Monday, October 29, 2012

Has Pitt improved this season?

I took out out the games against Youngstown State and Gardner-Webb because games against lower division programs skew the numbers.  That leaves six major college opponents.  This is how Pitt has faired if those six were divided in half:

First three games averages:

432.7 total offense
139.3 rushing offense
293.3 passing offense
19.3 ppg
4.0 sacks given up per game

364.7 total defense
146.0 rushing defense
218.3 passing defense
21.7 ppg
1.7 sacks/game

Last three games averages:

387.3 total offense
142.0 rushing offense
244.3 passing offense
34.0 ppg
2.3 sacks given up per game

372.7 total defense
151.3 rushing defense
221.3 passing defense
22.7 ppg
2.7 sacks/game

Obviously there are some good things.  Sacks on defense are up and sacks on offense are down.  The most impressive good news is that the scoring has gone up from 19.3 ppg to 34.0 ppg.

But I think what would surprise many is that the offense and defense production are both down, and in some cases virtually the same.  And this is coming against weaker opponents.  While Louisville is obviously a very good team, both Buffalo and Temple are not.  The first three major opponents on the season- Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, and Syracuse- are much better as a whole, yet Pitt did basically the same against them as with their weaker opponents.

What this tells me is that Pitt may not be improving as much as many think- at least overtly.  Rather, it looks like a team that has some good parts, and some bad parts, and that causes them to be very sporadic in their play.  The big turning point may not come this season.  It looks to be a team that it just trying to get by week by week, and with any team that's half good and half bad, you never know which side is going to win out in any given week.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pittsburgh 47 Temple 17

Now this is what I call an impressive win, and I think it was the most impressive win of the season.  Virginia Tech was a bit of an anomaly because the Hokies were mailing it in, but Temple was trying hard and still had no answers for Pitt.  I can't really think of one major bad thing that Pitt did.  The good?

Tino Sunseri once again was proficient completing 20 of 28 passes for 321 yards and 3 TDs.  He also had no interceptions yet again and was sacked just once.

Devin Street had 6 catches for 140 yards, and a TD, while Mike Shanahan had 6 catches for 67 yards.  At tight end, J.P. Holtz is playing more than Hubie Graham now and while they only threw his way once, it was an 18-yard touchdown.  He was also excellent blocking, as was the entire line who simply manhandled the Temple defense.

Pitt out gained Temple 528-324.

Ray Graham and Rushel Shell were both excellent.  Graham showed more of his old self and came with 19 carriers for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns.  He also caught 4 passes for 71 yards, and another touchdown.  Shell plowed his way to 79 yards on 12 carries.  He also had a touchdown.

On defense, the entire unit was flying all over the field.  Temple has one of the worst pass offenses in the country and Pitt had a field day with the Owls being so one dimensional.  Temple did run for 129 yards, but that's down from Temple's usual 167.2 yard average.

K'Waun Williams, Lafayette Pitts, and Jason Hendricks were all good in the secondary and the fact that are three are back next year is great news for the program.

Aaron Donald was once again good, especially with the pass rush.

The best news I saved for last and that is the play of Dan Mason.  It's a miracle that the guy can even play, but the truth is, in the last two games, he's proven to be the best player on the defense.  He's everywhere and he's quickly reaching legendary status.  I just can't say enough about Mason or his story.

Next up is Notre Dame.  Needless to say this will be a much tougher test than Temple.  If Pitt plays this well at South Bend, they could steal the game.  But even if they play this well and lose it will show that Chryst is heading the right way.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Where Pitt football recruiting is currently ranked

With Corey Clement decommitting and another 2 star prospect added today, and with Robert Foster and Dorian Johnson maybe even more tenuous, it's a good time to see where Paul Chryst's first full class stands compared to the rest of the country.  Unfortunately, it's not good.

