisconsin offensive line coach Bob Bostad will join Paul Chryst's staff as the offensive coordinator.  Bostad was the offensive line coach for the Badgers for the last four years and he's considered one of the best offensive line coaches in the country.  In fact, over the last two seasons, four different Wisconsin linemen were named First Team All-American.  Prior to Wisconsin, the Wisconsin native coached at New Mexico and San Jose State, and was offensive coordinator at San Jose State in 1998.

While Bostad will officially be the offensive coordinator, it's safe to say that Chryst will still be heavily involved in the offense.  He is also expected to be the only member of the Wisconsin staff to join Chryst at Pitt.

Final top 20 of PA 2012

1.  Noah Spence, Bishop McDevitt HS (Harrisburg) DE-  At 6'4" and 245 pounds, he has the size, speed, and athletic ability to be a big time pass rusher at the next level.  Players like him are obviously coveted as you can tell by an offer list that included Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, USC, Stanford, and pretty much every other school in the country.  When the dust settled, he committed to OHIO STATE not long after Urban Meyer was hired.

2.  Rushel Shell, Hopewell HS (Aliquippa) RB-  It's safe to say that the term productive could be used for the all-time leading rusher in PA history.  He's not a speed demon, but he's fast enough, he has some wiggle, and he runs great between the tackles.  He also has great hands.  With so many carries in his high school career, you have to wonder how soon in his career he'll wear out, but at 5'11" and 210 pounds, he's so far proven to be a durable and strong workhorse.  Committed to PITTSBURGH after getting offers from such top programs as Ohio State, Penn State, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, and Florida.

3.  Eugene Lewis, Wyoming Valley HS (Plymouth) WR-  Lanky 6'2" 182 pound playmaker who catches everything in sight and is very athletic.  Doesn't have elite speed but is great and shifty with the ball in his hands.  Committed to PENN STATE over Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Oregon, Michigan State, and South Carolina, and even though some schools, like Pitt under their former regime, have tried to get him to change his mind after Penn State's troubles came to light, he has thus far kept to his decision.

4.  Greg Garmon, McDowell HS (Erie) RB-  Muscular 6'1" 200 pound back with very good athleticism and elite speed.  Also has good hands and could project to wide receiver, too.  All around talent with a big upside.  Final three are Miami, Iowa, and Arkansas.  Others who've offered include Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia, North Carolina, Florida State, Ohio State, and Michigan.

5.  Colin Thompson, Archbishop Wood Catholic JS (Warminster) TE-  Doesn't have elite speed, but he's faster than average and can get open down the field.  Great 6'5" 255 pound size.  Very good blocker.  Committed to FLORIDA over Pitt, Penn State, Alabama, Wisconsin, Michigan State, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Stanford.

6.  J.J. Denman, Pennsbury HS (Fairless Hills) OT-  Already has great size at 6'6" and 310 pounds, and unlike most kids his size, it's not sloppy weight.  Great wingspan obviously makes him a candidate at left tackle and he has the feet to also play on the blind side.  Plays with a bit of a mean streak.  Committed to Penn State, but even before their troubles, he changed his mind and chose WISCONSIN over Pitt, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and South Carolina.

7.  Chris Muller, Boyertown Area HS (Boyertown) OT-   Great size at 6'6" and 285 pounds.  Also like Denman he has the feet and long arms.  Played against a lot of smaller kids at Boyertown so it's hard to say just how good he is, but the talent is there to be a big time offensive lineman down the line.  Chose RUTGERS over Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia, Florida, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and South Carolina.

8.  Demetrious Cox, Jeannette HS (Jeannette) S-  Lanky 6'1" 190 pound athlete who has good speed, but plays even faster.  Good tackler with a lot of range.  His choice will likely come down to finalists Pitt, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Notre Dame.

9. Adam Bisnowaty, Fox Chapel HS (Pittsburgh) OG-  Mobile and athletic enough to play tackle, but his strength and great drive blocking makes him a natural at guard.  Needs to add some weight, but at 6'6" and 280 pounds he has the great frame to do that.  Committed to PITTSBURGH under the former regime, but as it turns out, he's even more perfect for the new offense.  Other offers included Penn State, West Virginia, Michigan, Michigan State, and Florida.

10.  Drew Harris, Downingtown East HS (Exton) RB-  Extremely fast and tough between the tackles runner who once he puts more size on his 6'1" 190 pound body, could really be good.  He's a track star, but he's far from soft.  Runs hard and very determined, but doesn't have a lot of wiggle.  Committed to Virginia Tech months ago but now he's wavering so much that it's doubtful that he's still considered a sure thing for the Hokies.  In fact, he visited Pitt just before the coaching staff changed and if the Panthers new staff were interested, they may be able to steal him.  Other big offers include Penn State, West Virginia, Michigan State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, South Carolina, Iowa and Miami.

11.  J.P. Holtz, Shaler Area HS (Pittsburgh) DE/TE-  Very intriguing and versatile player who was one of the biggest risers in the state this season.  Great 6'4" and 240 pound size but he moves like a much smaller player (in a good way).  Sneaky good speed and athleticism.  On offense, he could be a very good pass catching tight end who is tough enough to block well, and on defense he can play at end, outside linebacker, or even middle linebacker.  Committed to Penn State but then changed his mind.  Right now Pitt looks to be the favorite.  Other offers included West Virginia, Michigan, Michigan State, Arkansas, and Virginia.

12.  Dakota Conwell, Upper St. Clair HS (Pittsburgh) LB-  One of the more under recruited players in the state.  His offer list doesn't look impressive, but that's because he committed early before he had a great senior season.  He's only 6'1" 205 so he's currently undersized for the position, but he's tough and athletic, and most of all, he's just a good football player.  Committed to PITTSBURGH.

13.  Deaysean Rippy, Sto-Rox HS (McKees Rocks) LB-  Definitely one of the most controversial players in PA recruiting circles because he received many big time offers last summer based on what turned out to be unrealized potential.  After trying to commit to Florida, and being turned down, he had a subpar senior season that scared off many of those big programs.  He's only 6'2" and 200 pounds, so he will have to add a lot of size, but he's athletic, fast, and tough when he wants to be.  The problem is, he needs to want to be all of that more often.  Offers included Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio State, and USC, but now he's down to Pitt, Colorado, Arkansas, Maryland, and West Virginia.

14.  Frank Taylor, Archbishop Wood HS Catholic HS (Warminster) OG-  Like his teammate Brandon Arcidiocono, he's undersized at 6'3" and 285 pounds, but also like Arcidiocono, he's a quick and strong run blocker who at times can destroy the man across from him.  His size prevents him from playing at tackle, but he could be a very good interior lineman in a few years. Committed to BOSTON COLLEGE over Pitt, Miami, West Virginia, Michigan State, Rutgers, and NC State.

15.  Brandon Arcidiacono, Archbishop Wood HS (Warminster) C-  Currently he's only 6'5" and 250 pounds so he has a long way to go as far as gaining weight, but he does have the frame to do it.  Very quick and tough, plus he's a good technician.  Has an older brother playing at Penn State and a younger brother who should get major offers next year.  Committed to RUTGERS over Pitt, West Virginia, Miami, Boston College, and NC State.  

16.  Adam DePietro, Lancaster Catholic HS (Lancaster) OG-  Played tackle this season but he may be more suited to guard.  Needs to add more size to his 6'4" 275 pound frame, but he's a technician and has great feet.  Once he gets bigger and stronger, he could be very good in a few years.  Committed to NORTHWESTERN over Pitt, West Virginia, Michigan State, Cincinnati, Vanderbilt, Rutgers, and NC State.

17.  Nyeem Wartman, Valley View HS (Archbald) LB-  Good size at 6'3" and 230 pounds.  Not great at any facet, but above average in everything including speed, toughness, quickness, and strength.  Committed to Penn State, and he still may end up there, but right now, he's looking around for different options.  Other offers include Pitt, Florida, Northwestern, NC State, and Rutgers.

18.  Corey Jones, Penn Hills HS (Pittsburgh) WR-  Smallish wideout at 5'9" and 155 pounds, but his speed and athleticism makes him a major game breaker. Also a good punt returner.  Came on the scene at the Nike combine at Penn State this summer where he dominated. Ran a 4.47 in the 40 there. Committed to PITTSBURGH with the previous staff, and he has decided to stay with that decision.  Other offers include Penn State, West Virginia, Cincinnati, and Miami.

