Monday, December 31, 2012

Cincinnati 70 Pittsburgh 61

1.  We are starting to find the level of Pitt basketball this season and may not be much more than mediocre.  After leading by 8 at the half, the Panthers were outscored 44-27 in the second half.  The lack of a go to scorer was never more obvious.

2.  Talib Zanna led Pitt with 16 points and pitched in with 5 rebounds, but despite those numbers I wouldn't really call him a major factor.  And he had trouble holding on to balls all day.

3.  Lamar Patterson had 13 points, thanks to 5-5 from the line, but he was also 4-12 from the field and 0-5 from the line.  He looked afraid to shoot many open shots and it's becoming a real problem.  He did his usual stat stuffing with 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and a block, but he was not effective.

4.  Steven Adams played against two good teams in Michigan and Cincinnati and didn't score against either.  At least he had 9 rebounds in this game and has averaged 9.2 rebounds over his last 6 games, but he seems way too overpowered, which shouldn't be happening.

5.  Trey Woodall is never going to be the top player that many Pitt fans wanted.  It's just not going to happen.  In this game he was mostly nonexistent and came away with 9 points, though he was just 3-9 from the field and 0-3 from three.  He also had 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.

6.  James Robinson was forced to do way too much, both from Jamie Dixon and from the Panthers veterans who decided to stand around.  He ended up with 7 points, 2 assists, a rebound, a block, and a turnover.

7.  Cameron Wright played well with 10 points in 24 minutes.

8.  Trey Zeigler was a disaster with 3 turnovers in just 9 minutes.

9.  The Panthers shot 44.2% from the field, 0-10 from three, and 60% from the line.





Thursday, December 27, 2012

Malcolm Gilbert transferring

Pitt's 7'0" sophomore center Malcolm Gilbert is transferring to Fairfield so that he can play with his brother.  Gilbert is the second Panther to transfer during the season.  Sophomore guard John Johnson transferred to Penn State a few games into the season.  J.J. Richardson, Khem Birch, and Isaiah Epps have also transferred from the program in the last two years.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Robert Foster chooses Alabama

A very tough loss for Pitt to lose local superstar Robert Foster, but if they can still manage to land Tyler Boyd this season and Troy Apke next season, then the receiving corps will still be excellent going into the future.  But good luck to Robert and I hope all Pitt fans also wish him luck.  He's a good kid and you can't fault him for wanting to play for the best program in the country.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pitt loses defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable

Former Pitt defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable has taken the job as the defensive coordinator for NC State.  There he will work under new Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren.  Both coached at Wisconsin previously.

Look for the possibility of Charlie Partridge to come back to Pitt.  Partridge was a former linebackers coach for the Panthers.  An excellent Florida recruiter, Partridge was the co-defensive coordinator and the associate head coach for Wisconsin this season.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Final Top 25 of PA



1.  Robert Foster, Central Valley HS (Monaca) WR- For some reason, recruiting services try to get cute and name everybody but him as the best prospect in the state, and that's their mistake.  No offense to the other elite prospects because all have an equal chance to be great college players, and maybe even NFL players, but Foster has no questions in his game at all, and should be ranked No.1 in the state.

He needs to fill in a little, and is around 180 now, but he has the excellent 6'3" height.  He also has long arms, great hands, superb speed, and off the chart quickness.  He is not just an athlete who is playing wide receiver.  He's a legit receiver who knows how to play the position and runs good routes.  He is also tough as hell and is not afraid of contact in the least.  He is a threat to go all the way every time he touches the ball, and is excellent on reverses and punt and kick returns.

Chose ALABAMA over Pittsburgh,  but had offers from just about everybody including Penn State, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Michigan, Florida, LSU, Oregon, USC, and Ohio State.

Bottom line-  Everybody knows he can be a superstar, yet amazingly he is still a little underrated.  Has the potential to reach just about any level, including NFL stardom.


2.  Alex Anzalone, Wyomissing Area HS (Wyomissing) LB-  Even in the NFL, it's hard to find true linebackers who are the total package.  And in college most linebackers are either big, slower kids or small, fast kids who could just as easily be safeties.  That's why Anzalone (pronounced Ann-zuh-loney) is so highly covered.

He already has good 6'3" 230 pound size, and has the frame to add a lot more muscle.  He is long, has very good speed, and excellent quickness.  He is along strider who just seems to blow by past people.  Also an excellent kid who is mature and soft spoken.

Originally committed to Ohio State, then switched to Notre Dame, before ultimately committing to FLORIDA.  Other offers included Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Florida State, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma, USC, and Stanford.

Bottom line-  Excellent all around linebacker.  When one thinks of the typical tough PA linebacker, they should think of this kid.



3.  Adam Breneman Cedar Cliff HS (Camp Hill) TE- It's rare to find kids with tight end size who can also run, so when one is found the offers just pour in.  When they are as productive and as mature as this young man, well, he becomes one of the more recruited players in the country.

He decided to stay home and play for PENN STATE, and he's already starting to become a legend even though he hasn't even signed yet.  And that's because he is very proud of being a Nittany Lion, and he is very vocal in recruiting and giving the university a lot of good publicity.  He's already a great leader and very mature.

On the field he is 6'4" and 230 pounds, with good speed and great hands.  He needs to get bigger and stronger, and he's coming off a major knee injury that cost him his entire senior season, but it looks like nothing can stop this young man from being a star at Penn State.

It may be easier to say who didn't offer Adam, but some of the big ones who did offer include Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Ohio State, and Nebraska.

Bottom line-  Excellent prospect on the field and a mature team leader off the field.  The sky is the limit.



4.  Dorian Johnson, Belle Vernon Area HS (Belle Vernon) OT-  When I first saw tape on this kid back in January, my jaw dropped.  It's not too often that you see a 6'6" 270 pound kid move like this.  His quickness at the snap is phenomenal, as his habit of pushing unmatched opponents ten yards down the field.  His arms are extremely long, his feet are quick, and his frame can easily put on another 50 or 60 pounds if he wants.

He originally surprised many by committing to Penn State, but after the Nittany Lions were slapped with a four year bowl ban, Johnson changed his commitment to PITTSBURGH.  The fact that he handled the switch with both class and maturity showed what kind of young man he is.

Other offers included Ohio State, Alabama, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Tennessee.

Bottom line-  Once he adds the weight, he will have everything it takes to be a big time left tackle at the college level, and perhaps beyond.


5.  Tyler Boyd, Clairton Area HS (Clairton) WR-  If you ever needed proof that superstars can be found at small schools, look no further than this young man.  A WPIAL legend and one of the most productive players the state has ever seen.  And make no mistake about it, he still would have been a huge star if he was in Quad A.

He needs to add weight to his 6'1" 170 pound frame, but he has great length, speed, quickness, and hands.  He has not spent much time as a traditional receiver for the Bears, taking most snaps as a running back, but he should have no problem at all learning the position.  He could just as easily be an All-American caliber safety at the next level and has excellent return skills as well.

Committed to PITTSBURGH over West Virginia, Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Arizona, Rutgers, Georgia Tech, and others.

Bottom line- Smooth, impressive athlete and a really good football player. Reminiscent of former Woodland Hills, and Michigan star, Steve Breaston.  Could definitely be a star in college.



6.  Patrick Kugler, North Allegheny HS (Wexford) OG/C- An excellent all around interior offensive lineman with toughness, quickness, and a real nastiness.  At 6'4" and 275 pounds, he needs to add at least 25 pounds, but after a redshirt season he should be ready to compete for playing time.  His dad, Sean, was the Steelers offensive line coach this season, and has recently been named as the head coach at UTEP.

Committed to MICHIGAN over the likes of Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Florida State, Oklahoma, Florida, Virginia Tech, Michigan State, Miami, Washington, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Bottom line-  Very advanced with his technique because of his father, and once he gets bigger he could be a Big Ten star because he has everything else it takes to reach that level.



7.  David Williams, Imhotep Institute Charter School (Philadelphia) RB-  The state hasn't consistently put out a lot of nationally recruited running backs for awhile, but not many are the full package like Williams.  A little tall for running backs these days at 6'1", and needs to add some size to his 192 pound frame, but he has speed to burn, great quickness and agility, and elite level vision.  He also can run inside and outside, he can return kicks and punts, and he has very good hands.

Needless to say, with all of those attributes Williams has had an impressive offer list.  At the moment, South Carolina seems to be the favorite, but other offers have come from Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Ohio State, Arizona State, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Virginia, Tennessee, and Rutgers.

Bottom line-  Big time back with the all around skills to be a major success at the college level.




8.  Mike McGlinchey, William Penn Charter School (Philadelphia) OT- If size is what you want in your offensive tackles, you can't do much better than the 6'8" McGlinchey.  Needs to add much more weight to his 280 pounds, but he has frame to easily put on another 50 pounds.  Obviously he has the long reach that comes from being 6'8", but he also plays tough and just as impressively, he runs amazingly well for his size.  On some running plays, he's still out in front of the running back 30 yards down the field.  Also a good basketball player.

