Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Top 20 Pitt Basketball Players of the Big East Era

In order, these are the top 20 Pitt basketball players of the Big Era, in my opinion.  While I talked to various former sportswriters who followed Pitt or the Big East over the years, this list is my opinion alone.  




1.  DeJuan Blair- It's pretty obvious to me that despite playing just two seasons, Blair has surpassed Charles Smith as the best Panther player since Billy Knight almost four decades ago.  He was Pitt's only consensus First Team All-American in modern history and he did it as a sophomore. Only Patrick Ewing, Allen Iverson, and Troy Murphy have done that in Big East history.  He was tied for second for National Player of the Year with college legend Tyler Hansbrough, and only behind current NBA superstar Blake Griffin. 


He started his career as the Big East Freshman of the Year then followed that in his second year as the Co-Player of the Year in the Big East.  Led Big East in rebounding as a sophomore.  Only player in team history with two 20/20 games (points and rebounds), and that was against Duke and UConn.  Led team in steals both years.  His 116 steals are 16th best in school history, remarkable considering he only played two years and was a rather robust 6’5” and 280 pounds.  His 1.6 spg is the 6th best in the Big East era and is better than Carl Krauser, Sean Miller, Jason Matthews, Sam Young, Julius Page, Levance Fields, Darrelle Porter, and Jaron Brown.  In fact, in his two years he actually accumulated more career steals than four year players Young, Matthews, Page, and Miller, and had just five fewer than Fields despite playing 59 games.  


He was also on pace to not only score 2,000 points in his career, but also to have over 1,500 rebounds which would best Tim Duncan for the modern day NCAA record.  Bottom line, in two years he accomplished national heights that Smith didn’t reach in four years.  In my opinion, it’s ridiculous to penalize him for being good enough to leave after two years.

2.  Charles Smith- Excellent player, who at 6'10" had such a vast array of skills that he was chosen 3rd in the NBA draft.  Freshman of the Year in Big East and only Panther to be a four-time all-Big East performer.  Member of the 1988 U.S. Olympic Team.  By far the best shot blocker in school history (346 total and 2.8 bpg), and twice tied school single game block record with seven. Most Big East points (1,047) and most career points (2,045) in school history.  Most FTs made and attempted in school history.  Most total rebounds in Big East era and most career Big East rebounds.  Had four games of 30+ points. One of four players in Big East era to lead the team in scoring three times.  Second most games of 20+ more points for Pitt in Big East era (41).  Amazingly he was never a consensus first or second team All-American despite being considered amongst the top twenty players in conference history.

3.  Brian Shorter- After missing his freshman season because of Prop 48, he came back to win the Big East Newcomer of the Year, beating out the likes of Billy Owens and Alonzo Mourning. In that season he averaged 19.6 ppg and 9.6 rpg.  Followed that up in his junior season with 20.6 ppg and 9.4 rpg, which helped him achieve the best two season span in Pitt's Big East era.   Sadly, his senior year was marred by a viral infection that sapped him of a lot of his strength.  


Set Pitt single season record (minimum 300 attempts) of 60.0 FG% and 59.9 FG% in Big East play.  Most free throws made in a single season and in Big East play (along with Charles Smith).  Also most attempted in a season and in Big East play.  His 18.5 ppg in Big East play is second best in Panthers history.  Twice had seasons of over 500 points and 250 rebounds (only Clyde Vaughan with three had more and nobody else had two).  Had four games of 30+ points (all major opponents- Oklahoma, Providence, Syracuse, Villanova).  His 1,633 points is 11th best in school history and 8th best in the Big East era, despite only have two healthy years.  His 17.8 career ppg is 5th best in school history and is second best in the Big East era. To show you how good he was, if he wasn't ill and merely matched his junior totals, he would have accumulated 1,865 points and 882 rebounds in just three years for career averages of 20.3 ppg and 9.6 rpg.  Also, despite only playing three seasons he is tied for 3rd most in the Big East era with 33 games of 20+ points and tied for second most with four 30+ games.

4.  Clyde Vaughan-  Not only one of the most underrated Panthers of all-time, but he is also one of the most underrated players in Big East history. Played just two seasons in the conference but what a two seasons it was.  In those two seasons, the Big East had perhaps more star players than it ever had, but Vaughan routinely torched powerful teams like Georgetown, who featured  Patrick Ewing, and St. John's who featured Chris Mullin and Walter Berry.  In Pitt's inaugural season, still with Eastern 8 talent, Vaughan led the Panthers to victories over Georgetown, St. John's, and Syracuse, all top 10 teams.  In those three upsets, Vaughan averaged 23.3 ppg.  


Has the distinction of being the only Panther to lead the Big East in scoring.  His 37 points at Boston College was the most in a conference away game for a Panther.  Holds the Pitt record for most points in a Big East season (375), and Big East scoring average (22.0 ppg).  Second leading scorer in Pitt history with 2,033 points. His 19.5 ppg career average in Big East games is the best in Pitt history.  Only player in school history to have three seasons of at least 500 points and 250 rebounds.  One of only four (Don Hennon, Billy Knight, Larry Harris) to have three 500+ point seasons.  One of five Pitt players in Big East era to lead the team in scoring three times. And in case people think his career totals are bloated by playing two years in the Eastern 8, his two year Big East average was 21.4 ppg and 8.7 rpg.  Most games of any Pitt player in Big East era with 20+ points (48) and 30+ games (5).  Third most rebounds for Pitt in the Big East era (922).  




5.  Jerome Lane-  Consensus Second Team All-American, one of only two consensus All-Americans in Pitt's Big East era.  Shortest person to lead the country in rebounding in three decades.  Led the Big East, and the nation, in rebounding in both his sophomore and junior seasons.  Team single season record of 444 rebounds and a single season Big East high of 14.0 rpg. To put it in perspective to just how good of a rebounder he was, Blair seemed to get nearly every rebound  possible in his sophomore year and still had 12.3 rpg compared to Lane's sophomore average of 13.5 rpg.  


He was often accused of missing easy shots to pad his stats, but in his miraculous sophomore season he shot 56.8% from the field.  Also an excellent passer and was once the subject of an ill-advised position switch to point guard (when he was recruited he made then coach Roy Chipman promise that he got a shot at point guard no later than his junior year).   


One of only three Panthers to have over 1,000 points, 600 rebounds, and 200 assists in his career.  His 1,217 points are 23rd best in school history and 20th best in the Big East era, though he did play only three seasons.  In the two seasons he started, his sophomore and junior seasons, he averaged 14.9 ppg, 12.8 rpg, 2.5 apg, and 1.3 spg. 

6.  Brandin Knight- The first outstanding player of the new era of excellence and consequently the player credited the most with turning the program into what it has become today.  To put it bluntly, he was the first star player to buy into Ben Howland's team concept, and the stars of the future all followed suit.  


He was the co-Player of the Year in the Big East as a junior and it was his best season by far with 15.6 ppg, a Big East leading 7.2 apg, 2.3 spg, and remarkably for a 5'11" point guard, 4.8 rpg. Adding to the impressive season was that he also set the then single season Pitt record of 93 made three pointers. One of the only downsides that season, and for his career, was his atrocious FT%, which that season was an amazingly inept 44.2%.  For his career it stood at 53.7%.  Also on the negative side was the fact that he also had more turnovers than any other player in school history.  


Back to the plus side, he was the all-time Pitt leader in both assists (785) and steals (298).  One of two players in school history (Jaron Brown) with 6+ steals in a game four times. Has the highest career assist average (6.2) for the school.  His 1,440 points are 16th in school history and 13th in the Big East era.  His 11.3 career ppg is 14th best in the Big East era.    

7.  Sam Young-  Whether or not he was good enough to start over Levon Kendall in his first two seasons, we'll never know, but Young made up for it in his final two seasons by averaging 18.6 ppg.  Also showed up huge in his junior season when he led the Panthers to the Big East tournament championship and was named MVP of the tournament.  He was a master of the shot fake, was a good rebounding wing, and a good defensive player when he wanted to be. He also developed into a very good three point shooter. On the down side, he was often a turnover machine, as evidenced by the fact that he finished with 81 more turnovers than assists in his career. 


His 1,884 points are fourth best in school history and third best in the Big East era, but that number is slightly misleading since he has played in a lot more games than some other of the Pitt greats. Evidence of this is the fact that despite his lofty career point totals, his 13.2 ppg is 21st best in school history and 8th best in the Big East era.  He also had the sixth most games of any Pitt player in Big East era to score 20+ points (32).   

8. Ricky Greer-  It’s a shame that many of the younger fans don’t know about this 6’5” 220 pound guard because he was a wonderful player.  He was also one of the most well rounded players in Pitt history.  He set the Pitt single game record with 7 steals and also had a triple double in the Big East tournament.  His 983 points in Big East play are the second best all-time.  One of only four players in school history  to have over 1,000 points, 600 rebounds, and 200 assists in his career (Billy Knight, Jerome Lane, Jaron Brown). His 1,753 points are 7th in team history and 5th in the Big East era.  His 15.0 career ppg tied for 14th best in school history and tied for 5th in the Big East era.  Seventh most in the Big East era to score 20+ points in a game (27).  His 888 rebounds are 4th most in the Big East era, his 373 assists are 10th best in school history, and his 197 steals are 5th best in school history.  Enough said.




