Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Few Recruiting Thoughts

Since the high school kids are in the middle of their season there isn't much to report.  Most decisions are put on the back burner for the next month or so.  But some thoughts, nonetheless:

Corey Clement is still considered a verbal to Pitt, but I don't know how long that will last.  I'm not saying he's guaranteed to be gone, but if I had to guess right now then I think there's a good chance that he'll eventually switch.  While you never want to lose a player of his quality, and he could be an excellent player, I think we all know that, one, Pitt is not desperate right now for running backs, and, two, Paul Chryst shouldn't have too much trouble finding quality running backs in the future.

One local running back prospect that I talked about a few times before is 2014 prospect Shai McKenzie of Washington HS.  I always thought he would make a killer linebacker but he wants to be a running back and he may be just as good at that position.  He's been beastly so far in his junior season and should put up enormous numbers over the next two years. He already has 760 yards and 13 touchdowns this season in just four games. Barring injury, he could go for over 2,000 yards this season.   And this was after a 1,200 yard sophomore season.  As far as his style, he's strong and tough as hell at around 6'0"and just over 200 pounds.  He'll only get bigger and stronger as he matures.  He'll only get faster, too, and he's already a track performer who has run a 10.83 100m, which is very impressive.  He doesn't have a lot of wiggle, and he's more a between the tackles bruiser with very good straight line speed and shiftiness, but his abilities are growing by leaps and bounds.  He's very pro-Pitt and Pitt wants him very much.  He could, and should, eventually be recruited nationally. While it's still early, and the competition could get fierce, Pitt should be in the mix heavily.

The Panthers are back in the running for Clairton WR Tyler Boyd, but he's still likely headed to West Virginia.  The only way that could change is if Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen leaves for another job (I don't think he'll end up at Arkansas).

Of the 2014 prospects, Gateway safety Montae Nicholson has the most offers so far and he could end up being the top prospect in the state next year.  Pitt has a chance but he just got an offer from Ohio State and I think that's probably a good bet for where he will end up.

Blackhawk HS quarterback, and 2014 Pitt verbal commit, Chandler Kincade, has the excellent 6'5" height, a strong arm, and a nice release.  He still hasn't put up the huge numbers that you would expect for somebody who is held in such high regard, but I think he's the type that will bloom in Elite 11 tryouts and eventually at Pitt.  And, yes, I think he's definitely going to end up at Pitt.  I know that every time he visits someplace else, people get nervous, but I would be truly shocked if ended up anywhere else.

Another one of my favorites, Beaver Falls DT Brock Boxen, is also pro-Pitt and I've talked some to his dad who reads this blog.  Hopefully his Pitt love is deep because he's a player in the Bill Mass/Marc Spindler style.  I'm definitely not saying he is as good as them, of course, because those two were legends, but he's definitely cut from the same cloth.  I can see major offers for him.

I've said from day one that Pitt would end up with Central Valley WR Robert Foster and Belle Vernon OT Dorian Johnson, and now I believe that more than ever.  Of course if it wasn't for a four year bowl ban Johnson would probably be at Penn State, and that's something that surprised every single college assistant I talked to at the time.  They were all convinced he was going to Pitt.  I see no reason why he won't end up with the Panthers now.  I don't know if he's the instant star that many hope for, but he has the size and athletic ability that Chryst and staff can work with.

As for Foster, he never struck me as a kid who wanted to go away.  While he has Ohio State in his final three, I'm not even sure the Buckeyes are recruiting him that hard right now.  And while it's definitely possible that he does eventually choose Alabama over his hometown team, I'm guessing he won't.    Bottom line, I would be surprised if he ended up Alabama and shocked if he ended up at Ohio State.  But as Johnson proved by committing to Penn State, not even the coaches involved really ever know.

Keep an eye on 2014 OT Jeff Rotheram of North Olmsted (OH) HS.  The younger brother of giant Pitt  starting OT Matt Rotheram, he's already 6'6" and 290 pounds.  He has no offers yet, which is not unusual for OL early in their junior year, but that could change, maybe in a big way.  He's a good enough prospect that Michigan and Ohio State may eventually offer.  He's been to Pitt many times because of his brother and he likes the school and the program.

A top local OT for 2014 that the Panthers would also love is Mike Grimm of Bethel Park HS.  He is a strong drive blocker like Chryst likes, and he also likes them big which the 6'7" 315 pound Grimm is. He has had uncles play at Penn State and West Virginia, but he's a Pitt fan.

