Monday, December 28, 2015

Player by Player Analysis for Pitt Basketball This Season


James Robinson, Sr.- The 6'3" point guard has been a very divisive player in his college career, and he has frustrated many Pitt fans. Sometimes the criticism has been fair and sometimes it hasn't been. But so far this season Robinson has been the player everybody expected. For the season, Robinson is averaging 10.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 5.4 apg, and 1.6 spg. Robinson's rpg has gone down from 3.6 last season, and that's a good sign that he's no longer asked to do too much. He also looks quicker and slimmer, and his defense has been even better. The best improvement of his game, however, is his shooting. For the season, he is shooting 43.3% from the field and 39.5% from three. Last season, he shot 36.7% from the field and 29.8% from three. He's also shooting 80.0% from the free throw line. And of course the best part of Robinson's game has remained extraordinarily as he has 59 assists to just 9 turnovers on the season.

Sterling Smith, Sr.- The Coppin State graduate transfer has been a huge addition this year. The starting 6'4" shooting guard has started all season and has averaged 7.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, and 1.8 apg. He's also played good defense. But his forte is shooting, and he has really shot well so far this season.  From the field he has shot 42.9% from the field, 48.6% from three, and 92.9% from the line. That's some pretty crazy shooting numbers, which includes an 0-6 outing form the field in the Western Carolina game.

Chris Jones, Jr.- The 6'6" redshirt junior has played almost 10 minutes less this season, and as usual his play has been sporadic. For the season he is averaging 7.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg, and 2.0 apg. He's also shooting 44.4% from the field, 31.0% from three, and 73.9% from the line. Jones has proven once again to be a solid reserve, but still hasn't proved that he could be anything more than that.

Damon Wilson, Fr- Big things are expected from the 6'5" true freshman, and so far he has done nothing to show that those exceptions are unwarranted. Like most freshman, he's still lost at times because the game is faster than he's used to, but for the most part he has done very well. For the season he's averaging 5.2 ppg, 1.5 rpg, and 1.7 apg.  From the field he's shot a good 44.7% from the field and 42.9% from three, but must improve his 70.8% free throws. He's only played 12 minutes a game thus far, and with three veterans ahead of him it probably won't go up much this season, but he should be a starter next season.

Jonathan Milligan, Jr.- The 6'2" junior college guard showed big time speed early in the season, but injuries and off the court family issues caused him to fall behind in practices. For that reason- and because the Panthers already have four quality guards- he will redshirt this season. He could be a starter next season, and at the very least he will get major minutes at guard next season.


Michael Young, Jr.- The junior is listed at 6'9" and 235 pounds, and if he really is that big then he could be going to the NBA after this season. He's that good now. I have my doubts that he's that tall, though, and if he's not, his NBA draft position will probably not be good enough to leave early. The undisputed best player on the team now, Young is averaging 17.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, and 3.4 apg. His shooting has also been excellent, shooting 60.4% from the field and 86.4% from the line. Bottom line, he's now a bonafide star and if the Panthers end up having a great season he could be a legitimate All-American candidate.

Jamel Artis, Jr.- The 6'7" junior put the Panthers on his back at times the past two seasons, and in the last out of conference game of the season this season, against Western Carolina, he showed his excellence by going for 29 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists. For the season, Artis is averaging 15.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, and 2.8 apg, while shooting 56.9% from the field, 43.3% from three, and 85.0% from the FT line. Other than rebounds, those stats are better than last season. And this despite playing 7 minutes a game less. Yes, sometimes he disappears for a part of the game, but when he's on no other player on the team can take over a game like him.

Sheldon Jeter, Jr.- The 6'8" redshirt junior has been very good off the bench thus far for the Panthers. On the season he is averaging 7.5 ppg and 5.5 rpg in just 16 minutes a game. He's also shooting 52.5% from the floor and 88.9% from the free throw line. His talent, length, and athleticism off the bench is a strength that most teams don't have.

Ryan Luther, So.- The 6'9" true soph was forced into action early last season, and many thought he'd end up taking a redshirt this season, but Jamie Dixon likes his defense and rebounding so he's found himself on the court again. In 11.3 minutes a game thus far Luther is contributing 4.0 ppg and 3.4 rpg. He's also shooting 57.1% from the field. He still gets overmatched at times, but he's more effective that most players that are the fifth player off the bench.

Cameron Johnson, Fr.- At a skinny 6'8", the redshirt freshman is currently the sixth- and last- man off the bench, but he still provides something in the way of his shooting, which is his forte. Averaging just 10.1 ppg this year so far, and that will likely go down in conference play, but he's added 4.6 ppg and 1.6 rpg. From the field he's shooting just 38.1% from the field, but from three he's hitting on 40.0%, and from the free throw line he's making them at a 90.0% clip. It will be interesting to see what kind of player he turns into over the next three and a half years.


Alonzo Nelson-Ododa, Sr.- The 6'9" graduate transfer from Richmond has been the lone disappointment so far. After getting good reviews in the preseason, he started the first five games, before losing his job. In just 12.1 minutes a game this season he's averaging 2.2 ppg and 2.7 rpg.  He does have 1.2 bpg, which is impressive in just 12 minutes, but if his offense doesn't improve he won't be on the court enough to help the team defensively.

Rafael Maia, Sr.- Another 6'9" graduate transfer, the former three time Ivy League rebounding champ at Brown took over the starting position from Nelson-Ododa in the last six games, but except for a few moments, he hasn't been that much more effective. In 14.3 minutes a game, he's averaged 3.3 ppg and 3.9 rpg, while shooting 56.0% from the field and 57.1% from the line.

Rozelle Nix, Jr.- The 6'11" 300 pound junior college transfer will redshirt this season, then have two years of eligibility remaining.

With Young and Artis, Pitt has one of the best forward duos in the country, and if Robinson continues to play like he has been, he will be one of the best point guards in the country. Any team with two excellent forwards and an excellent point guard will win a lot of games.

The Panthers really have no blatant weaknesses. They can score, including from deep and at that free throw line. They are rebounding well, they are playing good defense, and they are protecting the ball. Statistically they are 15th in scoring offense, 33rd in scoring defense, 1st in FT%, 15th in FG%, 9th in assists/turnover ratio, 5th in assists, 27th in blocked shots, 19th in FG% defense, 26th in 3-point% defense, and 11th in rebound margin. The lone soft spot appears to be at center. While Nelson-Ododa and Maia are an improvement over Derrick Randall and Joseph Uchebo last year, they still aren't contributing much. And while they won't come across many (maybe any) front lines that are as big and as good as Purdue, you can see in that game that the Panthers have a severe disadvantage there. But, no team is perfect and the Panthers still have a lot going for them.

Overall, this team is currently 10-1. Even though the next game is the first game of the conference schedule, there's still one more non-conference game to play- against Maryland Eastern Shore. Assuming the Panthers win that game, that will make them 11-1 in non-conference play for the season. Throw in a predicted 11-7 ACC record, which is now looking very possible, as well as a 2-2 record through both the conference tournament and the NCAA tournament, and we're looking at a 24-10 record for the season. That is looking like a pretty good prediction right now, and that would be a very good season.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Pitt adds a kicker

It's as if Pat Narduzzi just looked at the list of prospects at the beginning of the recruiting year and decided to take at least one of each position. Now you can add kicker to the list as Alex Kessman of Clarkson (MI) HS has committed to the Panthers. Kessman has had an offer from the Panthers since before the summer, and Andre Powell was clearly targeting him.  Kessman has a very strong leg, and had two kicks over 50 yards this season, including a 56-yarder, which was the fourth longest in Michigan history. The kick also cleared the goalposts by about 10 yards. Even more impressive, Kessman already kicks off of the ground instead of a tee. Kessman also already kicks the ball off into the end zone, and was named an all-state punter this season. He will be a grayshirt, which means he will enter Pitt with the 2016 class, but won't get a scholarship until the 2017 class. This helps Pitt in some obvious ways. One, it means he does not take up a spot in this class, which is already getting crowded.  And, two, he will have the benefit of college coaching for a year so that he will be better prepared to take over for Chris Blewitt when he leaves after the 2016 season. The alternative was to get a freshman kicker in 2017 and have him take over immediately for Blewitt, without a year of getting coached by Powell.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Panthers add more offense

Pat Narduzzi and his staff continues to stay hot, as tonight the Panthers got a verbal commitment from 6'2" 200 pound wide receiver Juwann Winfree of Coffeyville (KS) CC.  Winfree, who played in high school at Dwight Morrow HS in Englewood, NJ, originally committed to Maryland out of high school. At that time he had offers from the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Georgia, and South Carolina. He played well as a true freshman at Maryland and caught 11 passes for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns for the season.  He was suspended for the last two games of the season for undisclosed infractions, and eventually ended up at Coffeyville where he had 55 catches for 837 yards, and 7 touchdowns.  Winfree will have three years to play two, and is expected to be a favorite to start at wide receiver next season, if Tyler Boyd goes to the NFL, as expected.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Narduzzi bags two big ones (at the same time)

The Panthers good recruiting class got a lot better today as Ohio State de-commit George Hill chose the Panthers over Michigan State and Wisconsin. The 6'0" 200 pound Hill, from Hubbard (OH) HS, can play running back, wide receiver, and cornerback, and I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up playing at least some time at all three positions though he's been brought in to play cornerback. He is blazing fast and has run a 10.75 100m (for comparison, Jordan Whitehead runs a 10.87).

At the same time, 6'3" Florida cornerback Henry Miller announced his his college decision and he also chose Pitt.  He was also offered by Michigan State, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Mississippi State, Louisville, North Carolina, and many others.