Going by average of stars (yes, I know that stars are stupid, but we have to use something), Pitt is currently No. 71 in Rivals and No. 43 in Scout.  Average ranking of both Rivals and Scout combined:

In the ACC:

9. Miami
13. Clemson
16.5. Florida State
20.5. Virginia Tech
25. North Carolina
28.5. Virginia
37.  Georgia Tech
55.  Maryland
57.  Wake Forest
57.  Pittsburgh 
58.  NC State
66.5. Syracuse
70.5. Boston College
70.5.  Duke

Other notables:

29. Penn State
30. Vanderbilt
32.5. West Virginia
38. Arizona State
41.5. Illinois
44. Louisville
47.5. Houston
49.5. Colorado
50.5  Indiana
52.5. Kansas
52.5. Purdue
57.  Pittsburgh
62. Kentucky
62.5. Washington State

Panthers land Ohio tight end

On the same day Paul Chryst loses a commit, he ads another in 6'4" 240 pound tight end Devon Edwards of Eastmoor Academy in Columbus, OH.  Edwards was not rated highly by recruiting services but held offers from Cincinnati, Nebraska, NC State, West Virginia, Purdue, Kentucky, and Boston College.  Edwards is considered a strong player, and a good blocker, but his athleticism and speed are considered average.  From ESPN:  "Displays enough raw tools to be a contributor at the FBS level, but we feel he needs to develop further to be more than than which he flashes he can." (whatever that means).  It is the third tight end this season, and fourth of the last two seasons, for Chryst.

Corey Clement decommits

Elite New Jersey running back Corey Clement has decommited from the Panthers.  This is considered a major blow for Paul Chryst.  Many fans counted on a big season that will convince top recruits to come, but unfortunately the opposite has happened.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Pittsburgh 20 Buffalo 6

My thoughts:

This was the epitome of an ugly win.  Even though the Panthers won by two touchdowns, Buffalo had more yards (333-260) and more first downs (21-15), and held the Panthers to just 3.3 yards a carry.

For some strange reason, Paul Chryst decided to run a lot in this game and the Panthers ran for just 134 yards and a 3.3 avg.  Ray Graham led with 75 yards on 20 carries but Rushel Shell managed just 35 yards on 12 carries.

Tino Sunseri had just two completions at halftime, and ended up 9 of 17 for just 127 yards.  He was sacked once, and had no touchdowns or interceptions.

Devin Street caught 5 passes for 40 yards while Mike Shanahan had 2 catches for 39 yards.  Once again no TDs caught a pass.

Once agan the offensive line was abysmal and Matt Rotheram seems to actually be getting worse.

Aaron Donald, K'Waun Williams, and Jason Hendricks once again had good games.  Those three, along with Lafayette Pitts and Todd Thomas, will be back next season so the defense theoretically should be improved.

Buffalo was giving up 401.3 yards a game this season.  Pitt had 260.

Buffalo is barely a Division 1 football program and it's an embarrassment that Pitt even played in front of their high school attendance.  Pitt wants to establish themselves nationally and playing at Buffalo does them no good whatsoever.  The fact that Pitt played poorly made the game an even bigger embarrassment.

Pitt is now 3-4 overall and 0-3 in the conference.  They host Temple at noon next Saturday.  The Owls are 3-3 and 2-1 in the Big East.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Midseason Grades for Pitt Football- Defense, Special Teams, and Coaching

Defensive Line:  The Panthers defense is ranked No.34 in total defense but that stat is misleading since they are giving up 5.74 yards a play, which is No.76 nationally. That means that Pitt's offense has held the ball long enough (No. 21 nationally in time of possession) to keep the Panthers defense off the field, but when the defense was on the field they performed below average.  And just like an excellent defense starts with the defensive line, a weak defense starts with the defensive line.

Looking further into the numbers shows just how below average the defense has been as a whole.  They have created only 8 turnovers, which is No. 94 nationally, while fumble recoveries are ranked No. 94, tackles for loss No. 78, sacks No. 78, 3rd down defense No. 102, 4th down defense No. 82, and red zone defense No. 110.  And people think the defense has been good?  Better keep thinking. And these stats include the Gardner-Webb game in which the Panthers demolished a team from a lower division.

Only two linemen are ranked in the top ten for tackles on the team, and they are far down the list with Aaron Donald eighth and Tyrone Ezell 10th.  Donald was a legit All-American candidate, and while he has shown a few small flashes of brilliance, his production has gone down a lot from last season. In the first 6 games he has just 18 tackles, 1 sack, and 5 tackles for loss, which projects to 36 tackles, 2 sacks, and 10 tackles for loss.  Last season he had 47 tackles, 11 sacks, and 16 tackles for loss.