19.  Tyrone Neal, McKeesport HS (McKeesport) LB-  Good, not great size at 6'1" and 225 pounds, but he's tough and athletic with good speed.  Not as dominating as his offer list would indicate but he can play inside or outside and is a good prospect.  West Virginia and Syracuse are on the final list and Pitt is on the list for the first time thanks to the departure of Todd Graham.  Other offers in the past included Auburn, Florida, USC, and Nebraska though none of those are considered "committable offers" at this time.

20.  Skyler Mornhingweg, St. Joseph's Prep (Philadelphia) QB- Son of highly regarded NFL offensive coordinator Marty Mornhingweg so he knows how to play the position.  Good athleticism and good 6'3" 210 pound size.  Doesn't have a exceptionally strong arm, but should be able to make all of the throws.  Athletic enough to play safety if he doesn't make it at quarterback.  Originally committed to PENN STATE, and so far he's staying with them, but Alabama, Tennessee, and Stanford are interested, and he actually committed to Stanford over a year ago.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


If anybody is interested, I am now on twitter.  @chrisdokish

Happy Holidays to my fellow Pitt fans

I only planned on writing in this blog periodically but with so much happening in Pitt sports lately, I've already had to write more that I thought I ever would. The result is that now I've created a monster. When I did my last blog, I would average around 4,000 unique visitors a day, and that number amazed me. Now, even though I've only been doing this new blog for just a few months, I'm already averaging 8,000 unique visitors a day, and sometimes I even go over 10,000. So thanks to you guys this has quickly become the most popular Pitt blog on the Internet. Who knew? Anyway, thanks to all who read and post, and most off all thanks for helping make this blog a huge success by helping let serious Pitt fans talk seriously and passionately about the teams they love (and that drive them crazy). For anybody who doesn't think Pitt has a lot of fans, all they have to is see the traffic that this site generates and they will know they are wrong.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wagner 59 Pittsburgh 54

In what can best be described as an uninspired and awful performance, the Panthers lost to 13 point underdog Wagner 59-54 to fall to 11-2.

Turnovers and bad shooting were the main culprits as the Panthers shot just 39.6% from the field, 13.3% from three, and 60.9% from the line.  The Panthers also had an absurd 18 turnovers.

While Ashton Gibbs led Pitt with 14 points, he was 5-16 from the field and 1-7 from three.  He also had 5 turnovers.  Nasir Robinson also had 5 turnovers to go with his 9 points and 9 rebounds, and Lamar Patterson had 4 turnovers to with 6 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals.  Patterson also shot 1-9 from the field and 1-5 from three.

Cameron Wright had 7 points while Talib Zanna came off the bench for 6 points and 6 rebounds.

Next up for the Panthers is a road game at Notre Dame on Tuesday.  The Irish are currently 8-5.

How Could the 2012 Paul Chryst Panthers Look?

Quarterback:  I know a lot of Panthers fans don't want to hear this, but my guess is that Tino Sunseri will start again next year.  The difference is, he will now be put in a much better position to succeed.  If it's one thing that Chryst is excellent at, it's letting his players stay in their comfort zone, and for Sunseri that should be short, safe passes and turning around to hand the ball off a lot.  Sunseri doesn't throw the long ball well so that could hurt as far as stretching the field, as well as giving the running backs room to run, but right now he seems like the best option.  Chad Voytik will be a true freshman, obviously, and while I prefer to have him see some time if he's ready, he could redshirt if Sunseri does well enough and redshirt sophomore Mark Myers can be an adequate backup.  I know a lot of fans have high hopes now for Myers, but I was told he was a tad overrated as a prospect coming out of high school, and in fact Pitt was his only high-major offer.  However, the lefty is big and has a cannon for an arm, so if anybody can get anything out of him it will be Chryst.  His development should definitely be interesting.  I think it's safe to say that Trey Anderson does not fit this system and I would be surprised if he didn't go back to school closer to his hometown in Texas.  Anthony Gonzalez is another player who may have been an option in a spread offense but now will probably stay at tight end.  Hopefully either at tight end or elsewhere, he will see the field a lot, because he's too good of an athlete and a player to be on the sideline.

Running back:  This has to be one happy group.  Chryst loves to run the ball and luckily for him he has the horses to do it.  After blowing out his knee this season, I'm assuming Ray Graham comes back for his senior year,  because, one, nobody is going to draft him without seeing him on the field again, and, two, a huge year in the new offense will only help him come draft day.  If he's healthy, he should team with surprising Isaac Bennett, who played well as a true freshman this year, and elite freshman Rushel Shell.  The three should form quit a group, assuming Graham is healthy.  While Chryst usually likes to use two tight ends, two receivers, and one running back, from time to time he often utilizes fullbacks.  That's a problem for Pitt since they have no real fullbacks, so look for 6'2" 230 pound former high school quarterback Mark Giubilato, and 235 pound Derrick Burns, who redshirted this season after entering the program at 195 pounds, to possibly see some time.

Wide receiver:  This group was a disaster this season, as they never took to the spread, and even though they should be better back in a conventional offense, it's still a unit that needs an influx of talent.  I'm guessing that returning starters Michael Shanahan and Devin Street will start again, and while their big size hurt them in the spread, that same size will help them immensely while blocking in the running game.  Salath Williams and Ed Tinker also have good size, as does Drew Carswell who started out at tight end but moved to receiver later in the season.  He could stay at receiver or go back to tight end where Chryst liked to play two at Wisconsin.  In a bit of irony, the rest of the receivers are spread offense types due to their smallish size.  Between returnees Brandon Felder, Ronald Jones, Darius Patton, and Cameron Saddler, and incoming freshman Corey Jones, and twins Demetrious and Chris Davis, Chryst will have to find a few of them to take a step forward as players.

Tight end:  Another Chryst speciality, he loves to throw to the tight ends and he loves receiving tight ends who can really get down the field.  Like I stated previously, he also likes to play two tights a lot.  That's good news for senior to be Hubie Graham who should see his numbers skyrocket next season.  Graham is not the deep threat like the new breed of tight ends, but he's athletic enough.  Anthony Gonzalez, if he stays at tight end, could be the type of tight end that can really stretch the field.  Brendan Carozzoni impressed me as a redshirt freshman and he could be a really good one down the line.  And of course Carswell could figure here, too.

Offensive line:  Okay, Chryst is one of the best in the business at developing running backs and tight ends, but it's offensive lines where he's earned most of his bones.  And amazingly, this offensive line, now that they are back to doing what they're best at, could actually be pretty good. At right tackle, Matt Rotheram looks like an ideal fit due to his 6'6" 330 pound body.  As a redshirt freshman, he played briefly this season and did okay before getting hurt, but now he will be doing what he does best which is drive blocking. He was highly recruited coming out of high school and he could be a future star on the line.   At left tackle, I can see Tom Ricketts being the man.  The Penn State transfer had to sit out last year and has yet to do anything in college football yet, but he's 6'5" 285, and he has talent.  I'm guessing that Chryst will work his magic on him.  At left guard, I expect Chris Jacobson back and as long as he's healthy, he will thrive in this offense since he is another prototypical drive blocker.  At right guard, Cory King will probably be the guy again, and he should only get better.  Ryan Schlieper will also play a lot and could even start.  At center, Ryan Turnley will be back for his senior year and while he's never been great, he's a warrior, and Chryst should be able to coach him up.  If he still comes, incoming freshman Brandyn Cook could see time as the backup center and be the heir apparent, but if he's not ready, look for Artie Rowell to back Turnley up.  And there's always the chance that Schlieper moves to center, too.  With that projected starting lineup (and admittedly it's just a wild guess at this point), from left to right, the weight of the linemen would be 285, 295, 320, 325, and 330.

Defensive line:  The line was good this season, but it's going to look very different in 2012, and that includes the look, which I expect to be a 4-3.  As a pass rushing end, you have to say Bryan Murphy is the man if he comes back to the team.  Murphy, who sat out this season because of academics, is a tough and relentless pass rusher and could really be good in this defense.  At the strong side end, it may finally be time for T.J. Clemmings, who is a chiseled physical specimen at 6'6" and 295 pounds.  If Murphy and Clemmings start, and live up their potential, then look out.  On the inside, Aaron Donald is going to be an All-American candidate, and he should be joined by Khaynin Moseley-Smith, who is very similar in size and playing ability, if not production.  Depth could be a real problem unless some freshman make an impact.  Inside, Tyrone Ezell will be a redshirt junior but he hasn't shown much yet.  Neither has soon to be senior Shayne Hale at end.  Incoming freshman end Darryl Render could see time, as could fellow freshman, 320 pound Tyrique Jarrett.  Possible commitments J.P. Holtz at end, and Ryan Watson at tackle, could also make an impact, especially Watson, an elite talent who could play a lot immediately if the Panthers can land him.