Friday, December 4, 2015

James Conner diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma

James Conner held a press conference today to say that he has been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. He will have chemotherapy for six months, starting within a week. The cure rate is 85%-95%, according to his doctor, who also expects a full recovery. Because of his condition, Conner  will be back to Pitt next season, and it's very possible that he will have a full recovery.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Final Top 15 for PA in the 2016 class

1. Miles Sanders, Woodland Hills HS (Pittsburgh) RB- Athletically built at 5'11" and 205 pounds. Can add muscle without losing speed and that will help him with running between the tackles, though he's already not afraid of running between the tackles. Excellent speed, quickness, and vision.  All around back that has very good hands, too.  Committed to PENN STATE early, but he's been looking around. It's possible that he'll stay with Penn State but  Pittsburgh is the most obvious choice should he flip. Other offers include Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, Michigan State, Florida State, Notre Dame, USC, and many more.

2. Michal Menet, Exeter Township HS (Reading) OT- Needs to add weight to 6'5" 270 pound frame, but he has the feet, strength, and technique to be a big time college player. Extremely high upside. Committed to PENN STATE over Pittsburgh, Alabama, Duke, Georgia, Florida State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, South Carolina, Stanford, UCLA, and more.

3. Damar Hamlin, Central Catholic HS (Pittsburgh) CB- Thin, but nice length at 6'1" and 180 pounds. More athletic than blazing fast, but he does have good speed. Can play cornerback or safety at the next level, but his size at cornerback makes him a player that's high in demand. He committed to PITTSBURGH over Penn State, Notre Dame, Ohio State are the leaders, Michigan, Michigan State, Auburn, Clemson, Stanford, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Miami, Virginia Tech, and UCLA.

4. Naseir Upshur, Imhotep Institute Charter HS (Philadelphia) TE- Not big at 6'2" and 240 pounds, but he is athletic, strong, and equally good in the run or pass game.  Excellent blocker. Committed to FLORIDA STATE over Pittsburgh, Penn State, Miami, Michigan, Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Michigan State, USC, Ohio State, Florida, Auburn, and just about everybody else.

5. Karamo Dioubate, Prep Charter HS (Philadelphia) DE/DT- Nicknamed "The Reaper" for good reason. Tough and athletic at 6'4" 275 pounds, with a great burst.  Has the athleticism and speed to play end and the toughness and size to play inside. Committed to TEMPLE over Penn State, Pittsburgh, Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State, Michigan State, Miami, Florida, Wisconsin, and Virginia Tech.

6. Khaleke Hudson, McKeesport Area HS (McKeesport) S- Athletic safety with great range. Maybe the hardest hitter in the state. Solidly built at 5'11" and 200 pounds. Has the ability to also be an excellent college running back but he was born to be a safety. Committed to MICHIGAN over Pittsburgh, Penn State, Michigan State, Nebraska, Wisconsin,  North Carolina, UCLA, and Virginia Tech.

7. Kaezon Pugh, Aliquippa HS (Aliquippa) LB- Athletic, fast, and tough at 6'2" and 220 pounds. Built like a rock already.  Could also be a college running back but he appears best suited for linebacker. Committed to PITTSBURGH over West Virginia, Auburn, Mississippi State, Miami, Nebraska, Arkansas, Missouri, Arizona, Maryland, and Virginia Tech.

8. Brandon McIlwain, Council Rock North HS (Newtown) QB- Doesn't possess ideal size at 6'0" and 200 pounds, but he has a solid, athletic build. Athletic runner with good speed. Better than average arm. Suspect accuracy until this summer when he performed very well. Committed to SOUTH CAROLINA over Penn State, West Virginia, Auburn, Florida, Clemson, Miami, Ohio State, Michigan State, UCLA, Virginia Tech, and many others, but now that Steve Spurrier is out at South Carolina, he may end up at somewhere like Penn State.

9. Connor McGovern, Lake-Lehman (Lehman) C- Stocky, tenacious 6'4 1/2" 295 pounder with good feet and technique.  Considered by some as the best center prospect in the country.  Chose PENN STATE over Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Stanford, Michigan State, Georgia Tech, Miami, and Duke.

10. Therran Coleman, Brashear HS (Pittsburgh) CB- Nice corner size at 6'1" and 180 pounds. Very good speed and athleticism. One of the more underrated prospects in the state, which is what often happens with City League kids.  Committed to PITTSBURGH over West Virginia, Wisconsin, Arizona State and Virginia Tech.

11. Cary Angeline, Downingtown HS (Exeter) TE- At 6'7" he's obviously a great target. Basically a wide receiver in high school, and though he's up to 230 pounds he still has to gain a lot of weight to be an every down player. He's mostly just a pass receiver now so he will have to work a lot on in line blocking. Committed to SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA over Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Miami, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Virginia Tech, Oregon, UCLA, and Notre Dame, and many more.

12. Johncarlo Valentin, Imhotep Institute Charter HS (Philadelphia) OG- Enormous size at 6'4" and 340 pounds. Obviously he will need to get in better shape but he moves well at that size and is a load to move. His recruitment has taken many twists and turns so it's still very much in the air where he'll end up. Committed to OKLAHOMA over Pittsburgh, Michigan, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Auburn, and South Carolina.

13. Andrew Pryts, Hickory HS (Hermitage) S- Solidly built at 6'1" and 200 pounds. Good athleticism. Smart.  Vicious hitter.  Committed to STANFORD over Pittsburgh, Penn State, Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Stanford, Michigan, and Michigan State.

14. Rashad Wheeler, Central Catholic HS (Pittsburgh) DT- Excels on maybe the most talented team in the entire state. And at 6'3" and 280 pounds he has good size and athleticism. Has the frame to get bigger and stronger. Committed to PITTSBURGH over Penn State, West Virginia, Maryland, Boston College, Rutgers, and Virginia, among others.

15. Aaron Matthews, Clairton HS (Clairton) WR/S- Great length at 6'4" but needs to add a lot of  weight to his 180 pound frame. Not a blazer, but because of his really long legs he gets from point A to point B faster than it looks. Great hands on offense, though he played quarterback this year and hasn't had a chance to do much from the wide receiver position. Not afraid to hit on defense. Committed to PITTSBURGH over Penn State, West Virginia, Maryland, Boston College, Temple, and Minnesota.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Chris Clark is a Panther

UCLA transfer Chris Clark has committed to Pitt, before their game today against Notre Dame. He has taken a circuitous route as we all know, but the 6'5" 250 pound Clark was the No. 1 tight end prospect in the 2015 class. He will sit out next season and then have three years to play three years.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Most realistic best case scenario to fill out '16 class

The Panthers currently have eleven verbal commits and with the expected total to be around twenty in total, here's a look at who the final nine could be. This is not a prediction, but a realist best case scenario.

Miles Sanders, RB- I'm not going to get into details about where this stands for obvious reasons, but for many reasons this would be a huge get. The Panthers really aren't desperate for numbers at the position with Qadree Ollison, Chris James, Darrin Hall, and Rachid Ibrahim all still having at least two years left, and Chawntez Moss already committed, but the program still may not have that elite talent at the position. Don't get me wrong, all of these players are good and could definitely have at least a 1,000 yard season in them. In fact, Ollison may get one this season. But even lesser recruited running backs that turned into stars, like James Conner and Dion Lewis, showed their great talents immediately. We haven't seen that yet from any of these backs, and until we do, you have to worry about their ceiling. As far as pure talent, Sanders has the most of the group, so getting him would help the unit immensely.

Juawann Winfree, WR- The Maryland transfer tried to join Pitt for this season, but the Panthers weren't ready for him yet. He's playing well again in junior college this year, and the Panthers officially offered him long ago. Another receiver is needed and Pitt is his best offer right now, plus he knows he will start right away if he commits. But maybe the most telling thing is that the Panthers aren't recruiting any other wide receivers hard right now so you have to think that both sides already know what's going to happen. A wide receiver class of Winfree, Ruben Flowers, and Maurice Ffrench would be excellent.

Chris Clark, TE- Last year's No. 1 tight end prospect has committed to a handful of schools, and with a visit coming this weekend, it's safe to say that Pitt is next. I know fans make fun of him, but you don't pass up a talent like this. He's so good that he'll probably only play for the Panthers for one year anyway, before going to the NFL. A tight end is desperately needed and he will be a great fit. At worse he's a flake, but so is Rob Gronkowski. Enough said.

Justin Morgan, OT- The Panthers haven't done well with adding offensive linemen this year with only Brandon Ford having committed so far.  Usually you want to add at least three or four but this year two seems to be the maximum or they will be scraping the bottom of the barrel. There are a few options here, but Morgan, who is committed to Rutgers, seems to be ripe for the picking since Kyle Flood is probably going to get fired. The fact that he already visited Pitt after committing to Rutgers shows he has serious interest.

Zack Gilbert, DE- The son of Sean Gilbert would be an excellent pickup, and this is one that seems like it's just a matter of time. He visited Virginia Tech recently, but with a coaching change there I doubt that he will still think about them. That leaves the Panthers.

Amir Watts, DT- The Chicago native committed to Western Michigan but opened up his recruitment a few months ago. He hasn't visited Pitt yet, and he seems to be a bit of a backup plan at this point, or the Panthers would be much more aggressive with him. They clearly want another tackle, and the prize would be USC commit Keyshon Camp, who says he wants to visit, but the competition may be too fierce. Plus, the Florida native looks like he wants to play somewhere warm. Penn State de-commit Christian Colon is a talent, but he's been thrown off his high school team, so that's never a good sign. There are others, too, but I'm going out on a limb here and saying Watts just by using the process of elimination. Floridian Aaron Thompson is another real possibility.

Damar Hamlin, CB- I know a lot of fans overreacted to his attendance comments, but I still think he'll eventually end up as a Panther. I think that's definitely who he wants to play for and when Heinz Field is packed this Saturday, he will be much happier.

Khaleke Hudson, S- Despite what you hear, the Panthers are very much in the mix with the McKeesport star. I was leaning towards Virginia Tech for Hudson about a month ago, but with Frank Beamer gone, that could remove them from the list. But that's not the only reason why I think Pitt has a strong chance. He also likes them much more then people realize.

