Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pitt Football Midseason Grades- Defense, Special Teams, Coaching

Defensive line: There was no doubt that this unit would not be a good without superstar Aaron Donald, but dropping this far was the worst case scenario.

Starting defensive tackle Khaynin Mosley-Smith and Darryl Render have been mostly average and opposing offenses have not been having much trouble running right up the middle of the Panthers defense. Rather pedestrian backs like Akron's Conor Hundley and Virginia's Kevin Parks ran all over the defense in the last two games. Render has 21 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 2 pass breakups.  Mosley-Smith has just 11 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 0 sacks. Mosley-Smith plays the nose tackle position and he won't get a lot of tackles, but the fact that many backs are gashing the defense proves that he's not holding the point of attack either.

The starting defensive ends have not been much better. The big hope at end was that Shakir Soto would make a big leap in production but that hasn't been the case. On the season he has just 16 tackles, with 0 tackles for loss, and 0 sacks. Needless to say that's pathetic. Even the other starting end, David Durham, who isn't very good, looks better by comparison. He has 12 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks.

The reserves are younger, but they appear to be more promising in the long run. Massive tackle Tyrique Jarrett is almost as productive as Mosley-Smith, while in reserve, with 7 tackles. Justin Moody has 6 tackles playing behind Render, and also has a sack.

At end, maybe the most promising player of the entire unit, Rori Blair, flashes every time he's on the field. So far he has 10 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks, the latter tying for the team lead. He also has two pass breakups. And he's not even played much yet. Another young end with promise, Luke Maclean, has 6 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and a half of a sack. Devin Cook is also still hanging around and he has 3 tackles and a half of a sack.

The pass rush has been just as poor as the run defense. The Panthers are No. 65 in sacks with 12 in 6 games, but the line only has 8.

Bottom line: A few weeks ago the run defense was in the top 10, thanks mostly to playing poor offenses. Now that they're playing average offenses they dropped down to No. 40. And as the offenses get better one has to assume they will have an even harder time being productive.

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


Linebackers: There were hopes that this veteran unit would be strong, but with the defensive line below average the linebackers have been exposed as mostly mediocre.

Not surprisingly, Anthonly Gonzalez leads the team with 36 tackles to go along with 2 tackles for loss, and a sack, but he also has no interceptions or pass breakups. That's pretty pedestrian production for someone who was expected to be the most productive player on the team.

Todd Thomas is not going to be the star that was often predicted for him. We now know that for sure. He has turned into a good run defender for the most part, but as a senior he still gets out of position too often. On the season he has 31 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 1 pass breakup, and no sacks.

Middle linebacker Matt Galambos has also been a disappointment. On one of the great Pitt defenses of the past he would be more productive, but he's not good enough to compensate for the poor defensive line in front of him. He has just 23 tackles, a really low total for a starting 4-3 middle linebacker. He also has no sacks or no tackles for loss. He does have an interception and a pass breakup.

Bam Bradley may be a better option in the middle and he actually took over for Galambos against Virginia. He has 12 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, a sack, and a pass breakup in a reserve role.

Nicholas Grigsby had a special position created for him so that he can utilitize his speed to make plays, and while he does have flashes with his excellent speed, he's another player hampered by a below average line.  He has 16 tackles and 2 tackles for loss, but he only has one sack despite blitzing often.

Bottom line: Solid, if unspectacular bunch. To have a truly great defense you need playmakers at linebacker and Pitt just doesn't have that.

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



Defensive backs: This was expected to be a below average unit and they've lived down to their expectations. Don't be confused by the fact that the pass defense is ranked No. 8 in the country because the best passing offense the Panthers have played so far has been Akron which is ranked No. 32. The other opponents are ranked 65, 79, 105, and 119.  Needless to say, if they play a good passing offense it could get ugly.

Cornerbacks Lafayette Pitts and Reggie Mitchell have not been beat on a consistent basis, but again that's because they haven't played a good passing team yet. Pitts still isn't sure how to play the position and almost never turns around to play the ball. He has 14 tackles, including a tackle for loss. He also has 4 pass breakups and one interception. Mitchell is new to the position, and while he's no better than average, he appears to be better than Pitts. On the season he has 18 tackles, while also having 5 pass breakups. He is not picked on nearly as much as Pitts is.

