Monday, September 23, 2013

How I would make the defense better next year

1.  Possibly change the defensive coordinator- Yes, I said possibly. It's no secret that I didn't like the hiring of Matt House.  There were a lot of qualified coordinators available when House was hired but inexplicably Paul Chryst went with the inexperienced House. House may eventually be an excellent coordinator, but Chryst and his right hand man Joe Rudolph are offensive coaches and an experienced and proven defensive leader was needed, especially when the rest of the defensive staff was also inexperienced. In other words, Pitt doesn't have time for on the job training for the defensive coordinator.

I don't see Pitt demoting or firing House during the season, at least this early in the season, and it to be honest it would look bad if they do.  Now that he's the man he has to stay the man at least through the season. But if he continues to fail then he needs to be replaced with an experienced and competent coordinator. And to be clear I never said he would fail, and I'm not saying he will continue to fail. I just didn't see why Pitt would hire an unproven defensive coordinator when the head coach and his second in command would be of no help, and when the rest of the staff was equally inexperienced. It wasn't worth the risk.

I know many fans think the hiring of House was a money issue but if it was it would be a change for Pitt.  While they aren't the biggest spenders, they haven't been unusually cheap either.  Past coordinators like Matt Cavanaugh, Frank Cignetti, Jr., and Phil Bennett weren't cheap, and hiring Rudolph away from Wisconsin would cost some money, too.  In my opinion, Chryst has not hired well and Steve Pederson has let him.  Both are at fault for the questionable hiring of not only House but some other hirings on the staff also. And, yes, Pederson does have veto power, and has used it before.

2. Change the coaching staff up- Not only is House an unproven coordinator but Inoke Breckterfield and Chris Haering are just as unproven. With such little talent on the front seven, it doesn't help that the Panthers back it up with coaches who can't get the most out of what they have. And don't even get me started on what little recruiting help they are. The only defensive coach I would keep, should things not change, is veteran John Palermo. With House, Breckterfield, and Haering out, the Panthers can add veterans with recruiting ties in places like Florida, New Jersey, and the Virginia/North Carolina area. It's pointless to have Haering for recruiting in the WPIAL when Rudolph or Engram can do it, and Breckterfield's ties in Hawaii and Idaho are obviously pointless.

3.  Recruit better- This seems obvious, but the truth is that while the Panthers are adding some talented offensive prospects, the talent is seriously lacking on the defensive side. And it may get worse next year when Aaron Donald, Jason Hendricks, and K'Waun Williams will be gone from the defense.

Who will replace the few impact players on defense? Todd Thomas is a good player, but outside of him there are no obvious impact players in the front seven. Chryst and his staff have not brought in even one defensive lineman or linebacker who looks like he would definitely be a star. I'm not saying that out of players like Shakir Soto, Tyrique Jarrett, Luke Maclean, Justin Moody, Jeremiah Taleni, Rori Blair, Connor Dintino, Mike Herndon, and Shane Roy that somebody (or somebodies) won't eventually develop into a nice player, and I know that fans naturally think of the best case scenario with every prospect, but this isn't a group of highly coveted prospects. Put it this way, there's aren't any 6'4" 250 pound ends that got offers from Michigan and Penn State, or a 6'5" 290 pound tackle with offers from Miami and Georgia.  Of course that kind of prospect may not prove to be better than what Pitt has brought in, but your chances are better when you have more prospects with a pedigree.

Also, a few ready to start junior college players should have been recruited. Just look at some of the front seven junior college prospects: 6'3" 275 pound DaVonte Lambert chose Tennessee over Florida, Florida State, Miami, Georgia, and WVU; 6'4" 305 pound Abu Lamin chose South Carolina over Florida, Miami, and Georgia; 6'4" 275 pound Claudeson Pelon has offers from Wisconsin, Washington, Miami, and Nebraska.  Other defensive linemen or linebackers have already chosen Tennessee, USC, Kentucky, Auburn, and Miami.  If junior college players are good enough for these schools then there's no reason why Pitt doesn't get involved to get some instant help, especially since the staff can sell the fact that they would start immediately. And I'm not saying to load up on jucos. I'm talking about an end, a tackle, and a linebacker if possible. Instant defensive help only, though. The player must be a high impact player who could help immediately or there is no point in bringing them in.

4.  More speed in the secondary-  While Williams and Lafayette Pitts are solid corners both only have average speed for the position. That's why House had them playing so far off of the fast Florida State wide receivers. And Ray Vinopal, who combats his lack of size with his lack of speed, has obviously been a disaster at safety.