For the remaining one (or two should one of the above force a de-commit), it could easily come from this list:

Elijah Deveaux, RB- He's been strong with Duke since he committed to them but the Panthers never stopped recruiting him hard. And with his dad, Glenn, being a former player at Pitt, the family is huge Panther fans. But if Sanders flips, then any chance that Derveaux will, too, is much slimmer.

Aaron Mathews, S- The fact that Pitt isn't taking him as a receiver shows me that Winfree is inevitable, but as a 6'4' safety Mathews would be interesting. He seems to be higher on Pitt now more than ever, and he's visiting this weekend, so maybe he feels he has a real chance again.

George Hill, RB/WR/S- He de-commited from Ohio State, and just about everybody thinks he'll end up at Michigan State, but he hasn't ended up there yet, so there's still a chance. Big time athlete.

Nate Swart, TE- Local tight end is a Toledo commit, but he's visiting the Panthers this weekend. If he gets an offer I assume he'll flip to Pitt. Even though the starting tight end will presumably go from JP Holtz, to Scott Orndoff, to Clark, there needs to be another tight end for date.

Zack Williams, OT- Florida big man with some offers from Miami, Louisville, NC State, and West Virginia, as well as Pitt. A lot of good Florida kids commit later in the cycle, and he'd be a good late pickup.

Quayshon Alexander, DE- Excellent NJ end that is already committed to Nebraska, but the Cornhuskers are struggling big time and Alexander wants to visit Michigan and Pitt.

Desmond Chapple, DE- Apparently the Panthers are looking for yet another end because beyond Gilbert they are still heavily pursuing a few. This Illinois native is visiting Pitt this weekend.

Andre Mintze, DE- Undersized Philadelphia kid but he is lightning quick and was pretty impressive at Pitt camp this summer. if he can out on good weight over the years he could be very good. He's visiting Pitt this weekend.

Aaron Thompson, DT- Undersized, but talented tackle from Florida. He continually claims that Pitt is his leader.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Attendance of major programs in an NFL city

Average attendance this season- Metro population

Washington- 61,206- 3.5 million
Minnesota- 53,737- 3.5 million
California- 51,160- 4.5 million
Arizona State- 50,486- 4 million
Georgia Tech- 50,285- 5 million
Stanford- 49,474- 4.5 million
Miami- 48,261- 5.5 million
TCU- 47,139- 6.5 million
Pittsburgh- 46,085- 2.3 million
Maryland- 40,782- 8.5 million (in between Washington, DC and Baltimore)
Colorado- 39,571- 2.5 million
Cincinnati- 34,025- 2 million
Northwestern- 33,888- 9.5 million
Temple- 33,276- 6 million
Vanderbilt- 32,505- 1.7 million
Boston College- 31,382- 4.5 million
Houston- 30,313- 6 million
South Florida- 26,138- 2.8 million
San Diego State- 24,696- 3 million
SMU- 24,315- 6.5 million

One thing to note is that Pitt has hosted Youngstown State in 90 degree weather, Virginia, and North Carolina on a Thursday. After Notre Dame comes in, the average attendance will go up.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Pitt 23 Syracuse 20


1. It wasn't pretty but the Panthers are 6-1 on the season, and 4-0 in the ACC. And maybe even more amazing is that 5 of those 7 were on the road, and 3 of the 4 ACC games were on the road.

2.  Nathan Peterman continues to be efficient, and made his usual gutsy, accurate throws. For the game he was 19-25 for 189 yards. He didn't throw a TD but he also didn't thrown an interception. Since he took over full-time at Iowa he has not thrown an interception. That's been 4 and a half games.

3.  Qadree Ollison does one thing good, and that's running hard and straight. He did it for 103 yards on 22 carries. He also had 2 TDs. Chris James also played well running for 31 yards on 7 carries.

4.  Tyler Boyd had 12 catches for 93 yards, plus ran 6 more times for 34 yards. He also fumbled on a kickoff, and it was his fumbling that led him to lose the punt return job to Avonte Maddox in this game. Maddox didn't have any good returns, but at least he was very sure handed.

5.  Dontez Ford was going up against his former team, and he played well with 4 catches for 78 yards. He is plenty good enough to be a No. 2 WR. They just have to throw it to him.

6.  The play calling was frustrating at times mainly because of not throwing the ball down the field much, and because of the constant use of sweeps. Peterman has shown he can throw down the field so I have no idea why they don't do it more. The offensive line was struggling some in pass protection, but you still have to go down field sometimes. And Ollison runs best up the middle, but for some reason Jim Chaney kept calling for sweeps.

7.  The defense was not great, especially in the first half, but they did enough to win and even came up with two interceptions (Matt Galambos and Lafayette Pitts). It helped that Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey was probably concussed and shouldn't have been in the game.

8.  The last drive was a thing of beauty and it's what winning teams do to win. Taking the ball at their own 5 with 9:20 to go, the Panthers did whatever they had to do to get down the field, and things couldn't have worked out better. A gutsy, perfect fake punt continued the drive at midfield, and the Panthers took every second of the 9:20 to win the game on a Chris Blewitt 25-yard FG.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Top Pitt football targets to keep an eye on for '17

David Adams, Central Catholic HS, LB- Born to play middle linebacker, and the Panthers defense can't be great without one. For that reason the 6'1" 225 pound Adams is being pursued very heavily by the Panthers. He said on twitter a few months ago that there's a 100% chance that he would play where Paris Ford plays, and they are very close, but we'll see. Pitt, Penn State, and Notre Dame are the three favorites.

Jacobe Clement, South Mecklenburg HS (Charlotte, NC) CB- Excellent 6'1" 180 pound cornerback that is very high on Pitt early. Zack Gilbert is his teammate, and the Panthers have offered a lot of players on this loaded team. Plus, Sean Gilbert is on the staff. A lot of it may come down to how stocked the Pitt secondary is at the time.

Tyler Dunning, St. Thomas Aquinas HS (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) LB- The Miami commit is still looking, and that could be good news for Pitt.  The 6'1" 225 pound 4-star linebacker wants to visit Pitt and he has tweeted good things about the Panthers defense for the past month or two. Plus, ace recruiter Rob Harley knows that area well, and since he would be his actual position coach, the chances of a flip may be even better.

Tyjuan Garbutt, Riverbend HS (Fredericksburg, VA) DE- Big time pass rusher at 6'3" and 230 pounds. Very high on the Panthers right now, but they will have to battle Penn State, West Virginia, and Virginia Tech. It's well worth the battle because you can never have enough pass rushers, and he's an excellent one.

Fred Hansard, Hun School (Princeton, NJ) DT- A giant 6'3" 315 pound beast that has to have Pat Narduzzi and Tom Sims salivating.  A big time player that will be hard to get, but he has Pitt high on his list.

Connor Heyward, Peachtree Ridge HS (Suwanee, GA) WR- The Panthers need more wide receivers and adding the son of Ironhead, and brother of Cameron, would be a great addition. He's an excellent prospect and the Panthers are very high on his list.

Kurt Hinish, Central Catholic HS, DT- Doesn't have an offer from the Panthers yet, but they are interested. He does have offers from Virginia and Toledo early. At 6'3" and 270 pounds, he's a good prospect that will only get bigger. If the Panthers offer, they will be major contenders.

Gabe Houy, Upper St. Clair HS, OT- Has an early offer from Pitt, and has visited the Panthers often. He's also a teammate of Pitt commit Brandon Ford so the Panthers have a very good chance with him. At 6'6" and 270 pounds he has a ton of upside.

Donovan Jeter, Beaver Falls HS, DT- Originally he was looked at as a defensive end, and he still could play there, but he now claims to be up to 6'4" and 280 pounds so he could project as a devastating tackle. He tweets about Pitt constantly, and it seems like just a matter of time before he commits, but time will tell.

Jake Lawler, South Mecklenburg HS (Charlotte, NC) DE- Very talented at 6'3" and 225 pounds. Teammate of Zack Gilbert and Jacobe Clement. Major prospect that Pitt has gained ground on recently, but he just got offered by Georgia yesterday, and it really turned his head since that's where his dad went to school. Of course a lot can happen, including Georgia filling their needs with somebody else.

Ryan Lezzer, Clearfield (PA) HS) WR- Sleeper that is a big Pitt fan. Doesn't hold an offer yet, but Pitt likes him. Slot receiver type at 5'10" and 185 pounds. I think if the Panthers offer him he will commit, but it remains to be seen whether or not they will.

Alex Marshall, Proctor Academy (Andover, NH) TE- Originally was going to be in the '16 class, and Pitt was considered the leader before he changed to the '17 class. The Panthers are obviously in need of a few TEs and a 6'7" 230 pounder is a good one to have. It remains to be seen if he's the best option because there will be a lot of candidates.

Dewayne Murray, Steel Valley HS RB/WR- A dynamic runner but at only 5'8" and 180 pounds his size could be a problem. It certainly didn't hurt Dion Lewis, who was the same size when he entered college. He also could be turned into a slot receiver. This one will be interesting.

Kenny Robinson, University Prep (Pittsburgh) LB- One of the better prospects in the state, he could play wide receiver at 6'3" and 205 pounds, but the Panthers like him as a linebacker. And he could be a really good one. Pitt is considered the heavy favorite at this time.

Griffin Sestili, North Allegheny HS, TE- The Panthers need tight ends, as I said, but Sestili is 6'3" and 230 pounds so he may be a tad small for what the Panthers want. Virginia has offered so he's clearly a good player. His dad, Chris, was a center for Pitt in the late 80s.

Rick Squires, Penn Hills HS WR- Doesn't have a Pitt offer yet, but they are interested in the 6'1" 200 pound Squires. He does have an Akron offer. If he got a Pitt offer I think he'd be a Panther but it's still up in the air if he will.

Darian Street, Liberty HS (Bethlehem, PA) WR- Pitt was his first offer, and he's the brother of Devin Street, but the talented 6'1" 175 pound receiver says he would prefer to make his name somewhere else. That may change if he can't find anybody better than Pitt.