Committed to NOTRE DAME over offers from Pittsburgh, Penn State, Michigan, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Bottom line-  Once he adds some weight he could be a big time player because the wingspan, feet, and toughness are topnotch.




9.  Scott Orndoff, Seton-LaSalle HS (Pittsburgh) TE-  The full package athletically with great 6'6" 245 pound size already with the frame to get bigger.  He is fantastic after the catch and has excellent hands.  Maybe the most impressive thing is that he has run a 11.6 100m, a ridiculous number for a player that size.

Originally committed to Wisconsin, but changed to PITTSBURGH.  Also had offers from the likes of West Virginia, Michigan, and Michigan State.

Bottom line-  Like Breneman, he is the new bread of freakishly athletic tight end, and his size/speed combination is pretty crazy.  In Paul Chryst's tight end heavy offense, he should be a star eventually.




10.  Zayd Issah, Central Dauphin HS (Harrisburg) LB-  Very good athlete with straight line speed, toughness, and athleticism.  Lean, but muscular at 6'3" and 210 pounds with the frame to easily add 30 pounds if he wants. Very productive football player who lead his team to the state Quad A championship last season.  Name is pronounced as "Zade Eee-saw".

Committed to PENN STATE over the likes of Pittsburgh, Oregon, Arizona State, Virginia, Maryland, NC State, Iowa, and Rutgers.

Bottom line-  Really good football player, strong and athletic, and a quality young man.  Could really help keep the Nittany Lions during their penalized years.



11.  Damion Terry, Cathedral Preparatory School (Erie) QB-  Has the good 6'4" 210 pound size, a strong arm, and very good athleticism.  Very good speed and has the ability to get a big gain when running out of the pocket.  Had an excellent senior season and has improved a lot.

MICHIGAN STATE came into the state early and got a steal with this young man. He committed way back in April so his only other offers were Illinois, Duke, and Boston College, but if he waited he could have more.  Not that he needed that since the Spartans are one of the better programs in the country.

Bottom line-  Very good quarterback prospect who is capable of starting in the Big 10 in a few years.



12.  Will Fuller, Roman Catholic HS (Philadelphia) WR- Every year there is a player that people wonder why he isn't recruited heavier and this is this year's player.  Way too thin at 6'1" and 160 pounds, but he has good speed, excellent quickness, and some of the best hands in the country.  His ball skills are so smooth that he wowed observers over the summer at camps and combines.  He just catches everything in sight and does it effortlessly.

Initially chose Penn State but then changed his commitment to NOTRE DAME.  Other offers included  Boston College, Rutgers, and Temple.

Bottom line-  Won't dazzle with his size or speed, but he has all the nuances to be a quality college receiver.


13.  Chavas Rawlins, Monessen Area HS (Monessen) QB/DB-  Excellent athlete with very good speed and a solid 6'2" 190 pound frame.  He doesn't have a cannon but he does have the arm to make all of the throws.  His technique is very raw, however, and it's still an unknown if he could ever develop his passing enough to be a major college passer.  He's such a good athlete, though, that he could easily switch to wide receiver or safety, and if he puts on enough weight, he could even be a linebacker.

Chose WEST VIRGINIA over offers that included Pittsburgh, Nebraska, Northwestern, Georgia Tech,  North Carolina, Rutgers, Virginia, South Florida, and Tennessee.

Bottom line-  If he makes it as quarterback, great, but if he doesn't he has all the physical attributes to be a success at a different position.




14.  Delton Williams, Cathedral Preparatory School (Erie) LB/S- The full package with 6'2" 205 pound size, and a high degree of speed, athleticism, and strength.  He's also very productive, starring at one of the top Quad A schools in the state.  He has played mostly at running back in high school, and he could project at that position at the next level, too, but initially he is expected to be on defense.  Also an excellent return man.

He was arrested earlier in the year for being in a car that marijuana in it, but the charges were dropped. Some schools stopped recruiting him for that reason, but MICHIGAN STATE stuck with him and got his commitment.  Others who offered at one time included Penn State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Rutgers, Cincinnati, and Nebraska.

Bottom line-  No clue where he will eventually end up on the field, but he is an excellent physical specimen and a really good football player.



15.  Andrew Nelson, Hershey HS (Hershey) OL-  At 6'5" and 265 pounds, he obviously has to get much bigger, but he has the frame to put on good weight, plus long arms, quick feet, and a nasty disposition.  But the thing that stands out the most with him is how fast he is.  On his tape, he snaps for a punt then beats everybody down the field to make the tackle.  Rarely have I seen an offensive line prospect move as fast as him.  

Chose PENN STATE early or he would have had a lot more offers.  Still he had some offers from Pittsburgh, Northwestern, Maryland, and Missouri.

Bottom line-  If he puts on the weight and stays healthy, he could really be special for the Nittany Lions in a few years.



16.  DeShawn Coleman, Hickory HS (Hermitage) RB-  Fast, electrifying back with off the charts quickness.  He doesn't play against top competition, but he still often embarrasses the hell out of defenders who try to stop him.   Also has good return skills.  He hasn't been asked to catch much, but he appears to have no problems with his hands. 


At 5'11" and 170 pounds, he's a little light so he's a better fit in an offense where he has room to run.  Luckily for him, he chose the school to do that with WEST VIRGINIA.  Penn State and Purdue offered but there would have been more had he not committed back in April.

Bottom line-  A threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball so he will fit in nicely with the Mountaineers offense.




17. Jaryd Jones-Smith, West Catholic HS (Philadelphia)-  Giant 6'7" 320 pound tackle with very good feet and a great wingspan.  Needs a lot of work in the weight room, especially his lower body.  Had an excellent senior season and excelled on defensive just as much as offense.  Chose PITTSBURGH over Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, NC State, Arizona, and Vanderbilt.

Bottom line-  Has everything it takes to be a left tackle at the college level, except for strength, and that that can be improved.


18.  Brian Lemelle, Bishop McDevitt HS (Harrisburg) WR-  On the smallish size at 5'11" and 170 pounds, but he is a solid all around prospect with good speed, hands, and athleticism.  Doesn't stand out in any one area but at the end of the day he knows how to be a receiver.  All the evidence you need is that he is Pennsylvania's all-time career leader in receptions and yards.

His offers include Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Nebraska, Iowa, Cincinnati, Rutgers, Virginia,  and Purdue.

Bottom line-  Not big or really fast, but he's so productive and solid at the little things that he should help whichever school he goes to.



19.  James Conner, McDowell HS (Erie) RB/DE-  A sleeper over the summer but that was before he showed his athleticism, speed, and strength in camps and combines.  He followed that up with a big senior season.  At 6'3" 230 pounds, he is a runaway train as a running back, and he may get the chance to play that on the college level.  If not, he could always move to defense.

Chose PITTSBURGH over a handful of MAC schools.  Needless to say, he is highly under recruited.

Bottom line-  Intriguing player because of his excellent athleticism at that size.




20.  Justin Moody, George Washington HS (Philadelphia) DT-  He had some good showings at some Philadelphia combines earlier in the year and it caused him to be overrated by scouting services.  But even though he was overrated then he's still pretty good.  He has a solid 6'3" and 265 pound frame, and he's athletic and quick.  His main problem is that he plays chaotically with little consistent technique.  Once he gets that under control, he could reach his ceiling.

Chose PITTSBURGH over Purdue, Syracuse, Rutgers, Syracuse, Central Florida, and Temple.

Bottom line-  He needs a lot of coaching but the natural skills are all present.



21.  Hodari Christian, McKeesport Area HS (McKeesport) LB/S-  Lean, but solidly built at 6'1" and 210 pounds, with the ability to add good weight if it's needed.  Good speed, athleticism, toughness, and strength.  Also a good tackler.

Chose WEST VIRGINIA over Pittsburgh, Northwestern, Rutgers, Temple, Illinois, and Purdue;

Bottom line-  Good all around player who got lost in the shuffle because he committed early. If he was still out there, many teams would be on him.




22.  Daryl Worley, William Penn Charter School (Philadelphia) WR/S-  A late bloomer on the recruiting front, but when you are 6'0" and 180 pounds, and you are one of the faster players in the state you can't hide for long.  Won conference titles with a 11.14 100m and a 22.27 200m.  Can project equally as a receiver or a safety at the college level, but most schools wanted him as a safety.

He's been told that he will get to choose at WEST VIRGINIA, where he committed to over the summer.  Others offering included Pittsburgh, Penn State, Syracuse, Iowa, Tennessee, Northwestern, Rugers, Boston College, Temple, and UConn.

Bottom line-  Any time a player has this kind of speed, he has a chance to make an impression at the college level.



23.  Shakir Soto, GAR Memorial HS (Wilkes-Barre) DE-  Already has excellent size at 6'4" and 250 pounds, to go with good athleticism and speed.  Has always been an excellent run defender, but he has the tools to rush the passer at the college level and came on to have 13.5 sacks this season.  Against the run, he uses his strength, size, long arms, and aggressiveness to make it very difficult for any running back to get around him.

Chose PITTSBURGH way back in April so many schools never got a look at him before he committed, but he still had offers from schools like Virginia, Maryland, and Boston College.

