Monday, July 2, 2012

Eight Panthers who can take a big step up this season

In my opinion, there are eight Pitt football players who aren't stars yet, but have the talent to reach that level this season.  By total coincidence, there are four on offense and four on defense.  In no particular order:

Hubie Graham-  The tight end is the only senior on the list but he also has a legitimate chance to make the biggest jump on the team this season.  The former Illinois transfer from Scranton had 28 catches and 3 touchdowns in his first season as a starter last year, and caught a pass in every game, not bad for a team with a struggling quarterback and an offensive system that does not accentuate the position.  Things will be different this season as new head coach Paul Chryst, and his right hand man Joe Rudolph, are tight end mavens.  Couple that will Tino Sunseri's trouble with the long ball and Graham's numbers could go way up.

Devin Street-  The junior struggled a lot with consistency last year, and I sometimes got on him hard,  but he still managed 53 catches and 754 yards.  Imagine how good he could be with Chryst's offensive expertise.  At 6'4" and 190 pounds, Street has the size, along with enough game breaking speed, to have a breakout year and a possible NFL career.  In fact, if he has a big year it's not out of the question that he could leave for the NFL early.  But for all of that to happen he first has to live up to his potential.

Isaac Bennett-  Well we all know how big of a jerk former head coach Todd Graham was, but you have to admit that he left Pitt with some good young players.  One of them is this 5'11" 190 pound Tulsa native who surprised many last season by running for 237 yards and a 4.1 average in the last five games of his true freshman season.  Not great numbers fore sure, but he ran hard, showed great hands, and ran for 69 yards against both Louisville and WVU.  He also looked very strong in the spring which brings even more optimism.  The question is, how much will he play this season?  If Ray Graham is healthy, then obviously he is the man, and prized freshman Rushel Shell has superstar potential. But we know if there are problems with either, or both, of those players, Bennett is more than capable of carrying the load.

Matt Rotheram-  There are three kinds of offensive linemen that Chryst covets- big, bigger, and biggest.   At 6'6' and 350 pounds, they don't get much bigger than this Ohio native.  And he's more than just big, he's also good, turning down offers from the likes of LSU, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Michigan State.  A big, mean, drive blocker is ideal in Chryst's offense and that's exactly what the redshirt sophomore is at his right tackle spot. He played in the first eight games last season as a redshirt freshman, and started games 7 and 8 before breaking his ankle and being lost for the last third of the season.  He's already reclaimed the starting right tackle job in the spring and looks like he has the potential to be the first "Wisconsin-type" lineman that Pitt can turn onto a star.

Bryan Murphy-  One of those most disappointing developments of last season was that the 6'3" 250 pound New Jersey native was ruled academically ineligible.  The good news is that not only did Murphy not leave the school, something a lot of players do in similar situations, he now is doing extremely well academically.  Murphy is a redshirt sophomore now, and because of injuries and academics, he hasn't seen much action yet, but he is slated to start at end this season. With his size, toughness, and blue collar style he reminds me a lot of former South Park and Panthers end Brian Guzek who ended up being a pretty good player.  Murphy actually has the ability to be better, but it's all up to him.

T.J. Clemmings-  Like Murphy, he's a defensive end from New Jersey and he's a redshirt sophomore that hasn't produced yet, but contrastingly his physical dimensions are different, to say the least.  A beastly 6'6" and 295 pounds, Clemmings is one of the bigger 4-3 ends you'll ever see.  He also has great athleticism to go with that size.  But Clemmings, who only played high school football for two years, is raw enough that he redshirted last season, a year after seeing some time as a true freshman.  His job this season will be to make the life of the opponent's tight end a living hell by blowing him up at the snap, so he may not get a big sack total, but if he handles that job well he'll be considered a success.  And with his size and athleticism, if he ever learns to actually play football, he could have an NFL future.

Todd Thomas-  Panthers fans are already well aware of the former Beaver Falls star, but now it's time for the 6'2" 215 pound redshirt sophomore to turn it up a notch.  As a redshirt freshman last season, Thomas looked very good at times and ended up with 47 tackles in 10 games.  He's still on the smallish side, and injuries can sometimes be a problem, but he's highly athletic and has the potential to really excel this season, especially in a 4-3 defense that protects his small frame from big linemen.