Ambry Thomas, Martin Luther King HS (Detroit) CB- One of the top cornerbacks in the country in this class, and the Panthers are among the top group for the 5'11" 165 pound star. The Panthers will be pretty loaded at cornerback, but so will anybody else that would be a contender for his services. He stopped in to visit Pitt unofficially in April, and he's former teammates and best friends with Avonte Maddox.

CJ Thorpe, Central Catholic HS, OG/DT- A ginormous young man already at 6'3" and 310 pounds. Most look at him on offense, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Panthers wanted him on defense. Even though his dad played at Penn State, Pitt is a major player. He likes Pat Narduzzi a lot and he has a lot of friends going to Pitt, including Paris Ford and Rashad Wheeler.

Lamont Wade, Clairton HS, CB- One of the best corners in the country in the class. Until I see otherwise, he seems like a player that has stars in his eyes, especially since his advisors seem to be the same way. If I had to guess I would say that he will go to Ohio State, but we'll see.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Top Pitt football targets to keep an eye on for '16

Aaron Mathews, Clairton, WR- At 6'4" and 185 pounds, Mathews is a tall drink of water. And despite the lack of elite speed, he still is a handful due to his long strides, frame, and hands. Despite rumors that he's waiting for Penn State (not true), he still hasn't committed to Pitt despite the Panthers being the obvious leader. You have to think it will happen eventually and that maybe he's simply a kid that does things on his own schedule.

Khaleke Hudson, McKeesport, S- At 5'11" and about 200 pounds, he's a little small for a linebacker, though he could maybe get about to about 220 and be a smaller linebacker. He could be a force if that would happen, despite his lack of size for the position. But strong safety seems to be his most ideal position. Wherever you put him, he will be good because he's tough, fast, and athletic. McKeesport kids don't go to Pitt as any Panthers fan knows but I heard through the grapevine that ace recruiter Rob Harley was offended by the thought when he heard this.  Whether Hudson goes to Pitt is still very much in the air. He's very secretive with his thoughts, and he takes great pride in that. Pitt is still very much in the mix, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if he chooses the Panthers. But for some reason I'm thinking Virginia Tech. 

Damar Hamlin, Central Catholic, CB- He doesn't have elite speed which makes some think he will be a safety, but he's fast enough for corner, especially since he also has length at 6'1" and 180 pounds, great quickness, and anticipation. His close friends are going to Pitt, and Pat Narduzzi defensive backs do well, to say the least. I think Notre Dame intrigues him, but I think he will choose Pitt eventually.

Miles Sanders, Woodland Hills, RB- I will make this short and sweet. Everybody I know in the recruiting business thinks he will flip to Pitt, or at the very least, thinks there's a very good chance. He would make an instant impact on next year's team, and the PR of flipping an elite recruit from Penn State would obviously send reverberations around the college football world. I am not saying for sure that it will happen but if it does nobody should really be surprised. 

Justin Morgan, Poly Prep HS (Brooklyn, NY) OT- Giant 6'6" and 330 pound pound lineman is already committed to Rutgers, but he has since visited the Panthers. For now he's still sticking with Rutgers, but Pitt keeps putting pressure on him to flip. He'd be a very nice pickup as his stock has been rising. Plus, the Panthers need to add another offensive lineman.

Zack Gilbert, South Mecklenburg HS (Charlotte) DE- The son of Sean Gilbert is a 6'1" 255 pound lineman with a very high ceiling. He moves extremely well and has great strength and explosiveness. He also is very mature and great character. He reminds me a lot of Ejuan Price. Pitt is considered the favorite, and the Panthers merely have to hold off Virginia Tech to get an excellent player. 

Quayshown Alexander, DePaul Catholic HS (Wayne, NJ) DE- The 6'2" 235 pound Nebraska commit is planning official visits, including Pitt. He is a big Steelers fan and was very interested in Pitt before somewhat surprisingly committing to the Cornhuskers. He's very good and you can never have too many big time athletes.

Jamal Smith, American HS (Hialeah, FL) DE- Northern schools like Pitt usually get under the radar Florida kids late in the recruiting cycle, and I expect the same this year. The 6'2" 248 pound Smith is one such possibility. Some may feel like Pitt is recruiting so well that getting perceived leftovers is not a good thing, but there are so many excellent players in Florida that it's impossible for the top programs in the region to have room for them all. Plus, Harley and defensive coordinator Josh Conklin knows the Florida players very well.  Smith wants to visit Pitt soon. Kentucky and Oregon State are his other top suitors.

George Hill, Hubbard (OH) HS, RB/WR/S- The Ohio State de-commit visited Pitt and even though almost everybody thinks he will end up at Michigan State, the Panthers are still right in there. An excellent athlete that can play multiple positions. If Pitt could technically flip a player from Penn State and Ohio State then things would get even more interesting. I see him probably ending up at Michigan State, but you never know.

Amir Watts, Phillips HS (Chicago, IL) DT- Previously committed to Western Michigan but then he got hot and he's now back on the market. Just 6'3" and 270 pounds but he's very quick. In fact, he even catches passes from the the wide receiver position at times. Minnesota may be the biggest obstacle. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Kaezon Pugh to Pitt

The Panthers storybook season continues as Aliquippa linebacker Kaezon Pugh has verbally committed to the Panthers. The 6'2" 210 pound Pugh is one of the best linebacker prospects in the east, and his commitment adds to a quickly improving linebacker corps.

Pugh's other finalist was West Virginia, and his other offers included Auburn, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Duke, Tennessee, Nebraska, Michigan State, Missouri, and Arizona.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Pitt 31 Georgia Tech 28

Wow. What can I say other than that? Just by the simple law of averages I thought Pitt would lose this game, and after the first quarter I was 100% convinced of it.  But what an amazing job by the coaches and the players. Some thoughts:

1.  The Pitt defense got absolutely shredded in the first half, and I thought Georgia Tech was going to score 60. But amazingly the Pitt defense held the Georgia Tech offense to just 7 points in the second half. That was the least amount of points that Georgia Tech has scored in a half all season. In the first half, Georgia Tech had 337 yards.  In the second half they had 145 yards. Just an amazing turnaround.

2.  On offense, Pitt has definitely found a quarterback. There's no going back now, and for good reason. Nathan Peterman completed 14-21 passes for 173 yards, but even more impressively he had 3 TDs and no interceptions. Since he took over permanently in the second half against Iowa, he has thrown for 7 TDs and no interceptions.

3.  The Pitt running game, with help from an excellent performance by the offensive line, ran for 200 yards. Qadree Ollison led the way with 22 carries for 83 yards, and a TD.  Darrin Hall added 38 yards on 8 carries, and Chris James added 22 yards on 3 carries. That's 143 yards on 33 carries, a 4.3 average. Peterman and Tyler Boyd also carried five times each, and they gained 31 yards and 26 yards respectively.

4.  Boyd became the top pass catcher in Pitt history after getting 8 catches for 68 yards. He also had 2 touchdowns, one of which was spectacular.  He also had a fantastic pass completed deep in Georgia Tech territory.  What a talent. But he dropped two punts, and to be honest, he has not had a good year as a return man.

5.  The kicking game finally came up, and did they ever. Ryan Winslow did a good job of pinning Georgia Tech deep and obviously Chris Blewitt's 56-yard game winning, and Pitt record FG, was everything.

6.  All in all, this was a great win. And Pitt has themselves some kind of coaching staff. Pat Narduzzi, defensive coordinate Josh Conklin, and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney all did a fantastic job.  Now the Panthers are 5-1 and 3-0 in the ACC.

7.  This is becoming quite a season.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Paris Ford is a Panther

The dam has broken and it has broken in a big way. One of the top prospects nationally, at any position, in the 2017 class, safety Paris Ford of Seton-LaSalle HS in Pittsburgh, has committed to the Panthers. The 6'1" 180 pound Ford is considered a top 100 prospect nationally. He has the length, speed, and athleticism of an elite defensive back. In the last fifteen years or so, safeties have become playmakers and they have become a highly coveted commodity.  Ford has amazing range and has All-American potential.  His other offers included Penn State, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, Auburn, UCLA, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Tennessee, among others.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Many thoughts on Pitt football and basketball

I just have some thoughts and info that has accumulated over the past week or so, so here it goes.

1.  The first thing I want to say is that PAT NARDUZZI IS HERE TO STAY!!!  I understand that Pitt fans always expect something bad to happen, but with all due respect, don't be so paranoid.  Only five head coaches in Pitt's modern history left for another school. Two of them (Johnny Majors and Paul Chryst) left to return to their alma mater, one of them (Ben Howland) returned home to coach the school he always grew up loving, one (Jackie Sherrill) left for a ton of money when Pitt had bad leadership, and one (Todd Graham) is a douchebag with no morals. Well, Narduzzi was born in Connecticut when his father was at Yale, and he spent his formative years in Youngstown before playing at Youngstown State. He's obviously not going to leave for Yale or Youngstown State. That means the only connection he is to Michigan State. First, Mark Dantonio is not returning to his alma mater, South Carolina. He's from Ohio and has spent his entire coaching career in the Midwest. Outside of the four years he spent in college four decades ago, he has no affiliation to the south at all. Not to mention that he'd be 60 next season, he has spent a lot of time getting Michigan State to where it is now, and he's treated like a god in East Lansing (including huge pay). Michigan State is also a better job. The legendary Steve Spurrier was only 44-40 in the SEC there, and it will always be an also ran in that highly competitive conference.

Also, Pitt is the closest major program to Youngstown at just over an hour. This is home for him. It's his area, it's his people, and he knows he can win here. Pitt is actually a better program than Michigan State, as Narduzzi would quickly tell you. It's very hard to recruit at Michigan State, whereas Pitt is surrounded by a very fertile recruiting area. Bottom line, coaching at a school doesn't give you some crazy, insatiable thirst to go back there as soon as you can. It's home that makes you want to go back, and home for Narduzzi is the Pittsburgh area. He really has no reason to go elsewhere. So relax and enjoy the man. As I said from the moment he was hired, he's the one you've been waiting for.

