Sunday, January 4, 2015

Thoughts for 2015

This past weekend was horrible for Pittsburgh sports fans, but the truth is, things are looking up at Pitt. Anybody that follows me knows that I am not a homer. I have criticized Jamie Dixon for his recruiting and have said that he needs to break through to the Final Four before he's considered a great coach. And I've trashed the Pitt football program for many years because they've underachieved.

I consider myself a realist, so these following comments are how I see things realistically. I am not writing them to be positive. When I see other Pitt writers continually act like cheerleaders it makes me a little nauseous. No, these thoughts are positive because that's how I feel about Pitt football and (with a more weary eye) Pitt basketball.


Pitt Football

1.  Mark Nordenberg was a great guy who did wonders for the university as a whole. Unfortunately, he was blinded by his allegiance to former athletic director Steve Pederson for some strange reason. His sweetheart deal to Pederson has been discussed so let's move on to the fact that new chancellor Patrick Gallagher seems to know what he's doing.

Gallagher fired Pederson almost immediately, eating his large contract to boot. It showed awareness, smarts, and aggressiveness. At least with a small sample size he seems like exactly the kind of leader that Pitt athletics has needed for decades.

2.  With Pederson gone, the university will now have a new athletic director. Even though we don't know who it is yet, with Gallagher leading the way I am optimistic that it will be an improvement over the divisive Pederson.

3.  From sources I have heard that the budget has increased to "a very competitive level". That does not mean that Pitt is on par with the football factories, but I'm told that it's enough to compete with pretty much everybody outside of the top 10-15 programs. Even better I'm told that boosters are very encouraged by what's happening and are not against going higher should the program take off. Which is usually the case. The football factories get a lot of money from boosters because they win a lot, which makes people happy, and then they want to pay money to keep that feeling going.

4.  There's a new sheriff in town and his name is Pat Narduzzi. Of course the suicidally depressed faction of Pitt fandom will say they've seen this before, but to be blunt, those people are clueless. No, this guy hasn't been a head coach yet, and there's also some trepidation because of that, but if there's anybody that was born to be a head coach it's this guy.

Narduzzi's dad was a college head coach, he's been the right hand man for one of the best head coaches in the country for the past eleven years, and he's practically had head coaching duties for half  of the Michigan State team for many years. Some coordinators work under the head coach. Narduzzi was left on his own. The result was that he was probably the best defensive coordinator in the country.

Narduzzi does not appear to be Paul Hackett, Foge Fazio, or Paul Chryst, three men who became head coaches basically because they were excellent coordinators and it was the next logical step. Narduzzi is excellent in the X's and Os, but he also has the gravitas that the great head coaches do. Players not only want to play for him, but they will do anything to please him. They love him, they respect him, and they believe in him.

I keep hearing about the "losing culture" for Pitt football, and that's ridiculous. First of all, in the last fifteen years the program has had only five losing seasons so there's hardly a losing culture. Yes, there's been embarrassing events that the program has undergone in the past, but they've still won more than they've lost.

It's the fans and the media that talk about ridiculous things like a Pitt curse, but take it from somebody that's interviewed high school prospects for twelve years, these kids don't think like that. They are much more resilient, and much more positive, than cynical and bitter adults. They think that wherever they are they are going to win big. And for Pitt, I can guarantee you that as soon as they talked to Narduzzi, they though they were going to win big at Pitt. They don't harp on lost leads or fleeing coaches. Unlike the rest of us they have short memories. I even talked to recruits that were considering Penn State literally a month after the rape scandal and they didn't even think about it. If they didn't think about something like that, then Pitt's problems are minuscule by comparison.

5.  There's every reason to believe that Narduzzi will have an excellent staff to support him. He wouldn't take the job until he had the budget to compete at a high level, and he went on record saying that he has that. The money is there and Narduzzi is very highly respected in the coaching community. People are lining up to work with him. This is obviously very different than Paul Chryst's staff. One of his biggest weaknesses was his terrible staff hirings.