Bottom line-  The type of player that many schools may look back on and wonder how they missed on him.




24.  Zach Challingsworth, South Fayette HS (McDonald) WR-  Good size at 6'2" and 180 pounds, but he will need to add more mass.  Quicker and faster than he gets credit for and has more than enough speed for the college level.  Great hands and he seems to catch everything in sight, sometimes in an acrobatic fashion.  Highly productive.

Chose PITTSBURGH over Temple and a handful of MAC schools.

Bottom line-  A big star in the WPIAL and has what it takes to be a quality player in college.  He's definitely under recruited.




25.  Matt Galambos, Haverford School (Haverford) LB- Solid 6'2" and 225 pounds with good speed.  Aggressive and excellent tackler who flies around the field like a maniac.  Came from a bad childhood to become a great student with a 4.1 GPA.  Can play on the outside or in the middle.  Had a great year and proved that he was a top prospect.

Chose PITTSBURGH over Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple, Harvard, and Yale.

Bottom line- A big sleeper who is known by many in that area as the best defensive player in southeastern PA.  








Thursday, December 6, 2012

Visitors this week

As of now, there are ten 2013 prospects visiting this weekend, with four of them already committed.  Those four are Shakir Soto, Tra'von Chapman, Tyrique Jarrett, and Scott Orndoff.  Here are capsules of the six non-committed prospects, in the order of how good they are and how important it is to land them.


1.  Jaryd Jones-Smith, West Catholic HS (Philadelphia, PA) OT-  Because there are no big time programs in the Philadelphia area, kids there get overlooked often, but that's good news for Pitt because it may enable them to steal this kid.  He already has size at 6'7" and 315 pounds, and he is naturally big.  He has a frame that can get him to 340 and I wouldn't be surprised if he reached that level if he signed with Pitt.  

He's still raw and needs to get in the weight room, but his natural size, quick feet, and enormous wingspan is something the Pitt staff can really work with.  He's also young for his class so that's another plus. He may be a few years away from making an impact but an offensive line class that has Dorian Johnson and Jones-Smith at the top is a great sign for the future.

"Burger", as he's known, also has offers from NC State, Virginia, Temple, Central Florida, and Arizona.  Virginia and NC State are the biggest obstacles for the Panthers.

2.  JoJo Kemp, Deland HS (Deland, FL), RB-  He's not the prospect that the de-committed Corey Clement was, but that doesn't mean that Kemp won't be a better college player.  He's not big at 5'10" and 190, and he's not a speed demon, but he's quick, he has good hands, and he runs hard.  He's very similar in style to former Pitt star Dion Lewis in that he's small, but he's tough between the tackles, and he is a much better football player than his size and speed would indicate. 

Bottom line, Clement had the makings of a future stud, but Kemp is the kind of all around back that could contribute in many ways over four years.

Nebraska, West Virginia, and Kentucky are his top four, and South Florida, Mississippi State, Iowa State, Rutgers, Purdue, and Wake Forest are some of his other offers.  


3.  Jaleel Hytchye, LaSalle HS (Cincinnati, OH) CB-  Even for a cover corner, he needs to add strength as he looks even lighter than his listed 5'11" and 170 pounds.  He has topnotch speed however, and is a slick cover corner with long arms.  He reminds me of a faster K'Waun Williams, which is a nice thing to be.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Panthers get a commitment form him this weekend or not long after, but Northwestern is also in the mix and he's scheduled to visit there in January.  Other offers have come from Arizona State, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Louisville, Boston College, Purdue, and Penn State.

4.  Justin Moody, George Washington HS (Philadelphia) DT-  He had some nice showings this summer at individual camps which resulted in some recruiting services overrating him somewhat.  The result of that is now he may actually be a little underrated now.

At 6'3" and 270 pounds, he will project to the inside where he can use his good quickness and tenacity.  He is a little raw and needs to get a little stronger, but he could turn out to be a good player down the road.  Pretty much the same level of Panthers freshman Darryl Render, who saw some playing time this season.  As an added bonus, if he does decide to sign with Pitt, it will be good publicity as he has been selected to play in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl on January 4th.

Besides Pitt, Syracuse is also expected to get a visit, and Rutgers, Temple, Purdue, and Central Florida have offered.


5.  Blake McClain, Winter Park HS (Winter Park, FL) CB- Currently a Kentucky commit, but he's been looking around.  To show you how much talent there is in Florida, he's considered borderline top 100 in the state and he still has offers from Pitt, Kentucky, West Virginia, Rutgers, Cincinnati, South Florida, Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Boston College, Wake Forest, and more.

He's 5'11" and 180, and he has good speed.  Basically he has good everything, but he doesn't stand out as excellent at any one facet.  But he plays tough against the run and he's a good athlete.  The type who could be develop and be a good starter in the defensive backfield down the road.


6.  Alex Officer, Eastside HS (Rochester, NY) C/OG- Alex was offered by the previous staff and after a few months of looking elsewhere, the current staff came back to the lineman.  He's not the size that this Pitt staff likes, believe it or not, though he's 6'4" and 315 pounds.  At Wisconsin, the linemen were at least 6'5" and even their centers have been known to go to 6'6".  He's a little thick around the middle, his competition was weak, and he's raw.

But on the plus side, he's got very good feet, he's has good strength already, and he plays with a bit of a mean streak.  Bottom line, he's a good development prospect that at the very least will add good depth down the road.

Louisville is his co-favorite and he also has offers from Boston College, UConn, Syracuse, Rutgers, Old Dominion, Western Kentucky, UMass, and Buffalo. He also recently visited Penn State but left without an offer.










Chryst to stay at Pitt

As I predicted, Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez will not pursue Paul Chryst to be the next head coach for the Badgers because he called in favors at Pitt to get Chryst hired as the Panthers coach.  There is some morality left in college football.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pittsburgh 66 Duquesne 45

It wasn't always pretty, but at least the result was never in question as the Panthers improve to 8-1.

1.  Tray Woodall was the player of the game with 24 points, including 5-8 from three and 5-5 from the line.  He also had 5 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, and even a block.  If he could play more like that then Pitt could be a Sweet 16 team.

2.  Another player needed to get to that level is freshman Steven Adams who may finally be getting it.  Yes, his hands still betray him sometimes, and he was brutal in his put back attempts in the first half, but he ended up with 8 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks, and a steal. 

3.  Lamar Patterson again had a nice all around game with 13 points, including 5-8 from the field and 3-4 from three, as well as 3 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists, and a block.

4.  James Robinson was once again solid with 9 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists, and a steal.  He also only had 2 turnovers.

5.  Talib Zanna had a low key game with 4 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 turnovers.

6.  On the downside, the bench, normally a strength, was brutal.  They ended up with just 8 points and they shot 3-19 from the field.  J.J. Moore was 1-9, but he did have 6 rebounds and the bench chipped in with 15 rebounds altogether. They also had 1 assist to go with 6 turnovers.  To make matters worse, they shot 2-5 from the line.  

7.  Duquesne had a terrible shooting night, going for 31.6% from the field, 23.8% from three, and with no inside game, they only attempted 6 free throws, making four.  But Pitt wasn't much better, shooting 38.7% from the field and 56.3% from the line.  The saving grace, however, came from three, thanks mostly to Woodall, as the Panthers made 9-16, good for 56.3%.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Paul Chryst statement- What does is mean?


“I understand the speculation surrounding my name given today’s developments. I am committed to the Pitt football program and the University of Pittsburgh. I am focusing all my time and energy on our team’s bowl game preparation and recruiting a great group of young men to join our program and this outstanding university. We are working hard every day to re-establish this program and I am excited about the future of Pitt football.”

Final Grades for Pitt Football- Defense and Coaching

Defensive Line:  This unit was not good for the first half of the season, but just like last season they came on strong at the end of the year.  The main reason for that is junior Aaron Donald, who was back to his dominant self in the second half of the season.  In the first half of the season, Donald had just 18 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, and one sack.  In the second half, he had 45 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks.  That's some difference.  His sack total is down from last season, but his tackles and tackles for loss are up.  Bottom line, the guy is a star who right now is one of the best defensive linemen in the country.

Beside Donald inside is Tyrone Ezell, who was solid with 34 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks.  In reserve, Khaynin Mosley-Smith was a disappointment with just 8 tackles.

The ends supplied little for the first part of the season, and while there are no stars in the bunch, they at least performed better in the second half of the season. Bryan Murphy was below average at the beginning of the year but once he shook the rust off he ended up with 25 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 6 hurries. Those aren't elite numbers but it's much better than what was expected after the first few games.

Maybe the most impressive development on the line was senior Shayne Hale, who finally lived up to at least some of his potential.  He has 23 tackles on the season, along with an impressive 7.5 tackles for loss.  He also ended up with two sacks.  On the other side, T.J. Clemmings was a big disappointment with just 20 tackles, and 8 of those came against Buffalo.

One intriguing player was redshirt freshman Devin Cook, who only ended up with 12 tackles on the season, but amazingly 8 of them were a loss.  He also had a sack, 3 hurries, and 2 forced fumbles.  With that kind of big play ability, he's clearly somebody to keep an eye on in the future.