2.  A win over Georgia Tech would be huge for Pitt's eventual win total, but I'm actually pessimistic for this game. Of Georgia Tech's four losses, three were on the road against tough competition (Notre Dame, Duke, and Clemson), and they lost at home (North Carolina) late to another excellent team. Plus, the law of averages says they won't lose 5 in a row.

3.  The most encouraging thing about the fast start this season is that their actual on field talent is probably less than last year. The Panthers are without James Conner, Jared Jones-Smith, Rachad Ibrahim, Matt Rotheram, and TJ Clemmings. It's pretty obvious looking at that why the offense is struggling. Outside of Tyler Boyd there's simply no big time playmakers, and the offensive line has had two veterans replaced by the very mediocre Artie Rowell and the very raw Brian O'Neill.  The future is extremely bright for O'Neill, who I think could be a first round possibility in the future, but he's just learning the position.

4. Even though the on field talent this year may be less, the talent level is about to go up. Don't get me started on the ridiculous Rivals ratings system, which penalizes Pitt for not having 20 recruits yet. That's just one of the reasons why you have to take rankings system with a grain of salt. Another is the quota that Rivals use. They only have 50 five star prospects and 250 four star prospects. But what if there are more than 50 or 250 that are worthy? Too bad. That makes no sense.

I can settle this debate once at for all, to be honest. At the moment Texas has two 4-star recruits and seven 3-star recruits. Rivals has them ranked No. 57, behind schools like SMU, Washington State, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wake Forest. And listen to this. SMU has no 4-stars, four 3-stars, and seventeen 2-stars, yet they are ranked above Texas. In average per recruit, Texas is No. 14, which obviously makes much more sense. So, bottom line, Pitt is actually No. 41, not No. 71, as Rivals lists. When it's all said and done, Pitt should be around No. 30.

Thomas MacVittie and Chase Pine deserve to be 4-star prospects and Maurice Ffrench is obviously a 3-star, not the 2-star they have him listed at. Pine is having a great year on defense and even at quarterback. He's been a major force on the field. Ffrench has been unstoppable in New Jersey and had over 400 total yards this weekend. He runs, he catches, he returns. He can do it all. And MacVittie is now healthy after an early season injury and is playing very well despite playing in the ridiculously loaded Cincinnati Catholic league. J.J. Cosentino of Florida State was a 4-star prospect at Pittsburgh Central Catholic because he was big, athletic, and had a strong arm. What was overlooked was that he was such a bad passer (less than 50%) that Central Catholic rarely let him pass. MacVittie has been much better this season than Cosentino ever was. And, by the way, he and his father absolutely love Pitt, and they've pretty much shut down his recruiting. That's why there are no more offers. In fact, his father often messages me with pro-Pitt comments and he can't wait for his son to get to Pitt.

5.  As for recruiting, the first thing I want to say is that you shouldn't believe message board naysayers that Pitt has no chance for Miles Sanders, Kaezon Pugh, and Khaleke Hudson. Sanders has been secretly visiting Pitt for months and he's scheduled to have an official visit for the Notre Dame game. The Panthers could conceivably win that game and be 8-1. That's highly unlikely but let's say the Panthers are at least doing well at the time and Penn State is not. Both things are possible. It will cause a buzz at Pitt among the top local recruits if the Panthers have the look of a real winner. And Sanders could easily get swept up in that. In fact, what I've been told from those close to the situation, is that Sanders wanted nothing to do with Chryst so he committed to Penn State, but that if he still hasn't decided, he probably would have chosen Pitt. Basically, he got himself into a Penn State mindset, and he doesn't want to be disloyal. All along I said I would still take Penn State since he's already committed to them, but it would not surprise me for a second if he eventually flipped.

As for Pugh, he is not automatically targeted for West Virginia as many believe. He could absolutely end up going there, but Pitt was not happy about losing Aliquippa and they are all going all out to get them back in the fold. Both Chris LaSala and Rob Harley are on the case, and if they don't get him, it's simply because Pugh wants to play with Dravon Henry (for essentially one year since Henry will likely go to the NFL after his junior year).

Hudson may be a long shot for the reason that as a strong safety, he has no chance of playing over Jordan Whitehead. But Hudson takes great pride in keeping everybody in the dark, and that includes those closest to him. Nobody has any idea what he's thinking so anybody that says he's waiting for a Penn State offer or isn't interested in Pitt, is simply making it up.

6.  As far as the other recruiting, I think Damar Hamlin, Aaron Mathews, and Zack Gilbert will be Panthers, and they will join MacVittie, Pine, Ruben Flowers, Therran Coleman, and Rashad Wheeler as the cream of the crop. But that won't be all. I expect a flip or two to Pitt, as well as a probably a few late Florida signings. I think Juwann Winfree is a real possibility, too. The one I am a little worried about is UCLA transfer Chris Clark, who seems to really want to play with his friends at Syracuse.

7.  I expect the 2017 and 2018 classes to be even more impressive. I don't think Pitt will get Lamont Wade. He and his handlers are the type that loves the spotlight, and they find their value in where Lamont signs. I have a good feeling, however, with locals Paris Ford, Donovan Jeter, and Kenny Robinson. All three are big time talents. I also think there's a better chance than many think with LB David Adams and DT CJ Thorpe. Both would be crucial signings as they would make the middle of the Panthers defense very stout. A future DT combo of Jeter and Thorpe would make Pitt fans salivate. The Panthers will also be favorites for Brandon Ford's teammate at Upper St. Clair, Gabe Houy, and Devin Street's brother, Darian. Outside of PA, Ironhead's son, Connor Heyward, is a talented Georgia WR that the Panthers have a strong shot with, and elite Virginia DE Tyjuan Garbutt is another. Obviously there will be many more major targets as it's still relatively early for out of state targets. In 2018, it's all about Pine-Richland QB Phil Jurkovec. He will be a very highly rated national recruit his senior year. Trust me when I tell you that this is exactly the type of QB the Panthers need to make serious damage on a national level. And I like Pitt's chances- a lot. And he won't be the only really good WPIAL prospect in that class. I will have more in future posts, but let's just say that the WPIAL is strong again.

8.  If Pitt could land Sanders, Clark, and Winfree the offense will get better in a hurry. Clark would probably have to wait a year, but Sanders would start immediately, and Winfree would join with Flowers, Quadree Henderson, and probably Mathews in a suddenly deeper receiving corps. On the opposite end, if they don't land all three, their future RB, WR, and TE units will still need a lot of help. It's a very crucial time in the development of the program.

9.  Okay, this is when some people are going to lose their minds. The Pitt basketball team, and Jamie Dixon. Look, here is the way it is. Dixon is not doing everything right and he's in a very delicate spot at this point. His coaching is excellent. Trust me on this. You won't ever win an argument with any knowledgeable basketball person if you say otherwise. It's his recruiting that has been suspect. He doesn't have the perfect staff for him because while he's a great evaluator of talent, he does not close well. So basically he needs an ace recruiter, which he really doesn't have. But, Pitt will win this year, and they will win as long as Dixon is there. They will always win because Dixon is just that good of a coach. Now, he may not consistently win big like you got used to, but he will still win.

10.  This year's team should go to the NCAA tournament, in what I assume will be around a 7-9 seed. Not many teams have a duo like Jamel Artis and Mike Young on their frontline. And after a year with a lot of dead weight, there's none of that this season. Every single scholarship player on the roster can play. Depth, youth, rebounding, perimeter shooting, and defense were all problems last year. Every one of those problems have likely been solved. Rozelle Nix, Rafael Maia, and Alonzo Nelson-Odoba are a three headed monster that's obviously better than having Joseph Uchebo, Derrick Randall, and an undersized Mike Young. Nix, Maia, and Nelson-Odoba are big, strong, they rebound, and they play defense. Graduate transfer Sterling Smith adds more defense, and his perimeter shooting will combine with returning Cam Johnson and newcomer Damon Wilson. By the way, the word I've been getting out of Pitt is that Wilson has been very good.

11.  Assuming everybody that can come back, does come back, next season will still have a strong core of Artis, Young, Chris Jones, Sheldon Jeter, Ryan Luther, Johnson, Wilson, Nix, Jonathan Milligan, Justice Kithcart, and Corey Manigault. And there's two more to be added.

12.  The key is what Dixon does in recruiting in the next year. Not only does he have two more to add in the '16 class, but he could have as many as seven more to add in '17. Dixon better get the recruiting situation improved before then, needless to say.

13.  Speaking of recruiting, I talked to various coaches around the country that told me that Pitt completely mishandled the PG recruiting situation in the past few months. Kithcart was not even close to being the best of the bunch, yet that's the one they ended up with. In fact, one coach told me they could have had a better PG, Maliek White, had they waited. He called it "a colossal mistake" that Pitt had both visit at the same time. Another coach told me that it's unfathomable that Brandin Knight couldn't get fellow New Jersey native Myles Powell to even visit. White went to Providence, Powell went to Seton Hall, and former target Tone Carr went to Penn State. Not exactly inspiring to lose players to such programs.

14.  One of the biggest excuses that people use as to why Dixon doesn't recruit at an excellent level is because of the lack of local recruiting talent. That's somewhat true but he inexcusably lost Maverick Rowan, and now he has elite local '18 targets Robbie Carmody and Curtis Aiken, Jr. on the horizon. He wasn't the first to offer either, which is pretty telling. In fact, every time I complained about a lack of an offer for Carmody, he favored it on twitter.  So, basically, he wasn't thrilled about the lack of attention either. If he loses both, especially a legacy like Aiken, then he will forever be considered hopeless as a recruiter.

