Thursday, February 20, 2014

2015 Pitt Recruiting Preview- Defensive Backs

Where the position stands now:

Longtime starters K'Waun Williams and Jason Hendricks are gone, but that's not the only changes here. After a disappointing season by the secondary, there's a new leader of the unit. New defensive backs coach Troy Douglas has been around for a long time and is well respected, but he may really have his work cut out for him with this bunch.

At cornerback, junior Lafayette Pitts had a poor second season after a very impressive freshman season. It's safe to say that he will be Douglas' pet project next season because his return to form is essential. Battling Pitts for a starting spot are sophomores Trenton Coles and Titus Howard. Both, like Tyler Boyd, are former Clairton Bears, and both are long, athletic, and fast. Coles is 6'3", an incredible height for a corner, and he can fly. Howard is 6'1" and is highly athletic. Douglas has to be excited about such potential for both, but they both need to add strength and weight so that they can remain healthy.

Also in the mix at corner are redshirt sophomore Jahmahl Pardner, and true freshmen Avonte Maddox and Phillipie Motley. Both Motley and Maddox are small, but both can fly. Maddox may get some playing time if he ends up returning punts and burns a redshirt.

At safety, it's pretty apparent how the Panthers have failed to recruit well at the position, because both starters may be transfers. Often maligned senior Ray Vinopal was a train wreck in the first half of the season, but in the second half he started making some big plays. He still has to improve even more, though. At the other safety, redshirt sophomore Reggie Mitchell transferred from Wisconsin and he is currently pencilled in as the probable starter.

Two other returnees who will compete at safety are redshirt sophomore Ryan Lewis and sophomore Terrish Webb, while Patrick Amara and Jalen Williams are incoming freshmen.


Future recruiting:

The unit needs a lot of talent and depth added, and it didn't help that the Panthers missed out on top local defensive backs Dravon Henry and Montae Nicholson. There are some excellent defensive backs that the staff has a chance with, and they really need to land more than one of them.

First the players that were offered that Pitt has no chance with. Minkah Fitzpatrick of St. Peter's Prep (Jersey City, NY) may be the best cornerback prospect in the country, but he's not going to end up at Pitt.  Neither are Marcus Lewis of Gonzaga College HS (Washington, DC), John Reid of St. Joseph's Prep (Philadelphia, PA), Rashard Causey of St. Thomas Aquinas HS (Fort Lauderdale, FL), Jay Stocker of Coatesville (PA) HS, Jordan Cronkrite of Westminster Christian HS (Palmetto Bay, FL), and Jalen Christian of Damascus (MD) HS.

That's a lot of big misses but there's still some very good players left.  The obvious one is 5'10" 165 pound cornerback Jordan Whitehead of Central Valley HS (Monaca, PA). I would't consider Pitt a favorite for him, however, and the lack of recruiting in Beaver Valley may continue to kill the program. Also locally, but one step down, is 5'10" 165 pound cornerback Kareem Gibson of Johnstown (PA) HS. He's a very athletic cover corner and would be a good addition. A cornerback possibility at the same level as Whitehead is 5'11" 175 pound Kareem Ali of Timber Creek HS (Sicklerville). Normally Pitt wouldn't be in the running for such a highly coveted cornerback but he's best friends with recently signed wide receiver Adonis Jennings, who also played at Timber Creek, and he has since expressed interest in the Panthers. A sleeper who is becoming less of a sleeper by the week is 5'11" 170 pound Nick Coleman of Archbishop Alter HS (Kettering, OH), a speedster who is teammates with major defensive tackle target Kraig Howe.

At safety, the major target is 6'3" 200 pound Daiquan Kelly of Union City (NJ) HS. His size and athletic ability are exactly what the Panthers need at the position. If he committed today it would probably be to Pitt, but with more offers, things obviously could change. And he's an excellent talent so he will get more major offers. Also offered is under the radar 5'11" 175 pound Ronnie James of Glassboro (HS) NJ. He's teammates with Pitt's top wide receiver target Juwan Johnson.


Bottom line:

Like I said to start, this unit needs a lot of help. The Clairton kids, all three of them, should not have seen the field yet. They fared well considering their youth, but right now they are pretty much just raw athleticism. The same goes for freshmen like Amara, Maddox, and Motley. But they aren't elite prospects and they will take some time to develop.  As far as the safeties, even the starters aren't difference makers. The program is being hurt by a lack of quality recruiting over a few year period. The staff can't let this happen again which is why adding players like Whitehead, Ali, and Kelly are essential.