Linebackers:  The best part of running a 4-3 is that now Pitt's lack of linebacker talent and depth isn't as big of a problem.  In fact, the starters could be very good, even though they will also be very young.  Soon to be sophomore Ejuan Price is too good not to be on the field so I look for him to start at one outsider spot.  If the new DC is Todd Orlando, he loves to blitz linebackers and Price could be devastating in such a defense.  On the other side, Todd Thomas had a good season as a redshirt freshman this year and he's only going to get better.  Few teams in the country, and definitely nobody in the Big East, will have two quicker starting linebackers.  In the middle, a healthy Dan Mason would make the starting linebacker group phenomenal, but that's just a pipe dream, so I'm guessing that it's LaQuentin Smith's job to lose.  It's an interesting group with a ton of potential, but they are also all going to be sophomores.  After that, there is a severe drop in talent and experience, and there's no incoming freshman who are probably ready to play a lot, though Dakota Conwell should eventually be good.  Nicolas Grigsby, who redshirted this season, is fast and athletic, and could also be good in the future.  But this is definitely a position that needs a major upgrade.

Defensive back:  Outside of the defensive line, this was the best group next year and they return all but one starter and one reserve.  There are a lot of candidates to play next season, but K'waun Williams at corner, and Jarred Holley at strong safety, are guaranteed starters.  At the other corner, Michigan transfer Cullen Christian, and Lloyd Carrington, who played some as a true freshman this season, may be the best bets to start. At free safety, Jason Hendricks began the season as a starter, but then was lost for the remainder of the season due to injury.  He was replaced by Andrew Taglianetti, and both will be back next year, as will Lafayette Pitts, who was redshirted but is talented enough to take both of their jobs if they're not careful.  Other reserves include Brandon Ifill, who lettered as a redshirt freshman this season, Michigan transfer Ray Vinopal, who started as a true freshman for Wolverines, and Roderick Ryles, a very talented safety who was redshirted this season.  If that wasn't enough, there are also four more incoming freshmen who are defensive backs, though none are expected to get playing time next season.  Two possible incoming freshman, who haven't committed yet but Pitt would love to land, are Demetrious Cox and Bam Bradley, and both of them are good enough to see time as freshman if they became Panthers.

Summary:  Let's start with the bad news first.  There are still some units that are mediocre at best and depth is poor at almost every position.  It's doubtful that the passing came will be anything more than average and the front seven on defense has a lot of "ifs" that need to be answered or the defense could be in trouble.  When Todd Graham came to the program, the offensive line, receivers, and linebackers were lacking depth and to be honest, his one year didn't change that.  Also, outside of Ray Graham, there's still no real game breakers, and it's not even certain that he'll be back and be healthy.

Now the good news.  Sunseri and the passing game, while still not that good, should at least be better in some ways with Chryst using his talents to get what he can out of them.  The running backs and tights should be very good, giving Chryst a head start on getting the offense he wants, and the offensive line suddenly looks like it could be very effective.   On defense, Donald is excellent and Williams, Holley, and the rest of the secondary are very good.  The success of the defense may come down to just how well Murphy (if he's even on the team), Clemmings, Price, and Thomas play.  All four at least have big time talent.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2014 Quarterback to Keep an Eye On

One possible future quarterback for the Panthers has suddenly come into play.  He's only a sophomore, but he's already 6'3" 215 pounds, has a strong arm, and is very athletic.  He also has already been at Elite 11 tryouts and is considered one of the top 2014 quarterbacks in the west, and many think he will eventually develop into one of the best in the country.  This season, his first as a starter, he threw for 2,168 yards, with 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Normally a kid this good, and who currently lives in Palo Alto, CA, is not somebody that would usually consider Pitt.  But here's the catch.  The kid's name is Keller Chryst, and he just happens to be Paul Chryst's nephew.  Keller's father, Geep, is currently the quarterbacks coach for Jim Harbaugh at San Francisco.  That's why Keller is currently on the west coast.

Chryst Press Conference Thoughts

1.  He is not a great speaker as far as flash or charisma, but he seems like a great guy who says the right things, and says them from his heart. He's also very humble.  Hopefully he will be to Pitt football what Jamie Dixon is to Pitt basketball.

2.  Zach Brown introduced him to the team.

3.  His brother was a surprise visitor from Cleveland and he joked that they need better security.

4.  He seems ecstatic to be the head football coach at Pitt and knows the Pitt tradition.

5.  Has a great sense of humor and said he never had time yet to talk about his decision with his family.  Then he looked over at them and said "I hope you're okay with all of this".

6.  Took a shot at Todd Graham by saying basically that he's not going to stand up there and say what he's going to do right now because actions speak louder than words.

7.  "People matter.  Being a good person matters."

8.  The exact opposite of Todd Graham.

9.  "This is a destination job to me."

10.  Found out that Pittsburgh was ranked the No.1 city and he said that was good because it helped sell it to his wife.

11.  Already has some of his staff in place but wants to keep some options open in case he discovers  good young coaches somewhere.  Will also interview current staff members if they are interested in staying.

12.  Thrilled to be in the same place as the Steelers and already met Dan Rooney.  "Pretty cool".

 Summary:  I like him personally and he's obviously going to be a great offensive coach.  And just to be clear, I was NEVER against the guy.  I've always said that he's probably going to win 8 or 9 games.  Who knows?  Maybe he will win more at times.  My problems are more with the Pitt administration for being such a disaster and for continually firing and hiring 9 win coaches while acting like they are trying to be one of the elite programs in the country.  There's nothing wrong about not being an elite program if you can't pull it off, but if that's the case, don't act like that's what you want every time you fire a 9 win coach.

Top PA Prospects for 2013

Not that there's a new man in charge, it's time to see what he and his staff can do on the recruiting trail.  With Penn State in a state of flux, Ohio State with limited scholarships, and Michigan and Notre Dame not recruiting in PA like they have in the past, Pitt could have a banner year in the state.  It helps that new coach Paul Chryst will be in his first full recruiting year which usually is a big year for a new coach because he's both riding the wave of good buzz and he can convince prospects that they will have a place on his team.  There will be more prospects uncovered starting in the Spring because there are always kids who end the season at 6'1" and 230 pounds, then come back in May at 6'4" and 260 pounds, but here is a starter on who the top prospects in the state will be in 2013.  

Top 3 in alphabetical order

Adam Breneman, Cedar Cliff HS (Camp Hill) TE-  Mostly a pass rushing threat right now, almost like an extra wide receiver.  At 6'5" and 220 pounds, he could stay that way but he also has the frame to add a lot more weight and be a more conventional tight end.  No matter how you look at it, he's a matchup nightmare for defenses and is the new breed of tight end in the same vein as NFL stars like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham.  In Todd Graham's offense, Breneman was not a good fit.  With Chryst, Pitt could suddenly be a major player since Chryst's offenses use receiving tight ends heavily.  At one point, Penn State was the odds on favorite but that has obviously changed.  I can see him ending up at a program that really showcases the tight end like Pitt, Notre Dame or Stanford, but he has also great offers like Alabama, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Virginia, and Florida State.  And that list will only get bigger.  

Robert Foster, Central Valley HS (Monaca) WR-  Electrifying wide receiver and return man who should be the No. 1 prospect in the state and one of the top wide receivers in the country.  He's 6'2" 175, plus has track speed, good hands, and can run like hell after the catch. His track coach even thinks that with the right training he could run as fast as 10.4 in the 100, which is essentially world class speed.  He's not at that level yet, but he's fast and is only going to get faster.   Elite programs like Ohio State, Oregon, Florida, and Florida State have already offered and that list will get much, much longer.  He has not really looked into recruiting yet, but he's the cousin of Pitt redshirt freshman linebacker Todd Thomas, he's friends with Pitt recruits Rushel Shell and Chandler Kincade, and his favorite player ever is Larry Fitzgerald.  Put it all together and I would be very, very surprised if he ended up anywhere other than Pitt.