15.  Lastly, Dixon will never be fired. Pitt is not crazy. What he's done at Pitt is a minor miracle. It's not nearly as easy to win here as you think. And if Pitt got rid of him, they will not get a big name. Nobody worth a damn will want to work for a school that fired Dixon. Believe that. The best hope is that he gets his recruiting in order. If he does he will continue to win. If you just realize that Dixon will win but will probably never be in the Final Four then you can just sit back and enjoy the fact that Pitt is still better than most programs. Not everyplace is destined for a national championship. In fact, few are. It is what it is. Pitt won't cheat, and without cheating there's no way they will ever be good enough to win it all. And if you want to root for a cheating team, there's plenty out there to choose from.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Pitt 17 Virginia Tech 13

Well, well, well, Pitt has a team perhaps, mainly because they seem to have an excellent defense. Some thoughts:

1.  Defense, defense, defense.  Wow.  Virginia Tech isn't an offensive juggernaut, but Pitt held them to 100 total yards and had seven sacks. Just unreal.

2.  Juan Price was the player of the game and was an absolute demon on the pass rush. I keep forgetting that he could get a sixth year of eligibility next year. He's finally healthy, and if he stays healthy, and returns next year, Pitt's defensive ends will be ridiculous.

3.  The offense was not great, and there's a lot of criticism for Jim Chaney, but the truth is, outside of Tyler Boyd, the Panthers really don't have an exceptional skill player. And Boyd didn't have his best game. Virginia Tech goes all out on the pass rush, and the result was that Nathan Peterman spent most of the time running for his life. But when he had time he connected. Peterman ended up going 9-15 for 110 yards, a TD, and no interceptions. Truthfully, he did as well as he could, and at least didn't make any mistakes. When he had time he was also pretty accurate. Voytik came in and pretty much just ran every time he was in there. He ended up with 37 yards on 5 carries.

4.  Boyd ended up with 5 catches for 48 yards, and he also fumbled a punt that the Panthers recovered.

5.  Quadree Ollison ran hard and impressed with 122 yards on 19 carries, plus a TD. Pitt ran for 166 yards.

6.  Because of the sacks, Virginia Tech had 33 rushes for 9 yards. That's not a typo.

7.  The defense also had 7 sacks and help Virginia Tech to 100 total yards. No other way to say it other than dominating.

8.  Virginia Tech quarterback Brendon Motley was 9-20 for 91 yards, and a TD. He was also intercepted by Terrish Webb, Avonte Maddox, and Mike Caprara.

9.  With Virginia coming in next week, barring a letdown, Pitt should be 4-1, and has a real chance to be 6-2 when Notre Dame comes to town.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Iowa 27 Pitt 24

First of all, sorry for not posting more. One, I've been busy. Two, I put a lot of info on twitter and I forget that many people don't use twitter. Three, it was the summer so things were relatively slow in the Pitt world.  But I'm going to try to post more. For those that follow me on twitter it may be a lot of the info you already saw, but I will try to put different things on.  Anyway, my thoughts on the loss.

1.  The Panthers may finally have their quarterback. It's still too early to know for sure, but other than two early interceptions. Nathan Peterman showed signs that he can help Pitt in the passing game more than Chad Voytik can. At least it looks like that now. Truthfully, we can't expect either quarterback to be a star this year, but if one can at least be competent, that will be huge for the season.

2.  I thought the running back trio of Quadree Ollison, Chris James, and Darrin Hall could, together, make up at least some of the production lost by James Conner. The just is still out, however. The Panthers run the ball 27 times for 55 yards. That's obviously not good. But, on the other hand, Iowa is currently No. 5 nationally in rush defense so we'll not talking about a bunch of bums the Panthers tried to run against.

3.  Hall started and ran for 38 yards on 14 carries. He appears to me to have the highest upside so I liked seeing him start. Ollison ran for 17 yards on 14 carries, and James ran twice for no yards. Ollison runs hard, and he's tough, but he seems somewhat limited. To me, his talent level is reminiscent of Isaac Bennett in that he could be a solid contributor but may be limited as the main guy. And James has battled injuries, while also not having the full trust of the staff to do what's expected of him.  James does have a lot of talent, tough, so hopefully it all comes together for him.

4. Tyler Boyd hasn't missed a beat, and in fact, he leads the ACC in receiving despite missing a game. Against Iowa he had 10 catches for 131 yards, and the game tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

5.  Voytik locks on to Boyd way too often, both last year and this year, but Peterman spread it around more. J.P. Holtz, Dontez Ford, Scott Orndoff, George Aston, Ollison, and Hall combined for 13 catches.

6.  The kickers still don't inspire confidence.  Chris Blewitt made a 48-yarder and all three extra points, but he still seems shaky.  Ryan Winslow has not had a good season.

7.  The defense is looking very good. The motto for the defense is "Run and Hit", and that's exactly what they are doing.  Cornerback Lafayette Pitts is still the weak link, and in fact he had three horrible plays in a row. But on the other side, sophomore Avonte Maddox has been exceptional. At the safeties, Terrish Webb had a huge interception, and was all over the field. And what can you say about a player that had 16 tackles in just his third college game? That's what Jordan Whitehead did. I always said he will be a first round draft pick some day, and that's looking like a good prediction right now. He's special.

8.  The defensive line was solid against the run again, and the Hawkeyes ran for just 105 yards on 29 carries. But the pass rush was weak. Not only did starting defensive ends Rori Blair and Ejuan Price not have a sack, but they also didn't have a tackle. Shakir Soto had two tackles when he took over after Price got injured. Three ends with two tackles is not going to cut it.

9.  The linebackers were a little better. After having 10 tackles in the opener, and looking like a future All-American, Nicolas Grigsby had just 3 tackles for the second straight game. Bam Bradley took over for Mike Caprara, and even though he had just 4 tackles, the difference in speed and athleticism was quite evident. Caprara chipped in 3 tackles. Middle linebacker Matt Galambos had the lone sack, and it was a vicious one, but a 4-3 MLB needs to make more than 6 tackles in a game. His backup, Quintin Wirginis, had 3 tackles, including an impressive shoestring tackle. Personally, I'd like to see Wirginis playing over Galambos, because he seems like a real playmaker, but the staff prefers the intelligence and experience of Galambos.

10.  The offense, especially the passing of Peterman, gave the Panthers a chance in the second half, but it was the defense and special teams that was the best units of the game. The out block of Ryan Lewis was a welcome sight. It was the second huge play that the special teams came up with through the first three games.

11. Narduzzi got criticism for not going for it on a crucial fourth quarter drive, and it was well deserved. Even legendary coaches make bad decisions so it's not the end of the world, but Narduzzi relied too much on a good, but not great defense to bail him out, when all he had to do was make one foot.

12.  At the end of the day, Pitt was a 5 point underdog, I picked them to lose by 3, and they lost by 3. So a close loss is hardly a surprise. But Iowa looks to be a pretty good team this year and they had to hit a 57 yard field goal to win the game at home. A loss is still a loss, but there are definite signs that the Narduzzi resurrection project is on course.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Pitt 24 Akron 7

The Panthers exorcised another demon by going on the road and beating Akron 24-7, in a constant rainstorm.  Panthers go to 2-0 and play next Saturday night at Iowa. Some thoughts:

1.  Chad Voytik started and began the gamer going 6-6. But he played his usual cautious, anxious self, and he was eventually replaced for the rest of the game during the second quarter. He ended up going 6-8 for 33 yards. Peterman was much more poised and while he was hardly dominating he did at least make normal quarterback plays. He ended up going 12-17 for 147 yards and a touchdown. I'd be surprised if he didn't start next week, but the offensive decision making has been curious so you never know.

2.  Qadree Ollison was solid, but for some reason offensive coordinator Jim Chaney ran between the tackles almost exclusively. Ollison had 21 carries for 81 hard fought yards. Darrin Hall looked quick and confident, and he ended up with 12 carries for 52 yards.  Neither are James Conner but combining for 133 yards is not chopped liver.

3.  Tyler Boyd had 11 catches for 95 yards, but he really didn't break anything. Zach Challingsworth is the only other wide receiver to make a catch, and it went for a first down. JP Holtz had three catches for 42 yards, including a touchdown on a nice Peterman pass.

4.  Defensively, Avonte Maddox and Tyrique Jarrett flashed again, but maybe the most impressive player on defense was Rori Blair. The combination of Blair and Dwayne Hendrix at DE next year is exciting, especially with Jarrett returning in the middle. By the way, the Panthers gave up only 110 yards tonight.

5.  Jordan Whitehead didn't do anything spectacular but he made a lot of good little players. He's only going to get better.

Bottom line, it wasn't pretty, but neither was the weather. Without Conner, no real receiving option outside of Boyd, and without a topnotch quarterback, Pitt will have to gut it out all year, but 2-0 is a good confidence builder.

Monday, September 7, 2015

James Conner out for the season

According to Pat Narduzzi, James Conner has a torn MCL and will be out for the season. Chris James, Qadree Ollison, and Darrin Hall will have to pick up the slack.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Pitt 45 Youngstown 37

Some thoughts

1.  Jim Chaney was much too conservative and if the Panthers don't have a quarterback that can complete passes 10 yards down the field on at least a semi-consistent basis then they are in big trouble.

2.  Speaking of which, Chad Voytik was mostly bad, and after looking good in his first series, Nathan Peterman promptly threw an interception. He never returned

3.  James Conner looked great but an injured knee in the second quarter cost him the rest of the game. Chris James got the first chance to replace him but eventually Quadree Ollison came in and was a one man wrecking crew. He was the unquestionable MVP of the game.

4.  The defense was hit or miss, though much more miss in the second half.  Nicholas Grigsby, Avonte Maddox, and Tyrique Jarrett looked the best but there's still a lot of dead weight that is seeing time. I'm still confused as to why Matt Galambos even sees the field and Lafayette Pitts still is not very good.

5.  The Panthers had six sacks and until the last long TD run they were giving up just 2.3 yards a rush. The offense continually put the Panthers in bad position, and initially the defense came up big. However, late in the game, the defense fell apart. There just isn't enough good players on defense it seems. 

Bottom line, it's a win, even though it was an ugly one. And it was done without the two superstars for the most part. The defense will get better, and the pass game, with the return of Boyd, will get better. But it's clear that this team will go only as far as the passing game and defense improves.  