9. Vonteego Cummings-  The Georgia native was one of the more physically talented players in  Pitt history and one has to wonder how good he could have been if he played for Ben Howland or Jamie Dixon.  One of only three Panthers (Brandin Knight, Carl Krauser) to average over 10.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, and 4.0 apg in his career.  Pitt single game record 12 turnovers and most turnovers in a season. Second most turnovers in team history.  Team record 40.1 mpg as a junior (yes, the game is only 40 minutes long).  Had four games of 30+ points.  One of four players in Big East era to lead the team in scoring three times.  His 1,581 points are 13th best in school history and 10th best in the Big East era.  His 15.3 ppg average is 4th best in the Big East era.  Tied for fourth most in Big East era to score 20+ in a game (33) and tied for third most with four 30+ games.  With 458 assists he is 7th best in school history.  His 4.4 apg is 7th best in school history and his 235 steals are 3rd best in school history.

10. Carl Krauser-  Unfortunately he got a lot of criticism from Pitt fans in his career because his playground style often infuriated the purists, but few players in Pitt history loved the school more or tried harder.  But just to show you how good Krauser was, in the three years he started he averaged 15.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 5.1 apg, and 1.7 spg.  He was also the only player in Panthers history to have 1,500+ points, 500+ rebounds, and 500+ assists.  Was one of four Panthers in Big East era to lead the team in scoring three times. His 1,642 points are 10th best in school history and 6th best in the Big East era.  His 13.0 career ppg is 10th best in the Big East era.  His 568 assists are fifth in Pitt history and his 4.5 apg is 6th best in school history. Defensively, he was also good and his 190 steals are 8th best in school history.   

11. Sean Miller-  Along with Levance Fields, he is probably the most quintessential floor leader in Pitt history.  Started with a bang by winning Big East Rookie of the Year.  Twice went 6 for 6 on threes in a game.  Has the two best FT shooting years in Pitt history at 91.4% and 90.5%, and in Big East play with 92.7%.  Has the third most three point FGs in Pitt history and the third best three point percentage in Pitt history with 41.6% (running neck and neck for second with Ashton Gibbs) .  Highest FT% in team history (88.5%) and in Big East play (90.9%). Team record 40 straight FTs before recently being broken by Ashton Gibbs  Second most career assists (744) and most assists and best career assist average in Big East play.  Second best assist/turnover ratio in team history.  His 1,282 points are 18th best in school history and 15th best in the Big East era.  His 5.8 apg is second best in school history.  

 12. Jaron Brown-  His numbers won't be as great as some of the others below him but as one former Big East beat writer told me, "Brandin Knight gets most of the credit for turning Pitt into a great program in the early days, and for sure he was a major part of it, but more than anybody it was Jaron Brown who was the most responsible for the program that Pitt has become."  The Kentucky native could have 10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals in a game and be the best player on the floor.  He was one of only three Panthers to have over 1,000 points, 600 rebounds, and 200 assists in his career. His 1,258 points is 21st best in school history and 18th best in the Big East era.  One of two players (Brandin Knight) with 6+ steals four times.  His 192 steals are 7th best in school history.  

13. Aaron Gray-  What a pleasant surprise the big seven footer turned out to be.  When he was a freshman he could barely move.  By the time he was done with his junior year, he was an All-American candidate.  After a combined 6.0 ppg and 4.3 rpg in his first two seasons, he averaged 13.9 ppg and a Big East best 10.5 rpg as a junior, and 13.9 ppg and 9.5 rpg as a senior.  He sometimes frustrated with his inability to make the simplest tip ins, and he wasn't the best athlete, but he was bull strong and always gave his best.  Ended up with 1,109 points, and his 790 rebounds are 6th most for a Panther in the Big East era. He also had the second most blocks in the Big East era.  

14. Levance Fields-  Let's be honest, he wasn't a great athlete and he wasn't the best defensive player, but as a floor leader you can make the case that he was maybe the best the Panthers ever had.  He was also a clutch shooter at the end of the game.  He led Big East in assists as a senior while setting a single season team record for assists, including an incredible 8.2 apg in Big East play.  Also set the single game Pitt record of 16 assists while also having the best assist/turnover ratio in team history.  His 1,247 points are 22nd best in school history and 19th in the Big East era.  He has the third most assists (645) in team history behind Brandin Knight and Sean Miller and his 4.9 apg is 5th best in school history.  

15. Jerry McCullough- For some reason the diminutive New Yorker never really gets the credit he deserved for being such a good player.  In fact, many younger fans probably have never heard of him.  His 1,342 points are 17th best in school history and 14th best in the Big East era.  His 12.1 ppg is 13th best all-time. He set the Pitt single game record going 15 for 15 from the free throw line.  Also had the single season Pitt best 55 steals in Big East play and has the second most career steals (257), and most in Big East play.  His 552 assists are 6th best in school history and his 5.0 apg is tied for 3rd best in team history.  In the three seasons he started he averaged 14.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg (despite being 5'11" at most), 5.9 apg, and 2.7 spg.  Those numbers are right up there with Knight.  The only difference is, McCullough played at the wrong time.




16. Jason Matthews-  You would have to say that this Californian was the best pure shooter in recent Pitt history.  Unfortunately, he played absolutely no defense and from people who covered the Big East at the time, his selfish play did not make him a favorite of his teammates.  Had a single season team best 46 three pointers until Ashton Gibbs broke it in his junior year with 49.  Single season team best 48.2% from three and 52.2% in Big East play.  Most three point FGs made (259) and in Big East play (139) until broken by Ashton Gibbs in his junior year.  Highest three point percentage in Pitt history at 45.7% and in Big East play (46.6%), which is also the best in Big East history.  Second highest FT% in team history (87.8%) and in Big East play (88.9%).  His 1,840 points are 6th best in team history and 4th in the Big East era.  His 15.0 career ppg is tied for 14th in school history and tied for 5th in the Big East era.  Eight most games in Big East era to score 20+ points (26). 

17. Demetreus Gore-  Because he played on the first excellent Pitt team of the Big East era, he may be a little overrated, but in his defense he had bad knees that curtailed his production.  His best year was his sophomore season when he averaged 16.1 ppg.  He followed that with seasons of 12.7 ppg and 13.0 ppg.  Good numbers but he was clearly overshadowed by the likes of Smith, Lane, Miller, and Matthews.  His 1,555 points are 15th best in school history and 12th best in the Big East era.  His 12.7 ppg is 11th best in the Big East era.  He also had the eighth most games in the Big East era with 20+ point games (22).  Showing his good all around game, his 300 assists are 10th best in Big East era and his 126 steals are 14th best in school history.  

18.  Darrelle Porter-  This may surprise many people since Porter never was considered an elite player, but he was an excellent all around athlete who many who covered Pitt at the time tells me could have played in the NBA if it wasn't for his bad knees.  On a personal note, he had a follow up one handed dunk against Georgetown that to me was the most impressive dunk in Pitt history.  Against Providence, he showed his excellent all around game when he became one of only three Panthers in history to record a triple double with 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists.  He holds the school single season assist record with a superb 7.9 apg.  One of only seven players in school history to have over 1,000 points and 400 assists in his career, and the only one who had not spent most of his time as a point guard.  Has a career 1,007 career points for an 8.2 ppg average, but in his last two seasons he displayed a great all-around game with combined averages of 9.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 6.4 apg, 1.9 spg, 75.6 FT%, and 37.9% from three.  Had 10+ assists 13 times in his career, the most in school history. His 617 assists are fourth best in school history and his career 5.0 apg is tied for third best.  Also fourth in school history in assist-turnover ratio and ninth in career steals.



19.  Julius Page-  The Buffalo native was considered a high flying dunker (his dunk over Georgetown's  7'0" center Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje is the stuff of legend), an excellent outside shooter, and one of the best defensive stoppers in Pitt history.  He also proved that he can come up big at times as he was named MVP of the Big East tournament.  His 1,512 points are 15th best in school history and 12th best in the Big East era, while his 11.1 ppg career average is tied for 15th in the Big East era. 

20.  Ashton Gibbs-  I started this list prior to the season but because I didn't want to add any current players, and I wanted to see how far Gibbs' career could go, I was going to wait to the end of the season so that I can add him.  Unfortunately, the wait almost didn't matter because Gibbs barely made the list.  Sadly, despite a current 15.4 ppg average his career didn't have the finish everybody was hoping for.  But Gibbs, despite ending his career uneventfully, will go down with Miller and Matthews as one of the three elite shooters in recent Pitt history.  His defense and all around game outside of the shooting is mediocre, and that's why he's so far down the list, but as a shooter he currently stands at 1,654 points (currently 10th all-time and 8th in the Big East era) and his 33 20+ games is currently tied for 3rd in the Big East era.  In his junior season he broke the Pitt single season record for most three pointers made in a season and also holds the career three point field goals made record both overall and in Big East play.  

Monday, February 27, 2012

Panthers land SG Chris Jones

As I suspected would happen once they offered, 6'5" SG Chris Jones of (Teaneck (HS) NJ has committed to the Panthers for the class of 2012.  He joins 7'0" center Steven Adams and 6'3" PG James Robinson in the class.