Patrick Kugler, North Allegheny HS (Wexford) OG-  If Foster is not the consensus No. 1 player in the state next year than it will be Kugler.  He's already closing in on twenty offers including Miami, Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Iowa, Tennessee, and Stanford.  At 6'4" and 270 pounds he will probably need a redshirt year, as most freshman offensive linemen do, but then he could be a star.  He moved from Buffalo prior to this season as his dad became the new OL coach for the Steelers.  So while he doesn't have deep ties to the area, he also isn't about to go back to Buffalo to play in college.  One bad part of Graham leaving is that Spencer Leftwich is no longer the Pitt offensive line coach and his son, Spencer, just happened to be North Allegheny's star quarterback and best friend of Kugler.  But with a pro style offense and a Chryst's reputation for tough, excellent offensive linemen, you have to think Pitt is one of the teams to beat.

Definitely somewhere in top 10 in alphabetical order

Tyler Boyd, Clairton HS (Clairton) WR/S-  What an amazing year the 6'1" 165 pound Boyd had.  Clairton was in a class by themselves in Class A and Boyd was a man amongst boys in the smallest division.  His level of competition may hurt him when it comes to offers but that will only help the Panthers.  He is dazzling with the ball in his hands, but some think he could make an even better safety.  So far Pitt is his only offer but even with low level of competition, you have to think he will get double digit offers if he doesn't commit early.  The Panthers do well with Clairton players- Manny Williams and Kevin Weatherspoon are already on the team and Trenton Cole has already committed for the current class.  Also in the current class is Allderdice nose tackle Tyrique Jarrett, who is Boyd's stepbrother.  Sounds like a lot going for the Panthers and with Chryst knowing he has to hit western PA especially hard in his first season, I would be surprised if he went anywhere other than Pitt at this point.  

Justin Moody, George Washington HS (Philadelphia) DE-  An aggressive, relentless, strong, and quick pass rusher, and those are the kinds of players that are at a premium.  Especially when they are already 6'3" and 265 pounds.  So far Rutgers is his only offer but there will be more.  His former teammate and close friend, Sharrif Floyd, was the No. 1 prospect in the state two years ago and now he's at Florida, so if Florida offers they will be a major player.  It's too early to see how Pitt will fare with him but he would be ideal as a pass rushing end in a 4-3, and that's the defense the Panthers will probably run.

David Williams, West Philadelphia Catholic HS (Philadelphia) RB-  Solidly built at 6'0" 198, and has blazing speed.  Runs mostly between the tackles.  Doesn't have a lot of wiggle but he hasn't needed it.  Has eight offers currently, including from Pitt and Notre Dame.  Camped at Pitt over the summer and liked his experience with the coaches, but how there's a new sheriff in town.  Rushel Shell looks like the potential Chryst superstar back of the future, but running backs have to be salivating to play in Chryst's offense.  For that reason, Pitt could be a major player.

Other High-Major Prospects

Nick Arcidiacono, Archbishop Wood Catholic HS (Warminster) DE-  No offers yet but the 6'4" 230 pound end is tough and is improving his quickness.  Has two brothers already playing major college, at Penn State and Rutgers, and he will also get major offers.

T.J. Armstrong, Clarion Area HS (Clarion) LB-  Not to be confused with Clairton, but the 6'3" 205 pounder is good enough to star for the Class A juggernaut, too.  He starred as a freshman than missed his sophomore year with an injury.  He came back this year and played great.  He's a big Pitt fan so if he gets an offer, he'll probably commit.

Forrest Barnes, Seneca Valley HS (Harmony) WR/RB/CB-  Now this is an interesting player.  One of the best relatively unknown players in WPIAL even though he dominated this season.  He's not big at 5'11" and 170 pounds, be he can flat out fly and is a great runner with the ball in his hands either as a running back or after the catch.  He could also end up at cornerback at the next level, but I'd love to see this kid with the ball in his hands for Pitt.  I would be very surprised if Pitt didn't offer.

Matt Barone, Montour HS (McKees Rocks) DE-  A very intriguing kid and impressive kid.  With teammate Tyler Haddock (who is also on this list), he has spent over a year going to combines and camps to get noticed.  At one point last year he was 6'1" and 230 pounds.  Now he's 6'3" and 270 pounds.  He's a pretty good athlete, he's strong, and he plays like his life depends on it.  Could be a nice fit at DT for the Panthers if he can get even bigger but if not, he can be a strong side defensive end.  One of my personal favorites.

Jordan Brown, Seneca Valley HS (Harmony) QB-  At 6'2" and 170 pounds, he needs to get bigger, but he can run, thrown, and he was the most productive quarterback in the WPIAL this year.  His father played at Michigan State and his brother, C.J., is the current starting quarterback at Maryland.  His brother really never gave Pitt much of a chance and Jordan says he wants to play in the south so I don't even know if the Panthers will be interested.

Zach Challingsworth, South Fayette HS (McDonald) WR-  Good 6'2" 180 pound size and he catches everything thrown to him. Also a pretty good athlete.  Should get some D-1 offers.

Brandon Chatmon, Cardinal O'Hara HS (Springfield) LB-  At 6'1" and 220 pounds, he isn't the biggest, but he is highly athletic and fast.  Surprisingly Pitt is his only offer so far and he's already been to visit a few times.  He liked the city and the school so even when his offer list expands, the Panthers have a good chance.  His best friend is star RB David Williams (already listed above), and they both say they want to go to the same school together.  Players say this often and it usually doesn't come to fruition but it would be a major coup if the Panthers could do it with this pair.

Hodari Christian, McKeesport Area HS (McKeesport) LB-  The Panthers have had horrible luck with McKeesport prospects over the years, but the 6'1" 210 pound Christian is somebody that's worth fighting for.

Roman Clay, Lancaster Catholic HS (Lancaster) RB-  A quick and tough stocky back at 5'10" and 205 pounds.  Some published reports have him with early offers from Nebraska and Rutgers already.  He camped at Pitt this past summer. A very good back who would be an ideal fit for Chryst's run heavy offense.

DeShawn Coleman, Hickory HS (Hermitage) RB-  My absolute favorite player to watch in the state.  If you think Robert Foster has moves, wait until you get a load of this kid.  He sometimes looks like he's in the Matrix.  But, seriously, this 5'11" 170 athlete is all kinds of fast and quick.  He also had well over 2,000 yards rushing this season and it was his first season playing varsity football.  Because he's raw and  he's not playing in a hotbed for recruiting, he may go unnoticed by some schools, but hopefully Pitt finds him and offers him because he would be fun to watch.

Karvonn "Mud Puppy" Coles, Clairton Area HS (Clairton) RB-  Mud Puppy not only has the greatest nickname ever, he's also a big time talent who was lost this past season when he blew his knee out over the summer.  The result is that Tyler Boyd was moved to running back.  But assuming he's healthy, look for the younger brother of Pitt recruit Trenton Coles to see a lot of carries.  He was always considered a future star for the Bears and now he may finally get his chance.  At 5'10" and 190 pounds, he's not big, but he is talented.

Brendan Edwards, Imani Christian Academy, (Pittsburgh) CB-  The transfer from Perry Traditional Academy is only 5'9" and 170 pounds, but he has high major speed and athleticism.  Should be one of the highest recruited corners in the state.

Will Fuller, Roman Catholic HS (Philadelphia) WR-  Very slight 6'0" 160 pound build but he's quick, athletic, and highly productive.  Has a Rutgers offer and visited Pitt unofficially for the Syracuse game.  The Panthers will probably stay interested, but they will be involved with a lot of WRs over the next year.

Tyler Haddock, Montour HS (McKees Rocks) DT- The 6'0" 280 pound lineman may look stocky but don't be surprised by his girth.  Haddock has good feet and is quick as a cat.  If he were 6'4" he would be an elite prospect but the same thing was said about Aaron Donald.  I'm not saying Haddock will end up anywhere near as good as Donald, but there are definite similarities.

Titus Howard, Clairton HS (Clairton) WR/S-  Needs to add weight to his 6'3" 170 pound frame but he has great length and if you saw his dunking exhibitions on the basketball court you will see that he can really sky, too.

R.J. Hughes, Gateway HS (Monroeville) OG-  The next in the line of Gateway prospects, at 6'4" and 275 pounds, he projects as a guard.