The best case scenario here is if Dravon Henry chooses the Panthers. He would immediately start at the corner. If Dontae Nicholson and/or Marquese Dudley-Gordon also commit then another true freshman will start at safety. At the other cornerback I would install Trenton Coles as the starter. He will only be a sophomore but at 6'3" he is a speed demon. At the other safety I would makes Pitts the starter, where his lack of elite speed won't be as much of a factor. Three new starters, three very fast players, and all talented. And with the possibility of adding Anthony Davis this year, and Jordan Whitehead and Kareem Gibson next year, the secondary has the chance to be phenomenal in the future.

63 comments:

  1. Sort of off topic but important. Tom Savage is up for another award...Currently he's in 2nd place. If he wins, that's more publicity for Pitt. Might not make a huge impact on recruiting but it certainly couldn't hurt. Vote here: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/feature/index?page=caponecup

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  2. On topic - good ideas chris. Agree that House is here at least for the season. Also agree that outside of Huxtable as DC and House as 2ndary coach (I think our DB's were pretty good...last year) and possibly Palermo, the defensive coaching staff hiring has been piss-poor. All we can do this year is Hope that House grows into the role and it doesn't cost us bowl-eligibility. As they said on ESPN - if we can find a defense, look out.

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  3. Well said and good analysis.
    If Chryst doesn't get rid of the 3 coaches (House, Haering, Beckerfield) at the end of this season (b4 bowl games) then that will be the undoing of Chyrst. Chryst will be gone after the 2014 season. Will Pederson step in, who knows.

    The longer those elite defensive wpial players wait, the better chances Pitt has in landing them. However, that is only IF defense coaching changes are made at the end of the season. I doubt any will commit until late December the earliest.

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    1. Pederson stepped in during the 2010_2012 fiasco. We need him to step out, not in.

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  4. I don't see any top front 7 recruits coming in this year but what about next year. Is there any difference makers that Pitt could realistically land.

    KRF

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  5. If they land Bookser can he switch to DL. We have Grimm, Johnson, Bis and possibly Jenkins in a year.

    KRF

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  6. Chris,
    All good points. But I'd take exception to the money issue. While those coordinators were not cheap Pitt hardly paid a price relative to other schools. Did any of these coordinators make over 350? Maybe close to it but another 150k could have secured Todd Orlando or another experienced and successful def coordinator. As it stands Pitt limits its options. It is hard to defend salaries when Pitt won't disclose them. If Pitt is getting under qualified and unsuccessful position coaches it is because finances truly limit their options or their business model says they are ok with occasional 8-9 win seasons. If it is the former I am ok with that as I don't want a bankrupt athletic dept like univ of maryland. If it is the latter reason than Pitt is not being honest with their consumer. But we don't know because Pitt won't publicly divulge. Both coordinators at the Univ Virginia make just over 500k each.

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    1. They didn't pay as much as the elite football programs pay but they paid the same as the other programs that aren't football factories.

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    2. "Past coordinators like Matt Cavanaugh, Frank Cignetti, Jr., and Phil Bennett weren't cheap"

      True, but didn't Wanny ask for a reduced salary so that more money was available to hire quality assistants like Cignetti and Bennett.

      MC

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  7. The defense was really, really bad in 2 games and pretty good in the other. Still early, but we have to wait and see...though I have my doubts.

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  8. The University of Washington has set an excellent example of what to do in very similar circumstances. Steve Sarkisian when hired as the HC from USC (offensive coordinator there) he brought along his coach-mate Nick Holt to be the DC. Nick Holt had a real good track record at USC as DC, so nothing but praise for the move at the time. But, Nick Holt as the UW DC was a washout, a total failure. Sarkisian then let his old comrade go, see you later. And went out and hired Justin Wilcox from Tennessee as his DC (at $700k/yr !!). If you are following the PAC 12 at all, you can see what he has done/is doing. UW now ranked 15.

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  9. Chris
    When players commit is it known who their primary recruiter was? Is that published any where? It would be interesting to know which coach recruited the players from last years class. What D coach can recruit?

    Also, Palermo does not get a pass. The staff game plans together. Plus, he coaches DE and LB. Not exactly a great performing bunch.

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  10. @Joe Bull--The defense wasn't very good in the New Mexico game--especially in the 2nd half. Also, New Mexico was by far the weakest of the three opponents--at least 17 points weaker than Duke per the Sagarin ratings. So, anything they might have done well defensively for a half vs New Mexico doesn't tell us anything about the potential of this defense to be better than it showed in game #1 and game #3.