At safety, Ray Vinopal actually stands out more than anybody on defense, which says something about the rest of the defense. He has 28 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 4 pass breakups. The other safety, Terrish Webb, isn't noticed often, but he has quietly had a decent season with 29 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 2 pass breakups.

True freshmen Pat Amara and Avonte Maddox are showing promise. Amara has 4 tackles and an interception. Maddox has 8 tackles but no pass breakups. Both should make some progress in the second half of the season.

Ryan Lewis was forced into action, and has 7 tackles, but it appears like Amara has passed him up.

Bottom line: The weaknesses of this unit is saved by playing poor passing offenses so when they play somebody like North Carolina or Miami they may get exposed.  But at the end of the day, at least it's not a dumpster fire, and there was a real fear that could happen.

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



Special Teams: Kicker Chris Blewitt is already a star and could be a future All-American. He hasn't missed a field goal yet this year, going 9 for 9, including 3 for 3 from 40-49 yards. But after that the unit is more hit or miss.

Ryan Winslow is No. 92 in punting and the team's net punting is No. 75 thanks to Pitt being No. 16 nationally in punt return defense.

The kick return defense is No. 71, punt returns are No. 75, and kickoff returns is No. 94.

Bottom line: The return teams are a major disappointment, and Winslow has been mediocre at best, but Blewitt and the punt return defense saves some of the grade.

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



Coaching: Where the Paul Chryst era is headed deserves, and will get, it's own article, but right now he's 3-3 this season and 16-16 for his career. If that's not mediocre then I don't know what it is.

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




54 comments:

  1. No speed, not physical, not athletic. Other than that, Pitt's defense is playing above their abilities at most positions! You hit the nail on the head commenting that if Ray Vinopal is the best player on that unit, then we have our answer how below average this defense is.

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  2. All of you guys need a reality check - the bottom line on Pitt FB?

    We don't have any truly good players and we have bad coaches.

    Tyler Boyd - ok - blast away. You want to see TRULY good wideouts? Watch the SEC on a regular basis.

    Watch Amari Cooper for Alabama - no comparison to Boyd - many more truly elite wideouts better than Boyd.

    Hell, Foster was rated MUCH higher than Boyd and he can't sniff the Alabama lineup.

    Conner? He's our other "good" player. He gets a million carries - his stats are padded..

    Every other starter is just not good - period and our coaches....worse.

    Boyd and Conner could start on very few top 25 teams in the country - the others...not a chance.

    Face it.

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    1. Boyd and Conner are as good as anybody in the country.

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    2. Sry Chris - no way no how.

      Boyd not as good as Cooper at Alabama.
      Conner not as good as Gurley at Georgia.

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    3. So you pick out probably the two leading Heisman candidates. So they're only as good as 99.9% of the other players.

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    4. Boyd is as good as anyone but Conner is way overrated. He's a dime a dozen back.

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    5. Chris - I don't want to get into a pi$$ing contest w/ you but on just about every national site - there are 10 running backs and 10 wideouts listed as flat better players than Boyd and Conner.

      not three not five..... 10.

      I could list them but as I said... I won't.

      Boyd is ~good but small and at least at this point thin.
      Conner has no moves and just not that fast.

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    6. If there 10 better players then both of them there going to the nfl because that we're boyd and Conner are headed

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    7. @zatiti. You're dumb. Boyd is electric and catches everything thrown his way. He's already a lock first round draft pick. I'm not quite ready to put equal with Fitz but he's very close. Fitz was the best wide receiver in all of football including nfl his last year at Pitt.

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    8. Gurley may be good but he is going to be watching from the sidelines for a while.

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  3. So the million dollar question is: is coach chryst really that oblivious to what's going on? Is he just plain stubborn? Weak? myopic?


    buck

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  4. Zero playmaker's on defense. 'nuff said.

    One day Chryst will wake up and realize the colossal mistake he made in hiring House and not getting someone who can *recruit* defensive players.

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    1. The defense has not lost us one frickin' game. Not one. I have been hoping for House to get fired since the day he was hired. But, only when the defense gives up more than 25 points can we complain about it. The offense is a joke and it is by far more talented and experienced unit. The offense scored 10 points on Akron at home. This on Rudolph and Chryst and their boring, predictable play calling. The D gave up 17 points at UVA - the offense gave UVA 7 and only scored 19. The offense is the problem.