6.  Narduzzi, an excellent staff, and the area, means the recruiting should be the best it's been in a long time. Dave Wannstedt had recruiting classes in the 25-30 range. I see no reason why Narduzzi doesn't at least do that well, and quite possibly better. It's actually easier to recruit to Pitt than Michigan State because of the geography. His reputation alone should enable him to recruit his share of elite defensive recruits.

7.  Pitt's youth is beneficial in many ways. In just a general sense, Pitt had the youngest team in the country this year and common sense should tell you that most of the players will get better every year. In a more narrow sense, the defensive players won't have to unlearn a lot. Narduzzi and his staff can form them the way he wants, and if he can't do it, then nobody can.

8.  The defense could get good in a hurry. I know I will lose many people here because the bowl game is still in their mind but the Pitt defense is usually at least pretty solid, if not good. They weren't good this year but they weren't as awful as many think either. I would call them average for the most part but that's a step or two up from terrible at least.

While the transitional period with a new coach sometimes makes a unit go backwards, I think it would be pretty shocking if that happened with Narduzzi on defense. And make no mistake about it, there is some talent on that side of the ball.

Narduzzi likes his cornerbacks to be athletic and press at the line of scrimmage. Jordan Whitehead seems like an ideal fit, and Titus Howard, Avonte Maddox, Phillipie Motley, and early entrant Malik Henderson looks like players that Narduzzi can really make something out of. And safeties Reggie Mitchell, Terrish Webb, and Patrick Amara have the coverage skills at safety that Narduzzi requires also. And we have to assume that Jay Stocker and/or Johnny Petrishen could sign and be in that safety mix, too.

On the defensive line, one of the weakest parts of the entire team was the pass rush, or lack thereof. But imagine the potential of Rori Blair and Luke Maclean with Narduzzi's coaching. Would anybody be surprised if Blair had 10 sacks next year? He had 5 as a true freshman as a reserve. Both starting tackles are back, and Justin Moody, Jeremiah Taleni, and Connor Dintino are intriguing young talents behind them.

At linebacker, both Todd Thomas and Anthony Gonzalez are gone, but that's probably a good thing. Not that they weren't solid players, but now Narduzzi can concentrate on the faster, younger players in the unit. Kevin Givens, if he sticks at linebacker, has the potential to be a future star. Bam Bradley and Nicolas Grigsby move very well so Narduzzi has something to work with, and youngsters Jamal Davis, James Folston, and Quintin Wirginis should excel under Narduzzi.

8.  The offense is already very good and, barring injury, should be good again next year. There's always a worry that the players on offense will have a hard transition to a new staff. But superstars James Conner and Tyler Boyd are two players whose talents seem pretty foolproof.  Chad Voytik should only get better, the offensive line, despite losing TJ Clemmings and Matt Rotheram, looks like it's going to be a strength for the foreseeable future, and all of the tight ends are back. Maybe they'll even get thrown to now, too. Throw in the fact that Chris James has star quality, and Adonis Jennings and incoming freshman Quadree Henderson should really help to complement Boyd.


Pitt Basketball

1. I find it very disheartening that so many people are ready to throw Jamie Dixon under the bus so quickly even though he's known around the country as one of the best basketball coaches in the country. Does he have to do better in the NCAA tournament? Yes. Does he need to land more elite prospects? Yes. But he's also been extremely productive in his career.

I've constantly been hearing that the program is done under Dixon. Let's get this straight. If you end up in the top 10 for a few years, and then don't, that doesn't mean that your program is done. It means it's hard to be in the top 10 every year.

Let's not forget that just four years ago Pitt was ranked No. 1 in the country and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. In the two years prior to this season, they finished fourth in the Big East and fifth in the ACC. Not only is that not disastrous, it's something that all but a small percentage of teams of teams would kill for.

This year's team is weak for three reasons- they are young, they don't have a legit center, and Durand Johnson was suspended. The latter may be the biggest hindrance to a good season, and that was not Dixon's fault. The other two was his fault, because he did not manage the roster correctly, but that happens to a lot of teams. In the last decade Syracuse, beginning just two years after they won the national championship, lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament twice in a row, then went to the NIT twice in a row. The point being, sometimes through fault of your own, and sometimes through no fault of your own, your roster gets out of whack. It doesn't mean you are going to be out of whack in the future. The good thing about basketball is that your roster can good very quickly.