Khaynin Mosley-Smith was supposed to give Donald help on the inside but instead he has just 5 tackles on the season.  Tyrone Ezell has been the second best player on the line with 15 tackles, a team high 2.5 sacks, and 3.5 tackles for loss.  Not exactly dominant.

The ends have been even worse.  It was hoped that T.J. Clemmings would be as good of a football player as he was a physical specimen but it's not looking like that's going to be happening any time soon.  On the season he has just 10 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 2 hurries, and 0 sacks.  In other words he's been barely more productive than you as you sit on your couch watching the game. Bryan Murphy has been equally bad with 11 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 2 hurries, and 0.5 sacks.  Both were highly coveted prospects who were predicted to be good college players, but they both look anything but good.  Devin Cook added 8 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 hurries, and 1 sack.  Jack Lippert began the season as the starter and had 5 tackles in the first two games before an injury sidelined him. Former elite prospect Shayne Hale has proven once and for all that he will contribute nothing as he has played in the last 3 games and contributed just 4 tackles and a sack.  True freshman Darryl Render has shown that he could be good in the future but so far he's added just 5 tackles in 4 games.

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

Linebacker:  This has obviously been a unit that has been lacking great talent for years and with Ejuan Price out for the year and Todd Thomas out for almost every snap of the first six games, it's obvious that the talent level is still well below average.  The middle was taken over by Shane Gordon this season and while he has been the best of a poor lot, he has been mostly average.  He's third in tackles with 33, tied for first with 5 tackles for loss, second in sacks with 1.5, and tied for first with 5 passes defensed.  The ranking of where he is on the team sounds impressive, but the actual totals are not.  A middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense will usually have around 100 tackles or more, but Gordon is on pace for 66 tackles.

After Gordon, the level drops a lot.  Nicholas Grigsby has 24 tackles but 16 of them came in the first two games.  Manny Williams also has 24 tackles along with 3 pass breakups.  Eric Williams chipped in with 18 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and a sack.  Dan Mason has played in the last three games and had 3 tackles, while Todd Thomas has a tackle in two games.  Obviously if Mason, Thomas, and Price were healthy the unit could be very good, but they aren't, and what's left behind is a ragtag bunch that has made little impact so far.

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

Defensive Back:  The front seven was not expected to be good this year and the fact that they are even worse than expected put even more stress on what should be a very good secondary.  The secondary is still, by far, the best unit on defense, but it's become apparent that they aren't excellent enough to overcome such a poor front seven.

The pass defense is No. 29 in the country, but like the overall defense, that number is deceiving because of Pitt's quality time of possession.  The defense has given up 13.4 yards a completion which is much further down the list.  Pass efficiency defense is No. 59 nationally, which is pretty much right in the middle, and they are 58th in interceptions.  As mentioned before, 3rd down defense is an awful 102nd nationally.

Four of the top six tacklers are defensive backs, more proof that the secondary has had to pick up the slack for a bad front seven.  Jason Hendricks has quietly become the leader in tackles with 37, and also leads with 3 interceptions.  The other safety, Jarred Holley, is second in tackles with 36 tackles, along with an interception.  Cornerback K'Waun Williams has all-conference ability, but injuries have slowed him this season.  He was excellent against Syracuse but then got torched in the third quarter against Louisville.  On the season he has 22 tackles and an interception.  The most pleasant surprise has been redshirt freshman Lafayette Pitts, who is showing that he could have a very good career.  He has 13 tackles and 4 pass breakups, and already teams are getting more weary of throwing his way.  In fact, the defensive backs have only defended 9 passes, an incredibly low number for an entire secondary over 6 games, and Pitts has 4 of them.  Linebacker Shane Gordon has 5 all by himself. Andrew Taglianetti has added 22 tackles, Cullen Christian has added 5 tackles, and spring sensation Ray Vinopal, after a horrible opening game, also has 5 tackles.

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

Special Teams:  As has been the case last season, too, this group is half good and half bad.  The good begins once again with Pitts who is No. 16 nationally with 28.8 avg.  Also good is the kick return defense which is currently No. 16 nationally.  And Matt Yoklic is No. 25 nationally in punting with a 43.1 avg.