Jones is not an elite athlete, but he's a good athlete who has great length, and can shoot, pass, and defend.  Most of all, he is one of those players that has a certain kind of "it" factor in that he's a winner, he's smart, and he usually makes the right play at the right time.

Jones was not considered a high major prospect entering the season but he's been excellent all year for Teaneck, who are currently 27-0.

Panthers offer California juco DT for 2013

The Panthers are hurting for defensive linemen depth so looking to remedy the situation they have offered 6'3" 305 pound Marquel Combs of Pierce College in Los Angeles, CA.  Combs, a native of Memphis, TN has also been offered by Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Mississippi, Kansas State, Arizona, Utah, and Texas Tech.

Desmond Robinson named RB coach

Panther alum Desmond Robinson has been named the RB coach.  Robinson, a native of Atlanta, was a linebacker and defensive end at Pitt and played in the 1976 National Championship Game.  The 55-year old spent most of his career as a defensive coach, but most recently coached running backs at Notre Dame, West Virginia,  and Syracuse.

Brooks Bollinger to be the QB coach

It's been rumored for awhile, but former Wisconsin and NFL quarterback Brooks Bollinger is the new Pitt QB coach.  The 32-year old North Dakota native was the starting quarterback for Wisconsin in 2002 when Paul Chryst was the tight ends coach.  In his college career, he threw for 5,511 yards, 36 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions, while also rushing for 1,850 yards and 26 touchdowns.  A former 6th round pick of the NY Jets, Bollinger played for six seasons in the NFL, playing in 21 games and starting 10.  His last two seasons of professional football were with the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League.  Most recently he was the head football coach for Hill-Murray HS in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Bollinger becomes the sixth Chryst hire with Wisconsin ties, but two of those, Bob Bostad and Eddie Faulkner, left the program already for other jobs.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pittsburgh 54 Louisville 57

The Panthers season continues to go down the drain and now they are dangerously close to not even making the NIT.  They drop to 15-14 with two games left.

J.J. Moore was once again the best player on the floor for Pitt and that's possible great news for the future.  This time he led the team with 16 points while adding 7 rebounds and 3 steals.

On the downside, once again the so-called veteran leaders let the team down.  Ashton Gibbs continues to ruin his legacy with 4 points.  Tray Woodall had 4 points, but also had 6 turnovers and an awful shot attempt at the end of the game.  Nasir Robinson added 8 points and 11 rebounds but missed two huge free throws at the end.

Dante Taylor started and chipped in with 11 points and 5 rebounds, but the bench, outside of Moore, contributed little with a combined 7 points in 38 minutes.  In fact, Talib Zanna played 10 minutes and John Johnson played just two minutes.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Patrick Kugler chooses Michigan

One of Pitt's top targets, North Allegheny offensive guard Patrick Kugler, has made a verbal commitment to Michigan.  While it would have been great to land him, some kids simply have no interest and it's apparent that Kugler had no interest in Pitt.  If the trend continues with the top local prospects then it will be a major problem, but that has yet to happen.  As for offensive linemen, I think Pitt will land Belle Vernon's Dorian Johnson and I think that would be an excellent offensive line addition.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Current known football offer list

These are the known offers from the current staff, verified by myself.  Some offers listed in other places were offers made by the former staff and have not yet been "re-offered" by the formal staff, and many never will be because they don't fit what the new staff wants.  These are likely not the only offers since there are always a few that are unknown to the public, but this almost all of them.  There will be many more as time goes by and clearly the staff is mostly concentrating just on western PA and some of Ohio as of now.  I will update every few weeks or so.

Quarterbacks:

Malik Zaire, Archbishop Alter HS (Kettering, OH)-  Highly athletic 6'1" 190 pounder with other offers from Ohio State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Wisconsin.  He recently visited Pitt and loved it, and also is a big fan of Paul Chryst and Joe Rudolph.  I still think Pitt has a very real shot to land him, especially with Ohio State involved with so many other top QBs from Ohio.

Chavis Rawlins, Monessen HS (Monessen, PA)-  For now, we'll put him here but the 6'3" 190 pounder will probably end up at wide receiver or safety at the next level.  If you believe him on twitter he wants to get away from the area to play college but you never know.   Right now his only other offer is Akron but he should get more major offers eventually.


Running Backs:

David Williams, (Philadelphia, PA)-  The 6'1" 190 pound speedster saw his offers go through the roof after he ran a 4.44 at a recent combine.  Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and Rutgers are some of his many offers.  He hasn't even chosen which high school he will play at next let alone college, but right now I don't see the Panthers having much of a chance at all.


Wide Receivers:


Robert Foster, Central Valley HS (Monaca, PA)-  By now every Pitt fan knows about him.  He is a must get and I still think it will come down to either Pitt or Ohio State.

Shelton Gibson, Cleveland Heights HS (Cleveland Heights, OH)-  Big time 6'1" 170 pound speed demon.  Ohio State and Auburn have offered and are his two leaders right now, so it's not looking good for this one.

Jalin Marshall, Middletown HS (Middletown, OH)-  One of the best athletes in the country, but has already committed to OHIO STATE, where he will first be given a chance at quarterback but will almost guaranteed be moved to receiver.

Tyler Boyd, Clairton Area HS (Clairton, PA)-  The 6'1" 165 pound Boyd can also project as a safety but it seems almost criminal for him not to have the ball in his hands.  He's a local, Pitt has landed Clairton players in the past, and he's an elite prospect.  The Panthers really need to land him but somebody like West Virginia or Penn State could steal him, and both of them have offered.  As of this moment, I'm not as optimistic as I once was.

Rob Wheelright, Walnut Ridge HS (Columbus, OH)-   If the hometown Buckeyes offer then it's probably all over, but either way he'll probably stay in the Big 10.  Michigan, Nebraska, and Wisconsin are some of his offers.

Brian Lemelle, Bishop McDevitt HS (Harrisburg, PA)-  Quick, sure handed 5'11" 170 pounder that also got a recent Penn State offer.





Tight Ends:


Adam Breneman, Cedar Cliff HS (Camp Hill, PA)-  The No. 1 ranked tight end prospect in the country has over 30 offers and counting.  Pitt is a long shot, to say the least.

Scott Orndoff, Seton-LaSalle HS (Pittsburgh, PA)-  Anybody who reads this site knows how good I think this kid is.  He is currently a Wisconsin commit, but I think Pitt has an excellent chance.  Technically Pitt didn't tell him that he was offered, but common sense tells you that he is and the Panthers for whatever reason just assumes he knows.




Offensive Linemen:


Patrick Kugler, North Allegheny HS (Wexford, PA)-  One of the better offensive guard prospects in the country and a must get for the Panthers, but with Bob Bostad moving on and Kugler not talking about Pitt a lot, I'm starting to get the feeling that the Panthers have ground to make up.  I can definitely see him ending up in the Big 10.

Dorian Johnson, Belle Vernon Area HS (Belle Vernon, PA)-   Excellent 6'6" 280 prospect that has loads of potential.  He has about a dozen offers including Penn State, West Virginia, and Virginia Tech but Pitt is definitely the favorite as of now.




Defensive Linemen:


Billy Price, Fitch HS (Austintown, OH)-  Big time defensive tackle that has already committed to OHIO STATE.

Taco Charlton, Pickerington Central HS (Pickerington, OH)-  Elite defensive end that has already committed to MICHIGAN.




Linebackers:


Ben Gedeon, Hudson HS (Hudson, OH)-  Many major offers, including Ohio State.  The Panthers don't have a chance.

Delton Williams, Cathedral Prep HS (Erie, PA)-  At 6'2" and 200 pounds he can play at linebacker and safety.  His only other offer so far is Toledo but he is highly athletic and could be an excellent addition.


Defensive Backs:


None




There are only 17 players with known, verifiable offers, but like I said, there will be many, many more.  But the staff is clearly concentrating on western PA and Ohio first.  In fact, they only let Tyler Boyd he was still offered just two days ago.  Over the next few months, expect the number of offers to triple.  Only then will we get a good idea of where the Panthers stand with whom they have offered.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The early Chryst regime

He hasn't been the head coach for long, but let's look at how things are going for Chryst so far, the good and bad.  To be blunt, if you see all positive in this or all negative in this then you're not being realistic.  No matter how you look at it, though, it's been very eventful for less than two months on the job.

1.  Chryst was great at the press conference announcing his hiring.  He was not polished but he was sincere and showed much more stoic charisma than many could have guessed.  Since then, however, we haven't heard much from him.  

2.  Chryst hired away Bob Bostad, Joe Rudolph, and Dave Huxtable from Wisconsin.  Bostad and Rudolph were huge coups.

3.  Bostad left to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

4.  Running back coach Eddie Faulkner left to join Wisconsin not longer after being hired.

5.  Chryst hired some potentially good young assistants in Bobby Engram, Matt House, and Chris Haering. 

6.  Chryst had trouble finding a DL coach then hired Inoke Breckterfield, who was fired after one season at UCLA and only has west coast ties.  While he may end up doing a great job, the hiring was suspect, especially when nobody on the staff has recruiting ties to New Jersey, Washington, DC, Florida, or eastern PA.