2.  This current team is young. Very young. I think a lot of people forget about that. The top nine teams on the team are Cameron Wright, James Robinson, Michael Young, Jamel Artis, Josh Newkirk, Chris Jones, Sheldon Jeter, Ryan Luther, and Cam Johnson. Only Wright is a senior, and only Robinson is a junior. That means seven of the top nine players are sophomores or freshmen.

3.  The young players are improving. Last year Young averaged 6.0 ppg and 4.1 rpg. This year he's averaging 13.6 ppg and 8.0 rpg.  That's pretty good for a sophomore that's forced to play as an undersized talent. Artis averaged 4.9 ppg and 2.9 rpg last year. This year he's averaging 9.5 ppg and 5.1 rpg. Last year Jones averaged 2.4 ppg and this year he's averaging 8.9 ppg.  That's three sophomores that made big strides this year. It doesn't take much of an imagination to think that over the next two years they will continue to improve.

4. Help is on the way. Not only is Durand Johnson expected back, which alone is huge, but Cam Johnson and Luther should be much bigger factors. Incoming freshman Damon Wilson should help at point guard and giant junior college center Rozelle Nix merely has to be competent to  make the team significantly better. A player of his size will prevent teams from continually driving into the lane and will also let Young move to power forward. And I expect to see at least one more player in this class.

5.  Recruiting has lacked the elite player for the past few classes, but that doesn't mean things will continue that way. Admittedly they better or Dixon will find it more difficult to get back into that top 10 range, but as of now he has top 25 prospect Mustapha Heron on the way in the 2016 class. He's also had top 5 center Cheick Diallo visit three times and top 25 big man Alonzo Spellman visit twice. Both have Pitt on their final list. These are some of the big names but the Panthers are involved in many more quality players. We'll see if Dixon, Brandin Knight, and Marlon Williamson can land any of them and if Heron sticks with his commitment. If they can then the Panthers will combine them with their soon to be veterans and the roster will get better very quickly.





86 comments:

  1. Who is Narduzzi going to have be the OC? To me, that is all that matters. Thanks for your time and the website. I'll hang up and listen.

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  2. Regarding Dixon,
    The only way to look at the future (near future) regarding success on the court and in recruiting is by looking at the past 3-4 years.
    That is reality. That is being realist.
    Pitt BB has been on a downward slide since 2009.
    Dixon has not recruited well and his "system" does not work well unless the athletes stick for all 4 years. That is why Dixon is where he is at today.
    Dixon system or mode of play is not attractive to elite athletes.
    Unless Dixon can change how he lets the team play, then elite athletes won't come to Pitt. It's a vicious cycle. Furthermore, Dixon system needs a dominate center not some player playing out of position. That is a recruiting problem.
    Please don't give me the if if if... if he lands a center, etc because he hasn't and those that he has left in 1 year which happens with elite athletes.

    I like Dixon but he seems to have his heels dug in and doesn't want to change. He doesn't want to change his system and he doesn't recruit well.

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    1. You refuse to look at the fact. Some of Dixon's best players over the years have been centers to say he can't get them is flat out wrong.

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    2. He hasn't gotten any center since 2009 that lasted longer than a year.
      What true 4/5 star center has Dixon landed since 2009 that lasted longer than a year!
      Answer... None.
      Dixon didn't develop Adams either and Adams made the right move of going pro. He is developing in the NBA.
      Dixon has had tremendous turnover since 2009 of transfer outs, etc that he was left scrapping the bottom of the barrel for recruits. And that is why the current roster is what it is. Who's fault is that... who knows... who cares... bottom line, Dixon system can't have huge turnover.
      Dixon system is old school based on players staying with the program for 4 years.

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    3. You clearly don't undrstsnd basketball recruiting. True 4/5 star centers don't stay anywhere in college for more than a year.