Cullen Christian-  Like Graham, the former Penn Hills star transferred from the Big 10, this time Michigan.  Unlike Graham, Christian has not seen the field yet because he had to sit out last season after transferring.  The 6'0" 190 pound Christian is not a speed demon, but as evidenced by his top 10 CB ranking coming out of high school, his size, athleticism, and extremely long arms gives a chance to be a quality college corner.  He lettered as a true freshman at Michigan and could star this season for the Panthers if he can beat out promising Lloyd Carrington.  One thing is for sure, if Christian is good immediately, he would pair with K'waun Williams to give the Panthers one of the best cornerback tandems in the country.

54 comments:

  1. Thomas should be moved to Safety...
    Reminds me of the Wanny experiment of putting Tommie Campbell at LB... now look at what position Campbell is playing in the NFL!!

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    Replies
    1. Corner not safety

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    2. We already have depth at safety. He is big enough to be an OLB (esp in the Big East) and is great in coverage. Comparing to what people play in the NFL isn't a good argument, put players where ever they can contribute most to the team.

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  2. Tommie Campbell are two different players... Todd Thomas was awesome at OLB last season and was one of our best play makers on Defense!

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  3. Yeah, move Thomas to safety because Pitt lacks depth there. Come on Joe D! We are loaded at safety next year and Thomas is different than Campbell.

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    Replies
    1. Thomas is identical to Campbell...
      Thomas was WR and CB in High School... awesome BB player whereas Campbell was track star... he's not LB... in my opinion.
      Thomas is a RS Soph... he can play backup Safety this year.. Next year there is lack of players at Safety... Tags and Holley are gone..

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    2. There are still a lot of safeties on the roster and not enough linebackers. Thomas is much more aggressive than Campbell, and a much better player at the same stage. All he needs is to add some size and strength and he'll be fine.

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    3. Hes 6'2" 215 if he adds 6-10 lbs with his speed hell be a great colege olb

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    4. Campbell was a 6'4" freak with 4.4 speed. Ran under an 11 in the 100. Thomas is nowhere near the athlete Campbell was. But Thomas is much more physical. Also, Campbell plays corner now, not safety. Thomas is more of an OLB.

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    5. Add more weight...
      He is 3 years removed from HS... 1 year prep + 2 years Pitt.
      Also, i think he was 19 when he graduated HS... 1 year older than most HS graduates.
      if he didn't add the weight by now... it ain't going to happen.. they said the same thing about Tommie Campbell to add weight.

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    6. That makes no sense. You csn add/lose weight at any age... And hes physical and fast so he only needs 5 more lbs

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  4. Finally... Chryst offered Dravon Henry of Aliquippa...
    what took so long... that was a no brainer...
    the kid went to pitt camp, revis camp, etc... puts the work in to get better!
    Oh... and he runs track... on the quip 4x100.. wpial AA champ.

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  5. I like this post alot, Chris good work. Just curious though why did you decide on some of these guys instead of Ricketts or Vinopal? I know you can't include everyone but any word on where Ricketts places on the depth chart, do the coaches like him etc?

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    Replies
    1. I talk about Ricketts a lot because he was highly rated coming out of high school, but the truth is, I have yet to hear that he's someone that will definitely make an impact.

      As for Vinopal, there's a lot of experience at safety this year and I just don't know how much he will play. He could play a lot, and if he does he'll probably do very well, but I'm still unsure where he will fit in this season with players like Holley, Taglianetti, and Hendricks all back there.

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    2. I'd sure be nice to have Ricketts step up and nail down the left tackle spot as:

      A) I don't trust Hollins
      B) Ricketts winning the job means Pitt would have he and Rotherman for three years at the tackle spots. The staff could then build tackle depth while these two are on the field.

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    3. Thanks Chris. That's what I was thinking Anonymous but i have no idea what the staff thinks of him or what even the previous tho shall not be named staff thought of him. We have recruited 2 OL/OT so far a few more out there big psychical guys not highly recruited. But like you said if Rickett's seals the starting gig i think we will be in good shape. More guards and centers need to be found though both in the recruiting hunt and what we already have internally.