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Jamie Dixon lands PG for this year

It's never too late to add some help and Jamie Dixon did just that by adding 6'2" combo guard Jonathan Milligan today.  Milligan, of Kilgore (TX) JC, will have two years of eligibility left. A native of Orlando, FL, Milligan averaged 14.3 ppg and 3.7 apg last year. He also proved to be a very good shooter, going 48.3% from the field, as well as 40.2% from three, and 79.1% from the free throw line. He also has excellent quickness.

Milligan originally signed with Florida Gulf Coast but recently was considered ineligible by the NCAA. Somehow things changed in the last week, and he's now a Panther. He joins a suddenly deep backcourt of James Robinson, Sterling Smith, and Damon Wilson.

Coming out of high school, Milligan was considered a top 100 prospect by MaxPreps, and ESPN ranked him the No. 25 point guard in the country. Tennessee and Creighton were his most recent offers, and NC State and Marquette were also interested.

Monday, August 31, 2015

How Narduzzi's class currently compares to past Pitt classes

Walt Harris 6th class
Avg. per recruit- 44th
Rivals ratings system- 39th

Walt Harris 7th class
Avg. per recruit- 43
Rivals ratings system- 34

Walt Harris 8th class
Avg. per recruit- 78
Rivals ratings system- 74

Dave Wannstedt 1st class
Avg. per recruit- 49
Rivals ratings system- 38

Dave Wannstedt 2nd class
Avg. per recruit- 22
Rivals ratings system- 21

Dave Wannstedt 3rd class
Avg. per recruit- 25
Rivals ratings system- 26

Dave Wannstedt 4th class
Avg. per recruit- 19
Rivals Ratings system- 28

Dave Wannstedt 5th class
Avg. per recruit- 38
Rivals Ratings system- 47

Dave Wannstedt 6th class
Avg. per recruit- 29
Rivals Ratings system- 33

Todd Graham only class
Avg. per recruit- 62
Rivals Ratings system- 59

Paul Chryst 1st class
Avg. per recruit- 26
Rivals Ratings system- 47

Paul Chryst 2nd class
Avg. per recruit- 53
Rivals Ratings system- 35

Paul Chryst 3rd class
Avg. per recruit- 30
Rivals Ratings system- 44

Pat Narduzzi 1st class
Avg. per recruit- 49
Rivals Ratings system- 66

Pat Narduzzi 2nd class
Avg. per recruit- 42
Rivals Ratings system- 63

I consider average per recruit the better system, and the reasons why have been covered in many places before. If Pitt merely finished their class with mostly 2 star recruits they will go up in the ratings. That makes no sense.

To use just one example of how silly the system is, WVU is currently ranked No. 28 in their ratings system, even though they have zero 5 stars and one 4 star (both like Pitt), but they also have five 2-stars compared to two 2- stars for Pitt. The difference is that WVU has 19 commits compared to Pitt's 10. Pitt has 80% of their recruits currently that are 3 or 4 stars. WVU has 74% of their recruits that are 3 or 4 stars. But WVU is No. 28 in the rankings whereas Pitt is No. 63. How much sense does that make?

Clemson has eight 4 stars and three 3 stars in their class, with one player not rated because he is at a prep school and didn't get ranked. Rivals has them at No. 20. In ratings per recruit Clemson would be No. 3. Obviously they are more likely to be No. 3 with that class, but they are penalized for only having 12 players in the class.

The most obvious example is California. They have just one 4-star, but also four 2-stars. They are ranked No. 17, according to Rivals rankings because they have 17 3-stars. Their class is 82% 3 or 4 star players, only 2% more than Pitt. In average per player they are No. 45, three spots below Pitt. Basically, they get rewarded for having more committed players, even though all of those extra players are 2 and 3 star prospects.  It's not like Pitt will not finish their class at all, or finish with all 2-star prospects. Most will probably be 3 stars with maybe another one or two 4 star prospects thrown in.

Bottom line, you shouldn't get penalized for having less players in your class because all classes will be maxed out.  Some may only have room for 16 and some may have room for 25 or more. Quality should matter more than quantity and that's why average per recruit is the most likely indicator of how strong a class projects on paper.

That leads us to Narduzzi's current class, which at No. 42 is good, but nothing special. In fact, on paper Chryst had two higher rated classes. But, this is where even average per recruit doesn't tell the entire story since 10 of Chryst's 11 four star prospects were offensive players, and the one defensive player was Deysean Rippy.  By the way, as an aside, Mark Dantonio's first full class at Michigan State was No. 46 in average per recruit.

If Narduzzi lands Damar Hamlin, along with various 3-star star recruits, the class will be around No. 35, which is a good first full class. But the 2017 class, in which Narduzzi's staff will have two full years to recruit, can, and should, be even better.

Monday, August 24, 2015

My bios for Pitt football starters as high school players

I thought it would be interesting to see how I did as far as predicting what would become of Pitt players as they entered the program. For the players that's been around for a long time, I don't have bios, but here are the ones that I do have. The players listed are the projected starters, and when there is doubt who will be the starter, I added several options.

QB- Chad Voytik- "At 6'1" and 185 pounds he could use some weight, but his height is fine, despite some naysayers.  In fact, Chryst's star QB at Wisconsin, Russell Wilson, is 5'10 1/2".  He is not considered a running quarterback but he is very mobile and possesses good speed, so he can take off and run extremely well when he needs. His best trait, however, is seen when he passes.  His arm strength is very good and his lightning quick release is considered by some to be the best in the class. He's also already shown he is a leader as he is the player most responsible for keeping the best of the class together."

RB- James Conner- "At 6'2" and 230 pounds, he's a big, tough runner with very good straight line speed at that size. Doesn't make a lot of moves, but he runs hard between the tackles. Once he breaks though the line, he utilizes his excellent speed with his quick, choppy steps. Was considered a defensive end prospect by most scouts but after a huge year of running the ball, the Panthers staff decided to try him at running back. But this is a player who, if he can prove he can be a running back at the college level,  has the chance to be very effective at running hard behind Pitt's massive line. The fact that he could move to defense is an added bonus because he has very good pass rush skills."

WR- Tyler Boyd- "Thin at 6'1" and 168 pounds. He's never been a full-time wide receiver, but he clearly won't have a problem learning the position immediately.  Has excellent speed, athleticism, and hands.  Excellent with the ball in his hands and is also an exceptional return man. Very reminiscent of former Woodland Hills, Michigan, and NFL star Steve Breaston.  An excellent receiver/returner who was a must even before Robert Foster chose to go to Alabama. Could be all-star caliber."

WR- Dontez Ford- Transfer so no bio.

WR- Elijah Zeise- "Solidly built at 6'2" and 185 pounds with a frame that could add a lot more weight. Physically he does not have one trait that stands out at an elite level, but he is good to very good in size, speed, athleticism, and hands. A good football player that could also project at safety or even linebacker some day."

WR- Zach Challingsworth- "Highly productive receiver on the high school level. A little thin but otherwise he has nice 6'2" 185 pound size. Quicker and faster than given credit for, but he's not considered an elite speed/athleticism kid.  Excellent hands and makes a lot of circus catches.  Young for his class and will begin his freshman season at Pitt as a 17-year old. To be honest, this kid seems to be a little under recruited. He has better than average size and speed, and he has excellent hands.  He's a football player so even if he doesn't star in college, he can help the program.  Likely redshirt candidate and then a possible No.2 or No.3 receiver sometime in his future."

WR- Quadree Henderson- "Very small at 5'8" and 170 pounds, but he's a water bug type with blazing speed (10.8 100m) and elite level quickness. Game breaker who runs extremely well with the ball in his hands. Also could factor in as a kick returner."

TE- JP Holtz- "Ideal for Paul Chryst's tight end friendly offense but he is also versatile enough to move to defensive end or linebacker in the future if need be. He possesses very good speed and athleticism, and even though he looks nothing like a true halfback he often ran out of the I-formation like a much smaller player, until he eventually steamrolled any would be tacklers. Bottom line, this is one of my favorite players from the hundreds of Pitt prospects this year.  He's just a tough, hard nosed football player that hustles.  Combine that with his natural talent and Chryst's offense, and Holtz could be a bonafide star down the road."

LT- Adam Bisnowaty- "I'll put him down as a guard for now but he has the ability to play tackle and even center for the Panthers.  At 6'6", he has great length but at 280 pounds he obviously has to gain a lot of weight, especially on a Bob Bostad line. A little stiff, but very strong.  Plays with a mean streak.  Was considered a bit of an underachiever at one point, but then decided to turn it on.  The result was offers by Florida, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Virginia among others. Bottom line-  A big, tough, nasty lineman who has the ability to be an All-American under Bostad."

LG- Dorian Johnson- "Ideally he's not big enough to play as a freshman, but he's talented enough that he may not only play, but he could start, too, possibly at guard where he won't be on an island in his first year.  He has future all-star ability and I would be surprised if he doesn't reach that level."

C- Artie Rowell- No bio found.

RG- Alex Officer- "Excellent run blocker with quick feet and agility.  Once he latches on to a defender, he often destroys him. Plays nasty.  Projects as a guard or even center, though he played tackle in high school. Two of the top 20 prospects in the upcoming draft are 6'3" guards and both are consensus All-Americans.  Major programs aren't going to make a special stop to Rochester so he is very much under the radar. He's raw, but the more I watch this kid, the more I think he has the potential to be very good in a few years."

RT- Alex Bookser- "Already a fit 6'6" and 300 pounds, and he can get bigger. Very quick feet which could make him an ideal left tackle candidate down the road. Like most freshmen linemen he will need to get stronger, so he'll very likely redshirt. But in a few years, if he lives up to his potential, he can be a big time left tackle. And if he doesn't? He very possibly could be an all-star defensive tackle since at the moment he's actually a better defensive player."

DE- Shakir Soto- "Already has excellent 6'4" 245 pound size and has a slender athletic build that could add another 20 pounds of good weight.  Very strong run defender but he has developed nice pass rushing skills this past season.  Good student and very mature. High character kid who plays hard and has good size and athleticism.  Because he enrolled early and is advanced both physically and mentally, he could possibly see time as a freshman."