7.  Chryst still hasn't found a replacement for RB coach Eddie Faulkner.

8.  Chryst and his staff has moved at a slower pace then his competitors on the recruiting trail.  Penn State, West Virginia, and Ohio State have already invited groups of prospects for junior days and other events, while Pitt has yet to announce when their junior day will be held.  The staff has also offered significantly less scholarship offers initially, even amongst top rated PA players, and have had less contact with recruits than most of their competitors.  

As we can see, there are some good things, some bad things, and some things that are still to be determined.  But what we do know is that Chryst has an excellent offensive mind.  That shouldn't change.  Chryst and Rudolph also proved at Wisconsin that they don't need to recruit stars, they make stars.  

Those are the facts.  My opinion is that the Pitt administration continually fires 8 win coaches and replaces them with more 8 win coaches that will be fired, too.  To me, Chryst has enough brains and offensive expertise to be an 8 win coach at Pitt.  What he needed to be better than that is a great staff and  to be able to recruit extremely well.  The staff started out excellently with Bostad and Rudolph.  Then Bostad left, an out of the blue DL coach was hired, and a RB coach still isn't hired.  So my initial excitement over the staff has waned some.  But that doesn't mean there still isn't hope.  House, Engram, Haering, and even Breckerfield may turn out to be excellent recruiters for all we know.  Time will tell.

Speaking of recruiting, Wisconsin did well with lesser recruits, that's true.  But it was a process that took many years, first started by Barry Alvarez.  They had their system down and did it well.  Maybe Chryst and his staff can do the same, but they also don't have the recruiting restraints that they had at Wisconsin.  

Above all, this is the point I want to make.  There are much better prospects available to Pitt and with better prospects, Pitt needs to make a killing if they want to do better than 8 wins.  And with an all out assault in recruiting, they can make a killing.  If Pitt is ever going to be excellent again, and if Chryst is going to be a coach who can do better than 8 wins, he can NOT let the elite WPIAL prospects go.  Wisconsin had to turn average prospects into players because they had no choice.  There aren't a lot of elite players in that state.  But Pitt has them right in their backyard.  Bottom line, if the Pitt staff lands Robert Foster, Patrick Kugler, Tyler Boyd, Scott Ordoff, and Dorian Johnson, then they have the makings of a team that has an offense that could seriously contend in the ACC in the future, and has the potential to be a legitimate top 20 team, if not better.  If Chryst doesn't land a great recruiting class locally then he is still too good of a coach not to fail miserably, but we all know what 8 wins gets you at Pitt.  

It's only been two months that Chryst has been at Pitt and the 2013 recruiting class is just a little over two weeks old.  But Pitt needs to be aggressive.  Find a running back coach who can recruit in a strong recruiting area.  Recruit like hell in PA and OH especially, but be aggressive in neighboring states, too.  Maybe they will turn up the heat soon.  Maybe methodical is part of their process and they know exactly what they're doing.  None of us know what they're thinking and none of know how it will turn out.  But I want Chryst to succeed because, one, I like him personally, and, two, I'm sick of having 8 win coaches get fired.  


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bob Bostad to Tampa Bay Bucs according to reports

Pitt has lost their offensive line guru to the Tampa Bucs, according to FoxSports.com.  Slow recruiting and some suspect hiring of coaches were bad enough but the loss of Bostad would be devastating.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Some Pitt football recruiting updates

Ohio quarterback Malik Zaire is visiting on Monday.  If he likes the school and the city then Pitt has a real chance to land him.  One thing is for sure, though- this is one kid that Chad Voytik won't be there to recruit.

Seton-LaSalle tight end Scott Orndoff visited this weekend and even though Pitt hasn't told him that the has an offer for some reason, the visit went well.  He still says that he's committed to Wisconsin but most Wisconsin people I talk to say they don't expect him to sign with them.  It seems with Paul Chryst and Joe Rudolph on the staff of the hometown team, the Panthers have to be the favorite at this point.

Wyomissing linebacker Alex Anzalone is one of the fastest risers in the east.  He recently got offers from Ohio State and Alabama to go with Florida, Michigan State, South Carolina, Notre Dame, West Virginia, and at least a dozen more.  Pitt has not offered him and has had little or no contact with him.

Philadelphia running back David Williams is becoming a national recruit after running a 4.44 at a recent combine.  He has added offers from Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Michigan State, as well as many others.  The previous Pitt staff offered Williams and he said they were his early favorite, but the new staff has yet to talk to him.

Central Dauphin linebacker Zayd Issah offer list now stands at five with UConn, Maryland, Virginia, Rutgers, and Temple.  Pitt has not had contact with him.

Erie Cathedral Prep linebacker/safety Delton Williams is a player that can really rise up the rankings over the next year.  Pitt recently offered him and his only other offer is Toledo so far.

Philadelphia 6'8" offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey just picked up an offer from Notre Dame.  Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Rutgers are some of those that have offered him so far.  Pitt has't offered him or talked to him yet.

McKeesport linebacker Hodari Christian and Hickory athlete DeShawn Coleman both visited West Virginia and picked up their first major offer.  Pitt is recruiting both but hasn't offered either yet.

Montour wide receiver Devin Wilson has an offer from North Carolina State, his first major offer.

Monessen athlete Chavas Rawlins has reportedly picked up an offer from Illinois to go with offers from Pitt and Akron.

Bishop McDevitt wide receiver Brian Lemelle just picked up an offer from Penn State.  The previous Pitt staff offered but the new Pitt staff has not yet, nor have they talked to him.

Clairton wide receiver/safety Tyler Boyd has recently visited West Virginia and is also planning a visit to Penn State.  No visit to Pitt yet and none planned, though Pitt has offered.  

New Jersey linebacker Buddy Brown held an offer from the previous staff, as well as the likes of Penn State, Wisconsin, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Rutgers.  The new staff hasn't contacted him.

North Allegheny offensive guard Patrick Kugler is picking up many more major offers including Michigan, Notre Dame, and Florida.  He is planing visits to Michigan, Michigan State, Florida, and Florida State but has not visited Pitt since the new staff took over and none are planned.  










Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why Pitt basketball will be better next season

1.  The absence of Ashton Gibbs-  I hate that it has to come to this, but his career did not have the great ending that everybody hoped for.  I don't care if he is averaging a team high 16.7 ppg, or is making 39.8% of the his threes and 85.4% of his free throws.  Those are just statistics.  Pitt is not about statistics.  Pitt is about leadership, toughness, consistency, and heart.  Gibbs showed little of any of those traits.  In the offseason I was told that Gibbs really wanted out of college and when he was told he wasn't good enough to get into the NBA, he sulked and pouted.  Unfortunately that continued into the season.  When he was on, he was the Gibbs of old.  When things didn't go his way, he moped, complained, and failed to show the leadership that a senior, and best player on the team should display.  He would even refuse to talk to the media after games sometimes, something a true leader would never do.

Bottom line, many can't grasp that losing a player with Gibbs' statistical output could be a good thing, but every year in sports a team loses a player with great stats only to become better.  Stats aren't everything.  Teamwork, chemistry, leadership, and heart is what wins in any sport, and even more so in Pitt basketball.  Without those traits, three pointers will mean nothing in the end.  And Gibbs did not have those traits this season.

2.  The absence of Nasir Robinson-  This is not the same as Gibbs.  Robison is what he is, and what he truly is, is not a starting power forward in the Big East. The fact that he was for two seasons is the fault of Jamie Dixon, not Robinson.  There is a place for Robinson on any team.  He works hard, has talent, and has heart.  But he was woefully overmatched as a 6'5" (at best) power forward in a league as good as the Big East.  He would best serve the team coming off the bench where his enthusiasm and passion would give the team a spark.

Robinson was forced to play the four because of the failure of Talib Zanna, Dante Taylor, and Khem Birch to seize the position.  Birch's departure has been well documented, but Zanna and Taylor are true centers in Pitt's system.  Dixon likes his power forwards to be mobile and good passers.  Perfect examples are Levon Kendall, Chevon Troutman, and for awhile, Sam Young.  Zanna and Taylor, while not bad players, are not ideal fours for Pitt.  Unfortunately Dixon's inability to find a quality four means either Zanna or Taylor will have to be the starting four next season. They will still get minutes at center but will finally be forced to play more at the four because of...

3.  The arrival of Steven Adams-  Trust me when I tell you, unless Adams totally looks lost as a freshman, and that's doubtful, he will only be at Pitt for one season.  That doesn't mean he will average 20 points and 10 rebounds for Pitt as a freshman.  In fact, it may be more like 10 points and 8 rebounds a game.  But his value will go well beyond just his stats.  There's a reason why every basketball team in history does their best to get 7'0" tall players, why they get drafted in the first round despite mediocre production, and why they get paid tens of millions of dollars in the NBA even if they aren't all-stars.

A player of Adams' size and talent has a trickle down effect on every teammate who is on the floor with him.  On either end of the floor, Adams will have to be accounted for and game planned for because he will cause terrible matchup problems.  With such attention on him, the rest of the team gets more freedom.  Suddenly, when a player drives, the low post defender assigned to Adams can't leave him because he knows a quick pass to Adams would be a guaranteed two points.  Defenses would also have to collapse on Adams meaning perimeter shooters will have an extra second to get off a shot.  On defense, he will control the paint.  No player in the league will be strong enough to push him out of there.  A Panthers defender gets beat on the perimeter and gets into the lane?  Well, good luck because the next person you will run into is an athletic 7'0" monster.  Those are things that won't show up in the box score, but will win Pitt games.