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    4. Ricketts split 3rd team reps in the spring. He's got a long way to go.

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    5. And he's much smaller than Chryst likes. Though he has the frame to add more weight, he hasn't been able to do it thus far.

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  6. Great article, I know this is early but any news about Rotherman's little brother - Jeff in the 2014 class? I was surprised we haven't heard his name yet - but as a 6-6 290lb junior this kid would be a great get for PC.

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  7. Chris,
    In spring camp, we heard a lot about Ray Vinopal being a hard hitter and sound in his schemes--although somewhat undersized. He played in all of Michigan's 2010 season games, while starting in six of them. I know that we are deep at that position but I see him making a similar impact as an Andrew Taglianetti. He's a player I'll be watching in the reports from training camp.

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  8. Tommie Campbell did not set the college fb world on fire, he played out of position and was a middle of the pack college player. All he did was run down guys after the catch.
    Thomas will at least be very good and I think Pro FB is in his future at Safety.

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  9. I've seen Devin Street in one early 2013 Mock Draft. I don't have high hopes. He may be a great athlete, but I don't think he has elite hands or a great football IQ.

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  10. Imma Man! Im 40!July 2, 2012 at 8:37 PM

    I was about to ask where was the ninth football players who isn't a star yet: that ol' gunslinger Tino Sunseri.

    But then I re-read your criteria: he must have the talent to reach that level this season.

    Oops! That eliminates our boy Tino, the worst Pitt QB since at least the early 70s, and sure as heck the worst 3-year starting QB in program history (maybe worst in any program's history...).

    Helloooooo, Birmingham!

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    Replies
    1. That's just asinine.

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  11. In before Joe D comes trolling and posts something completely idiotic just so he can be the center of attention instead of Chris`s well written article. Oops, too late.

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    1. Thomas playing Safety instead of LB is assinine..
      you are clueless about football.
      Thomas is playing out of position... he was recruited as a WR.. played WR and CB in HS. He would be a very good safety.

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    2. And he will be a very good COLLEGE olb.. Pitt is a college... Hes got great nfl size for a safety but this is college and hes certainly capable of being a cery good linebacker. Before injuries he was last year.

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    3. He is tooo light and doesn't have the strength for OLB... he needs to be 235ish to play OLB.
      He is OK as OLB.. serviceable...
      but he would be better at Safety.

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    4. Joe D,

      You're an ass, you're like a little kid who looks for attention. Thomas is a great athlete who with his size can easily play OLB at this level. Athletes have the ability to adapt, Carnell Lake played lb at UCLA but was an all pro safety with the Steelers. Quit being such a nuisance and let us enjoy Chris's posts!

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    5. Can you imagine how Thomas would play as Safety??

      Thomas is undersized for OLB...(not height)... but weight and strength.

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    6. Ha!! Carnell Lake was the first person I thought of, too. Of course there have been countless excellent college linebackers who have been under 220 pounds.

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    7. Thomas hasn't shown the awareness or coverability that you need at safety, let alone corner.

      He's where he is for a reason.

      Adding 10 to 15 lbs will help. But most importantly he has to improve his strength.

      He showed the desire last year to hit but took the worst of it a couple of times.

      PittofDreams

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  12. Gotta a text...
    need to confirm...
    Dravon Henry of Quip transferring to Central Valley...

    Interesting.. I can list at least 5 reasons why!!

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    Replies
    1. No... lol
      Quip far superior sprints program... Henry was on 4x100 that won wpials..

      I'm curious as to the reasons to transfer...

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    2. I still didn't confirm it though...
      nephew texted me last night.

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  13. James Farrior played Middle LB for the Steelers at 225 ish lbs...as did Jack Lambert, btw.... So why does Thomas have to be 235lbs to play OLB at Pitt again ?????? It makes NO sense.

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    Replies
    1. You can't use weights of football players 10 or 20 years ago... players have gotten bigger and faster. Farrior played at 240#...
      20 years ago the OL was 270ish... now it's over 300.

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    2. Hes 6'3" so he has the frame to be about 220/225. Thats plenty for college olb. The steelers just drafted a mlb who weighs 225. Just stop.