But the bad is pretty bad.  Kevin Harper has made 6 of 11 kicks and it's gotten so bad that Chryst has clearly lost faith in him.  Despite Yoklic's nice average the net punting for the Panthers is No. 112 nationally thanks to being dead last in the country in punt return defense.

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

Coaching:  I was not happy with Chryst's coaching hires this year or his recruiting to date when I did the preseason ranking on him, but since he didn't coach a game yet I gave him a middle of the road C grade to start off.  Halfway through his first season, the recruiting has yet to turn the corner and his suspect coaching hires are looking even more suspect.  He does have six games as a head coach now under his belt and unfortunately he has yet to prove that he can be competent as the top dog in a program.

A loss to Youngstown State was one of the program's worst ever.  A drubbing by Cincinnati soon followed.  The team performed well only twice this season, both in wins, but one was against lowly Gardner-Webb, a lower division team and a bad one at that.

The only part of the head coaching job that anybody could be pretty sure about was that Chryst would be excellent at the offensive aspects of the team.  He has proven that he is more than capable at the part of the game and has gotten as much out of Tino Sunseri, Devin Street, and Michael Shanahan as could possibly be expected.  However, it stops there on offense.  The tight ends, expected to be a strength, have not been a factor even when healthy.  And the offensive line is abysmal.  My thoughts were dismissed by some when I said that losing Bob Bostad would be a crucial blow, but that's exactly what happened.  While the line has no stars in it, it's inexcusable that offensive line coach Jim Hueber, offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph, and Chryst could take five experienced linemen and not make them one iota better.

Defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable was expected to at least be solid but the early results have not shown that.  Defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield, linebackers coach Chris Haering, and defensive backs coach Matt House were interesting hires since all have little or even no college coaching experience so maybe the results of their success this year is not a surprise.

As for special teams, well, there isn't a special teams coach so it's no surprise that the success of that unit is hit or miss.

Most fans are inherently optimistic until they become overbearingly pessimistic, so I'm not surprised that so many are trying to convince themselves that Chryst will eventually get it together.  And maybe he will.  I am not saying that Chryst will always be a failure.  Todd Graham was equally awful through the first six games last season but the team was definitely improved in the second half of the season, especially on defense.  And Graham has proven that he is a very good head coach which shows that a bad first half of a season does not mean the coach will always be bad.

What Graham did have that Chryst didn't have was a track record of winning as a head coach, an excellent staff, and proven recruiters. But trying to be neither optimistic or pessimistic, but instead realistic, Chryst's early coaching stint has shown that he has a bright offensive mind, and if he can get better talent he should be able to put up a lot of yards and a lot of points at Pitt in his career. But we expected that of Chryst.  What we didn't know about him was how good his defense, coaching hires, recruiting, and game coaching would be.  Through a small sampling all we know for sure is that he has yet to prove that he can be competent at any of those facets.

But like I wrote before, that does not mean I think it will always be that way.  Just like Graham last season, Chryst could improve the team a lot in the second half of the season.  His staff could prove that they were good hires.  He could hold on to Corey Clement and Tra'von Chapman, while adding Robert Foster, Dorian Johnson, and a defensive impact player or two.

But he hasn't done that yet and until he does, one can't realistically say it will definitely happen.  Optimistic fans will say that Chryst is stuck with a bad offensive line and he will change that with more talented players.  The problem with that theory is that Pitt currently has just two offensive linemen coming in so far and both are rated at the same level as Ryan Schlieper and Cory King were.  Optimists will say the same thing about the defense, that once Chryst gets more talented players the defense will be better.  The reality is that just four defensive players are coming in and none are highly recruited.

Bottom line, the facts at this time is that the coaching staff has not proven themselves, Chryst has not proven that he can be a good game coach, and he hasn't proven that he can recruit at a high level.  Hopefully for all that will change.  I would like nothing more than to see A's across the board.  This site gets more people when things are going well and it's a helluva lot nicer place to be.  So I don't enjoy the constant failures. But right now Chryst needs a lot of improvement to turn things around.