It's never too early to look down the road in recruiting, especially with kids committing earlier than ever.  Two big time, and I mean BIG TIME, 2015 prospects, are Central Valley HS athlete Jordan Whitehead and Canon-McMillan lineman Alex Paulina.  Many already know Whitehead because of his teammate Robert Foster, but Whitehead may already be as good.  Whitehead projects as a cornerback right now and if Pitt lands Foster, look for Whitehead to follow.  He will be an elite nation recruit.  Paulina will also be a national recruit and already holds a verbal offer from Virginia Tech.  As a freshman he was all-conference in Quad A, which is impressive, to say the least.  He's already 6'4" and close to 300 pounds.  He's a monster already, and he's much more than just size.  He's also explosive, strong, and tough.

Another huge 2015 talent, this time in central PA, is Bishop McDevitt running back Andre Robinson.  He's just over 200 pounds and about 6'0" tall, and he's still only a sophomore.  He looks like the perfect combination of LeSean McCoy and Rushel Shell, and he should be another elite national recruit.  He already holds a Pitt offer.

Chryst's nephew, Keller Chryst, now holds offers from both Stanford and USC, so needless to say he is a big time prospect.  It will be interesting to see how that pans out and if Chryst will offer the quarterback.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Where Pitt stands in the national statistics

Total Offense:  26th
Run Offense:  45th
Pass Offense:  23rd
Scoring Offense:  57th
Sacks Allowed:  69th
3rd Down Conversion: 50th
Red Zone Offense:  90th

Total Defense:  28th
Run Defense:  52nd
Pass Defense:  28th
Scoring Defense:  54th
Interceptions:  36th
Sacks:  78th
Tackles for Loss: 59th
3rd Down Defense: 104th
Red Zone Defense:  112th

Net Punting:  110th
Punt Return Yardage Defense:  119th
Kick Return Yardage Defense:  25th
Punt Returns:  65th
Kickoff Returns:  14th

Turnover Margin:  51st
Penalties Per Game:  87th
Penalty Yards Per Game:  99th

Rushing Yards Per Game
Ray Graham  38th
Rushel Shell  69th

Pass Completions Per Game
Tino Sunseri  45th

Passing Yards Per Game
Tino Sunseri  19th

Total Passing Yards
Tino Sunseri  9th

Passing Efficiency
Tino Sunseri  15th

Receptions Per Game
Michael Shanahan  70th

Receiving Yards Per Game
Michael Shanahan  25th
Devin Street  71st

Total Receiving Yards
Michael Shanahan   14th
Devin Street    56th

Total Offense
Tino Sunseri  30th

Passes Defensed
Shane Gordon  59th  (5th for LBs)

Jason Hendricks  6th (one off national lead)

Forced Fumbles
Devin Cook  21st

Matt Yoklic  24th

Punt Returns
Cameron Saddler  52th

Kickoff Returns
Lafayette Pitts   10th

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pittsburgh 55 Gardner-Webb 10

There's really not much to take away from this game because the opponent was so inferior.  The Panthers were in a no-win situation and the only thing they could do was kill the Running Bulldogs, and that's what they did.

On offense, Tino Sunseri was sharp, throwing for 345 yards and 3 touchdowns on 18 of 24 passing.  He also had no interceptions.  His main target for the second week in a row was senior wide receiver Michael Shanahan who came off his first ever 100-yard receiving game last week to have 5 catches for 143 yards and 2 touchdowns.  One of those touchdowns was for 77 yards. Devin Street added 5 catches for 94 yards and a 34-yard TD pass.  Cameron Saddler also added 5 catches for 81 yards.  Combined, the three averaged 21.3 yards a catch.

The ground game was not as impressive, mostly because the offensive line did not play particularly well.  Ray Graham ran for 95 yards on 8 carries, but that included a 78-yard TD run in which he wasn't touched.  He had 17 yards on 7 carries without that run.  Rushel Shell added 40 yards on 13 carries, including his first TD.  Isaac Bennett and Malcolm Crockett came in late for mop up duty and had 52 and 32 yards respectively.  For the day, the Panthers had 229 yards rushing, but like I said, most was on one run and in mop up duty.  The offensive line must get better, especially since they also were called for a significant amount of penalties.

On defense, as expected, Gardner-Webb had no chance, passing for 96 yards and running for 35 yards on 28 carries.  Some significant players included Jason Hendricks, who had his third interception in two games (with one more reversed earlier after replay) and middle linebacker Shane Gordon, who continues to play well.  It's also important to note that true freshman Darryl Render saw a lot of snaps on the line and looks like he's going to be a good player.

On special teams, Lafayette Pitts had a nice kickoff return before cutting it back early and getting tripped up by his own player, but Kevin Harper missed another field goal.