80 comments:

  1. Is there a chance that offensive prospects like Ziese or a RB prospect not certain of playing time can make an impact on the defensive side in the near future. Also, with Douglas having FL ties, can you see Pitt going after more elite DB/S recruits from FL.

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  2. Coles could be a shutdown CB if he develops and gets stronger.
    He has the height and speed to keep up with any WR.
    Too skinny and has been injury prone as are the other clairton DB's.
    Shout out to Webb for making all-Academic ACC. Who would have thought that coming out of Clairton.

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  3. I really like Amara and Motley's tape those two are very nice pick-ups. On the recruiting side Kelly, Coleman, and his near twin James would be good additions. Doke, why do you think Pitt waited so long to offer Bucholz.

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    1. I don't know. Pitt does their own thing. They've gotten better but they still don't understand that recruiting kids early and often is their best option. I still don't know why aren't getting more aggressive with targeting a topnotch QB. They're under the assumption that they can just develop anybody instead of going after the most talented kids.

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    2. Chris, yes, this staff definitely does their own thing. It is perplexing because it should be easier to develop a player with some proven ability than one with lesser skills.

      Your comment about Beaver County recruiting was spot on. For years, Beaver County provided a long string of players to Pitt - so to see the lack of recruiting focus there is surprising and will continue to hurt down the road unless they can turn things around

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    3. Kinda reminds me of Maurice Ways last year. He was here for jr. day wanting an offer. Pitt waited like months to offer, like two days later commits to Michigan and Pitt was at the time the clear leader.

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    4. Oops, I meant to add - Chris do you have any idea why Pitt's Beaver County recruiting has fallen off?

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    5. Rushel Shell is the poison that just keeps on giving.

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    6. Speaking of Shell, do you know why Shell wore number 4 at Pitt and Conner wears number 40? Because Conner is ten times the player.

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    7. Chris, you can't blame Shell for Pitt's Beaver County mishaps. Truth be told, Coach Fickle of Ohio State, Coach Gibson of West Virginia, & and Coach Smith of Penn State are making their faces familiar in Beaver County. Pitt doesn't have a coach doing that. Pitt needs to have that one coach who is a staple in the Pittsburgh area.

      The Beaver County kids at Pitt are not being treated fairly. The Todd Thomas situation was uncalled for and had no explanation from Coach House. Juantez Hollins served his year long suspension, which was warranted. Once he returned, he was never given a fair chance to play until two unproven freshmen went down. Devin Cook outplayed and out worked Mike Caprara on a daily basis, but was also never given a fair chance at starting. Chandler Kincade committed as a Freshman and his scholarship offer was pulled because of the Keller Chryst publicity stunt. Did anyone really think he was coming to Pitt.

      Im just saying, all the blame can't be placed on Rushel Shell. Pitt's actions play a major role as well

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    8. They also dropped the ball with Dravon Henry

      They rescinded their offer with Jaleel Fields.

      Pitt offered Terry Swanson way too late just to try to get Henry.

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    9. Swanson got offered by Coach House at the High School on December 6, two days before he committed to Toledo. Swanson thankfully declined the offer though.

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    10. Pitt never offered. Swanson himself said they never offered. He said it on twitter.

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  4. Again... Troy Douglas Philosophy...

    Sam Werner - Post Gazette
    ********
    "He (Douglas) said every drill the defensive backs do in practice will involve a football, and he'll recruit players who played offense in high school and are used to handling a football.

    "Our job as a defense is to get the ball back to our offense," Douglas said. "We will attack the football. There's no such thing as a defensive back that can't catch."

    ********
    Makes perfect sense.

    PittofDreams

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  5. Chris, I dont think you mentioned '16 PA quarterback Brandon McIlwain in your QB preview. Why not? Do you think we have a shot at him if we offer?

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    Replies
    1. I'm basically just mentioning 2015 prospects, though I don't see Pitt having any shot with McIlwain.

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  6. Of the D-Backs you've highlighted where Pitt has a chance, only two really jump off tape... Gibson and Bowers.

    And if I were Bowers, I'd hold out for an Offer from a School that promises to first give me a shot at Runningback before committing me to Defense.

    Llet's hope Pitt gets LUCKY with one of the Premier Backs you've written off... or others not named.

    Who knows, with a QUALITY Secondary Coach on board and 9 Wins, the dynamics might change?

    PittofDreams

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  7. To bad that you don't have some idiotic contributor posting the 40 times for each of these players and letting us know if they run track so that we would know if they are actually good FOOTBALL players.