Zayd Issah, Central Dauphin HS (Harrisburg) LB-  One of the best players in the state this season was the do everything Issah.  At 6'3" and 210 pounds, he ran the ball for a lot of yards, he caught the ball for a lot of yards, and he played defense like a demon.  Would make a very exciting middle linebacker prospect for the Panthers due to his toughness and straight line speed.  While the Panthers haven't offered yet, I would be surprised if the new staff didn't go after him hard.

Dorian Johnson, Belle Vernon Area HS (Belle Vernon) OT- The 6'6" 270 pounder already has great length.  He also has a West Virginia offer.  I'd be surprised if Pitt didn't offer, too.

Brian Lemelle, Bishop McDevitt HS (Harrisburg) WR- You can't have a list of top prospects without a Bishop McDevitt kid- or five.  Lemelle has had a great season for the powerhouse program and should get a good bit of major offers.  At 5'11" and 170 pounds, he isn't big, but I'm guessing he will get a Pitt offer soon.

Demetrius Louis, Ringgold HS (Monongahela) CB-  It's been awhile since the Mon Valley was pumping out elite prospects, but Louis is a legit speedster who has a confirmed 38" vertical.  At 5'11" and 180 pounds he also has the size.

Mike McGlinchey, William Penn Charter School (Philadelphia) OT-  Wisconsin's offensive line was known for their size so how about 6'8" and 280 pounds?  Virginia, Boston College, Rutgers, and Duke have already offered and I would be surprised if Pitt didn't also.

Andrew Nelson, Hershey HS (Hershey) OT-  If he proves to be the 6'5" and 265 pounds that he's listed at then he could be quite the sleeper because he moves extremely well for his size.  In fact, he is also the team's long snapper and sometimes is actually the first player down the field.  He also has a great frame to add more weight and plays hard all the time.

Madison O'Connor, Pottsgrove HS (Pottstown) OT- Once again, Chryst likes the big linemen and this one is 6'6" and 325 pounds. 

Jaymar Parrish, Gateway HS (Monroeville) TE/LB-  At 6'2" and 225 pounds, he's not a conventional tight end even though he causes some matchup problems, and he can really block despite his lack of ideal tight end size.  With his great toughness and range, though, he could make an ideal MLB candidate.  Expect him to get good offers, and I would be surprised if Pitt wasn't one of them.

Dubois Ross, Pius X (Bangor) WR/CB- He plays in a small classification but he's talented and he projects just as well on either side of the ball.  At 6'0" and 160 pounds he needs to add more size, but he has long arms, he's quick, and he has very good speed.  He was rated the top receiver at Pitt's camp this past summer.  For a kid who's coming from a school that has an enrollment of about 70 kids, he is quite the find.

Shakir Soto, GAR Memorial HS (Wilkes-Barre) DE-  At 6'3" and 230 pounds, he's a bit of a sleeper who Pitt will no doubt watch very closely.

Ed Stockett, McKeesport Area HS (McKeesport)  QB-  What's this, a pro style quarterback prospect from the team known for their Wishbone offense?  The 6'4" 210 pounder was too talented to waste in such an offense so they changed it all around for him.  Now he will get major offers next season.  The Tigers offense is based on West Virginia's offense and the Mountaineers are already interested.

Damion Terry, Cathedral Prep School (Erie) QB- Athletic and mobile signal caller with good size at 6'4" and 210 pounds.  Could be somebody worth taking a flyer on.

Terrish Webb, Clairton Area HS (Clairton)  WR-  Yes, this really is the fourth possible D-1 prospect from this Class A juggernaut.  At 6'0" 175 pounds, he's another fast game breaker.

Khalid Weems, Upper Dublin HS (Ft. Washington) CB-  Slick cover corner and return man who has impressed in camps all last summer.  He even won the MVP at one of them when he ran a 4.5 40.  You can never have enough athletic cornerbacks so Pitt will definitely be interested.

Elijah Wilkinson, Downingtown West HS (Downingtown) OG-  At 6'4" and 305 pounds, he is big enough and with his team operating out of the Wing-T, he sure knows how to run block.

Delton Williams, Cathedral Prep (Erie) S-  Great frame already at 6'2" and 200 pounds.  He was the only junior to be named All-State this year on defense in Class AAA.

Devin Wilson, Montour HS (McKees Rocks) WR- Unlike Graham's offense, Chryst utilizes big receivers and at 6'3" and 180 pounds, Wilson has good height.  He is also fast and athletic.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

More thoughts on Chryst

1.  I hear that Todd Orlando, defensive coordinator, is a good bet to be the defensive coordinator.  That would be an excellent addition.  Another addition I would like to see is Wisconsin Tight Ends coach/Recruiting coordinator Joe Rudolph, who I actually played basketball with from time to time in my younger days.  A former star guard for Badgers, I remember Rudolph as being just as wide as he was tall!!

2.  I expect if Chryst is the head coach for Pitt next season, the Panthers should actually be pretty good because for one thing Tino Sunseri, if he is the quarterback, will be much better in Chryst's offense.  Another reason is that the Panthers are still built for a pro style offense with excellent running backs and big offensive linemen.

3.  Chad Voytik should be happy with such an offensive mind being his head coach.  And if you think the 6'0" Voytik isn't big enough to play in Chryst's offense, you may want to know that Russell Wilson is 5'11".

4.  Another happy player has to be Rushel Shell.  Between Shell, Isaac Bennett, and probably Ray Graham, the Panthers may run, run, run, and run next season.

5.  Orlando, or whoever is the defensive coordinator, would be smart to go with a 4-3 for the Panthers.  For some reason, linebackers have been hard to get in numbers for the program over the years and having one less starter can only help the lack of talent and numbers there.

6.  Another possibile quarterback could be Dayne Crist.  The former Notre Dane quarterback has a lot to prove, and he was interested in transferring to Wisconsin because of Chryst's great job with another fifth year transfer this season, Russell Wilson.

Chryst new coach?

According to paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst is in the driver's seat to be the new head coach of Pitt, even though Zeise pointed out that it's not a done deal yet.  Chryst, 46, has been the offensive coordinator for the Badgers since 2005.  Before that, he was the offensive coordinator for two years at Oregon State.  This was the second time that Chryst interviewed for Pitt, and he also was interviewed for jobs at Illinois, Minnesota, and Kansas in the last two years.

Chryst: What you have to worry about and not worry about

What to Worry About

The Paul Hackett Type:  There's no doubt that Paul Chryst has a great offensive mind.  But so did Paul Hackett supposedly.  Great offensive minds, not great recruiters, and they even have the same first names.  Okay, the last point doesn't matter but there is a real concern that he's a Triple A home run king who becomes a pinch hitter in the major leagues.

Not a recruiter:  Straight from many people at Wisconsin I've talked to, Chryst does not like to recruit and therefore he's not that great at it when he has to.  Could he change?  Possibly.  But the head coach has to be the closer and without desire or charisma, that could be a big problem.

Lack of buzz:  You might hear "solid hire" a lot nationally if Chryst is the pick, but it's doubtful that there will be a lot of buzz nationally, and it when it comes to recruiting are there many prospects who are going to be excited to see him walk through his front door?  Probably not, to be honest.

Style:  He does a great job of changing his offense to fit his personnel, but for the most part at Wisconsin it was a pro style offense with big, strong backs and huge, strong offensive linemen.  Would that work at Pitt who doesn't have the same access to such players?  Or will Chryst change it somewhat?

What Not to Worry About

Offense:  He is a great offensive mind and even if he can't run it exactly like he did at Wisconsin, he should be able to put up some pretty good offenses at Pitt.

Class:  Like Cristobal, he should not be a problem with his ethics or class.  Nobody has anything bad to say about him.

Location and loyalty:  Madison and Pittsburgh aren't that much different as far as weather goes, and it seems to be pretty similar as far as the social aspects.  For that reason, you would think he would be very comfortable at Pittsburgh.  And after failing to get the jobs at Minnesota, Illinois, and Kansas, he may be so grateful to the Panthers that he may stay if he turns the program into a power.