      I slso think nick grigsby can have a big year at olb opposite of thomas. In case you guys havent noticed hes one of my favorite panthers. Coach huxtable said hes the best athlete hes ever been around so that tells you of his potential

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  14. Two Words... Zeke Gadson

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  15. Joe-

    Looks like Dravon tweeted he's transferring and he's looking forward to playing with Foster and JW.

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    Replies
    1. I still have not confirmed... I'm not a twitter person..
      But I can probably list at least 5 reasons why!!
      1. Central Valley has a track.... Quips don't... lmao.

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    2. Henry said it was all just a joke and he's not leaving Aliquippa.

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    3. Thanks Chris..
      I'll have to tell my nephew.. that is what happens with rumours...
      However, it was believable... beaver county never challenges transfers... a gentlemans agreement.

      But the Top 5 Reasons...
      5. Central Valley has a track... Quips don't.
      4. Henry wants to get offers from same colleges that courted Foster so the connections of Coach Lyons has.
      3. Henry wants to play AAA ball... the sophmore class asked Coach Z. to go AAA for 2 years since they are loaded and AA would be a walk in the park.
      2. Henry doesn't want to share the ball at RB with Swanson... Swanson's father on Quip BOE.
      And the #1 reason Henry wants to transfer to CV...
      1. So he can get an offer from Pitt... he still doesn't know whether he has one!!

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    4. He got an offer from Pitt recently and he does know about it.

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    5. I know Chris... lol
      but I was doing my best Letterman...

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    6. He isn't going to CV...said it was a joke that went to far. Says he's a Quip for life.

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  16. Good luck to each of these players. We are proud to have them as Pitt Panthers. On a side note, it seems Pitt has some of the best talent in the Big East year in and year out, but don't always develop (the ones that do are great, just look at our draft picks over the years compared to other BE teams). Once again this year, our collective talent is better than most, if not all, of the teams in the Big East. If we develop this year, we can stop giving the other teams in this league a pass and dominate. This has been our problem over the last ten years. Agree?

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  17. In my opinion it has always been coaching that has been our down fall especially the year we lost to cincy for the BE championship. we had a 20 point lead and lose at home by 1. I am hoping the new coaching staff can bring us more victories that we should win

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  18. If you look at the NFL rosters we are producing a very good amount of talent. But this is not translating into wins for Pitt. It would seem that coaching has been the problem that has caused underachievement.

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  19. Ha ha, I just search once found this article, the article is very good, I see the growth of many insights,cheap nfl jerseys hope to write some articles blogger for everyone to learn, here special thanks to blogger of hard writing.

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  20. Chris, I like the list and agree with most all of it. My sleeper is Carozzoni. Not sure if he put on more weight, but he showed a nice skill set when he hit the field last year.

    The idea that Todd Thomas would be a more impactful player at Pitt from the Safety position, versus the outside linebacker position is preposterous. Todd Thomas is the ultimate college outside linebacker because he makes plays from that position that others just can't. He impacts the game and causes turnovers by his mere athleticism at the position.

    A college safety just doesn't impact the game as much, unless it is on a defense that is so talented, that offenses need to desperately go down field to try to make big plays. That is why the LSU safety was so impressive the last 2 years. Pitt just isn't there yet. He can impact the game from his OLB position which is what you want. Do I have concerns about his durability, absolutely. The reason I do is because he plays fearless. At the next level, I see him as a Safety. At the college level he is fine at OLB.

    He is the opposite of Dom DeCicco, who is now looking awesome as a middle linebacker for the Bears. These kids have talent. The professional coaches will see Todd Thomas's talent and put him where he needs to be, IF he keeps improving.

    Tommie Campbell has elite speed but is still learning the position of corner. The comparisons are not the same. TC is a track guy learning football. TT is a football player that ran track. Two distinctly different skill sets. Understand the difference Jody.

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  21. Todd Thomas was a very bright spot at OLB. He has plenty of size at 6'2 215. Daren Bates plays the same position at Auburn and he's 5'11 200 as a 3 year starter in the SEC. There is no reason to take Thomas off the field when we have 4 starter capables at safety. Thomas is on his way to becoming an elite 4-3 OLB with his height/speed/athleticism/strength/tackling ability/coverage skills/hands

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