DT- Khaynin Mosley-Smith- No bio found.

DT- Darryl Render- "Committed under previous regime as a pass rushing defensive end/linebacker, but while he has decent pass rushing skills, stopping the run is his forte. Strong base on his 6'3" 250 pound frame.  Good hustler with good athleticism.  Has the ability to add a lot of weight to become a defensive tackle down the line. Bottom line:  Tough, high character kid from an excellent high school football program. Has the potential to be a good strong side end or can add weight to move inside."

DT- Tyrique Jarrett- "Giant 6'3" and 320 man child with nasty aggressiveness, brute strength, and quick feet. He had almost no chance to qualify last season and still got offers from not only Pitt, but also Cincinnati, UConn, and Temple.  If grades weren't an issue, he would have had more and bigger offers. Big, nasty players that can move like him are rare.  Perhaps the sleeper of the class and somebody with a lot of potential."

DE- Rori Blair- "Very skinny at 6'3" at a listed 220 pounds, and he looks skinnier than that. But he has the frame to get bigger. Needs a lot more strength. Right now he gets overpowered too often. Good straight line speed and athleticism. Could potentially be an outside linebacker if he can't put on enough weight. An interesting project for many reasons. He's come a long way but he still has a long way to go."

OLB- Mike Caprara- "The lack of size is what kept Caprara from getting major offers.  At most he's 6'0" and 210 pounds, and it remains to be seen how much bigger he can get, but he has good speed and excellent instincts. Bottom line:  A born football player who would get a huge amount of offers if he was bigger.  At the very worst, he can be a special teams wiz who provides leadership on and off the field.  At best, he adapts to his smaller size and becomes a good player."

OLB- Bam Bradley- "The Panthers may tell him he's a safety officially, and they may even try him there, but look for him to be a linebacker eventually.  As a safety, he lacks the top level athleticism and speed, and as a linebacker he will have to add to his 6'1" and 200 pounds.  But it's easier to get bigger than faster.  He wants to play safety. Tough hard hitter as his name suggests (his real name is George), with good instincts.  Speed and athleticism is okay, but he could be a liability defending as a safety.  Spends most of his time in the box making tackles close to the line of scrimmage.  Brother Nicholas Grigsby was a freshman linebacker this year for the Panthers.  Bottom line: Tough kid who loves to play football and hits like a ton of bricks.  If he gets into the right position he could be a future ringleader on defense."

MLB- Matt Galambos- "Tough, relentless 6'2" and 225 pound young man that makes plays all over the field.  A sleeper who many in his area consider to be the best player in that part of the state. Don't be fooled by the Ivy League offers, which was indicative of his academics, not his playing level.  Not only is it great to have a kid like this in your program but he's also a really good football player who has everything it takes to excel in college football and life."

OLB- Nicolas Grigsby- No bio found.

CB- Lafayette Pitts- No bio found.

CB- Avonte Maddox- "Small at 5'9" and 160 pounds, but he can flat out fly. Probably the most electrifying player in Michigan this season and that's saying something.    Would be a big time slot receiver in some offenses, but at Pitt he will be at cornerback. Could be a star return man. Good student and leader."

FS- Reggie Mitchell- Transfer so no recruiting bio.

SS- Jordan Whitehead- "Solidly built at 5'11" and 195 pounds, excellent speed, and topnotch quickness. One of the most electrifying players in the state. Could also play safety on defense, plus wide receiver, and return kicks and punts."

SS- Patrick Amara- " Long frame at 6'2" and 175 pounds. Not a blazer on the stopwatch but he plays much faster on the field because of his smarts, anticipation, and quickness. Could turn out to be a very good college player."

PK- Chris Blewitt- "Small at just 5'10" and 175 pounds, but he has recently added size and strength.  Strong leg on kickoffs. People will have fun with his last name, but he will have the last laugh if he lives up to his ability."

P- Ryan Winslow- "Very big punter at 6'5" and 210 pounds.  Good athlete. Can also placekick and kickoff, though he probably won't be asked to in college. Hasn't put up big averages as a punter but the frame and leg are there so he just needs to learn to maximum his talents."

Monday, August 10, 2015

Pitt adds a local DT

The Pitt defensive line continues to get stronger for the future as 6'3" 270 pound Rashad Wheeler, of Central Catholic HS in Pittsburgh, chose the Panthers over offers from Penn State, West Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, Virginia, Rutgers, Boston College, and others.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Some Pitt football recruiting thoughts

Some notes that I posted on Twitter, but I wanted to put it in here, too.

1.  For Rivals rankings, I find their formula idiotic, and the reasons why are too boring to get in to. Others have written about it in detail, and let's just say they make no sense. The real rankings should be by average ranking per recruit. Following that, Pitt currently has the No. 42 recruiting class. Players like Damar Hamlin, Rashad Wheeler, Zack Gilbert, and Therran Coleman could make that go way up into the 20s, and there's a very good chance that will happen. And there may be a few other surprises along the way (including very possibly a huge one). But, bottom line, Pitt has a very good chance of ending up in the top 30 with Pat Narduzzi's first class.

2.  This class currently has a rating of 2.86 per recruit. Mark Dantonio's first class was 2.71. He had just one 4-star to go with 13 3-stars, and SEVEN 2-stars. His second class, when he had nearly two years to work on them, was a 3.3 and ranked No. 18. I suspect Narduzzi's second class will be equally impressive.

3.  Dave Wannstedt's first full class at Pitt was No. 22. Wannstedt followed that up with No. 26 and No. 19. Then the wheels came off at No. 40 and No. 30. Needless to say, Pitt's talent level started to drop and it was showing.

4.  The ACC recruiting is currently ranked: 1. Clemson, 2. Florida State, 3. Miami, 4. North Carolina, 5. Louisville, 6. Duke, 7. Pittsburgh, 8. Georgia Tech, 9. Boston College, 10. NC State, 11. Virginia Tech, 12. Virginia, 13. Wake Forest, 14. Syracuse. Expect Pitt to move up these rankings.

5.  At Michigan State, Narduzzi coached three consensus All-Americans and two No. 1 draft picks (one overlapped). All of them were 2-star or 3-star prospects, according to Rivals.

6.  Despite their coaching problems, Pitt has out recruited both Wisconsin and Michigan State 5 out of the last 10 years. In the seven years when the Pitt head coach had a full recruiting class, Pitt bettered those two schools 4 out of 7 years.  Moral to the story- Pitt did well recruiting when all hell broke loose. Imagine when there's stability.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Top 10 Prospects in PA for 2017 Class (Preseason Edition)

1.  D'Andre Swift, St. Joseph's Prep HS (Philadelphia) RB- Perfect running back size at 5'10" and 208 pounds. Short, muscular frame and elite speed and quickness makes it nearly impossible to get a good shot on him. No real weaknesses and even has great hands. His offer list is big and will get huge before long. Right now that offer list includes Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Florida State, Georgia, South Carolina, Michigan, Michigan State, and Virginia Tech.

2.  Lamont Wade, Clairton HS (Clairton) CB- Just as excellent as Swift, and should be neck and neck as the best player in the state. May be the best cornerback prospect in the state, and that's saying something. Not big at 5'10" and 185 pounds, but he is a potential superstar with speed, athleticism, technique, hands, and toughness. Offers include Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Ohio State, Auburn, Nebraska, UCLA, Maryland, and Virginia Tech.

3.  Paris Ford, Seton-LaSalle HS (McKees Rocks) S- Pretty slim right now at 6'0" and 175 pounds, but he's a high level athlete with the speed, athleticism, and hands to be an all-star college player. Great range with hands to match. Also a good hitter despite frame. Ed Reed centerfielder type that seems to be everywhere. Offers include Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, Auburn, and North Carolina.

4.  David Adams, Central Catholic HS (Pittsburgh) LB- The quintessential PA linebacker with smarts, toughness, and tenacity. Good athlete. Plays well against the run and the pass. Early offers include Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Nebraska, Virginia, and Virginia Tech.

5.  Josh Lugg, North Allegheny HS (Wexford) OT- Already great size at 6'6" and 290 pounds, and he has the frame to get bigger. Great feet, tenacious, and strong. He has an extremely high ceiling. Early offers include Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Notre Dame, UCLA, Virginia Tech, Michigan State, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

6.  Donovan Jeter, Beaver Falls Area HS (Beaver Falls) DT- Already a large 6'4" and 260 pounds on a massive frame. Can easily get up to 300 pounds if he moves inside. May also have the potential to terrorize as a rush end. Excellent basketball player who would be a high major prospect if he was taller. Early offers from Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Michigan State, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Maryland, among others.

7.  CJ Thorpe, Central Catholic HS (Pittsburgh) OG- As of now he's 6'4" at best which means he will have to move inside to guard, but at 310 pounds he's a massive brawler that has great feet to go with the size. Could be a devastating pulling guard. Offers include Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, Auburn, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Virginia, and Maryland.

8.  Mark Webb, Archbishop Wood HS (Warminster) WR- In most other years he'd be a guaranteed top 5 prospect. Already good size at 6'2" and 195 pounds, and with that size he has the speed, athleticism, and hands to be one of the better wide receivers prospects in the east. Early offers so far include Pittsburgh, Penn State, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Rutgers.

9. Damion Barber, Harrisburg HS (Harrisburg) DE- Listed at 6'3" and 220 pounds but he looks thinner than that. Once he fills out he could be very good but he's lightning fast off the edge. Pittsburgh, Penn State, Virginia Tech, and Rutgers are among his early offers.

10. Carter Lynch, St. Joseph's Prep HS (Philadelphia) OT- A virtual unknown on the recruiting scene until this summer when he had some good showings. His 6'5" 315 pound size and strength are his best assets. He doesn't have great feet so he's pretty much stuck at right tackle but if you're looking for a mauling, tough, run blocking right tackle this is your guy.