Cristobal: What to worry about and what not to worry about

What to Worry About

Not being happy living in Pittsburgh and using it as a steppingstone:  This is a ludicrous reason to list normally but then came along Todd Graham and the bar for common sense was forever lowered.  Yes, Mario Cristobal is a south Florida native and spent all but two years of his college football career in the state, and, yes, his wife is also from south Florida and is very immersed in that community, but the Cristobals aren't going to be able to go straight from Florida International to his alma mater, Miami, because Al Golden has only been there for one season and there is no signs that he's going to be leaving anytime soon.  I know the typical Pitt fan gloom is that Golden will go to Penn State and then Cristobal will then take his place at Miami, but that's ridiculous. Golden does not want to go to Penn State and nobody else with any kind of options does either.  And even if he did, Miami, being a major Florida program, will aim higher than Cristobal.

And that brings us to how long Cristobal would stay at Pitt.  Here are the facts.  One, Graham was a coward and lacked ethics or morals, and Cristobal is not Graham.  Two, Cristobal will not be the head coach at Miami any time soon.  Three, staying at FIU will not help him get the job at Miami down the road.  Miami has high aspirations and many people would want that job because of the recruiting area.  Miami alum or not, they are not going to give him the keys to that program when all of his head coaching experience came at a low-major program.  And before you ask, yes, Pitt will give the keys to such a coach because they aren't Miami.

Bottom line, it's either stay at FIU or go to a potentially excellent job in an ACC school and make three or four times more money.  And with his strong ethics, the fact that the Miami job is not opening soon, and the fact that Pitt could be a great steppingstone for him to eventually get back to Miami, Cristobal has every reason to take, and succeed, at Pitt.  And if he turns around Pitt in four years, and leaves for a better job, then you take a member of his staff and continue it hopefully.  Oregon has done that three times already and Pitt did it with Jamie Dixon and Jackie Sherrill.

What Not to Worry About

Recruiting:  Todd Graham was from Texas and was on pace for a top 20 recruiting class, and Cristobal is a much better recruiter.  Local gems like Demetrious Cox, J.P. Holtz, and Deaysean Rippy would be three players that Cristobal could sway immediately, and two players, defensive tackle Ryan Watson, and juco receiver Marquez Clark, are two other elite prospects that were on the verge of committing to the Panthers, and who Cristobal could jump on immediately.

If Walt Harris and Dave Wannstedt could sway such Florida stars as Antonio Bryant, Greg Romeus, Gus Mustakas, H.B. Blades, and Jabaal Sheard, imagine what Cristobal could do there.  If he could land just five or so excellent Florida players a year to go along with mostly local recruiting, the team could be very, very talented.  As for that local recruiting, WPIAL kids couldn't care less whether his head coach comes from Pittsburgh or Florida.  They just want to win and they will see Cristobal as a winner, especially when they learn he won two national championships as a player.

Coaching staff:  Cristobal's defensive coordinator at FIU is Todd Orlando who was excellent at UConn for years before taking over at FIU this season, where he again did an excellent job.  And he's also from Pittsburgh.  He would be the best addition.  And if he doesn't come, or if Steve Pederson and Cristobal feels the staff has to be even stronger, they will find the right people.  I firmly believe with any head coach that Pitt would hire, they would not have trouble fielding a great staff.

Style:  Cristobal will run a spread offense that will require a lot of speed from the skill players, but unlike  Graham's offense, it's not nearly as (overly) complex, and it doesn't require as much running from the quarterback.  To be honest, I think Chad Voytik would actually be better in this offense than he was in Graham's, and dare I say that Tino Sunseri would also be better in this offense.

On defense, Orlando runs a 4-3 with a lot of blitzing and penetration.  Just like with Cristobal's offensive scheme, the system is exciting for the fans, the players, and the prospects.  It also helps Pitt put less emphasis on linebackers, their biggest weakness.  A potential front line of Aaron Donald, Khaynin Mosely-Smith, Tyrone Ezell, and Bryan Murphy from end to end, to go with outside linebackers Ejuan Price and Todd Thomas, and middle linebacker LaQuentin Smith, sounds pretty good to me.

Character:  Because he's a young, charismatic coach who, God forbid, has never lived or coached in Pittsburgh, people will accuse him of being another Todd Graham.  The truth is very much the opposite.  While there were always rumblings of Graham being sleazy, Cristobal has nothing of the sort.  In fact, people who've dealt with him have always said he's classy and the total antithesis of Graham.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A few thoughts (not scoops) about the search

While it's no secret that I think Mario Cristobal would be the best hire for Pitt, I don't think it would be the end of the world if they hire Luke Fickell.  However, hiring Paul Chryst would be a mistake, in my opinion, and I don't see why Pitt wouldn't at least talk to Teryl Austin.

I already wrote about a lot of the reasons why I think Cristobal is the best choice, but the main reason I like him more than Fickell is simply because he's further along.  To me, Cristobal is a "four star recruit", where as Fickell is a "three star recruit'.  But I think their upsides are pretty equal.  The difference is just that Cristobal is closer to being a finished product than Fickell.  Cristobal is still a mediocre game coach but he's getting better.  He should be the finished product in a year or two.  Fickell, on the other hand, was very overmatched this season at Ohio State.  It's not surprising that Fickell would not be as good as Cristobal as a game coach because he's been a head coach for one season and Cristobal has been a head coach for five seasons.  So basically I see Fickell being a finished product in three or four years.  That's when he could be a special head coach.  So it's not that I don't think Finkell can't be great, and I don't think Cristobal is a definite home run.  I think their potential is the same.  It will just take Fickell longer to get to where Pitt needs him and I'm not sure Pitt can wait.  But, if Fickell is the choice, I don't think Pitt fans should be upset.

As for Chryst, he's a great offensive coordinator.  But Foge Fazio was a great defensive coordinator, too.    Some people just weren't made for being the man.  I may be wrong that he could be the man, but there's a reason why he was turned down by Illinois, Minnesota, and Kansas, not to mention Pitt last year.  While those are all major college programs, that's not exactly the elite.  Yet despite his unbelievably resume, nobody saw him as their head coach.  That's very telling.

As for Austin, if he went somewhere other than Pitt, nobody would want him to be the Pitt head coach, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't at least get an interview.  He could definitely be a good head coach.  I wouldn't want him above Cristobal or Fickell, and I don't think he would give the good buzz the program needs, but he's at least worth a serious look.  At the end of the day, his resume would not be good enough (just one year as a coordinator and none as a head coach), but it says a lot about Steve Pederson that he won't even look at him, except for last year when he was basically forced to look at him.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

For people worrying about the next coach leaving

Johnny Majors, from TENNESSEE, turned Pitt football around and won the National Championship in his fourth year.  He gave the program over to Jackie Sherrill, an OKLAHOMA native, who over the next five years went 50-9-1 before leaving not to his hometown but to Texas A&M who simply paid more.  Bottom line, it was the golden era of modern Pitt football and it was orchestrated by two guys very far away from Pittsburgh.  One went back to his alma mater, but the program was STILL excellent with Sherrill who only left for money.

Ben Howland, from CALIFORNIA, turned Pitt basketball into a national power.  And he came from Northern Arizona, and before that Hawaii and Santa Barbara.  Never has a Pitt coach looked so much out of place.  He went 57-11 in his last two years and lasted four years overall before going back home to coach UCLA.  Replacing him was his right hand man, Jamie Dixon, from CALIFORNIA.  Dixon, currently in his NINTH year, decided not to go back closer to home and instead decided to stay in Pittsburgh.

What I'm saying is this whole "he will leave us as soon as he can" mantra that many Pitt fans have is ridiculous.  Todd Graham is an anomaly in many ways, one of them being that he was a coward who left because his wife didn't like it in Pittsburgh.  But the bottom line is, Pitt football and Pitt basketball were turned around by people far from Pittsburgh and even though both Major and Howland left to go back home, THE PROGRAMS REMAINED STRONG AFTER THEY LEFT.  The only reason the football program went back down was because of horrible leadership at the university after Sherrill left.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pittsburgh 69 South Carolina State 55

Once again, the Panthers played a vastly inferior team but with the victory they are now 10-1.

Ashton Gibbs shot horribly going 6-18 from the field and 2-12 from three.  He ended up with 14 points, 6 assists, and 3 rebounds.

The leading scorer for the Panthers was Lamar Patterson who scored 16 points, thanks to shooting 7-11 from the field and 2-5 from three.  He also added 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal.  Needless to say, the sophomore is really coming on and turning into a pretty good player.

With Khem Birch no longer on the team,  Dante Taylor once again got his chance to start, but he disappointed with 2 points and 4 rebounds in 25 minutes.