In the first half of the season, the Panthers gave up an average of 138.3 yards a game on the ground.  In the second half of the season, the average dropped to 119.8 yards a game.  And this was with the No.1 team in the nation, Notre Dame, going for 231 yards.  On the season, the Panthers rushing defense is at 129.1 yards a game, good for No.24 in the country.

Last Season's Final Grade:  A-
This Season's Preseason Grade: B-
Midseason Grade:  D
Final Grade:  B-


Linebackers:  Like the entire defense, this unit made good strides in the second half of the season, thanks mostly to Dan Mason and Todd Thomas.

Mason amazed everybody but himself apparently, when he amassed 21 total tackles against Buffalo and Temple.  But he lacerated his liver and was lost again for the rest of the season.  But he was excellent in those two games, as well as the Louisville game proceeding those two.

Meanwhile, Thomas looks like he's on a one way street to stardom.  After injuries kept him out of almost the entire first half of the season, in the second half he totaled 49 tackles, a 33-yard interception, 4 pass breakups, and even a blocked punt.  His 8.2 tackles a game average in the second half was very close to the 8.6 tackles a game that Notre Dame superstar Manti Te'o amassed on the season.  I'm not saying that Thomas is at that level, but he's proving to be one of the better linebackers in the country against the pass.

Eric Williams was also solid on the season with 48 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, a sack, 2 pass breakups, and 5 hurries.  None of those numbers are special but there's enough there to see that the sophomore should only get better.

When Mason wasn't in the middle, Shane Gordon usually was, but the junior didn't come up as big as was hoped for when the season started.  He ended the season with 48 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and 6 pass breakups.  Those numbers aren't horrible but the middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense usually has much more tackles. In the second half of the season he only had 14 tackles and 9 of those came against Rutgers.

Redshirt freshman Nicholas Grigsby had 27 tackles, but only 3 of those came in the second half of the season after Thomas came back into the lineup.  Manny Williams had 24 tackles but was injured in the second half of the season and was lost for the season.  Joe Trebitz filled in when Mason and Gordon were injured, and he came up big with 13 tackles against Notre Dame and 9 against UConn.  But then he also got injured and saw little time afterward.

Last Season's Final Grade:  C-
This Season's Preseason Grade:  B-
Midseason Grade:  D
Final Grade:  C


Defensive Backs:  It took some time but eventually the secondary lived up to their lofty expectations.  K'Waun Williams had one bad half against Louisville, when he was battling a leg injury, and he missed some snaps early in the season because of a preseason injury, but usually when he was in there, he was an excellent cover corner.  He had 44 tackles on the season, 2.5 sacks, and 3 interceptions.

Williams had to come through because as the season went on, it became apparent that opponents were not going to throw at Lafayette Pitts anymore.  Just a redshirt freshman, Pitts was excellent with 32 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble, and a team high 9 pass breakups. Pitts was so good that he had better stats in the second half of the season even though he was getting less action his way.

Cullen Christian was the top cornerback reserve, and only came up with 14 tackles on the season, but the fact that he's never been singled out is proof that he did his job well.

At safety, it took awhile for Paul Chryst and Dave Huxtable to figure out who got how many snaps, but eventually Jason Hendricks and Jared Holley rose to the top.  Hendricks had a breakout year with a team high 73 tackles and a Big East high 5 interceptions.  Needless to say he played at an all-conference level.  Not far behind was Holley, who started slow, but came on strong with 70 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 4 pass breakups.  Andrew Taglianetti added 34 tackles as a solid reserve, and Ray Vinopal who began the season as a starter, ended up with 13 tackles.

In the first half of the season, the defense gave up 205.2 yards a game through the air, but it improved to 188.3 yards a game over the last six games.  The Panthers also had 8 of their 13 interceptions in the second half of the season.

For the season, the pass defense ranked No.24 in the nation with 196.8 yards a game and the pass efficiency defense ended up No.22 nationally.  One stat that lowers the grade of the unit, however, is third down defense, which is No.97 nationally.

Last Season's Final Grade:  B-
This Season's Preseason Grade:  B+
Midseason Grade:  C
Final Grade: B


Coaching:  Pitt fans want to believe that Chryst will bring them back to at least respectability, if not excellence.  For that reason, many get very defensive when you bring up the truth, which is that it's still impossible to say how well Chryst will do.  He started off with an inexperienced, questionable staff, and then started very slowly in recruiting.  He also made some poor very poor on the field decisions.

While he still makes some bad game decisions, the program is light years ahead of where they were just a few months ago.  The recruiting for 2013 could have a great close, and they are working the 2014 class hard.  Also, the team in the second half got better, especially on defense.  And let's never forget that Chryst turned Tino Sunseri into a highly productive quarterback, something that was previously considered impossible.

But at the end of the day, the team went 6-6, and finished near the bottom nationally in more than a few  categories.  For that reason, I think the grade I give is the only one I can give since this is isn't where I think Chryst will eventually have the program, but rather what the team has done this season.

This Season's Preseason Grade: C
This Season's Midseason Grade:  D
Final Grade:  C+

Monday, December 3, 2012

My Own All-Big East Team

OFFENSE

Quarterback: Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville- 2nd in completions, 1st in passing efficiency, and 1st in completion percentage, but most importantly he has been the top player on the conference's best team.  For the season he has completed 69% of his passes for 3,452 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions.

Running Back: George Winn, Cincinnati-  Leading rusher in the conference with 1,204 yards and tied for league lead with 12 rushing touchdowns.  Has an excellent 5.3 avg.

Running Back:  Montel Harris, Temple- Has 1,054 yards on the season, along with 12 touchdowns, and a 5.7 avg.  Against Army he ran for 351 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Wide Receiver:  Alec Lemon, Syracuse- At the midway point, it was teammate Marcus Sales who was the favorite for this slot, but while Sales also had an excellent season it was Lemon who came on like gangbusters as the season went on. His 70 catches and 1,063 yards are both tops in the league, and his 7 touchdowns and 15.2 avg. are also near the top.

Wide Receiver:  Michael Shanahan, Pittsburgh-  Toss up with Sales and Pitt teammate Devin Street, but Shanahan is No.4 in catches and  No. 2 in yards. On the season, he has 58 catches for 926 yards, a 16.0 avg., and 5 touchdowns.

Tight End:  Travis Kelce, Cincinnati-  No.1 for tight ends in the three big categories with 40 catches, 599 yards, and 7 touchdowns.

Offensive Tackle:  Justin Pugh, Syracuse

Offensive Tackle: Kaleb Johnson, Rutgers

Offensive Guard:  Austen Bujnoch, Cincinnati

Offensive Guard: Zack Chibane, Syracuse

Center: Mario Benavides, Louisville



DEFENSE


Defensive Line:  Brandon Sharpe, Syracuse-  Tied for fourth with 13.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks (4 against Pitt), and 35 tackles.

Defensive Line:  Trevardo Williams, UConn- A league high 11.5 sacks, along with 13.5 tackles for loss, and 42 tackles.

Defensive Line:  Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh- What a great second half of the season the junior had, and he ended the season as the No.1 tackler for linemen, 1st in tackles for loss (6th nationally), and 3rd in sacks.  For the season he had 63 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss, 2 pass breakups, a forced fumble, and 11 hurries.

Defensive Line:  Dan Giordano, Cincinnati-  51 tackles, 5 sacks, 6 tackles for loss, a forced fumble, and 12 hurries.

Linebacker:  Yawin Smallwood, UConn-  3rd in tackles with 120, 3rd in tackles for loss with 15, plus 4 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles.

Linebacker:  Khaseem Greene, Rutgers-  His 125 tackles lead the league, and also has 10.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 5 pass breakups, 8 hurries, and an incredible 6 forced fumbles.

Linebacker:  Sio Moore, UConn-  72 tackles, along with 15.5 tackles for loss (2nd), 8 sacks (2nd), and 11 passes defensed (4th).

Cornerback:  Logan Ryan, Rutgers-  1st with 18 passes defensed, 2nd in interceptions with 4, and his 87 tackles are second best for defensive backs.

Cornerback:  Dwayne Gratz, UConn-  second in the conference with 14 pass breakups, and also had 3 interceptions, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 53 tackles.

Safety:  Calvin Pryor, Louisville- His 94 tackles are the best in the league and his 4 forced fumbles are 2nd.  He also had 5 pass breakups.

Safety:  Jason Hendricks, Pittsburgh- A league leading 5 interceptions along with 8 passes defensed and 73 tackles.



SPECIAL TEAMS


Kicker-  Brandon McManus, Temple-  The all time leader in Temple history, he was 14-17 this season.

Punter-  Brandon McManus, Temple- His 45.1 avg. is tops in the league and 10th nationally.

Return Specialist-  Matt Brown, Temple- first in the conference, and 4th nationally, in punt returns with a 14.2 avg., and 3rd in the conference in kick returns with 25.5 avg.



OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE SEASON

Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville


DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE SEASON

Khaseem Greene, Rutgers



SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE SEASON

Matt Brown, Temple


ROOKIE OF THE SEASON

Tyler Matakevich, Temple


COACH OF THE SEASON

Butch Jones, Cincinnati 











Final Grades for Pitt Football- Offense and Special Teams

Quarterbacks:  The Tino Sunseri era is only one game away from being over for good, and for many Panthers fans it can't come soon enough.  To say that Sunseri is a polarizing figure may be the biggest understatement ever.  But to his credit, he reached his maximum talent.  That his maximum talent may not be what a lot of fans wanted is something that he can't control.

For the season, Sunseri finished No.19 nationally in passing efficiency with a QB rating of 154.95. He also completed 66.5% of his passes for 3,103 yards, 19 touchdowns, and incredibly just 2 interceptions.   His interception percentage is by far the best in the nation.  Thanks to being a three year starter at this time in history, he's also near the top of many school career passing lists.

But as anybody who actually watched Sunseri play could see, the senior never really made big, game changing plays.  At the end of the day, he had his stats, he made some bad decisions that don't show up in the box score, and he never moved the team to the higher level that top quarterbacks must do.  He was just kind of there, an instrument of Paul Chryst's offensive mind, a vessel designed to make the average, safe play, but without the talent to go beyond that.

Last Season's Final Grade: D
Preseason Grade:  C-
Midseason Grade:  C
Final Season Grade:  C


Running Backs:  With Ray Graham, Rushel Shell, and Isaac Bennett, there were great hopes for this unit.  A poor offensive line and Graham working himself back into top form prevented the running game from reaching the heights expected when looking at the individual talent involved, but the backs were still very good despite their obstacles.

Graham finally got his 1,000 yard season on his last try and now has 1,042 yards, with a 4.7 avg., and 11 touchdowns.  Graham also got better in the second half of the season and had three of his four 100 yard games in the last five games.  Graham once again showed his great pass receiving skills with 36 catches, 340 yards, a 9.4 avg., and 2 more touchdowns.

Rushel Shell showed that he is ready for big things and even though he only got more than 20 carries in a game just once (in which he ran for 157 yards on 23 carries against Virginia Tech), he still ended up with 562 yards, a 4.8 avg., and 4 touchdowns.  He also showed nice hands when called upon, with 9 catches, including 5 against Louisville.

Isaac Bennett was the odd man out, which is too bad because he's a good player.  He played well on special teams, however, and had 29 carries for 141 yards, a 4.9 avg., and 3 rushing touchdowns.  Unfortunately for him, he had just three carries in the second half of the season.

Statistically, the Panthers are No.89 nationally in rushing offense but that's because in college football sacks are counted as rushing yards and the Panthers are No.101 in sacks allowed.

Last Season's Final Grade: A
Preseason Grade:  B+
Midseason Grade: B-
Final Season Grade:  B+


Wide Receivers:  At midseason, both Mike Shanahan and Devin Street were on pace for 1,000 yards in the regular season, and while they didn't quite get there, they have been consistently effective all season.

Shanahan has 58 catches, 926 yards, a 16.0 avg., and 5 touchdowns on the season and had his only three 100+ games of his career. He also only had one bad game, against Buffalo, when the entire offense was terrible.  Street was just as good with 66 catches, for 892 yards, a 13.5 avg., and 4 touchdowns.  He also had three 100+ games.

After that, the pickings were slim.  Cam Saddler was the No.3 receiver but he only had 16 catches for 229 yards, a 14.3 avg., and a single touchdown.

When all was said and done, this unit was solid and productive, but they weren't really game changers. However they were clearly much more suited to Chryst's offense, and came up big as veterans.

Last Season's Final Grade: D
Preseason Grade:  C-
Midseason Grade:  B
Final Season Grade: B


Tight Ends:  This was one of the most disappointing units on the team.  Senior Hubie Graham was somebody I named as having a breakout season, but an injury plagued season cost him any chance of that. He missed just three games but his injuries prevented him from becoming a factor in the passing game. He only had 7 catches on the season, and just one came in the last seven games. He did provide some solid blocking however.

Drew Carswell got the call when Graham went down and ended up with 13 catches, including 5 against UConn late in the season. He also had two touchdowns.  But he had some awful drops during the season and is not a blocker.

True freshman J.P. Holtz was called on as the season progressed and already is the best tight end  on the roster.  He ended the season with 12 catches, and 9 came in the last four games.  He also had 3 touchdowns, all in the last half of the season.

The future is bright for this position, but there's no denying that it was a disappointment this season.  The final grade was salvaged by the emergence of Holtz, who is a future star.

Last Season's Final Grade:  B
Preseason Grade:  A
Midseason Grade:  D-
Final Season Grade:  C-


Offensive Line:  Along with the quarterback position, this unit has been the most discussed, analyzed, and argued over.  As I see it, no newcomers saw time, so it's basically the same unit that underperformed last season.  It's a veteran unit, especially with center Ryan Turnley and sixth year guard Chris Jacobson, yet the unit still struggled mightily.  The Panthers finished No. 76 nationally in tackles for loss allowed and No.101 in sacks allowed.  Yes, Sunseri's slow reactions have led to that, but anybody who watched Pitt this year could also see many times where Sunseri had little chance. Against the more talented teams, the line's lack of talent was even more apparent.  Cincinnati had 6 sacks, while Louisville, Syracuse, and Notre Dame all had 5 sacks. The line also committed a lot of procedure and holding penalties this season, and the team finished No. 90 in penalty yards.

There was an occasional bright spot, like Arthur Doakes playing surprisingly well at the end of the season, but for the most part this unit just isn't very good despite some people trying to convince themselves that it is.  If it wasn't for Chryst's offensive mind and the talents of Graham and Shell, the line's lack of ability would be even more apparent.

Last Season's Final Grade:  C-
Preseason Grade: C-
Midseason Grade:  F
Final Season Grade: D


Special Teams:  This has been a mixed bag all season, with some of the units performing well and some performing horribly.  Punter Matt Yoklic had an average 41.1 yards a punt, but he was much more consistent this season and did a much better job of kicking inside the 20-yard line.  Kicker Kevin Harper was sometimes disastrous but in the second half of the season he went 13-15 after making 6-11 in the first half of the season.  However, he showed little as a pressure kicker and his miss against Notre Dame will go down in infamy.

In the return game, Cam Saddler had a mediocre 7.4 avg., but as a team the Panthers ended No.23 nationally.  The Panthers also ended up No.29 nationally as a team in kick returns, and Lafayette Pitts also finished No. 29 nationally with a 25.8 avg.

The kick return defense ended up No. 38 nationally but the punt return defense was an atrocious No.119 nationally, second worst in the country.

The unit clearly needs some help, and it's inexcusable not to place a bigger coaching emphasis on something that is 1/3 of the team.

Last Season's Final Grade:  C-
Preseason Grade:  C
Midseason Grade: C-
Final Season Grade:  C






Saturday, December 1, 2012

Pittsburgh 27 South Florida 3

1.  The good news is that Pitt has made a bowl game, which is obviously good for many reasons.  It will be the Pinstripe Bowl, the Beef O'Brady Bowl, or the BBVA Compass Bowl (for the third year in the the row).  If I had to guess, I think it will be the Beef O'Brady Bowl.

2.  Tough to gauge the Panthers in this game because South Florida was so atrocious, but it obviously sets a good tone for the bowl game, and for next season if the Panthers can pull off a win in that bowl game.

3.  The Panthers defense held the Bulls to 115 yards including 6 rushing yards on 20 carries.  The Panthers also had 3 interceptions and forced a fumble.

4.  Ray Graham ran for 93 yards on 26 carries, a 3.6 avg., and 2 touchdowns.  Rushel Shell chipped in with 9 carries for 46 yards, a 5.1 avg.

5.  Tino Sunseri had his normal mostly good, but sometimes infuriating game, and ended up completing  19 of 25 passes for 211 yards, and a touchdown.  Once again he had no interceptions.

6.  Mike Shanahan had his third 100-yard game of the season as he led all Panthers with 9 catches and 116 yards.

7.  Devin Street added 6 catches for 72 yards, and J.P. Holtz added 18 yards on 3 catches, along with a 2-yard touchdown catch.

8.  Ronald Jones had a very nice 38-yard punt return.  Hopefully there will be more of that in the future.  He got the call because Cam Saddler was suspended for the game because of an undisclosed disciplinary incident.

9.  Matt Yoklic has a great game punting with a 44.6 avg. and two kicks inside the 5-yard line.

Pittsburgh 74 Detroit 61

I have to admit that I was getting worried in the first half when the Panthers were down by double digits, and 8 at the half.  But the second half was a different story thanks to Tray Woodall, James Robinson, J.J. Moore, Lamar Patterson, and Talib Zanna.

1.  Zanna was the player of the game and he's turning himself into a possible all-conference player.  For the game, he led the Panthers with 16 points, thanks to a great 10-11 from the line.  He also aded 5 rebounds and 2 blocks.

2.  Woodall's threes were essential in getting Pitt back into the game and he ended up with 14 points on 4 of 5 three point shooters, and 2 steals.