4.  The arrival of James Robinson-  The 6'3" point guard won't begin the season as a starter, and may not be a starter all season unless he pushes Tray Woodall to the two, but make no mistake about it, Robinson will play a lot next season.  And that's great news for Pitt.  Physically and mentally strong, Robinson is the true point guard that the Panthers have missed since Levance Fields graduated.  When he steps on the floor for the first time, he will already be the best defender and ball handler of any guard on the roster.  He is not a great athlete, but he was born to be a quarterback on the basketball court, and when things get iffy at the end of the game, or when the defensive pressure is about to sink the Panthers, look for him to have the ball in his hands.  There are plays at the end of a game that don't show up in the statistics, but are the difference between winning and losing.  The Pitt teams of recent years made those plays.  The current Panthers have not.  Robinson will help to bring that skill back.

5.  The continued development of Lamar Patterson-  I know a lot of Pitt fans don't have faith in Patterson but as a redshirt sophomore he is actually a pretty good player already, and he should only get better. His defense is lacking, and he has to get better at that facet of his game, but he can score in the paint and from beyond the arc, he can pass, and he can rebound.  In fact, despite being only 6'5", he is probably more of the Pitt type of four than Zanna or Taylor.  But assuming he stays at the three, the inside presence of Adams, combined with the departure of the Panthers two top scorers, could mean Patterson becomes a much bigger part of the offense.  In fact, I don't think it's crazy to see him perhaps getting 12-15 ppg, combined with his excellent passing and rebounding.

6.  Better ball protection-  The Panthers success over the last decade was not because they were more talented, it was because they were more efficient.  A major part of that efficiency was not giving the ball away.  That changed this season.  Woodall was the biggest culprit and he will be the main ball handler again next season.  But as I previously stated, it's likely that Robinson will handle a good portion of the ball handing next season, and he protects the ball with his life.  The next two biggest culprits are Robinson and Gibbs, and both will be gone.  John Johnson has also been adept at protecting the ball and as of now he will be the starting two.

7.  Better defense-  This one is simple.  Neither Gibbs nor Robinson were even mediocre defensively while Adams and Robinson are both excellent defensively.  The very fact that Pitt will have a center and a point guard who are excellent defenders will go a long way in making the entire defense better.

Summary-  Don't get me wrong.  I'm saying that the Panthers are guaranteed to be a top ten team again next year.  But I do think they will be an NCAA team again.  That may sound crazy considering the two top scorers are graduating, but there is much more to basketball than scoring.  I don't mean to continue to dump on Gibbs and Robinson, but because they are the two main players on this team, this season was doomed from the beginning.  Gibbs was a very good player for three years, but he checked out last year.  Robinson was overmanned.  Neither can play defense, neither are highly talented athletically, and neither  are vocal leaders.  That's not who you want leading your team.  And in basketball, where there are only five players on the floor at once, two players can make a big difference.

Who will be the new leaders?  That's the question.  Woodall, Patterson, and Taylor are probably the best bets, but it remains to be seen.  Adams and Robinson have the charisma that true leaders have but they will be freshmen.  And the team is still without an ideal shooting guard or power forward so that's another problem.

But Pitt is always a perfect example of the phrase "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts".  A seven footer here, a tough ball handler there, a little more experience throughout, and a chance to regroup with a much better attitude.  Put it all together and I think the Panthers are a top 25 team again.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Update on Pitt basketball recruiting

2012:


Kaza Keane, Christian Faith Center Academy (Creedmor, NC) -  Why are the Panthers recruiting the 6'2" 180 pound point guard from Toronto when they already have James Robinson?  Obviously Pitt would love to have two excellent point guards but who has that luxury?  And why would the top point guard from Canada come to Pitt when they already have their point guard of the future?  If Jamie Dixon convinces Keane to come in as a combo guard who will see the floor a lot then that's one thing, and while he's still not the two guard size Pitt needs, he does have the skills to play the position.  He is a consistently good three point shooter, a good defender, and excellent quarterbacking skills (though sometimes he gets unnecessarily flashy with his passes).  Having he and Robinson on the court at the same time could be very good.  Though Pitt hasn't offered yet (despite reports), Dixon has been watching him a lot lately since Keane recently reclassified to 2012.  He is taking the SAT in March but does have a 3.2 GPA so eligibility shouldn't be a problem.

Sheldon Jeter, Beaver Falls HS (Beaver Falls, PA)-  The Panthers aren't looking for a three right now, but it's not often that a high major prospect is in their area.  And now that the 6'8" 215 pound Jeter has gotten stronger and bigger he could be an ideal "mobile 4" that Pitt likes, due to his ability to shoot, pass, and handle.  Pitt has not offered yet, but Dixon is monitoring closely.  Wisconsin, Penn State, and South Carolina have offered.

Andrew Young, Monterey Peninsula College (Monterey, CA)-  Now this would be an interesting addition.  Young is a 6'9" 235 pound power forward prospect from the west coast who is dominating the California junior college circuit.  He was an athletic 6'6" high school slacker in high school so he got no offers.  Instead of sulking he went to Monterey Peninsula and developed into a 6'9" man child with a 3.9 GPA.  Young is athletic, can defend, run, and step out and shoot from time to time.  As a low post passer, he is exceptional which is exactly what Pitt looks for in their fours.

Young was born in Eugene, OR but moved to Monterey during high school.  He is open to leaving the west coast and playing in both the Big East and ACC has to be a helluva sales pitch.  With Khem Birch moving on there is a spot for a true four (Talib Zanna and Dante Taylor do not have the power forward skills that Pitt covets) and Young would be an exciting option.  Many big time programs are watching him and when his season ends in two weeks, things will start to get serious.  One of those who may be there waiting to talk to him could be Pitt who has already been out to watch him in person.

Torian Graham, Christian Faith Center Academy (Creedmoor, NC)-  The much travelled guard recently enrolled in his fourth school which obviously raises red flags.  As a player, the 6'4" 175 pound shooting guard has star potential.  Graham is a consistent deep threat, long armed, a good ball handler, and can flat out dunk on anybody or anything that stands in his way.  He committed to NC State at one point then said it was too soon.  Not long ago he committed again but almost as quickly rescinded the verbal commitment.  While that may look a little flakey, it's believed that as soon as he was committed the second time, he was told that his academics would prevent NC State from taking him at that time.  It's believed that he still wants to join the Wolf Pack's great recruiting class, but Pitt is one of a handful of schools monitoring his academics just in case NC State decides to cut the chord.  He also may have to be reclassified to 2013, but the Panthers are right to do their due diligence on him.  It would take a lot of things to happen for him to fall Pitt's way, including being able to get into Pitt academically, but his off the charts talent is worth the effort.

Chris Jones, Teaneck HS (Teaneck, NJ)-  As of just a month ago, Jones was seen as a low- or mid-major prospect.  But recently bigger schools have become interested in the 6'5" 190 pound sleeper.  He can shoot, is has good athleticism, and has great length to play the two.  Most of all, he has that certain "it" factor, not only as a player but as a leader and person, that makes many evaluators think he could develop into a gem down the road.  Dixon has been watching him closely lately.

 2013:

Austin Colbert, Hotchkiss School (Lakeville, CT)-  The New Jersey native has many attributes that Pitt desires at the four.  He is long and lanky at 6'9" and 205 pounds, he can run the floor well, plays good defense, is a superior shot blocker, and can shoot out to 15 feet.  But he obviously needs to get stronger and his rebounding needs work.  Too often he stays outside of the paint. If he ever gets stronger and more aggressive he could be a helluva of a player. He is also a high character person and a great student.  Pitt has offered as has Georgetown, Seton Hall, Miami, and Xavier are some of his offers.

Beejay Anya, DeMatha Catholic HS (Hyattsville, MD)-  If there was ever a kid who was meant to be a Pitt center, it's this beast.  At 6'8" and 265 pounds, he is a monster who is simply too strong and wide for anybody to push out of the blocks.  If that's not impressive enough, his well documented wingspan is an absurd 7'9".  Before the last few months, that was not enough to make Anya a top 50 prospect because athletically he lacked mobility and explosion.  But both of those traits have improved a lot lately thanks to a big weight loss, and now he is considered a top 20 prospect.  He has been offered not only by Pitt but also Georgetown, Maryland, Ohio State, Syracuse, Texas, UCLA, Louisville, Kansas and many more.  But Anya is close friends with teammate, and incoming Pitt point guard, James Robinson, who is already recruiting Anya hard.  A lot may depend on what the status of Steven Adams is at the time.  If he is still a projected lottery pick that appears to be moving on after one year, then that would no doubt appeal to Anya.  If Adams is staying around then Pitt's chances will probably be nil.

Mike Young, Hudson Catholic HS (Jersey City, NJ)-  This rugged 6'8" 210 pound power forward reminds me a lot of Talib Zanna in that he may not have a huge upside, but he's solid in a lot of errors and should be at least a solid contributor at a high major program.  His ruggedness and strength are his best features and he also displays a solid inside game with decent athleticism and strong hands. Rebounding is his main strength.  He is a Pittsburgh native who went to Hudson Catholic to improve his game, and Pitt has offered, as has West Virginia, Florida, Seton Hall, Rutgers, and Miami.