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  11. Chris , I'm sorry but Utah state and UVA hardly qualify as football factories. Maryland pays their off coord/recruiting coordinator over 500k and that school's dept is the most bankrupt in the country.

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    Replies
    1. Pitt didn't lose out on Orlando because Utah State paid him more money. Come on. They simply wanted House instead of him.

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  12. Good analysis Chris. Pitt needs to do whatever is necessary to improve the defense. The offense is in good hands. With a good D, this team could really be something.

    Also, not to pile on the kid, but the line about Ray Vinopal making up for his lack of size with his lack of speed is very funny. I'm sure he's trying his best, but they've got to find someone better.

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  13. Reggie Mitchell might be an answer for safety next year

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  14. Chris,
    Does PC and House have a long history together is that why he is DC? Is House good at recruiting or do you get rid of him all together? Could he get demoted & still stick around as an assistant? Sorry for all the ??

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  15. chris you are the best keep the truth comeing maybe then pitt will have to do things
    the right way for football.

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  16. Not as knowledgeable or into it as you, Chris, but I read several preseason publications who predicted the opposite of what we're seeing: a bad offense and a defense that carries Pitt through the opening part of the season.

    Causing House to get bad marks are the games he's run as coordinator. In House's defense, the New Mexico game was locked up before the late scores and Duke - after watching the ESPN 3 telecast - it never seemed like the Dukies were really going to catch up.

    But Chryst's offense is flying. Certainly he should realize he needs to find a coordinator who knows his stuff and let him work.

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    Replies
    1. Tony, if Pitt had any sort of defense and remained in the FSU game, we would be discussing a potential top-25 team. With that defense, they may win 6 games.

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  17. Chris, what do you know about the recruitment of Dudley-Gordon? I saw you mentioned him in a tweet not too long ago as well as in this article, but I don't know anything about him. According to Rivals, he does not have a scholarship offer from Pitt. Thanks for any info.

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  18. 247 shows him with an offer don't know how accurate that is. plan b behind Nicholson. his tape looks a lot like bam bradley real head hunter

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  19. Quite honestly, I would be shocked if PC replaces or even demotes House. The only way House leaves is if he chooses to go elsewhere. PC will live or die with House that is just his style.

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    1. One thing you can count on. If our D continues to be bad, SP will be in PC's ear and will force changes. That is SP's style, that is what he does.

      Its hard to fathom the choices PC made when it came to his defensive hires. Its to bad he has very little contacts in the coaching business.

      PC is hard headed and stubborn. The change with House will take much longer than most are anticipating. Like I mentioned above, SP will be the one to force a change.

      Delete
    2. What SP does is mess up football programs that aren't at rock bottom already.

      Delete

  20. You're being too nice.

    ********
    Pitt is ranked last in the ACC in total (445 yards per game), passing (251) and scoring (41 points) defense and next-to-last against the run (194). Pitt is the only team in the conference to allow a score every time the opponent moves into the red zone (15 chances, 11 touchdowns, four field goals). -- Tribune Review

    ********
    PittofDreams

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  21. Chris,

    You criticize the personnel on this year's defense. But I would argue the abysmal performance we've witnessed is due to coaching much more than the apparent talent limitations.

    Maybe I'm wrong, but it's really about the same as last year in terms of players on the field.

    Yes, Jarred Holly was a big loss. Eric Williams too in terms of athleticism on the field. But, Hale, Taglianetti, Mason... not so much for different reasons.

    The way I look at it, basically the same players we're seeing running around this year... seemingly totallly lost at times... were coached well enough last year to rebound from early-season struggles to provide an admirable performance against the team that would eventually play for the National Championnship... and an assorted other beatdowns against Virginia Tech, Temple and Rutgers.. They also played well enough to give Pitt a chance against Louisville and Teddy Bridgewater if only the offense had come through on a couple of critical plays.

    No, it's not players... but House who is mainly responsible for Pitt's "Out-House D."

    PittofDreams

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  22. When Chryst assembled his staff there were hires I liked and didn't. First, I thought Haering was a great hire and would act as a great bridge between Chryst and the local WPIAL coaches. I couldn't have been more wrong. You hardly, if ever, hear his name as lead recruiter on ANY of the local talent. Bracketfield (sp) is a no-brainer and shouldn't be on the staff after this year. He can't recruit and certainly can't coach.

    After this year, I would bring in a new DC with ties to Florida. Pitt's had previous success recruiting in Fla and could be a nice landing spot for some recruits. Half of Louisville's team is Florida natives. Have you seen the most recent rankings? It's no secret that Florida has a ton of talent. Why not drive head first trying to get it?