3.  Robinson did most of his scoring at the end of the game and ended up with 11 points and 6 assists.  He uncharacteristically had 3 turnovers and 4 fouls, however.

4.  Moore ended up with 7 points and 5 rebounds, and was an 5-6 from the line.

5.  Patterson continues to play better and contributed his usual good all around game of 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists.

6.  Cameron Wright and Durand Johnson came off the bench to score 6 points each with Wright also adding 4 rebounds.

7.  The Panthers shot horribly in the first half but ended up shooting 48% from the field, 47.1% from three, and 78.3% from the line.

8.  On the down side, Steven Adams once again looked lost.  He ended up with 2 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 turnovers.




Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dorian Johnson to Pitt

One down, two to go.  Belle Vernon offensive lineman Dorian Johnson has committed to the Panthers after spending the weekend visiting, along with fellow elite prospects Robert Foster and Tyler Boyd.  The 6'6" 275 pound Johnson originally committed to Penn State, but changed his mind after the Nittany Lions went on probation for four years.  Considered one of the best offensive line prospects in the country, Johnson also had offers from the likes of Ohio State, Alabama, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pittsburgh 72 Oakland 62 (OT)


What started off as a potentially devastating loss ends up as the biggest comeback in Pitt basketball history.

1.  I wrote many, many months ago that Pitt fans would fall in love with James Robinson.  Are you in love yet?  Robinson showed he balls of steal as he practically singlehandedly willed the panthers back when nothing seemed to be going right.  He ended the night with 14 points, including 7-8 from the line,  3 assists, and 2 steals.  And all seemed to come when they were needed most.

2.  Robinson was one of two players of the game, in my opinion, with Dante Taylor being the other.  Taylor ended up with 10 points and 9 big rebounds, including 7 offensive.

3.  J.J. Moore led all scorers with just 16 points, including 3-4 from three late in the game, and 10 rebounds.

4.  On the downside, Tray Woodall and Lamar Patterson were awful.  Patterson did have 7 rebounds but he only came up with 2 points on 0-7 from the field.  Woodall was not much better as he was 3-15 from the field, including 2-10 from three.  He did lead with 8 assists but also had 4 turnovers and 4 fouls.  He ended up with 8 points.

5.  Steven Adams was not much of a factor with 4 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 4 fouls.

6.  Talib Zanna had a quiet game for him with 8 points and 5 rebounds.

7.  The Panthers shot just 41.7% from the field while Oakland shot 46.8%.  The Panthers also made 7-24 from three (29.2%), and 15-24 free throws (62.5%).

8.  The Panthers out rebounded 41-24.

Bottom line, this could have been a disaster but in the long run  it may actually help the team more in the future than if they had won by 30 points.  It showed them to never give up and if you keep going at it, no matter how much things aren't going your way, you still have a chance.  Learning is an art and Pitt learned to paint a little tonight.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pittsburgh 78 Lehigh 53

Another game, another impressive Pitt win.  The Panthers improve to 3-0 and unlike what some expected, this wasn't close.

1.  Tray Woodall was the leading scorer, the third different leading scorer for the team in the first three games, and all three leaders had over 20 points.  Woodall, who in my opinion has been the most consistent Panther this season, had 23 points, including 4-7 from three, while also grabbing 4 rebounds and dishing out 8 assists.

2.  Talib Zanna once again had an excellent game, and this time was deadly from 12 feet out.  He ended up with 20 points, thanks to 8-9 from the field and 4-5 from the line.  He also added 6 rebounds, one block, and one steal.

3.  Steven Adams struggled for the first time this season and he seemed to be lost and flailing for most of the first half.  He got under control more in the second half and contributed 6 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, and a steal.

4.  I don't think the Panthers are missing John Johnson much because Durand Johnson has come to the rescue.  The redshirt freshman may not have even seen time this season but now is averaging 8.5 ppg.  Tonight he came off the bench with 9 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal.

5.  James Robinson also had his first poor game, going 1-8 from the floor and only getting 2 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal.  But once again he had no turnovers and now has just one turnover in three games.

6.  On the down side, Lamar Patterson continues to have a slow start this season.  He had just 3 points and is averaging 2.7 ppg this season.

7.  The bench didn't do much in the first half but when was all said and done they contributed 24 points and 22 rebounds.  Besides Johnson, J.J. Moore came off the bench with 8 points and 5 rebounds, and Dante Taylor had 4 points and 10 rebounds.  In the last two games Taylor is averaging 9.5 rpg.

8.  Possible lottery pick C.J. McCollum had 17 points but the Pitt defense clearly held him in check.  In fact, McCollum hit two 3 pointers near the end of the game or he would have been even more of a non-factor.

9.  Pitt out rebounded Lehigh 38-20.

10.  The Panthers only had 6 turnovers.  The way they have protected the ball this season has been highly impressive, especially when compared to last season.

My official ballot for postseason awards

As a member of the the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), I vote for All-American, the Bronco Nagurski Award, the Outland Trophy, and the Eddie Robinson Award.


OFFENSE


Quarterback- Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M, Fr.-  I'm almost positive that Collin Klein of Kansas State will be a consensus first team All-American, and may very well win the Heisman, but the Aggie has had a better season, in my opinion.  Klein has a better record, more rushing touchdowns (19-15), and better passing efficiency (167.44-151.17) but Manziel has more touchdown passes (18-12), more yards passing (2,780-2,020), more rushing yards (1,014-748), and a higher rushing average (6.5-4.9).  He also won at Alabama and has had to play against the best defenses in the country with the SEC, while Klein has played against poor Big 12 defenses.

Running Back- Kenjon Barber, Oregon, Sr.-  People are mentioning him as a possible Heisman winner but that's going way too far.  Clearly, his 321 yards, 5 touchdown performance against USC made people excited, but after that he's only run up some numbers against the likes of Fresno State and Washington State.  Because of his outburst against USC he has catapulted to 1,360 yards, a 6.8 avg. and 19 touchdowns.

Running Back- Giovani Bernard, North Carolina, So.- I can easily see the current national rushing leader, Stefphon Jefferson of Nevada, or a big name like Montee Ball of Wisconsin, taking this spot but the electrifying Bernard has 1,008 yards in just 8 games, with 11 rushing touchdowns.  He also has an amazing 7.1 avg.  If that's not enough he also has 38 catches, which is the third best total for a running back in the country, and to go with that he has a 10.8 avg. and 4 more touchdowns.  Then there is the return game where he is fourth in the nation in punt returns with a 17.9 avg. and 2 more touchdowns.

Wide Receiver-  Marqise Lee, Southern California, So.-  Hard to believe that he was only a defensive player in high school.  Robert Woods was expected to be the star this season, but the sophomore took over with 98 catches for 1,447 yards, and 13 touchdowns.  He's also No. 13 nationally in kick returning with a 29.4 yard avg. and a touchdown.

Wide Receiver-  DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson, Jr.-  Similar to the Lee situation at USC, the main man at Clemson was supposed to be somebody else, in this case Sammy Watkins.  Instead Hopkins took over to the tune of 66 catches for 1,096 yards, a 16.6 avg., and 14 receiving touchdowns (2nd best in the country).

Tight End- Austin Seferian-Jenkins, So.-  His 55 catches leads all tight ends nationally, and he also has 731 yards, a 13.3 avg., and 4 touchdowns.  Chris Coyle (Arizona State), Zach Ertz (Stanford), and Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame) were also under consideration.

Offensive Line-  Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M, Jr.

Offensive Line-  Jake Matthews, Texas A&M, Jr.

Offensive Line-  Chance Warmack, Alabama, Sr.

Offensive Line-  Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina, Sr.

Center-  Barrett Jones, Alabama, Sr.



DEFENSE


Defensive Line-  Damontre Moore, Texas A&M, Jr.- His 20 tackles for loss are the most in the country and his 12.5 sacks are tied for the most in the country.  He also added 74 tackles, 6 hurries, 2 pass breakups, a forced fumble, and even a blocked kick.

Defensive Line-  Star Lotuleiei, Utah, Sr.-  His stats won't wow you, but there's a reason why he's expected to be a top 5 pick in the upcoming draft.  The 6'4" 320 pound beast takes on two, three, and sometimes four blockers but still has 32 tackles and 4 sacks.

Defensive Line-  Jadaveon Clowney, South Carolina, So.-  The one time top high school prospect in the country has lived up to his potential this season with 17 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 43 tackles, and 2 forced fumbles.

Defensive Line-  Bjoern Werner, Florida State, Jr.-  The German import has always had the reputation as a stout run defender but this season he has turned up the pass rush.  On the season he has 8 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, 5 hurries, 6 pass breakups, and a forced fumble.

Linebacker-  Manti Te'o, Notre Dame, Sr.-  The heart and soul of the Irish's excellent defense, he has 92 tackles, 4 pass breakups, and 4 hurries. The most amazing stat, though, is his 6 interceptions, which is the second highest number in the country.

Linebacker-  Jarvis Jones, Georgia, Jr.-  He's missed two games but still has 56 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, and 5 forced fumbles, which is second in the nation.  A top candidate for defensive player of the year awards.