Kris Jenkins, Gonzaga College HS (Washington, DC)-  Before the season, this power forward was a lightly recruited tweener.  Now he's one of the fastest risers in the country who at 6'5" and 250 pounds has a unique set of skills that has made him nearly impossible to guard lately.  His girth is an obvious asset in the paint where his size and athleticism makes him a force, but he can also be a deadly three point shooter, and recently made 6 out of 6 in one game.  Penn State, Rutgers, Miami, Xavier, Seton Hall, and Virginia Tech are some of his offers, but Pitt has been watching him closely for the past few weeks.

Rondae Jefferson, Chester HS (Chester, PA)-  A top 20 talent, Jefferson is best suited as a three, but the 6'6" 200 pound lefty wants to play the point.  His outside shot is mediocre right now so that may be asking a lot, but he has an excellent handle, great length, and is a great slasher through the lane.  If Pitt can convince him to play the two where they have a dire need, then maybe he'll go for it.  But the competition for his services will be fierce.  Pitt has been recruiting hard for a long time and he comes from the same school as Nasir Robinson.  His brother is a junior who plays at Temple.  Bottom line, he is a hardworking, versatile talent that that is a perfect fit for Pitt.  Now Dixon just has to convince him of that.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Early PA top 10 list for 2013

1.  Robert Foster, Central Valley HS (Monaca) WR-  Pound for pound, considered the best prospect in the state by any competent talent evaluator.  Excellent 6'2" size but will have to add some weight to his 180 pound frame.  When officially timed he will probably run a 4.5 40 at the moment, but that should improve in college to a 4.45.  Even if it doesn't, game speed is not Foster's problem.  He is one of those players, like Jerry Rice, who may not be a speed demon when clock timed, but that nobody can seem to cover.  Part of that is because of his off the charts quickness, and part of it is because he has the natural elusiveness and running technique that the great game breakers have.

Foster is one of the top three receiver prospects in the country and game breakers of his stature will always get a lot of offers.  Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Florida, Oregon, USC, and Florida State are some of the offers and he'll probably have over 50 eventually.

I still think Pitt is the favorite as long as they match the effort that Ohio State is already showing.  Beaver County players are all close and they are all at Pitt. Foster is best friends with Todd Thomas, Rushel Shell, Chandler Kincade, Dravon Henry, etc., and all are either at Pitt or expected to go to Pitt.  Foster wants to feel comfortable wherever he goes and it's common sense that being close to home with his friends is as comfortable as you can get.  If the Panthers falter at all, I expect him to go to Ohio State.  I would be extremely surprised if he goes anywhere other than those two.

2.  Adam Breneman, Cedar Cliff HS (Camp Hill) TE-  While Foster is the undisputed best prospect in the state, Breneman is a very close second.  In fact, he is a more unique talent than Foster because he is the new breed of tight end, players like Rob Gronkowski, Vernon Davis, and Jimmy Graham, whose combination of size and speed makes them practically impossible to defend.

At 6'5" and 220 pounds, he will need to add weight, but his great hands, speed, and length makes him a player that can be devastating in the passing game.  He's also a high character kid who wants to work hard to reach his very high ceiling.

Breneman lives in central PA and is a huge Penn State fan.  Normally he would seem like a Penn State lock, and he there's still a very good chance that he will end up there.  But like all of Penn State's recruiting in the near future, one has to wonder if the present controversy will prevent Breneman from going there.  If it doesn't bother him, then they're the obvious favorite.  If he gets influenced by the media and other coaches who will continually bring up the controversy, and decides that he doesn't want to deal with any potential blowback, then I can see him going to Notre Dame.  No matter how you look at it, though, Breneman will have many options with Pitt, Penn State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Miami, and Georgia are just some of his many offers, and it's a list that continues to grow.

3.  Patrick Kugler, North Allegheny HS (Wexford) OG-  Foster and Breneman aren't the only truly elite prospects as Kugler is pretty much right up there with them.  At 6'5" and 270 pounds, he needs to get bigger, but he has the great frame to do so.  To go with his great length, he also has great feet.  He needs to get physically stronger and hit the weight room, but overall he is an excellent football player already, and not just a lineman who projects to be a good football player some day.  A lot of that has to do with his great techniques thanks to his father, Sean Kugler, who is the current offensive line coach of the Steelers.

He has offers from Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Florida State, Miami, Virginia tech, Tennessee, Stanford, Stanford, Boise State, Washington, and South Carolina already and many more will follow.  But this is one player that Pitt can't afford to lose and quite frankly there's no reason to lose him.  They have maybe the best college offensive line coach in the country in Bob Bostad right down the road and Kugler's father will surely know that.

4.  David Williams, (Philadelphia) RB-  Williams played this past season at West Catholic HS in Philadelphia, one of the biggest talent producers in the state in recent years, but the school is closing.  As of now, Williams has not decided which school he will play for next year.  Whoever gets him is in for a treat, though.

Williams is a solid 6'0" and 185 pounds but could easily add another 20 pounds of muscle in the future.  He runs strong, and actually despite his lack of big size, he often runs between the tackles.  But without a doubt his legit 4.4 speed and elite quickness and athleticism are his best traits.

Running backs with the ability to run both inside the tackles and have breakaway speed are obviously in high demand and Pitt, Notre Dame, Wisconsin,  Rutgers, Virginia, South Carolina, Arizona, and Arizona State are some of his offers.  He was big on Pitt when the previous staff was there, but now with them gone and Rushel Shell in the program they are probably long shots now.  If I had to guess, I think he will leave the state.

5.  Justin Moody, George Washington HS (Philadelphia) DT-  Defensive linemen are at a premium, especially ones that are as talented at this kid.  That's why it's hard to understand why this 6'3" 265 pound tackle only holds a Rutgers offense at this time.  Not only is he fast and athletic, but he is a highly productive player who is simply relentless on the field.  He's also proved his physical talents at various combines in the eastern part of the state and should excel at bigger camps and combines this spring.  His mentor is former George Washington star Shariff Floyd, the former No. 1 PA player who is now at Florida, so if the Gators eventually offer, they could be the favorite.


6.  Tyler Boyd, Clairton Area HS (Clairton) S/WR-  Yet another elite prospect, Boyd has been an absolute terror in PA high school football over the last two seasons for the powerhouse Clairton Bears.  At 6'1" and 160 pounds, he needs to gain 40 pounds or so in the future, but he has legit 4.4 speed and superior athleticism.  He can project as a safety or wide receiver, and he could also be an excellent kick and punt returner.

Being from a small school, his offer list may never be as large as it should be but Pitt, Virginia Tech, Boston College, and Arizona have thrown their hats in the ring and more will follow.  Pitt has had a pipeline to Clairton so they have to be considered a major contender but if an elite program outside of the state comes at him hard I can definitely see him leaving the area.

7.  Dorian Johnson, Belle Vernon Area HS (Belle Vernon) OT-  One of the fastest rising recruits in the east and there's no reason why he doesn't keep going up in stature.  Great 6'6" length with superb footwork.  Has all the makings of an elite left tackle at the next level once he adds to his 275 pound frame.  Extremely mobile and can really move down the field well.  Pitt, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Boston College, and Cincinnati are some of his early offers but once coaches see him run at combines this spring, I expect his offer list to rise sharply.

As for where he ends up, Pitt is the obvious favorite.  He's already said he's a Pitt fan and the Panthers main recruiter, Joe Rudolph, is a Belle Vernon alum.

8.  Mike McGlinchey, William Penn Charter School (Philadelphia) OT-  A left tackle with a big wingspan is what every football team wants and you can't get much bigger than the 6'8" McGlinchey.  He is only 280 pounds so he has a lot of weight to gain to fill out that long frame, but he can move well and even plays basketball and lacrosse.  Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, Rutgers, Boston College, and Maryland are some of his early offers and right now his future destination is totally up in the air.

9.  Scott Orndoff, Seton-LaSalle HS (Pittsburgh) TE-  To be honest, he's been a Wisconsin commit for a few months so many haven't really looked closely at him closely but he has since opened up his recruitment and I finally got a chance to see his film.  All I can say is wow, I had no idea how good this kid was.  Kudos to the former Wisconsin, and current Pitt, assistant coach Joe Rudolph, for finding this under the radar tight end because the ceiling on this kid is amazing.

At 6'5" and 250 pounds, he is big and getting bigger, but what makes him special is that he runs like a wide receiver with good speed and exceptional athleticism and running ability.  Orndoff was a former quarterback at Seton-LaSalle and is fast enough to run the 100m and 200m in track.  He is also an excellent blocker and has huge hands.

It's conceivable that he could stay at Wisconsin but with Rudolph at Pitt, not to mention the tight end friendly offense of Paul Chryst, you have to think that he could very well stay at home and go to Pitt.  If he does then Pitt has a potential star in the making.

10. Alex Anzalone, Wyomissing Area HS (Wyomissing) LB-  Already a solid 6'3" and 210 pounds but has a frame that can hold a lot more weight.  The first thing you notice with him is his speed.  This kid can flat out fly and as a running back he routinely breaks long runs where he makes the defenders look like they're standing still.