Picking up the slack for both Birch and Taylor was Talib Zanna who was impressive with 12 points and 14 rebounds in 26 minutes.  He did have some trouble holding onto the ball though and had 3 turnovers. But for the most part, if he played like this the rest of the way, Birch may not be that missed that much this year.  But consistency has been Zanna's weakness for all of his career.

Nasir Robinson had another decent all around game with 8 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals.

Once again Cameron Wright started and didn't score, and once again John Johnson got more minutes than him off the bench.  He did good with 8 points in 20 minutes.

The Panthers won the rebounding battle with a 38-24 advantage.

Pitt held SC State to 38.9% from the floor but also shot 5-21 from three, 21.7%, and 57.1% from the line.

The Panthers next host St. Francis (PA) on Tuesday.

Cristobal's recruiting

For those who have wondered just how good Mario Cristobal's recruiting has been, here are some facts. And mind you, this is at Florida International barely had a football program when he started and he was down an average of six scholarships a year.  After the player's name I list the other schools who have offered the player.  I only post this because I've gotten emails saying there are Pitt fans claiming that his recruiting is overrated.  This is of course laughable since he's well known in college football as being an excellent recruiter.  In fact, I talked to one coach who had to recruit against him and his description of Cristobal as a recruiter was "relentless".

Giovani Francois- Louisville
Elijah Maxey-  Illinois, Duke
Aaron Nielsen- Kansas
Denzell Perine- Minnesota
Derrick Thorpe- Arkansas
Corey Tindal-  Maryland, Minnesota, Toledo
Ezekiel Turner-  West Virginia
Cedric Walker-  Cincinnati, Kansas State, UCF
Glenn Coleman-  Colorado, Southern Miss, Tulsa
Jerry Baker- Northwestern
Marques Cheeks-  Kansas, Kansas State, Minnesota, Mississippi State
Davison Colimon- SMU
Denzel Conyers- UConn
Marcus Gilchrist-  Kentucky, Purdue
Delmar Taylor- South Florida
Favian Upshaw- Illinois
Justin Halley- Vanderbilt
Greg Hickman-  Iowa State, Purdue, South Florida
Richard Leonard- South Florida
Jake Medlock-  Arkansas, Virginia, Miami, FL
Kedrick Rhodes-  Iowa, Kansas State, Northwestern
Willis Wright-  Auburn, Mississippi, Nebraska, Purdue, Rutgers, South Florida, Tennessee, Central Florida, West Virginia
Derrick Jones, Jr.- Colorado State
Darian Mallary-  Iowa, Mississippi State
Larvez Mars-  Iowa State, Cincinnati, Kentucky, South Florida, Central Florida
Thatcher Starling-  Arizona
Terrance Taylor-  Rutgers, South Florida, Central Florida
Edgar Theliar-  San Diego State, South Florida, Hawaii
Derrick Clark-  Arkansas, Purdue, South Florida
Troy Dannehower- South Florida
A.J. Grant-  Illinois, Purdue, Miami, FL
James Jones- South Florida
Cedrick Mack-  Arizona, South Florida, Oregon State, Washington State, Kansas State, Kentucky, Southern Miss

More on Birch

Just some thoughts on Khem Birch's possibly impending transfer.  The first thing I want to say is that even though I said that it wasn't coming from me personally, people still claimed it was coming from me that Birch was going to be a one and done.  Now that both involved are gone, I guess I can say now that it was former Pitt assistant Pat Skerry, who recruited Birch, who told me that he thought Birch would be a one and done.  And also as I reported, he said he didn't think Birch would be ready for the NBA but that rarely matters with kids like him.

Which brings me to the second point and that's that from people I talked to at the time of his recruitment, Birch had a few let's just say unscrupulous people in his life.  Because this was from people who were very "close to the situation" and I didn't deal directly with the people in question, I won't say specifically who it was.  But let's just say that when Pitt was trying to close the deal with Birch, both a family member and somebody in AAU, were trying to get him to go somewhere other than Pitt because they were offering something that Pitt wouldn't- and it wasn't playing time.  But Skerry, Jamie Dixon, and ND Prep head coach Ryan Hurd won the battle for him to do the right thing.

Clearly, however, those bad elements got into Birch's head again which is too bad.  He is actually a good kid and he's had adults with bad intentions who have been using him for their own gain.  This is hardly the first time this has happened when it comes to this level of recruit and it won't be the last.  Unfortunately, this is often the baggage that comes with the elite high school prospects.  I've had many people who know Dixon say he usually doesn't get involved with the top kids because he doesn't want to be involved with the shadiness it takes to land most of those players.  But in no way should Dixon stop recruiting such a player if he feels they can help him and he can do it on his terms  There may be others who, like Birch, don't pan out.  But if Dixon does not strive to get the best talent, then he's not helping the program.

Late recruiting note:  A few days ago I was told that 6'8" Jakarr Sampson, who Pitt wants as a 3/4 would probably not end up at Pitt.  You have to think with Birch leaving, the Panthers would have a better chance, but we'll have to see.

One player you can forget about now is Anthony Bennett.  He has the same "advisors" as Birch, I'm told.  In fact, I was told there is "ZERO percent chance".

Lastly, there is Savon Goodman, who would probably be the best option for Pitt, at least in the basketball sense.  He is 6'6" but is tough as nails and could play the four easily for Pitt.  The problem is, he wants to play the three in college so that he can go to the NBA.  He's still better than any three that Pitt currently as, however, and I could see them going after him hard for that reason.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Birch is transferring

According a direct quote by him on

"I'm leaving.  I'm headed to Toronto now. I enjoyed my time at Pittsburgh, I love Coach (Jamie) Dixon, had no problems with the staff and the players. It just wasn't the right fit for me."  

Birch transferring

Jamie Dixon:  “Khem has decided to leave the team for personal reasons.  We thank Khem for his contribution to our program over the last semester and wish him great success in the future.”

Interviews taking place

According to Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Florida International head coach Mario Cristobal is being interviewed today, Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell was interviewed yesterday, and Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst will be interviewed tomorrow.  I've made no secret that I feel that Cristobal is by far the best option and if the Panthers hired him the buzz around the national would be phenomenal.  Fickell is somebody who I think could be excellent some day and I can see why Pitt would like him.  I think most college football observers think he's probably a few years away, though, so it may be a bit risky.  And for those who think Cristobal would leave to go back south should he be successful, just who do you think Ohio State would want to replace Meyer should Fickell do great at Pitt?  I don't think either should be held against them.  As for Chryst, he is an excellent offensive coordinator, but like I said before, he is not charismatic enough to be a head coach.  With Foge Fazio and Paul Hackett, Pitt has already had their share of great coordinators who aren't cut out out be head coaches.

Closer look at some of the more possible coaching options

Here is more info on some of the names that we know Pitt has contacted either this time or last year.  For now, I'm only going with these names because I'm assuming for now that Rhoads and Cristobal are the two guys they would most be interested in.  If neither one of them is the pick then I would be a little surprised at this time, and probably a little worried, too.  I don't see them hiring Mark Stoops, Ron Zook, Dave Doeren, K.C. Wheeler, or many of the other names I've heard.  And I would be very surprised if they went for Luke Fickell or Paul Chryst, too.

Paul Rhoads
Iowa State head coach
Hometown: Ankeny, IA
Alma mater:  Missouri Western
Age: 44
Salary:  $1,150,000

On offense, he has run the spread offense for the last three years after hiring young, promising then 32-year old Tom Herman away from Rice.  With Herman they have finished 73rd, 99th, and 55th in total yards against very tough schedules, but Herman was hired as offensive coordinator and quarterback coach by Urban Meyer at Ohio State about a week ago.

On defense, Rhoads employs the same 4-3 bend but don't break philosophy that sometimes drove Pitt fans crazy.  His defensive coordinator is Wally Burnham who is 69 years old (yes, 69).  Burnham has had a very good career and was also the DC at South Florida and South Carolina so he's no slouch, but at 69 you would have to wonder if he wouldn't want to just hang up his whistle.  Iowa State's defenses in  the three years that Rhoads and Burnham were together were ranked 99th, 87th, and 99th again in total defense.  By the way, Burnham's son, Shane, is also on the staff and coaches defensive tackles.

As for the rest of the staff, offensive line/assistant head coach Bill Bleil was the offensive tackle/tight ends coach during Walt Harris's last season at Pitt, and of course Curtis Bray, who is currently the defensive line coach at Iowa State, was a linebacker at Pitt and also coached for the Panthers.