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    2. When Chryst starts his job after next season as the OC of Minnesota or Iowa I hope he recognizes it was QB recruiting and QB play that cost him his position at Pitt.

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    3. 17 points against a UVA team playing the back-up QB who threw for 95 yards! The gave up career rushing yardage to the boy from akron and the smurf from UVA. Sorry... mediocre defense does not quantify as getting it done.

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  5. I would give everyone a D, my logic being the Akron loss, inexcusable.

    They had Iowa on the ropes and just sat back and watched and hoped Iowa would quit.

    Virginia was painful, penalties and poor execution, this team and coaching staff are their own worst enemies.

    The problem with this program is that they don't know how to finish, Chryst just doesn't have it to be the head coach, Joe D was right.

    Another year of mediocre football and they will not qualify for a bowl and next season will be worse, Chryst and Stevie will be gone and sadly the cycle starts again.

    It really sucks to be a Pitt fan for the last 30 years.

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    1. Unfortunately, we will qualify for a bowl game, which means Chryst will back as will Pederson. If only the cycle would start again for real, we'd be in better shape.

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    2. It will take a herculean effort for this team to qualify for a bowl game.

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  6. If I had to guess, I'd say VT is a win, our "how did Pitt win this game after their mediocre season" win. Followed by a win against GT - who is still not that good, I've watched 4 of their games - which will get us believing we've turned the corner. Only to get beaten convincingly by Duke. Then two wins against UNC and SU, followed by an embarrassing loss at Miami - 45 v 10 type game to end the season. We finish 7-5. We lose the bowl game by about 30 and Chryst gets an extension anyway.

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    1. 7-5 no way VT, GT, Duke and Miami are definite L's.

      Syracuse they should win, UNC is a toss up, 5-7 is a possibility.

      6 wins are going to be a problem for this squad.

      I don't think this coaching staff has a clue regarding what they are doing, they adjust but it takes too long.

      This coaching staff seems to be learning on the job, and this is consistent with inexperience.

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    2. Has the past 2 years of Chryst not taught you anything? They will beat 1 or probably 2 of the 3 home games.

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  7. The coaching staff has been the most disappointing aspect of the team so far this year. Chryst and Rudolph have absolutely not put Voytik in the best position to succeed. They need to get more creative as well - anyone who watched Ole Miss beat Alabama saw the tremendous success of the bunch pass plays where Ole Miss used its star receiver to distract the defense. Pitt should be using similar patterns.

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    1. Ole Miss has recruited very talented players over the last few years, they have talent at many positions, that helps.

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    2. The same Ole miss that was in the Compass Bowl with Pitt in Paul Chryst's first season that's now celebrating a win vs Alabama and now ranked #3/4 in the polls. They went from a 6-6 team two years ago, just like Pitt. The difference is they progressed and we stayed the same or may be getting worse. They chose not to settle on being average and went after top recruits nationwide and got a few to sign. Look at the emotion their coach showed after the Alabama game, it shows his team he actually cares about them and it's not juat a 9-5. That man makes you want to win for your coach. I'm sure he has no problem motivating them to play and isn't giving monotone speeches that put you to sleep. It's time for PC to put up because he's done enough shutting up.

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    3. Great point regarding Pitt and Ole Miss, two programs going in opposite directions.

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    4. Recruiting territory is much different. Ole Miss got the highest ranked recruit two years ago and he is a wrecking ball. Pitt will not pull players out of mississippi and alabama and lousianna. Shouldn't even try for those. Let's get a couple out of carolina and a few from florida and georgia each year and we will be fine.

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    5. Yeah but Ole Miss had to beat all the big southern schools for those kids and then they have to beat those same powers. That's extremely impressive. Pitt is really not doing the same thing in their area.

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    6. Paul Chryst inherited a 6-6 team that year. Hugh Freeze inherited a 2-10 team that was 0-8 in conference. Chryst has been 6-6 each year while going 1-1 in bowl games. Freeze was 6-6, 7-5 while being 2-0 in bowl games including a win over Paul Chryst and Pitt in both of their first ever bowl games as head coaches. Also Ole Miss is undefeated this year with quality wins over Alabama and Texas A&M.