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  8. or lamenting about chryst not sharing pecan pie with grandma

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  9. ...or saying that WPIAL players are slow, slow, slow

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  10. Chris, what % would you put on Eubanks coming to Pitt?

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    1. Pretty High means - Game on the line and with 2 seconds left down by 2 do we want you at the free throw line like 85% high?

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    2. He's visiting in a couple of weeks and as of now I'd be surprised if he didn't commit then or right after.

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  11. WVU just hired Tom Bradley

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    1. Excerpts from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/16/jerry-sandusky-trial-testimony-penn-state-cover-up_n_1602618.html:

      "Longtime assistant coach Tom Bradley walked into the shower when one boy was with Sandusky, the accuser testified ... "

      Some of the alleged assaults appear to have been interrupted ... The same accuser, Victim 4, testified about another occasion in which Bradley was showering in the team headquarters while the alleged victim and Sandusky were behind a curtain in another stall.

      'I can't say what (Bradley's) thoughts were, but I think he was suspicious of something because he stayed in the shower until everything was done,' the man testified without elaborating.

      Bradley did not return several messages from The Associated Press."

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  12. The biggest addition is Douglas. WVU can have bradley. They have Gibson as thier D coord. Which is laughable. WVU will suck. To be honest I think Franklin is vastly inferior to O'brien. We are in a better position then both our sworn enemy schools. I wouldnt have said that just 2 years ago or even last year.

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  13. Bradley will not be the recruiting force he was at PSU. The product he's trying to sell is a far cry from PSU before the scandal made headlines. I also wonder how much his heart will be in it. I can't imagine him writing 30 hand written letters to a recruit on behalf of Holgersen and WVU.

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    Replies
    1. He's overrated as a recruiter. Wannstedt cleaned his clock.

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  14. I agree about Douglass. He likes to talk, doesn't seem like a "yes" man. Will be interesting to see if he and PC click. Hope Douglass is not a yeller.

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  15. Chris, is Detrick Mostella waiting for Eubank decision before he decides to come to Pitt? What is taking him so long to decide and what are the other schools that want him?

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    1. Buc,

      I can try and answer your question.

      Mostella's decision has nothing to do with Eubanks - he has yet to pass the NCAA Clearinghouse.

      Mostella was ready to come to Pitt in December - just finished ND Preps and all indications were that he was on his way but, he has never passed the NCAA Clearinghouse.

      He could try to re-apply and come in the fall semester but at this point from all indications, his ship has sailed and will never be in a Pitt uniform.

      We offered Eubanks BECAUSE there's no assurance from Mostella.

      I understand that Mostella is the better player right now but his grades would always be an issue and he would have trouble staying eligible.

      I bet Eubanks signs during his official visit on March 3rd and Mostella will be a distant memory.

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    2. Thanks Zatiti. Appreciate that.

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  16. Are Eubanks and Mostella defensive backs? LOL!! Just trying to stay on point. If Pitt starts the season with Vinopal as a starter, we are in trouble for a few different reasons. First, he gets beat deep and is often a step slow to make the pass breakup. He makes the tackle because he was late to the breakup. Second, he gets lost in coverage. With spread teams, discipline and trust is critical for a defensive back. It is great when a DB can support the run. It is not great when a DB comes up to support the run....and it is a pass. If you watch the tapes closely, Vinopal gets lost in his assignments. Third, if he starts, are talent is thin and we don't have difference makers.

    Coach wants difference makers and prioritizing the ball. Turnovers are critical for collegiate success. Turnover creation gets you noticed on the next level. Hence the priority there. When your defense creates turnovers, the opposing offense operates with trepidation.

    Is Lewis a step slow Dokish? He seems to have good size. Personally, if Pitts struggles in man cover, I would experiment with him at the safety position instead of Vino. I like the Clairton trio and the new commits for sure and agree with PC that the "Team" got better. Maddox looks like he would be a good slot receiver defender.

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  17. Chris,

    Still think Pitt is an NCAA lock??

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    1. As of today, yes. If they keep losing then they won't deserve it anyway.