He has eight offers already, including Virginia, Rutgers, Northwestern, Maryland, and Boston College, but expect bigger programs to get involved.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Could Pitt's new starting QB be Danny O'Brien?

Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien is reportedly looking to transfer.  The 6'3" 215 pound O'Brien is a former ACC Rookie of the Year and Freshman All-American after he threw for 2,438 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions in 2010.

Via twitter, O'Brien stated that "Contrary to rumor, I'm still a Terp".  Technically, while true, most observers point out that O'Brien didn't say he will continue to be a Terp in the near future.  In fact, it is believed that O'Brien, a third year sophomore, can graduate after the spring semester ends on May 20.  At that time O'Brien can become a graduate transfer and will not have to sit out a year if he wants to play for another school.  If he transfers before he graduates he would have to sit out a year.

O'Brien's sophomore year was not as successful, but most people associated with Maryland football feels it has to do with the change of offense incorporated by new head coach Randy Edsall who went from pro-style to the spread.  O'Brien had trouble in the offense and his production dropped.  To make matters worse,  Maryland's talent plummeted (24 transfers and counting since Edsall was hired), including the departure of No. 1 draft pick receiver Torrey Smith.  Then on Nov. 12 O'Brien broke a bone in his upper, non-throwing arm.

While it's still way too early to know if Pitt will be a contender for O'Brien, the list of suitors is expected to be long.  O'Brien is a very good quarterback who could be NFL caliber if developed properly.  Needless to say, this is the perfect time to have Paul Chryst, who is known as an offensive genius, and just came off a highly successful season with another graduate transfer, Russell Wilson.

O'Brien's addition to the Panthers would obviously be huge.  Even though he would miss Pitt's spring practice, he would almost assuredly start the season opener or not long after.  It would also allow Chad Voytik to redshirt one year and serve as backup in another.  By the time he would start he would be a third year sophomore and could presumably hit the ground running on the way to being a potential three year starter.

The school that may be the biggest obstacle for the Panthers could be Vanderbilt, whose head coach, James Franklin, was the offensive coordinator for Maryland during O'Brien's big redshirt freshman season.  O'Brien is very close to Franklin and reportedly even helped Franklin pack his desk when he got the Vanderbilt job.  He is also comfortable with Franklin since he knows he was already successful for him in the past.  But Vanderbilt already has six quarterbacks on the roster next season, not including O'Brien.  It's unknown whether or not that would have an effect at all on O'Brien's decision.  Another factor helping Vanderbilt is that O'Brien is a business major and the school has one of the business schools in the country.

An even bigger obstacle could be Maryland itself, who could possibly deny a transfer to a future ACC opponent, especially one that could develop into a big rivalry.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

South Florida 63 Pittsburgh 51

Well, it's not officially over yet, but unless Pitt goes on an unreal tear, they will not be playing in the NCAA tournament this year.

Tray Woodall was the leading scorer with 11 points and he became the only Panther to get into double figures in the last minute, on an uncontested layup.  He also had 5 rebounds, just 2 assists, and 4 fouls.

Ashton Gibbs played very poorly and came away with just 4 points on 2-9 from the floor.  Amazingly he attempted just one three pointer (and missed), and had no free throw attempts.  What a total lack of leadership when the team needs it most.

J.J. Moore came off the bench for 9 points, while Nasir Robinson added 8 points and 4 rebounds, and Talib Zanna had 8 points and 5 rebounds.

The Panthers shot 34.6% from the floor while USF shot an incredible 57.5%, thanks to the Panthers matador defense in the lane.

Pitt is now 15-10 overall and 4-8 in the Big East.  The next game is noon Sunday at Seton Hall.

Bears name an OL coach

And that coach is former Tampa Bay coach Tim Holt.  That means Bob Bostad is staying, which is obviously great news.

Two football notes

As expected, OG Chris Jacobson is getting a rare sixth year of eligibility due to the fact that he lost the majority of two seasons due to injury.  This is good news not only for Jacobson but also for the program, who needs all the help it can get.

Scott Orndorff, the 6'4" 250 pound class of 2013 tight end from Seton-LaSalle HS in Pittsburgh, committed to Wisconsin months ago.  However, now he is opening up his recruitment again.  New Pitt QB coach Joe Rudolph was the person responsible for recruiting Orndorff to Wisconsin so I think any rational person can put two and two together to see that there's a good possibility that Orndorff could be a Pitt Panther in the future.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Eddie Faulker leaves Pitt

Eddie Faulkner was hired to be Pitt's new RB coach but he didn't last long.  He's now off to his alma mater, Wisconsin, where he will be the TE coach.  Personally, I find this to be a blessing in disguise because this is the perfect time to hire a coach with Maryland or New Jersey ties.  I don't know who that person is, but no more people with ties to Hawaii and Idaho.  Maryland and New Jersey is loaded.  I would find the best person I can find for one of those two places and then hire him.  Getting into one of those areas, and actually both areas is essential but I'll take one for now, is crucial to the program.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Pittsburgh 79 Villanova 70

The Panthers will their fourth straight after losing eight straight, to go to 4-7 in the Big East and 15-9 overall.

This was the Tray Woodall show and right now I'm not sure he isn't better than Ashton Gibbs has ever been.  Woodall did have another ridiculous six turnovers, but he also had 29 points, thanks to 12-12 from the line and 3-6 from three, and also had 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals.

Gibbs chipped in 25 points himself thanks to 4-8 from three and 7-7 from the line.  He also had 3 turnovers.

Between them they scored 54 points, made 7 threes, and went 19-19 from the line.  But they also combined for 9 turnovers.

Off the bench, Dante Taylor had 9 points, the only points that the bench produced.  He also chipped in 5 rebounds.

Woodall and Gibbs were needed because the rest of the team shot a combined 8-27 from the field.  Lamar Patterson had 8 points and fouled out.  Talib Zanna had 4 points on 1-5 shooting but did chip in 8 rebounds.  Nasir Robinson was the worst of the starters with 4 points on 2-7 shooting, 4 rebounds, 3 turnovers, and 4 fouls.

Next up for the Panthers, they play at South Florida Wednesday night.  The Bulls are 4-1 in conference at home this season, including the last four.  The lone Big East loss at home was to UConn, by 3.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Curtis Martin and Chris Doleman elected into Hall of Fame

Hall of Famers by School:

Southern Cal   11
Notre Dame    10
Pittsburgh         8
Michigan          8
Ohio State        8
Alabama          7

This is why I get so upset when I hear media or college football fans scoff at Pitt having the ability to become a national power again.  The amount of excellent players that go through that university is unreal.  The only thing stopping Pitt from being a power is the desire of the university.  

Friday, February 3, 2012

Future ACC football divisions set

Atlantic Division:

Boston College
Clemson
Florida State
Maryland
North Carolina State
Syracuse
Wake Forest

Coastal Division:

Duke
Georgia Tech
Miami
North Carolina
Pittsburgh
Virginia
Virginia Tech

Syracuse is Pitt's primary partner meaning the school from the other division that they will play every year.

While there will be no divisions in basketball, Pitt's primary partner will be Maryland, which means they will play them home and home every year.  That will be good for recruiting purposes since Pitt often recruits in the Maryland area.

For football recruiting, playing against Virginia and Virginia Tech every year will be good because it opens up a fertile recruiting area.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Panthers interested in elite 2012 shooting guard

Torian Graham, a 6'4" shooting guard from Creedmor (NC) Christian Faith Academy, was twice considered an NC State commit, but twice changed his mind.  Now he has opened up his recruiting.  One of those teams interested is Pittsburgh.

Graham, a native of Durham, NC, is generally considered a top 50 prospect, and even more exciting for Pitt fans, he is the tall, highly athletic scorer that the Panthers have never had at the position. Graham has three point range and is known to be a high flying dunker.  But if the Panthers were to land Graham, they will have to fight for him.  He is still considering NC State and Louisville, Memphis, and Xavier are also pursuing hard.

Offensive Linemen possibilites for 2013

Dan Bell, Menomonee Falls HS (Menomonee, WI)-  Needs to add weight but at 6'6" and 275 pounds he has the frame to be as big as Bostad likes.  Bostad was already recruiting him for Wisconsin so he has already given his stamp of approval.

Damon Dillard, Marion-Franklin HS (Columbus, OH-  Bostad likes beefy linemen and you can't get beefier than 6'4" and 335 pounds.  He was also a teammate with Terrell Jackson this year so that's an in for the Panthers.

Alex Gall, Moeller HS (Cincinnati, OH)-  6'5" 295 pound mauler from one of the most legendary programs in the country.  Just receiver his first major offer, from Kentucky, with more to follow.

Andrew Geers, Neuqua Valley HS (Naperville, IL)-  Illinois is obviously not Pitt's normal recruiting area, but Geers was recruited heavily at Wisconsin when Bostad was there. He's 6'7" 280 pounds and is one of the best wrestlers in the state.

Derwin Gray, Dunbar HS (Washington, DC)-  Academically ineligible for beginning of this season, not as big as Bostad usually likes at 6'4" and 265 pounds, and Pitt almost never goes into Washington, DC.  So why is he listed? Because he's a helluva an athlete and is one of the best linemen in the east. His current offer list includes WVU, Rutgers, Ohio State, Nebraska, Tennessee, Auburn, North Carolina, and Clemson already.