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  23. Chris, why do we not see any Jahmahl Pardner this year? He was the starting nickle back as true freshman last year until he was injured.

    Also, I'm concerned about House if he keeps trotting Vinopal out there. Vinopal can't cover or tackle anyone. You have to see the problems before you can fix them. I know there are more problems than just #9, but it's a good place to start.

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  24. I say fire the defensive staff and hire Teryl Austin by paying whatever it takes and get some experience as far as the other position coaches. If Austin needs $800k, fine, take it from the extra $12 mil we get as part of the ACC, and then also hire a freaking ST coach.

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  25. The disparity in the qualifications of the offensive staff versus the defensive staff is remarkable ... and when you consider that the HC is an offensive guy, it is ASTOUNDING!

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  26. IMHO, switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 would help improve thew defense considerably this year. Put another big body in the middle (Jarrett maybe) and delete one of our small DEs in favor of the 4th linebacker. That would make it easier to control all these spread formation plays out on the perimeter. IMO, a base 4-3 without tall and strong DEs that can get penetration to disrupt plays designed to go outside is simply designed to fail.

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    1. You mean put another linebacker on the field? (just shoot me....) Who exactly?

      Maybe this guy from the music dept.

      http://www.wimp.com/dogmusician/

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  27. Don't look now, but PSU has just been granted more FB scholarships next year because they have done well in monitoring the athletic program.
    Pitt recruiting PA will really take a turn for the worse now.

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  28. increase of five for next year. Still at 15 this year as I understand it. The question is EE next year.

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    Replies
    1. I read 20 for 2014 class and total of 70 for 2014/15 season.
      Which means they will go hard for Bookser and Nicholsen.

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    2. They already were going hard after Nicholson and Bookser will go to Pitt or Ohio State.

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  29. All the woes of lack of speed in the secondary and lack of strength/penetration on the line can be laid at the feet of the S&C coach. Rehire Buddy Morris. Don't know how many times I can say it. Losing him was worse than losing the Stache, and getting rid of him was the most damaging thing Todd graham did.

    Strength and Conditioning is an integral part of college football, and not enough attention is paid to it.

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  30. Buddy Morris is so awesome no other team hired him when Pitt fired him and his ego.
    There are literally thousands of men and women that can do that job just as well or better including Pitt's current strength coach.

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    Replies
    1. Ego or not Buddy is one of the best. WAAAAY better than the current S&C coach Todd Rice.

      They approach S&C in completely different ways, and Buddy's is better for football. There shouldn't even be any discussion on this topic. Pitt looks soft. They never looked soft with Buddy in charge of S&C.

      You know who else looked soft? BC and UNC when Todd Rice was running their programs.

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    2. Hurriquake,
      Was it you that called Todd Rice the "yoga instructor".
      But I do agree Todd Rice is not a good S&C. He was suppose to be about conditioning. Quite frankly, 4th qtr, Pitt looked tired.

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    3. It was a 58-55 game. Of course they were tired.

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  31. ....and while we hire back Buddy Morris we have to bring back every other coach with Pittsburgh ties. Austin, Lewis, Bradley, Orlando, Wannstedt.
    Cone on folks, there actually is a world outside of Pittsburgh where qualified people exist.

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  32. Current players, former players, current recruits, former coaches; what do they all have in common? None of them can trust Coach House. None of them believe in Coach House as a DC or DB coach. All agree his demote you to 2nd team without any explanation tactics are something not becoming of a man. All agree he's bad for the Pitt football program now and moving forward. All the highly ranked W.P.I.A.L. defensive recruits for the classes of 2014 &2015 have plans on going somewhere other than Pitt, thanks to Coach House

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    Replies
    1. Dang, I wish I was just like you and knew what all these folks think about Coach House. Give it a rest bro; you don't know, and couldn't possibly know what's in the minds of coaches and recruits.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous September 24, 2013 at 6:58 PM

      Not true. Most do not have an opinion one way or the other. That is pure propaganda on your part. One thing that was mentioned was the sloppy tackling. Duke was getting more yards after the initial contact resulting in some big plays.

      Delete
    3. No need to explain anything to you D Winters. Try reaching out to players that play for coach House or people that coached with him yourself and see the response you get. As far as the recruits, time will tell you the truth that you are in denial about.

      Delete
    4. Seems odd in that Dokish reports the opposite, that Pitt is still strong with the main two, Henry and Nicholson.