Linebacker-  C.J. Mosley, Alabama, Jr.-  This one was tough as I almost picked Khaseem Greene of Rutgers, but I chose Mosley because he has had to play against better competition, and played well in those big games.  On the season he has 83 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 interceptions, a forced fumble, and a recovered fumble.

Defensive Back-  Phillip Thomas, Fresno State, Sr.-  Leads the country with 8 interceptions, and nobody else even has seven.  Even more impressively he's returned 3 of them for touchdowns.  He's also added 73 tackles, 3 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles.

Defensive Back-  Dee Milliner, Alabama, Jr.-  His 16 pass breakups are only two off the national lead, and he has 2 interceptions, 41 tackles, a forced fumble, and a blocked kick.

Defensive Back-  Matt Elam, Florida, Jr.-  The hard hitting emotional leader of the Gators defense with 52 tackles and 3 interceptions.

Defensive Back-   Jordan Poyer, Oregon State, Sr.-  Many in the east may not know about him, but he blankets receivers in the Pac 12.  On the season he has 32 tackles, 5 interceptions, 4 tackles for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble.



SPECIAL TEAMS


Punter-  Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech, Sr.-  The nation's leading punter with a 48.2 avg.

Kicker-  Dustin Hopkins, Florida State, Sr.-  He's made 20 of 24 field goals this season and became the ACC's all-time leading field goal maker when he nailed a 56-yarder this season.

Return Man-  Tavon Austin, West Virginia, Sr.-  There were a lot of candidates here but Austin gets the call for me because he did both kick and punt returns, and because he is also an All-American caliber receiver.  He has an 8.9 avg. and a touchdown on punt returns, and a 30.3 avg. and a touchdown on kick returns.



AWARDS



Bronco Nagurski Award (Best Defensive Player)- Manti Te'o, Notre Dame-  This is a three man race between Te'o, Jarvis Jones, and Damontre Moore but the 6 interceptions for a linebacker is something that stands out as special.  You can't go wrong with any of the three, though.


Outland Trophy (Best Interior Lineman)-  Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M-  Barrett Jones won the award last season as a tackle so he's somebody who has to be considered, and Lotuleiei is a great player, but Joeckel has had a great year.


Eddie Robinson Award (Best Coach)-  Bill Snyder, Kansas State-  Anybody who votes for anybody else has to have his head examined.  He turned one of the worst programs in the country into a national power not once but twice.  And the second time he did it, he did it when he was in his 70s.  He's currently 73.













Monday, November 12, 2012

Pittsburgh 86 Fordham 51

Two games, two really impressive performances.  Some thoughts:

1.  John Johnson is transferring and to be honest I don't see his departure hurting now or in the future.  In fact, Duran Johnson replaced him in the rotation and looked good with 8 points.

2.  Steven Adams again looked good but unfortunately it was in front of a lot of NBA scouts.  This time he came up with 13 points on 5 for 5 shooting and 3 for 4 from the line, 5 rebounds (all offensive),  2 steals, and a block.  Through his first two games, he is averaging 10.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.5 bpg, and 1.5 spg.  And to be honest, I don't even think he is in animal mode yet.

3.  James Robinson is so good with the ball in his hand that it's kinda ridiculous.  How good?  How about just one turnover in two games?  He had no turnovers in this game with 6 points again, with 3 assists, and 2 rebounds.

4.  Adams and Robinson are a combined 15-18 (83.3%) from the field this season.

5.  Trey Woodall had 12 points, 5 assists, and 2 steals while Lamar Patterson added 5 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists.

6.  In the opener Talib Zanna led the way with 20 points, and tonight had 8 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal, and a block.  But it was his sometimes backup J.J. Moore who led the way offensively with 20 points and 3-5 from three.

7.  The Panthers only had 6 turnovers and 3 of those were made by Dante Taylor.  But Taylor also led the way with 9 points.

8.  The Panthers leading scorer this season is Moore who is averaging 14.5 ppg.  Second is the player who starts in front of him, Talib Zanna, who is averaging 14.0 ppg.

9.  Pitt's starters had 44 points.  Their bench had 42 points.


Friday, November 9, 2012

UConn 24 Pittsburgh 17

I'll make this brief.  This was a terrible loss.  Not only did Tino Sunseri stink, but the entire team stunk. They were lifeless and clueless.  Paul Chryst once again made some very strange decisions.

Basketball: Pittsburgh 80 Mt. St.Mary's 48

Very impressed, as I expected I would be.  This team has the potential to be excellent.

Other thoughts:

1.  Talib Zanna had 20 points on 10 of 12 shooting but I'm not sure I'm ready to call him a major offensive threat.  The truth is, they were the easiest 20 points he'll ever seen with easy transitional baskets coming at will. He also added 2 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block.

2.  Welcome Steven Adams and James Robinson.  Adams had 8 points on 4-5 front he field, with 8 rebounds, 4 blocks, and a steal.  What struck me most is that unlike most big men, he never, ever stops moving.  And Jamie Dixon didn't exactly take it easy on his freshman playing him for most of the game.  Robinson was as steady as can be with 6 points, 4 rebounds, a steal, and just one turnover.  Amazingly, though, he did not have one assist.

3.  Travon Woodall had a good all around game with 14 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, and an assist.  He had 3 turnovers but the team had only 8 turnovers, a big improvement over last season.

4. Lamar Patterson had no points or rebounds, and the fact that the Panthers looked so good without him shows just how deep they are.

5.  I was very impressed with Trey Zeigler.  His defense was excellent and he apparently got the message that that matters at Pitt.  On offense he showed that in transition he is as good as gold with 11 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and a block.

6.  J.J.  Moore came off the bench with his normal offense.  This time it was 9 points.  Cameron Wright played despite his father dying and showed great heart by doing so.  He looked much improved with 8 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists.  His defense was exceptional.

7.  The Panthers had 10 steals.

8.  Only 1 for 6 from three but it wasn't a needed weapon since there was no defense for their transition game.

A preseason look at Pitt basketball

Perimeter Players:  Senior Tray Woodall has had his share of ups and downs in his career, but now with his experience and change in roles he may finally break through as one of the better players in the Big East.  The New Jersey native was never the quintessential point guard, even though his assists totals are very good.  He is also not the ideal two guard either because he's only 5'11" and he would have trouble guarding big, athletic shooting guards.  But with the emergence of true freshman James Robinson at the point, head coach Jamie Dixon has been playing Woodall at the two.  Because of Robinson's strong 6'3" body, he could be capable of guarding any big two guard.

Robinson is not exceptionally quick, but he's so strong and smart that he's an excellent defender.  Woodall is only average defensively which is surprising because you would think his quickness would let him have over two steals a game.

From an offensive standpoint, Robinson is an extremely smart quarterback and an intelligent and accurate passer, while also having enough shooting and driving ability to keep defenses honest.  He's basically a bigger, more athletic Levance Fields so to say he's going to be huge for Pitt's program over his four year career is an understatement.

With Robinson running the point, Woodall moves to shooting guard, and that is a move I really like.  While defense may be a bit of problem, offensively this gives Pitt two excellent passers and it enables Woodall to concentrate more on providing offense instead of quarterbacking and trying to score at the same time.  Woodall surprised many last season when he hit a very good 38.6% of his threes.  He also made an excellent 81% of his free throws and as he's a much better free throw shooter than Robinson, Pitt can easily put the ball in his hands to cement games from the line.

In reserve, sophomore John Johnson should be the first player off the bench, both at the two and the point.  At 6'1" he's also not the ideal two guard size but he was a pleasant surprise as an outside shooter last season hitting 38.4% of his threes.  He also made an excellent 83.3% of his free throws.  His defense and offensive consistency must improve but that should happen in his sophomore season.

At small forward, the starter will be Lamar Patterson, who may be the program's top overall player this season.  At 6'5", the junior is an excellent passer and a good rebounder, while also turning into a real offensive threat.  He doesn't have above the rim athleticism or great quickness, but he uses his solid frame to score in the paint and his shooting is burgeoning on excellence.

Patterson averaged 9.6 ppg last season but averaged 13.3 ppg in the CBI tournament along with 49.1% from the field, 46.7% from three, and a superb 17 for 20 from the line.  On the season, he hit 41% of his threes.  It remains to be seen if Patterson can truly be a big time offensive weapon but 15 ppg is not out of the question.

The reserves behind Patterson, Woodall, and Johnson on the perimeter depends on whether or not Dixon wants offense of defense.  If he wants defense, 6'5" sophomore Cameron Wright will get the call.  The Ohio native's offensive game is limited but he is an above the rim athlete who has the potential to be a defensive stopper, while also adding some offense in transition.  His offensive weaknesses were exposed last season because he was unable to bring in any offense when called on, but that problem has been solved by adding 6'5" Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler.

Much has been made of Zeigler's slow start early in the season, but in my opinion it only shows how much talent this team has because the coaches aren't forced to play somebody who isn't a well rounded player yet.  Zeigler played for his father at Central Michigan and to be blunt he was left to do whatever he wanted on the court.  The result of that is that Zeigler doesn't know how to play on a team like Pitt that demands every player do the little things.