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    4. No kidding.
      Dixon must not have gotten the message. So, if he can't land a true center every year, he needs to change his offense to a 2-PF like Villinova.
      Dixon has had a recruiting problem for 5 years and it isn't going away unless he changes.
      Dixon 2 centers on the roster are rejects... they didn't even get any playing time at NC State. Uchebo was a health hazard and Randall was not good at Rutgers!!
      Who's fault is that... Dixon!!
      He was hoping Adams was going to last 2-3 years.

      You can talk about if and if and if... but the fact of the matter, is that Dixon hasn't, hasn't, hasn't recruited well for the last 5 years. That is the crux of the problem.

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    5. I'm pretty sure I wrote the same thing. Maybe you should have read it with an open mind instead of skimming over it quickly so that you can lash out emotionally.

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    6. Here are some recruiting facts over the past 4 years.
      2014 - 4-3star of which 2 were transfer in.
      2013 - 3-3star (of which 2 was transfer in) and 1-4star (Young)
      2012 - 1-5star (Adams 1 and done), 1-4star (not impressed) 1-3star
      2011 - 1-5star (Birch transfered out after 10 games), 3-3star (2 transfered out)

      In business, the "Best predictor of the future is past behavior". Guess, what, same with sports. In business we use 3-5 years historical data to predict future value, etc.

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    7. There's not one bad recruiting year in there.

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    8. Could Pitt do better if they fired Jamie Dixon last year? Sure. It's possible. Who do you want to hire? Here's a great candidate:

      This coach is 49, in the prime of his career. He has a .751 winning percentage, was a national coach of the year, and is going to be one of the youngest coaches to get to 300 career victories in major college basketball. He has missed the NCAAs only once in the last 12 seasons, and has finished outside the top 5 in very tough basketball conferences only twice in that span while finishing first or second five times.

      That guy is Jamie Dixon. I think we should stick with him. I remember when we had Paul Evans, who I still think got a raw deal when he was sacked. I remember the Ralph Willard era, and it was putrid. I remember how deflated I feld when when we tried, and failed to hire Skip Prosser (who never had anything approaching Dixon's success). I remember when we had to settle for some guy named Ben Howland, who coached the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks in something called the Big Sky conference. That guy took three years to completely resurrect Pitt's program — meaning we made the Sweet 16 twice. And I also remember feeling a little uneasy that Pitt, once again, "settled" for his assistant, one Jamie Dixon.

      I don't think Pitt should be spinning the coaching wheel of luck again. The odds are not in our favor. Coaches of Jamie Dixon's caliber are rare, and certainly deserve a longer leash one failure to make the NCAAs since 2003. Every program in the ACC But Howland is free these days, fired even after winning the Pac 12 title. Maybe Jamie could bring him on as a defensive assistant.

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    9. 2011 recruits were a disaster.
      2012, Adams only stuck around 1 year and Dixon had no plan.
      2013. Young was a great pickup. The rest were duds.
      2014. Jury is out but not ACC standard.

      How could you say not a bad recruiting year there?? Based upon the facts, Dixon swung and missed a lot the last 4 recruiting cycles which is why Pitt is were it is at today. I don't see Dixon improving in recruiting with the loss of Slice.

      No different than the Steelers drafts the last 5 years. Swing and miss.

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    10. Newkirk and Artis are duds and Cam Johnson and Luther aren't ACC standard? Well I think any rational person would agreed that you've lost all credibility.

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    11. In Dixon's offense the ball very rarely goes down low to a post player. The guards / forwards pass it between themselves in a circle at the top of the key. Most cannot penetrate. Dixon made no use of Adams at all. Why would a big want to come to Pitt when watching the games he realizes the only time he will get the ball is on a rebound.

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  3. I understand a 6-7 record is a losing season, but if you only counted losing seasons at the completion of the regular season, Pitt has had only two since 2000 - 2005 and 2007.

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  4. Most Pitt fans would be feeling A LOT better about the football program if we made just ONE defensive or special teams play to save that bowl game. It was literally a one-in-a-million chance that Houston would score a TD, recover an onside kick, score another TD, recover ANOTHER onside kick, score a third TD on 4th and 13, and then get the two-point conversion. There are people who do the math and I think Pitt had a 0.6 percent chance to lose the game after kicking their last FG to get to 34 points. (The flip side, of course, is that this is Pitt we're talking about, and their defensive coordinator was Matt House. That tends to screw up the math.)