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Midseason Grades for the Pitt Football Team-Offense

Quarterback:  Everybody's favorite whipping boy, Tino Sunseri, has quarterback guru Paul Chryst mentoring him this season and the result will do nothing to change the opinions people have of both men.  Chryst has proven that he can turn anybody into a decent quarterback and Sunseri has proven that decent is all that one can expect from him.

Sunseri's passing stats looks pretty good, to say the least.  He's completed an excellent 70.4% of his passes with 1,750 yards, 10 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions.  He's also No.8 in the nation in pass efficiency. Projected over the season Sunseri will throw for 3,500 yards with 20 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.  Excellent numbers for anybody let alone somebody that pretty much everybody wrote off long ago.

So why is Sunseri still a whipping boy for many?  Well, for one thing, a lot of people are idiots.  But then again some others do have a point.  Chryst can't ever teach Sunseri to know the nuances of the game and to have the natural instincts that top quarterbacks have.  Stats can tell a lot about a player's performance but in the case of Sunseri's aforementioned stats, it doesn't tell you when those stats were accumulated.  Just like a player can be a lot better than his stats show, a player can be a lot less of a player than his stats show.  And that's the case with Sunseri.  Wrong decisions, not being clutch, and the inability to rise above the others on the field.  That's what it takes to be an elite quarterback and it's apparent that Sunseri will never have that.

But to Sunseri's credit he played as well as he can under extreme physical and mental duress. Not only did many people felt that they just knew he would fail this season, they almost willed it out of spite.  But Sunseri didn't fold and he's playing up to his ability.  Unfortunately for him, his ability is never going to be good enough to be any better than decent, no matter what the stats say.

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

Running Back:  Big things were expected at this position this year, but the sad fact is, Pitt is No.83 in rushing offense this season.  A lot of the problem is that senior Ray Graham is not 100% recovered from his serious knee injury. It usually takes a full year to get back to your previous level so it's not Graham's fault that he's not the same back.  He clearly tries but his style is built around his quick feet, but now though the feet are willing, they can't answer the bell, and the result is that he doesn't make nearly as many people miss and long, exciting runs just aren't happening like before the injury.

On the season Graham has run for 439 yards and 4 touchdowns, with a 4.6 avg.  He also has 18 catches. He's also had some good games- 103 against Cincinnati and 94 against both Gardner-Webb and Virginia Tech. But he's only had 95 carries on the season compared to 150 carries at the same time last year.  Even more telling is that in the first half of last season he ran for 925 yards and a 6.2 avg. compared to the 439 yards and 4.6 avg. this season.

Issac Bennett was a pleasant surprise when Graham went down last season, and after a strong spring showing much was expected of him.  However, the sophomore has only rushed 26 times on the season and 10 of those was in the opener against Youngstown State.  On the season he has run for 127 yards and 3 TDs.  His 4.9 avg. shows he's been solid when he gets the chance but with only a 4 carry a game average there's not much he can do.

That leaves the wildcard, freshman sensation Rushel Shell.  Shell did not play in the opener and was only given the majority of carries in two games, but in those two games he exploded for 253 carries on 41 carries, a 6.2 average.  And that was against Virginia Tech and Louisville, not exactly horrible teams.  It will be interesting if Chryst gives him a chance to take over as the workhorse.

With Graham not at his best, Bennett not getting much action, and Shell playing sporadically, the Panthers rushing offense has regressed form last season.  Of course a poor offensive line doesn't help, but it's still apparent that the Panthers running game has not found itself yet.  There is hope for this unit, though. Shell should only get better as he becomes more comfortable and Graham's knee should only get stronger.

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

Wide Receivers:  Chryst can probably expect Christmas cards from Michael Shanahan and Devin Street for the rest of his life because he took two disgruntled and lost receivers and turned them into one of the most productive duos in the country.  How productive?  Well, Pitt has only had seven players accumulate over 1,000 receiving yards in a season, and no teammates have ever done it.  Shanahan is on pace for 1,050 yards and Street is on pace for 1,028 yards.  This comes after Shanahan had 493 yards last season and Street had 754 yards.  The most surprising fact about the duo is that Shanahan, long considered the possession receiver, has an 18.1 avg, while Street, the supposed deep threat, is only at 13.2 yards a reception. Both receivers have 3 touchdowns.