His players love him to death and he is extremely passionate.  He runs up and down the sidelines, pumps his fists, and fights like hell for his players on and off the field.  Most importantly, however, is that he is very classy and stable, something Pitt desperately needs at this time.  When all is said and done, he is the safest pick, and he will make the university proud.  But I have my doubts that he will make Pitt a power, and that's supposedly the reason the administration fires every coach that wins 8 or 9 games.  If a stable well liked coach who will win you 8 or 9 games is what Pitt wanted they could have saved us all a lot of trouble and just kept Dave Wannstedt.

Paul Chryst
Wisconsin offensive coordinator
Hometown:  Madison, WI
Alma mater:  Wisconsin
Age: 46
Salary:  $405,000 

Chryst (rhymes with missed) is considered one of the best coordinators in the country and his track record speaks for itself.  Not only has he succeeded at a high level as a college coordinator, he has also coached in the NFL, Division III, the CFL, and even the World League.  He's been the coordinator at Wisconsin since 2005 and his total offenses nationally in that time were 45th, 35th, 46th, 37th, 30th, 21st, and 15th.

Chryst's rushing offenses in his seven seasons at Wisconsin nationally ranked 37th, 37th, 21st, 14th, 15th, 12th, and 10th.  His passing offenses ranked 50th, 50th, 72nd, 84th, 66th, 75th, and 63rd.  Obviously at Wisconsin it's all about the running game and Chryst has said that he would rather have an offense that was good at a few things rather one that was average in a lot of things, and clearly running the ball is one of the things his offenses are good at.  In fact, in 2010 Wisconsin incredibly came within 4 yards of being the only team in Division 1 history with three 1,000 yard rushers.  Yet his teams routinely score over 40 ppg including 44.6 ppg this season, good for fourth nationally.

Before Wisconsin, Chryst was the offensive coordinator at Oregon State for two seasons under Mike Riley.  There his offense finished 10th and 54th.  In his first season as a coordinator, the Beavers also finished 6th in passing yards and became the first team in Division 1 history to have a 4,000 yard passer, two 1,000 yard receivers, and a 1,500 yard rusher.

Even though Chryst is a Wisconsin man, and even grew up in Madison, he desperately wants to be a head coach and will leave his alma mater to do it.  He interviewed at Pitt and Minnesota last year, and he already interviewed at Illinois and Kansas this year.  And that's where you can see the problem.

Chryst's resume screams great head coach candidate but there are red flags that should doom him at Pitt as much as he was doomed at those other interviews.  And that's Chryst's personality.  To be blunt, he doesn't have much of one.  More than anything, head coaches at this high level have to be leaders and it's no secret that almost every great college coach also has to have great charisma so that his players, the boosters, and the fans will believe in the team.  There have actually been head coaches over the years who have lost their job mainly because they weren't good shmoozers on the banquet circuit.  For coordinators, all you need to know is the x's and the o's.  As the head coach, you have to have an extra something about you, and Chryst can't even muster up enough charisma to seal the deal at an interview with some mediocre programs.  That lack of charisma also shows up in another one of his major weaknesses- he doesn't like to recruit and by all accounts from Wisconsin observers, he's not that good at it.

Mario Cristobal
Florida International head coach
Hometown: Miami, FL
Alma mater:  Miami
Age:  41
Salary:  $453,000

One of the fastest rising young head coaches in the country.  Tight End/Offensive Line coach at Rutgers and Miami before becoming head coach and as a Hurricanes offensive tackle he was a four year letter winner and was on two national championship teams.

His five year record at FIU is 24-37 but looks can be deceiving.  He was 7-6 last season and is 8-4 this season, and when he took the job FIU was probably the worst program in the country.  How bad?  The school had no real stadium or weight room, the previous team was 0-12, they had the worst academic rate in the country, and a month after taking the job the NCAA told Cristobal that FIU was going to lose an incredible 24 scholarships.  Oh, and 17 of his players were suspended for a brawl the previous year.  If people still question his record or coaching ability after knowing that then I don't know what to tell you.

On offense he runs a fast paced spread offense, but don't worry, there's been no documentation that he's ever used the term "high octane".  His offensive coordinator, Scott Satterfield, is a North Carolina native which could help recruiting in that area, and was also the passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Toledo for new Illinois coach Tim Beckman, and quarterbacks coach, at his alma mater Appalachian State, for six seasons.  Even though he was not officially called the offensive coordinator he was responsible for the play calling.  And it's at Appalachian State where Satterfield's spread made news by winning three straight 1-AA national championships and upsetting Michigan in 2007.  He's been at FIU for two seasons.

On defense, Cristobal's coordinator is equally impressive.  He's Todd Orlando, who was the defensive coordinator at UConn under Randy Edsall for six seasons.  In two of those seasons, Orlando's defenses finished 6th nationally in total yards allowed.  In his first season at FIU this year his defense was an impressive 33rd nationally.  He also employs a blitzing defense that thrives on big plays.  As an added bonus, he's from Pittsburgh and started his coaching career as an assistant at Pittsburgh Central Catholic and Fox Chapel.

Cristobal was interviewed before and you have to think that Pitt would be smart enough to interview him again.  He's charismatic, he's a leader, and he is due for a much better job.  He would definitely be interested.  Most of all, he is an excellent recruiter who is loved by his players, loved by the media, and loved by his community.  In other words, he is the exact opposite of Todd Graham.  Sure, there will be fans who will worry that he will eventually go back to Florida when a big job opens, and all I have to say to that is, get over it.  There are 119 Division 1 coaches and only 18 have been at their job for more than five years.  Coaches don't stay.  There's always a better job until they retire.  The administration should try for a home run and worry about keeping him later.  Right now Cristobal is the best chance of a home run on this list and the buzz around the country if they hired him would be extraordinary.

Teryl Austin
Baltimore Ravens Secondary Coach
Hometown: Sharon, PA
Alma mater:  Pittsburgh
Age: 47
Salary:  Unknown

Obviously this candidate is well known to Panthers fans, mostly because he is a Pitt alum and they feel he may stay if he succeeds.  Truthfully, of all of these candidates, he probably would stay the longest if it were up to him.

While he somewhat has great experience in both college and in the NFL, his biggest problem is that in his 20 year coaching career, all but one season was not as a defensive backs coach.  In 2010, he finally got his chance to be a defensive coordinator, and at Florida under Urban Meyer no less, but Meyer retired after the season.  Austin did well, however, helping the Gators become the 9th best defense in the country.

He's coached at Syracuse, Michigan, and Wake Forest previously, as well as with Seattle and Arizona in the NFL.  He is clearly an excellent secondary coach and he is known to be an excellent recruiter.

Steve Pederson was practically forced to interview him last year since he didn't have what Pederson was looking for in a coach.  But Austin still hit it out of the park in the interview.  He probably still doesn't have the resume the Panthers desire.  Truthfully, if the played at Syracuse and had this resume would anybody be clamoring for Pitt to hire him?  No way.

I don't think the administration will hire him.  He's just never been a head coach before and except for the one season at Florida, he's never even been close to being any kind of boss on a team.  I think eventually that will be his downfall.  But, yet, for some reason I still like the guy.  He reminds me a lot of Mike Tomlin in that he's smart, classy, and quietly charismatic.  I think he could get very good players to Pitt, especially locally, and I think his players would love him.  But I also think he's too much of a risk at this time because it's too unknown how he could be as a head coach.  Even saying that, if he does end up being the head coach, I would be cautiously optimistic that he could be a pleasant surprise.

Luke Fickell
Ohio State defensive coordinator
Hometown:  Columbus, OH
Alma mater:  Ohio State
Age:  38
Salary:  Unknown

One of the more intriguing names to come up early in the process, Fickell spent the entire season as the interim coach, warming the seat for Urban Meyer after Jim Tressel was fired.   He went 6-6 which obviously was not a typical Buckeye season, but through suspensions and controversy he gained major points from Columbus and around the country on how he handled the season.  And he clearly impressed the Pitt administration.

He's a very good defensive coordinator and recruiter, but he obviously wouldn't beat Urban Meyer head to head for any top Ohio kids.  According to Ohio State observers his game coaching skills were severely lacking this season.   Some day soon he could be an excellent major college coach.  But can Pitt afford for him to learn on the job?