But make no mistake about it.  Zeigler has ability, especially on offense.  He is a horrid free throw shooter and not a good three point shooter, so you aren't likely to see him at the end of a game, but he is  excellent driving the lane and scoring.  He will provide some instant offense at times this season, and if he ever gets the nuances down, not to mention his defense, he could see significant minutes eventually.

There is also small forward Durand Johnson, who redshirted last season.  The redshirt freshman has great 6'6" height and can be a white hot outside shooter at times, so he could also come in at times when the offense is struggling.

Lastly, 6'5" true freshman Chris Jones has shown in practices that his length, intangibles, athleticism, and all around game means he should have a bright future, but there doesn't seem to be much room for him this season.  Therefore I suspect he will be redshirted.

Low Post Players: For the inside players, all eyes will obviously be in 7'0" new Zealand man child Steven Adams.  Much has been made about the fact that Adams has not been a force offensively yet, but for the life of me I don't understand why anybody would expect that.  It's extremely rare for a big guy like Adams to have much offensive game early in his carrer.  In fact, I've predicted that he will probably somewhere around 8-10 ppg this season, and that's mostly going to be because of put backs and free throws.  But that doesn't mean Adams won't be a major force this season.

Where Adams will make a huge contribution is in rebounding and defense.  He is so big, strong, and active that I would be shocked if he didn't at least have 8-10 rpg this season and 2-3 bpg.  There's a reason why kids this big and talented are so coveted at every level of basketball.  What he will bring to the court goes beyond numbers. He will take opponents out of their game plan on both ends of the court.

To help Adams rebound and defend in the low blocks, the Panthers will start junior Talib Zanna at the four.  At 6'9" and 230 pounds, the bull strong Zanna may finally be able to come into his own now that most defenses will be geared to contain Adams.  Former Pitt assistant coach Tom Herrion told me not long ago that he thinks Zanna's ceiling may be higher than anybody on the roster (this was before Adams).  In the six game CBI tournament last season Zanna averaged a very promising 11.8 ppg and 7.0 rpg.

Maybe the most talented offensive player on the team will not even begin the season as a starter, though  if 6'6" junior J.J. Moore continues to improve as quickly as he did last season he will be hard to keep off the floor.  In Moore's last 13 games last season, he hit double figures 9 times.  In those 13 games he averaged 11.8 ppg and made 20 of 48 threes, an excellent 41.7%.  He even got to the line a lot and made 31 of 40 free throws.

The senior veteran Dante Taylor will spell Adams in the middle and though he's never lived up to what was expected for him in his career, he should be a solid influence on Adams.  Behind him will be 6'11" Malcolm Gilbert, who still isn't developed enough to see a lot of minutes, though he may be able to help in future years.

Bottom line:  It's no secret that I wasn't a fan of the makeup of recent Pitt teams so I'm not being a homer when I say that this team can be very good.  The veterans Woodall, Patterson, and Moore all have the potential to be 15 ppg scorers.  I doubt that will happen because there's only one basketball, but that's the offensive potential on this team.  And that's not even including Ziegler, who has averaged that at Central Michigan.

Ballhandling, a weakness in the recent past, should be significantly better with the steady and smart Robinson running the team.  And while Woodall isn't as good with the ball, the fact that he isn't forced to quarterback the team the entire game will only make him better.

With the offense apparently not being as problem, that leaves the two biggest facets of Pitt basketball historically- rebounding and defense.  Rebounding will definitely not be a problem and I see no reason why Pitt isn't one of the best rebounding teams in the nation this season.  Adams, Zanna, Patterson, and Robinson are all excellent rebounders at their respective positions.

Defense was a major weakness for the Panthers last season and while they have more offensive players than defensive players in the program, the two newcomers, Adams and Robinson, should make a huge difference.  Robinson is aggressive and tough at the top of the key, and in the rare occasion that he lets somebody get by him, that player will be met by Adams.  Will the Panthers be great defensively?  Probably not.  Will they be good enough?  I say yes.

A nice mix of offense and defense, athleticism and toughness, youth and experience should excite Pitt fans.  Especially since Dixon is too good of a coach to not correct last season's problems.  He has a chip on his shoulder, as do the players.

Prediction: 26-7 record and finishing No.15 in the nation

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What Pitt's Defensive and Special Teams personnel looks like for the future

Defensive End:  A strength last season turned into a weakness in the first half of this season, but the unit is starting to come around some and the future looks even brighter.  The strength of the line is on the inside and the main man there is Aaron Donald.  Because of his lack of size he probably won't be a high draft pick and for that reason I would be very surprised if he left early for the NFL.  That would obviously be great news for the team since Tyrone Ezell, Khaynin Mosley-Smith, and Darryl Render will also be back.  Terrell Jackson will be in the rotation after a redshirt season and huge prep school lineman Tyrique Jarrett, who I mentioned on the offensive side of the ball as a possible guard, could be a huge help clogging up the middle on the defensive side of the ball.  After Donald, none have shown that they are special yet, but then again they can be a very solid five man rotation.

At end, there is more of a question mark because there is no player of Donald's caliber.  T.J. Clemmings, Bryan Murphy, Jack Lippert, and Devin Cook are all back and promising incoming freshmen Shakir Soto and Luke Maclean are in the mix.  James Conner, who I mention before at running back, may also end up here.

Bottom line, outside of Donald, there is nobody yet who has proven that they can perform at a high level, but with eight of the top nine back, and at least three others joining the mix, depth problems will be a thing of the past.

Linebackers:  This is another unit that has struggled but that should be better next season.  Seven of the top nine are back, and there will be some new blood and a few returning injured players that could help a lot.

In the middle, Dan Mason shocked everybody when he came back from a mangled knee injury and was playing like an all-conference performer before being lost for the season again, this time because of a lacerated liver.  While this is a tough injury it should be easier to come back from then his knee injury so unless the unforeseen happens, he should be back at his ten tackle a game level.  If not, Shane Gordon is a good player in own right.  If both are healthy, the middle is in great hands.

On the outside, Todd Thomas missed a lot of the first half of the season but he has regained his quick all over the field style this season.  He has yet to turn into the star that many expect, but he will still only be a redshirt junior next season so it may finally be his time.  The other starter on the outside, Eric Williams, will also be back, as well as lettermen Emanuel Rackard and Nicholas Grigsby.  The real talent that may contribute next year, however, did not see the field this year.  Talented Ejuan Price missed the season and if he ever reaches his potential, look out.  Bam Bradley, Deaysean Rippy, and Devon Porchia all redshirted this season and all have the potential to be very good.  Mike Caprara, who redshirted this season, is a wildcard, and incoming freshman Matt Galambos will probably redshirt.

Like the defensive line, the depth will be much better, but will any be a star?  That's the question.  In a perfect world, Mason is healthy and Thomas, Price, Bradley, and Rippy all live up to their potential, but we'll have to see how perfect the world gets.

Defensive Backs:  This was expected to be the best unit, by far, on defense, this year, and they are finally living up to that expectation.  K'Waun Williams was hurt against Louisville, and it showed, but for the rest of the year he has been very good.  But even better has been redshirt freshman Lafayette Pitts, who is on the verge of stardom already.  Top reserve Cullen Christian will also be back.  He'll be joined by Jahmahl Pardner, who tore his ACL early in the season, and redshirt Ryan Lewis.  Both showed talent in preseason practices.  Two tall Clairton kids, redshirt Trenton Coles, and incoming freshman Titus Howard, will probably have to wait beyond next season to see time.

At safety, Jarred Holley and Andrew Taglianetti will be moving on, but Jason Hendricks will be back, and he's had a very good season.  Ray Vinopal may get another chance to start opposite him and he's come on much better this season after a bad start.  The depth is currently not so great behind them with redshirt freshman Roderick Ryles and Steve Williams not making any impact at all in their first two seasons.  Will Anthony Gonzalez get a chance?  He definitely has the talent to be a good safety but he has to behave off the field before the staff can believe in him.  Incoming freshman Rachid Ibrahim may have a chance to play if he shows anything in preseason practices. A late addition who could see time immediately if the Panthers can steal him during his upcoming visit is Iowa commit Delano Hill, a Detroit native who is good enough that LSU and Notre Dame are courting him.

A starting secondary that would include Williams, Pitts, Hendricks, and Vinopal could be one of the better secondaries in the country, especially if the depth rounds into shape.


Special Teams:  Kevin Harper is graduating and that may be a good thing.  Then again, things could get worse.  Incoming freshman Chris Blewitt will be just that, a freshman.  Some freshman kickers come in and are excellent right away, while some don't have a chance of succeeding.  It's a total unknown in how well he do, if he is even the chosen kicker.  Brad Lukasak is a walk on this season who showed in high school that he has talent, and he could very well be the man.

The rest of the special teams look to be excellent.  Matt Yoklic will be back for his third season as a starter and incoming freshman Ryan Winslow looks to be the heir apparent.  Cam Saddler will be gone so a new punt returner will be found.  Ronald Jones is the current backup so he'll be in the running for the job again. For kick returning, Pitts has a chance to go the distance every time he touches the ball, and he has definite all-star potential at the position.