After those two, however, the pickings are slim.  Cameron Saddler was never a speed demon to begin with, and after his knee injury in the past, he's lost even more of his quickness, not a good thing for somebody only 5'7" tall.  He made a nice touchdown catch against Louisville, and he's the undisputed emotional leader of the team, but his production of 12 catches and 178 yards is a big drop.  And beyond him, the next in line is Ronald Jones with just 5 catches.

A lot of the success of Shanahan and Street is due to Chryst's system, and neither are game changing talents.  For that reason, their grade can only be so high, but it's a welcome site for the program to see the two rebound so nicely after both having underachieving seasons last year.

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

Tight Ends:  While the wide receivers have been a pleasant surprise this season, the opposite could be said about the tight ends.  Hubie Graham has started in the four games that he's played, but he's been one of the biggest disappointments of the season.  With the success that Chryst and offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph had with tight ends at Wisconsin, it was expected that this position would be a real strength. Unfortunately, however, the unit was actually better last year under then coach Todd Graham who didn't even focus on the position in the offense.  Graham has 6 catches on the year, and 4 of them came in the opener against Youngstown State.  Injuries have played a part in his problems but even when he's in the game he is not much of a factor.  Drew Carswell added 5 catches in the first 5 games, but sat in game six due to an injury. Carswell has a lot of talent but has been sloppy in his play, to say the least, and that has has been a major problem. True freshman J.P. Holtz has just two catches but showed flashes in his limited playing time.  With Graham and Carswell out, he played nearly every snap against Louisville. Brendan Carozzoni, who showed good potential while playing in 11 games last season, has not even seen the field, even with Graham and Carswell out.  Bottom line, last year the tight ends caught a total of 54 passes.  Graham himself caught 28.  This year the unit is on pace to catch a measly 26 passes for the entire season.

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

Offensive Line:  Remember when Pitt had great offensive lines?  I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't because it's been a long time.  But they have had a lot of good offensive lines in the last twenty years. In the last few years, however, the line has been anything but good.  Last season was a disaster but with another year of experience and Chris Jacobson returning, you would think that the line had no choice but to be better.  But if you did think that, you would be wrong.  The Panthers are No.83 in the country in rushing offense and that is with Graham, Shell, and Bennett.  I'd hate to think where the team would be with even average running backs.  The pass blocking is just as bad.  Sunseri is much quicker to get rid of the ball this season but the Panthers are still ranked No. 103 nationally in sacks allowed.

And this is with center Ryan Turnley, who performed solidly last season, and Jacobson, who even after  six years at Pitt still hasn't reached the level which was expected him.  Tackle Matt Rotheram was also solid last year but this year he also has seemed to regress, especially in pass blocking where he seems to always be running behind a defensive end that's about to flatten Sunseri.  But if you would count how many times he had to do that, even though it seems pretty much all the time, he's still be behind Cory King, who was moved from guard this season.  King has accomplished the offensive tackle trifecta in every game by missing pass blocks, missing run blocks, and picking up penalties.  The other guard, Ryan Schlieper hasn't been much better.

Of course, apologists will say that the offensive line just isn't talented, but that's too easy. Rotheram had offers from the likes of Wisconsin, Michigan State, and LSU.  Turnley had offers from Georgia Tech and Wisconsin.  Jacobson was ranked the No.3 guard in the entire country by  These were highly coveted kids.  All five starters are considered the equal, and in many cases superior, to pretty much every offensive linemen that West Virginia, for example, has started in any year, and yet the Mountaineers continually field very good lines.  In fact, it's commonplace in the NCAA for experienced offensive lines in major college football to be solid.  Rotheram has been in the program for 3 years, King and Schlieper for 4, Turnley for 5, and Jacobson for 6.  The fact that five fairly highly recruited linemen with that much experience can be so bad is almost unfathomable. You would have to think that, under those conditions, one would have to go out of their way not to at least be decent.  But here they are, still well below average.  And what's worse is that currently these are by far the five best linemen they have.