Matthew Gray, Prattville HS (Prattville, AL)-  Giant kid who is listed at 6'6" and 305 pounds but looks even bigger.  He's an Army brat who has lived around the country, mostly in Texas. Was recruited by Wisconsin when Bostad was there.

Brad Henson, Monsignor Donovan HS (Tom's River, NJ)-  Another state that Pitt needs to hit, even if it's just for this kid.  At 6'5" and 280 pounds, he already has eight offers including WVU, Rutgers, Boston College, and Miami.  Bostad knows about him from when he was at Wisconsin.

Dorian Johnson, Belle Vernon HS (Belle Vernon, PA)-  Excellent 6'5" 270 pound frame and very good athleticism.  Pitt recently offered and WVU has too.  The Mountaineers want him badly.  Would be a great local to add.

Jaryd Jones-Smith, West Catholic HS (Philadelphia, PA)- Teammate of top Panthers RB target David Williams. At 6'7" and 295 pounds he has the frame that Bostad covets.

Patrick Kugler, North Allegheny HS (Wexford, PA)- Every Pitt fan knows about him by now.  His father is the Steelers OL coach so his technique is already very good. Currently at 6'5" and 265 pounds but look for him to be bigger next season. Has the frame to eventually be 300 pounds, or more.  Bottom line, Pitt simply can't lose this kid and there's no reason to.

Marcell Lazard, Bloomfield HS (Bloomfield, NJ)- Another reason that Pitt needs to get into the state. Great 6'6" 295 pound frame and already holds offers from the likes of Miami, Michigan, WVU, and Virginia.

Evan Lisle, Centerville HS (Centerville, OH)- One of the best lineman in the midwest, and if Ohio State offers, it will be virtually impossible to get him out of the state. At 6'6" and 265 pounds he already has offers from the likes of Oklahoma, Miami, and West Virginia.

Brendan Mahon, Randolph HS (Randolph, NJ)- Another big and talented Jersey lineman, the 6'5" 305 guard already has offers from Rutgers, UConn, and Boston College.

Steve Mathie, Glenoak HS (Canton, OH)- One of the best linemen in Ohio and already holds a UCLA offer.  At 6'5" and 275 he has great feet and athleticism.  Could see his recruitment skyrocket soon.

Xzavier McAllister, McKinley HS (Dayton, OH)-  Yet another excellent Ohio prospect and has the excellent 6'5" 310 pound size.  In fact, he is actually down in weight as he once ballooned to over 360 pounds.

Mike McGlinchey, William Penn Charter School (Philadelphia, PA)- Right now he may be the second best offensive lineman in PA after Kugler and his 6'8" 280 pound frame is right up Pitt's alley.  Already has offers from Boston College, Rutgers, Virginia, and Duke.  Bostad contacted him while at Wisconsin.

Kyle Meadows, Lakota West HS (West Chester, OH)-  Another Ohio lineman with great 6'5" 295 pound size, quick feet, and loads of potential. Louisville just offered and many more are interested.

Brandon Miller, Waterford HS (Waterford, WI)-  Big bodied kid at 6'5" and 295 pounds.  Was at Wisconsin's last summer camp when Bostad was there.

Dorian Miller, Metuchen HS (Metuchen, NJ)- The previous staff offered him but at 6'3" and 280 pounds he may not be what Bostad is looking for. That would be a shame because he is one of the best offensive linemen in the east.

Madison O'Connor, Pottsgrove HS (Pottstown, PA)-  Huge 6'6" 330 pounder that's perfect for the new Pitt style. Already visited Pitt under the previous regime and Wisconsin was interested in him, too.

Alexander Officer, Eastridge Senior HS (Rochester, NY)- Was offered by the previous coaching staff and as athletic as he is for 6'4" and 300 pounds there's no reason why the new staff won't be interested, too.

Jordan Page, Pennington Prep (Pennington, NJ)- Reclassified to '13 and has become a possible major prospect.  He's 6'5" 305, athletic, and his size 18 shoes means he's probably not done growing yet. Wisconsin was interested when Bostad was there so you would think he would be interested again.

Lovell Peterson, Wayne HS (Huber Heights, OH)- Another top lineman from Ohio, at 6'3" and 280 pounds, he doesn't have the great size Bostad likes but he's considered one of the best center prospects in the country. Illinois has offered. Ohio State may not let him leave.

Connor Riese, D.C. Everest HS (Schoefield, WI)-  Great 6'7" 300 pound size.  One of the better linemen prospects in the midwest.  Went to Wisconsin's summer camp before the season so Bostad knows about him.

Na'ty Rodgers, McDonough HS (Pomfret, MD)-  6'4" 260 is not the size that Pitt's looking for but he has the frame to gain a lot more.  His early offer list that includes USC, Washington, North Carolina, South Carolina, Rutgers, and Tennessee shows how good this kid is.

Christian Skrepenak, GAR Memorial HS (Wilkes Barre, PA)-  If Bostad wants big he won't get much bigger than this 6'9" 350 pound kid. He's the son of former Michigan offensive tackle Greg Skrepenak.

Elijah Wilkinson, Downingtown West HS (Downingtown, PA)- He's one of the better linemen in the state but he's playing in the Wing-T now.  Amazingly, at a very big 6'4" and 300 pounds he may be right at the cusp of what Bostad finds to be ideal.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How Pitt has improved and what they need in 2013

Quarterback:  Obviously this is a position of need in both talent and depth.  Chad Voytik is a breath of fresh air in terms of talent and leadership.  Ideally, he would be redshirted or at least play little.  Either way, he has the ability to play a lot of football for the Panthers.

2013:  Ideally the Panthers would land two quarterbacks, one elite level player and maybe a promising local kid who just wants to play for Pitt.  One intriguing option would be athletic 6'1" Ohio lefty Malik Zaire.  He will be a priority for Ohio State but with Braxton Miller only a sophomore and 2013 elite recruit Jalin Marshall being given a chance at the position, Zaire may decide to take his chances battling Voytik.  And he loves Paul Chryst and Joe Rudolph so it's not crazy to think the Panthers can't pull it off.


Running Back:  With Ray Graham coming back and Isaac Bennett and Malcolm Crockett among others returning, the position wasn't a dire need this season.  But that's okay because the Panthers went out and landed a potential superstar anyway in Rushel Shell.

2013:  Even with Graham moving on this is a good, young, deep unit, but you can never have enough.  Look for them to try to bring in at least one topnotch halfback and a fullback, since they don't have any on scholarship right now.


Wide receiver:  Chryst can utilize small receivers but because of Graham and even Wannstedt before him, he has a lot of them.  Too many, in fact.  Demetrious and Chris Davis are also small, but quick.  Demetrious, despite being 5-10" at most, has electrifying potential.  But the big receivers were absent.

2013:  Needless to say, some big NFL type receivers are needed.  Probably at least three.  And the state has some very good ones, led by Central Valley superstar Robert Foster.  Ohio State wants him badly but it's imperative that Pitt keeps him home.


Tight end:  Hubie Graham is returning as the starter and Brendan Carozzoni is a good, young talent.  The other TEs from last year, Anthony Gonzalez and Drew Carswell, could end up at different positions.  Adding J.P. Holtz was an excellent addition.

2013:  Chryst uses a lot of tight ends and Graham is moving on, so depending on how they handle Gonzalez and Carswell, they could use two tight ends next year.  The main target here obviously is PA's Adam Breneman, an elite prospect that could be an All-American at Pitt.  The competition for him will be fierce, but being close to home and with Chryst a master of tight ends, the Panthers have a legit chance.


Offensive Line:  Obviously this is a unit that needs huge help in talent and depth.  Adding Adam Bisnotawy was very beneficial and he has the type of talent that Bob Bostad can turn into a future All-American.  Gabe Roberts is a sleeper at guard who could develop in time.  But obviously that's not enough.

2013:  Expect at least five linemen here.  The biggest target is guard Patrick Kugler of North Allegheny.



Defensive Line:  A lot of seniors have departed and the depth is hurting.  It wasn't helped much by this class with only Terrell Jackson and Darryl Render coming in, and both of them are for more down the road.

2013:  At least four new linemen have to come in.


Linebacker:  The Panthers possess three good young linebackers in Juan Price, Todd Thomas, and LaQuentin Smith but many more will be needed.  Devon Porchia and Mike Caprara was added, and I do think Bam Bradley will end up there, too.  But more is still needed.

2013:  Look for at least three more to be added, with at least one hopefully talented enough and big enough to see time immediately.


Defensive Back:  Really the only truly deep unit on the team right now but you can never have enough defensive backs.  The Panthers took Deaysean Rippy as a safety and he could be a good one there.  Like I wrote earlier they list Bradley as a safety, too, but I doubt he stays there.  Jahmahl Pardner, Trent Cole, and Ryan Lewis were also added defensive backs this year.

2013:  The numbers will still be large but like I said you can never have enough.  I'd take three, with Clairton's Tyler Boyd being the top target.


Assuming there are 25 scholarships given, these are my projections:

Quarterback:  2
Running Back: 1
Fullback: 1
Wide Receiver: 4
Tight End: 2
Offensive Line:  5
Defensive Line:  4
Linebacker: 3
Defensive Back: 3