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  18. Know it's a different subject, on hoops. This team doesn't play defense good enough to play snail ball, for it gives up an inordinate amount of easy shots, those being rim rattling dunks and backdoor layups. Their better games earlier in the ACC schedule were when they were leading the ACC in scoring and got many transition opportunities. Lamar would get the ball and bring it up court, and drive it to the rim or find someone with a great pass for an easy score. They have gotten totally away from that, for since then Robinson has been bringing the ball up the court, even in transition, and he DOES NOT have the skill set to make plays in transition. So therefore we don't press the matter, he pulls the back out and we wind our Figure 8 offense down to less than 5 secs on the shot clock and do something frantic. Usually bad. I don't really care how many games he won at DeMatha, as we got the worst D1 recruit off of those DeMatha teams for sure. he also can't defend as again another opposing PG toasted him today Ian Miller. Also Dixon does absolutely nothing to try and generate transition opportunities, as he has nothing but a weak Man to Man defense he insists on playing against teams with better athletes at every position and his one trick 2-3 zone. That is good enough for the 10-12 cupcakes ever year and the lower half ACC teams, but it' not good enough for the better teams. And actually we were fortunate to beat in Double OT the worst ACC team at home, Va Tech and had to go to OT to beat another sub .500 team in Miami. As JD did nothing in those games either to increase tempo and get into transition. Don't think he knows how, need to bring in another asst. coach who can teach him.

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  19. This team needs shooters in the worst way. The system works, but the players have to put the ball in the hole. There are size and speed deficiencies - I won't ignore those elements. Eubanks and Haughton must be the final two recruiting pieces added in the spring. Lose on Wednesday and the NCAAs aren’t likely.

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  20. Cooper and Buchholz off the board, looks like Robinson soon to follow.

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    1. Once PSU offered those kids, they were gone. Pitt never had a chance.

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    2. Yeah I know just thought id post it.

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  21. "WOW!"

    Mike Mayock's reaction to Aaron Donald's 4.68 Forty.

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  22. Who would have thunk that Aaron Donald was only about a STEP and a HALF SLOWER than Devin Street in the Forty?

    PittofDreams

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  23. Mayock also said he would put Aaron Donald's numbers against anybody(DT's) in the last 10 years!!

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  24. is cullen christian still on the team?

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    Replies
    1. Couldn't crack the Pitt starting line up so he decided to take his talents to the NFL?

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    2. NFL...meaning Not For Long... at Pitt :)

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  25. Quick question Chris. You said you watched tape on Pitt commit Nick Bowers and say he's a 4 star in your opinion. Would you also say he moved up in your top players in PA list? (originally said in top 11-15) Thanks

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    1. I think all of Pitt's commits are 11-15 in PA as of now but I will talk to a lot more people over the next month or two so that I can come up with a real list.

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  26. So is Anthony Allen the backup plan to Eubanks? Seems as though Dixon is recruiting him but hasn't extended him an offer. Im guessing that if he waits and misses on Eubanks, that Allen might end up elsewhere as well(not sure how big of a loss this would be but he is a 7 footer who might be ready to take min. immediately).

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    1. What is more important a center or shooting guard? I am sure we miss Steve Adams right about now. I am hoping we get at least 1 of these recruits.

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  27. Chris, When is the last time we beat ND? It seems like ND always has our number. Is this the year that we can beat them?

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    Replies
    1. Jan 2009 was the last win. Since then, 5 straight losses.

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  28. Andre Robinson just committed to psu. They're cleaning our clock so far.

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    Replies
    1. All of these were expected. Pitt has no chance against PSU this year.

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    2. Despite that I like how pitt is actually targeting the talent this year. So far the fruits of their labor is just ok. Three to boderline 4 star guys so far. I'll take a 15-16 kid class of that.

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    3. Will Pitt extend an offer to Josh Adams now? I can't imagine he would want to go to PSU too.

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    4. I'm not surprised at all. He's going to do very well in recruiting. And PC for the most part is not willing to battle for top talent. Just wants to offer other kids he doesn't have to fight for.

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    5. You really have no evidence for that statement about PC battling for top talent.

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  29. No spring game this year.

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  30. So, the entire ACC, Pitt is the only team without a spring game.

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  31. Can anyone explain how not having a spring game will make Pitt a much better team

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    1. Can anyone explain how having a spring game will make Pitt a much better team?

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    2. NOTHING shouts "small time" then having a spring game at a high school field in front of 3,000 people. The recruits that do show up only because their Play Station is broken, will compare that debacle to PSU having 100,000 people at their stadium the following week.

      If that's "selling" our program, then that speaks volumes. Coming from a big time program, Chryst is smart enough to see that's a HUGE negative.

      Is Chryst purposely sabotaging Pitt's best interest and his own, by not having a game? I doubt it…

      I mean, who has a more vested interest in Pitt succeeding than Chryst?