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

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Louisville 45 Pittsburgh 35

Well, the Panthers were doing great until just before the first half.  That was before Paul Chryst made his first of many poor decisions.  First, with under a minute to go, he called a timeout and stopped the clock.  Then he went for it on 4th and 1, and that failed.  It resulted in Louisville getting a field goal, and the momentum, to close the deficit to 21-17.  After the half, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater torched the Pitt secondary, especially the normally reliable K'Waun Williams.  The Cardinals scored 21 straight points and it was all over.  Pitt, to their credit, tried hard to get back in it, but they couldn't overcome more busted plays and bad Chryst decisions.

Tino Sunseri was efficient completing 28 of 37 passes for 287 yards and 2 touchdowns.  He had no interceptions, but was sacked 5 more times.  Devin Street quietly had 11 catches for 111 yards and a touchdown.  Ray Graham had 5 catches for 51 yards, Michael Shanahan chipped in with 4 catches for 74 yards, and even Rushel Shell added 4 catches for 28 yards.  Cam Saddler only caught 2 passes for 14 yards but one was a nifty touchdown pass.

On the ground, Graham started but ran just 6 times for 20 yards.  Shell, who may be the new feature back, had 97 yards on 18 carries, including a Walter Payton-like dive into the end zone.  For the game, the Panthers ran for 94 yards (due to Sunseri's sacks).  The Panthers were out gained in total yards 459-381. The Cardinals ran for 155 yards and passed for 304 yards.  Nobody really stood out for the Panthers defense, who clearly did not have a good game.

On the season, the Panthers are now 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the Big East.  It's clear that things are not going well at all, so much so that one has to wonder if a winning record is just a pipe dream at this time.  Next week, however, the Panthers play at Buffalo, and in two weeks they host Temple, so there is still a decent chance that they could be 4-4 with four games left.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Syracuse 14 Pittsburgh 13

Tough loss for Pitt, and some very big weaknesses were exposed.  The biggest problem, without a doubt, is the offensive line.  What else can I say, other than they're horrible?  Not one of them is any good.  I hate to be so mean about it, but they may be even worse than last season.

Other observations:

1. Ray Graham is quicker than most running backs in college football, but he's not nearly as quick as he used to be.  Having nowhere to run doesn't help.  He ended up with 24 carries for 57 yards.

2.  There are a lot of problems on this team, but Tino Sunseri isn't near the top of the list.  Is he excellent?  No. But he's clearly a much better quarterback in this system.  He ended up completing 25 of 33 passes for 319 yards.  He had no TDs, no interceptions, and was sacked 5 times.

3.  Syracuse entered the game averaging 487.5 yards a game and Pitt held them to 305 yards.  The Orange did not score an offensive touchdown after the first drive.  K'waun Williams was excellent and Lafayette Pitts and Aaron Donald had their moments.  But there are still some infuriating and unnecessary breakdowns.  And when they had to make the stop, they couldn't do it.

4.  Did I say the OL is awful?  Let me say it again.  They're awful.

5.  The tight ends have been disappointing this season.  J.P. Holtz plays well what little he's in there and he should be in there a lot more because Drew Carswell is living in LaLa Land.

 Bottom line, the Pitt defense held their opponent to almost 200 yards under their average and the offense couldn't even come up with 14 points.  This is the type of game that Dave Wannstedt would lose,and get criticized for, and there's no reason to let Paul Chryst of the hook with this one.  It's a bottom line business, and at the end of the day there was no reason why Pitt lost this game, except for the fact that they did it to themselves.  Win and they could have been 6-2 going into Notre Dame.  Now they will be lucky to have a winning record.  My biggest fear with Chryst was that he was going to be another Wannstedt and tonight's performance did nothing to ease those fears. But, he's not halfway through his first season and there's time for him this year, and at least a few years to come, to turn it around.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Panthers land WR

Cranford (NJ) HS athlete Reggie Green has committed to the Panthers.  While he played mostly at quarterback in high school, he could play safety, wide receiver, or even linebacker someday thanks to his 6'3" 200 pound size.  He seems like his best fit may be at safety, and many of the schools who recruited him at that position, but apparently the Panthers are going to try him first at wide receiver.  He is long and has very good speed (best of 11.25 in the 100m).  Other offers included Temple, Michigan State, NC State, Rutgers, Boston College, and Central Florida.