      I'll trust his word over that of a bored Hoopie or Nitter on a message board.

      Delete
    5. You're right, you don't need to explain anything to me. Anyone who ridiculously claims to speak for all has nothing I need to hear.

      Delete
    6. Dang D Winters, House was promoted after a 2 month search where allegedly several more qualified candidates were interviewed. Upon his hiring, many of us, and especially Chris, were incredulous.

      What is particularly disturbing is that PC is an offensive coach and has highly qualified offensive assistants. Thus, IT WAS IMPERATIVE THAT HE HIRE AN EXPERIENCED, QUALIFIED DC.

      Instead, PC now has one experienced defenisve coach who was brought out of retirement, and the rest of the defensive staff have a collective experience of 10 years.

      It is not hard to predict that the defense would stink on ice despite the fact 8 starters returned!

      Delete
    7. I wasn't happy with the House hire either, and the results are disastrous so far. My issue with you isn't about House, it's that you presumed to know what all the recruits, coaches, etc are thinking.

      That was a ridiculous statement. You can't claim to know what's going on inside the heads of all the recruits, coaches, etc. That is unless you're a member of the Psychic Friends Network.

      Delete
    8. D Winters,

      We're not talking about NFL players, we're talking about high school players who are very easily accessible, (I.e. Twitter and Facebook DM). Former players, some who are also coaches are also easily accessible and willing to talk when it comes to the state of Pitt Football.

      So once again, if you tried to reach out to the people these recruits speak to when it comes to making decisions, you would know for yourself.

      Delete
  33. Among so many problems with the D that has already been mentioned a few startling stats stick out:
    6 drives of 65 yards or more by Duke using a second tam QB and opposing team has scored every time they enter the red zone. I don't think Pitt has ever had a defense this bad.

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  34. Pitt Safety Jason Hendricks points to the new responsibilities being laid on linebackers as the main source of problems in adapting to the changes Matt House has made to the Pitt defense..

    From the Post Gazette's Sam Werner...

    "The linebackers, they have different jobs, different fits, the language is a little different, but I think the guys are working hard to get better at it," he (Hendricks) said.

    PittofDreams

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    Replies
    1. POD,
      I think that is a crock of BS. Just plain excuses. Did you happen to notice 8 returning starters from last year that many people thought was a good defense? They are playing a 4-3 defense just like last year.
      The only change has been a new DC!

      Delete

    2. Joe,

      I think Hendricks criticism points directly at House.

      It may not just be House's schemes but also his inability to motivate players to perform up to the level we saw at times last year under Huxtable.

      PittofDreams

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    3. Yeah. You know more than Jason Hendricks about the inner workings of the Pitt defense... Good grief.

      Delete
  35. Chris, You wrote How you would make the Defense better next year.
    What would you do to make the Defense.......better THIS year ?

    Imo, we need to go to a 3 man line, with the huge Tyrique Jarrett at 340 lbs, at NT.
    Easily makes him the biggest guy by almost 40 lbs on Pitt's D-Line. Both Ezell and especially Donald would be better on the Ends, since they're not as easily double-teamed. Donald was All BigEast his soph year in the 2011, in the 3-4 Defense as a DE. Which is where he'd play in the NFL, so it behooves him too.

    Also Ejuan Price showed some promise as a standup rush LB in that 3-4 Defense in 2011. He is way undersized to play in a 3 point stance.

    Also I see nothing from Durham to suggest he should be playing, undersized, not athletic, no speed. And Murphy has never shown much in 3 years. Not losing much by putting those 2 on the bench.

    Your thoughts ???

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    Replies
    1. You can't change from a 4-3 to a 3-4 in the middle of the season. And with the linebackers the worst part of the team I don't know why they would want more of them on the field anyway.

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  36. Ty Ezell at defensive end?? No Way. The guy can't move. Pitt needs to do better with someone else at Ezell's tackle position.

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  37. they may have to play 3-4 if they get any more DL injuries

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  38. It really is simple

    1. Chryst likes to be surrounded by his buddies, does not want anyone rocking the boat
    2. Hux was too "abrasive' for mild mannered Chryst. He yelled at player
    3. Hux also slept in his office. So in Chryst's mind he was showing up the rest of the staff by putting in more time on the job
    4. So Chryst forces Hux out, and installs video guy House as his replacement, to go along with inexperienced and clueless haering (another Chryst crony) and inoke (useless in recruiting and coaching)

    And the results speak for themselves. Unless Chryst wakes up real fast, he will find himself out on the street in 2 years when Nordy and Sp are gone and a new AD is in place

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