      Barry Alverez speaking to Steve Petersen and Paul Chryst in his Pinocchio voice from the Geico commercial "Steve, I'm telling you, Paul Chryst has potential"

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  8. Is it just me, or did the coaching staff (a) make adjustments at halftime of UVa and (b) have better, more imaginative play-calling in the UVa game? Nothing real dramatic, but there were multiple passes to the tight ends and a shovel pass -- these are things we haven't seen until this game. I wonder if they were trying to keep things extremely basic until conference play, or if they were trying to keep it simple for Voytik's sake. In either case, better play calling could have helped against Iowa and Akron.

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    1. Why did it take 6 games to figure this out?

      If Voytik is the problem why is he starting?

      UCLA has 7 QB's on their roster, plus they recruit blue chip QBs every year, Chryst being the QB guru really is behind the eight ball on QB recruiting because he put all of his eggs in the Voytik basket this season and so far the results are poor with no relief in sight for this season.

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    2. He's starting because he's the best option at the moment, at least in the coaches eyes.

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    3. There are no options behind Voytik that is why he is playing.

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    4. The lack of depth at QB is hurting Pitt. Anderson, who seems to be a good kid, would appear to be an option only in the case of Voytik sustaining a serious injury, or just having a complete meltdown.

      The only other option is Bertke, and for him to play, his redshirt would need to be burned. While he's in the mold of a pro-style QB that would better fit Chryst's system, my sense is that PC would only go to him if Voytik and Anderson absolutely couldn't play.

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    5. Bertke would only play if Voytik and Anderson couldn't go at all. He would be destroyed this year, like most true freshmen.

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    6. Thanks for confirming that Chris. Besides his inexperience, with the OL struggling with pass blocking, it would definitely be tough for him.

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  9. Agree with just about alll of your points. Nice job on the analysis.

    A couple of things.

    Don't get Pitts. He has shown he CAN do it. A shadow of himself back when he first got on the field.

    That being the case, you have to be disappointed in the seeming LACK OF IMPACT made by Secondary Coach Troy Douglas.

    You would thnk an experienced coach like Douglas would be able to get through to an Player like Pitts who has shown he has the Physical Ability to play at a HIGH LEVEL.

    Speaking of a Coach who has clealy gotten through to his Players. Coach John Settle on Offense has made a noticeable difference.

    This has obviously been the case with Conner. But also with the other Backs who have looked GOOD when called upon.

    Settle seems to have EVERYONE on the SAME PAGE, down to the smallest details.

    PittofDreams

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    1. We're on pace to double our interceptions this year. I'm not sure it's fair to blame Douglas for Pitts' poor play.

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  10. Not sure if anyone post but this is what pat forde had to say this week.

    Paul Chryst (34), Pittsburgh. Thirty-two games in, he’s the picture of mediocrity: 16-16. But the trend line is down for this particular Pitt team – after starting 3-0, it has lost three straight, including a home embarrassment against Akron. Star running back James Conner has been slowed down the past two games, and the passing game has failed to pick up the slack. For a guy whose calling card is offense, Pitt isn’t generating much of it (75th nationally in total offense).

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    1. Our offense and qb play has not been good. Our play calling has been elementary and predictable. I am not a House fan... but in college football these days you have to score more than we have the past 3 weeks to expect victories.. I put almost all the blame on coaching and the offense...

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  11. 3 home games in a row. This will be telling. Will we see the Pitt team that played well at BC or the one that bombed against Akron?

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    1. With this program who knows?

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    2. Exactly. Pitt is like a box of chocolates. You just don't know what you're going to get.

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  12. Like the coach said they can win every game or lose just have to play the game .this next three are going to be fun to watch

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  13. Different subject, non-Pitt related.

    PSU still doesn't get it.
    One of PSU commits was one of the 7 players arrested from Sayreville HS football team that sexually assualted freshman players. Per news reports, 2 were lookouts, 4 held the kid down, 1 digitally did a Sandusky.
    smh. PSU still doesn't get it. They should have pulled the scholarship offer as soon as he was arrested.

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    1. In the end, PSU will eventually get it.

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    2. I wouldn't bet on that.

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    3. Pitt offered the player. Did Pitt pull the offer?

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    4. I think Anon @ 11:12 meant - PSU will "get it in the end"

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    5. Success with Honor!

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    6. Unbelievable it took until today (Monday) for PSU to officially pull the offer!
      Must have had pressure.

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  14. Do we snap this ugly streak or does tonight get uglier?

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  15. Defense came to play offense is taking a day off again.

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