Bottom line, it won't be until two Fridays from now when the Panthers play at Syracuse, will we get a better idea of where the team is.  The Orange are not good and it's a game that Pitt needs to win if they want to be successful this season.  Following that is a big home game against Louisville, the supposed best team in the conference.  I feel these two games will pretty much determine how Pitt's season will go.  Lose both and things aren't going to be good this season.  Split and it's probably another mediocre season.  Win both and Pitt becomes a serious Big East title contender.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Pittsburgh 35 Virginia Tech 17

What a difference a week makes.  The Panthers ran all over the #13 Hokies and improved their record to 1-2.  A lot of the national media are already saying that Virginia Tech was just having their yearly choke game, and it's true they did not play at all, but take nothing away from the Panthers.

Tino Sunseri silenced his critics completing 19 of 28 passes for 283 yards and 3 touchdowns.  He only threw for one interception and was sacked just once.  Michael Shanahan had his first 100 yard game as a Panther will 111 yards on catches.  He also caught a touchdown, as did Devin Street who had 4 catches for 73 yards.

But it was the running game that was most impressive.  The offensive line was superb and Ray Graham ran for 94 yards and 2 touchdowns on 24 carries (3.9 avg.). But it was true freshman Rushel Shell who had his coming out party.  He ran like he was mad at the grass and powered his way to 157 yards on 23 carries (6.8 avg.).  For the game, the Panthers ran for 254 yards and had 537 total yards.

On defense, the Panthers gave up just 324 yards, intercepted 3 passes, had 2 sacks, and a fumble.  Aaron Donald was an animal and middle linebacker Shane Gordon was all over the place, even breaking up two passes.

It wasn't perfect as the Hokies had a long touchdown pass and a 95-yard punt return.  And Kevin Harper missed two field goals.  But overall it was a great win for the Panthers.  Whether or not it was a sign of things to come or if it was simply an anomaly, nobody knows yet, but with Gardner-Webb coming in and then a week off, the Panthers have a chance to turn their season around.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cincinnati 34 Pittsburgh 10

What can I say?  It was another debacle by the Pitt football team who are now 0-2.  The offense was not good, but once again the defense was disastrous giving up 461 yards, including 257 yards on the ground.  The Bearcats averaged an amazing 8.6 yards a carry.

On offense, Tino Sunseri was his usual mediocre self though his numbers look inflated because of garbage time stats.  On the night, he completed 25 of 38 passes for 285 yards.  He was also sacked 5 times and threw an interception in the end zone.

Ray Graham led Pitt with 102 yards on 18 carries, a 5.7 average.  Rushel Shell got his first carries and ended up with 24 yards on 7 carries while Isaac Bennett had 24 yards on 5 carries.  Both Mike Shanahan and Devin Street led all receivers with 5 catches, for 59 and 54 yards respectively.  Hubie Graham, who many, including me, thought would have a big season caught just one pass for 8 yards.

The Panthers are now 0-2 and next host highly ranked Virginia Tech on September 15th.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Youngstown State 31 Pittsburgh 17

What an embarrassing start for the Paul Chryst era.  Not much I can say, really.  It started with six suspension and the idiotic removal of the names of the jerseys.  Then it got worse.  Youngstown State is an excellent FCS team, but this was a bomb, pure and simple.

The offensive line was not good and the skilled players showed little, but it was the defense that was the real embarrassment. Youngstown State moved the ball at will and the defense did not make one outstanding play all game.  The defensive line, like the offensive line, was blown off the ball, and the secondary couldn't cover anybody.  The Penguins ended up with 381 total yards but it seemed more like 681 total yards.

The Pitt offense managed 367 total yards.  Tino Sunseri was not awful, but he wasn't great either.  He ended up making 19 of 30 for 237 yards and one touchdown.  He threw no touchdowns and was not sacked.  Surprisingly Ray Graham started, and while he was not his old self, he was still good enough to carry 14 times for 71 yards.  He did half a fumble on the first drive, however.  Isaac Bennett was also solid with 42 yards on 10 carries.  He also ran for a touchdown.  The Panthers ran for 140 yards and a 4.6 avg.  Michael Shanahan led the receivers with 6 catches for 54 yards.  Devin Street was back to being his underachieving self with 4 catches for 49 yards, plus a drop and a fumble.  Hubie Graham added 4 catches for 38 yards.  Joshua Brinson caught a 35-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and true freshman tight end J.P. Holtz caught a 20-yard pass that could have went for a touchdown if he hadn't tripped.

With Cincinnati and Virginia Tech on the horizon, the Panthers are looking at an 0-3 start.