      We've tried the same old same old for over 30 years. Where has it gotten us??? If the man wants to do things different, then you should try and support him and see the results.


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    3. I think that's the issue @ anonymous. Pitt doesn't have a large fan support, alumni support, or just true blue die hard fans like the 3 schools bordering them ( The Ohio State, Penn State, and West Virginia).

      The spring game is a first look for the people outside of the program at what's to come the following season. For the past few years, the showing of support for the program during the spring game has probably disgusted PC.

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    4. Anonymous @ 12:45...well said.

      I frankly don't get why some people are upset about there not being a spring game. If Pitt gets to the point where the game would attract many more people, then fine, have it. However, hardly anyone shows up, and it might be more of a turn-off to recruits than anything.

      Anonymous correctly points out that PC has the most invested in Pitt doing well. One would think that he's going to do whatever gives him the greatest chance to succeed.

      The only thing I'm concerned about is how Pitt performs during the regular season. I don't care about having a "first look" at the program in April. I want results in the fall.

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  32. Think we saw a little evidence of just "HOW ABOVE AVERAGE" Dixon can be at times as a Coach. Not just any time... but especially CRUNCH TIME when thhe pressure is on.

    Pressure has a way of getting to Jamie. In fact, it's written all over his face.

    Jamie's tendency to suffer periodic "NEURON MELT-DOWN" has paralyzed his effectiveness as a Crunch-Time Coach time and time again through the years... little OVERSIGHTS that can mean the difference between eeking out a Win or a Loss.

    Against Notre Dame it was obvious that Jamie clearly had it in his mind that he was going to call the TIMEOUT NO MATTER WHAT in the event that the original play, as drawn up... did not immediately fall into place.

    Unfortunately, having Option A and Option B locked in... left the Coach totally oblivious to the fact that his PLAYMAKER was in position for an easy basket.

    But thank goodness the Over-Time, as unnecessary as it was... gave Jamie a Second Chance. And thanks to his Players for rallying to salvage a Win that just might have saved the Season, but most certainly saved Jamie from the avalanche of criticism that would have certainly come.

    There would have been no defending Jamie on this one.

    PittofDreams

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    1. PittofDreams...do you realize that:

      Dixon has won at LEAST 10 conference games this year?
      Pitt has been in the NCAA's 12 out of the 13 years that Dixon has been the HC?
      He had the best winning % in Big East games....ever? Think about that one.
      He had 6 of the most improved players in the Big east in 12 years?

      Here's the bottom line - Dixon is not a good coach - he's a great coach and secondly, we won yesterday.

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    2. Yeah, the guy makes a rare bad decision and people crucify him. He also coached great in overtime, not to mention for eleven years.

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    3. listening to what seems like the majority of pitt basketball fans is mind- numbing. winning 20+ total games and 10+ conference games every year isn't enough apparently. this is dixons second worst season EVER as a head coach and pitt is still going to finish the regular season and acc tournament with 23-25 wins and an ncaa tournament appearance.

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  33. Notre Dame's BIG MEN made Zanna look like the second coming of DeJuan Blair. That, coupled with 85 percent from the line... there's your difference in the game.

    And it almost wasn't enough.

    PittofDreams

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  34. By the way... if Jamie is indeed a "GREAT" Coach. What does that make Sean Miller or Brad Stevens or Gregg Marshall, just to name a few?

    What superlatives might we use? "REALLY GREAT?" "SUPER DUPER GREAT?"

    PittofDreams

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    1. The level above "great coach" is "elite coach". And, by definition, there are very few elite coaches. The 3 you mention, in my opinion, are in the same category as Dixon. Sure, they are all hotter names (right now) than Dixon, but they need a lot more sustained success to reach the elite level (Boeheim, Coach K, etc).

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    2. I think if given the opportunity... the MAJORITY of the Pitt Fan Base would jump at the chance to hire any of the three named as a replacement for Dixon... especially Miller.

      PittofDreams

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    3. Sure, Right Now. But 5 years ago, and 5 years from today -- I think you'd get a different answer.

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  35. Dokish what do you think of Pitt canceling the spring game? Seems like the game itself has no impact on the upcoming season but have us an unnecessary black eye in the media. What's your take?

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  36. The people bitching about the spring games are probably make up of 50% arm chair analysts who just cant wait to watch the game and go run to the message boards and post about so and so being a bust the other 50% are people who love to talk about attendence of games but reference how empty the stadium looks on tv while do so

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