    For the reasons you mention, I think Pitt can win as many as 10 games next year. At any rate, they should be in the hunt for a division title until near the end, with a close game or two meaning the difference. I truly beleive we will look back at the hiring of Pat Narduzzi as a high point of modern Pitt football. Here's a story of two coaches who have similar backgrounds to our new coach.

    One coach was a highly regarded defensive assistant in the late 1980s who was about the same age as Narduzzi when his career took off. He had never been a head coach before he was hired by a MAC school. He turned that program completely around, but left after just one year to be an NFL assistant. After three years in the NFL, he returned to the college ranks to be the head coach in a Power 5 Conference, which started a career that will put him in the College Football Hall of Fame.

    Another coach, also about the same age as Narduzzi, got his big break when he was hired to a Power 5 Conference school as his first head coaching gig. He had spent about a decade as one of the most respected assistants in college football. When finally given the chance to be "CEO" of a major program, as Narduzzi put it in a TV interview at Pitt's bowl game, he saw immediate success with four conference titles, one second-place finish, and one national championship.

    Funny additional fact: Both men were born in and have deep ties to West Virginia. The first coach is Nick Saban. The second coach is Jimbo Fisher.

    Will Pat Narduzzi be either of those guys for Pitt? That level of success is very rare, but Narduzzi has the pedigree, and — more importantly — he has the desire to achive that level of success at Pitt. This is his big shot, and he will bust his ass to not blow it. I want Narduzzi to be so successful that he's offered double his salary by a school in the SEC, or the Big 10, or Texas. That would be a very good thing, even if he were to accept.

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    1. I think we'd feel a lot better if we could just cut the one-in-a-million occurrences to just once a season... here's lookin' at you Georgia Tech.

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  5. Cris, Excellent posts on both the football and basketball programs. What you wrote about Narduzzi is encouraging. I think for the first time in years both the funding and the coaching will be dramatically upgraded. Also, I agree with comments on Jamie Dixon. People forget that a few of years ago it looked like Jim Boeheim's teams were in decline and the last two years they were back.

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    1. Winning creates funding. Pitt hasn't been an "exciting" winner in decades. The money will come flowing back if Nard gets things rolling, and that will fund greater success.

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  6. I'm really looking forward to the Narduzzi era. I think he's going to bring an energy and passion to the program that's been missing. He seems to have a great mix of X's and Os along with the ability to motivate and recruit.

    When I think of the "losing culture", to me it's not so much about the overall record as it is that Pitt seems to have a unique ability to pull defeat from the jaws of victory , or losing to teams they have no business losing to (YSU, Akron). I realize all programs have bad moments and bad losses, but Pitt seems to specialize in it.

    However, I'm hopeful for what's ahead, and I'm glad Chancellor Gallagher seems to value what good sports teams can do for a university.

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  7. Chris good read: I know coach dixon's has not recruited will but he has lost coaches in this time too that dosnt help. Team is young there not top five like duke and even North Carolina so his players have to develop their not super star coming in.

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  8. Not convinced Narduzzi is Head Coach Material.

    He's "Off the Charts" EMOTIONAL. Don't know how that is going to translate to a job where a CALM DEMEANOR is often required in the most stressful situations.

    But PERFECTLY suited for the job of Defensive Coordinator as his resume attests.

    It's going to be interesting to watch.

    PittofDreams

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    1. I have no clue where you get that he's off the charts emotional. That's a new one.

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    2. Football Scoop reporting that it appears nobody from MSU will follow Narduzzi.
      Not sure if that is a good or bad thing yet!!
      and he is interviewing the Pitt assistants??? only wants those with a passion for recruiting?? Well, that means nobody on the current Pitt staff.

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    3. Interesting. I do get that he is "fiery" and the players love it. He also has a reputation of making excellent in game adjustments. The Defense pitching a shutout in the 4th quarter against a potent Baylor offense is a good example. Thus, there is no evidence that his emotions interfere with his ability to make rational football adjustments. Of course, only time will tell, but count me among the optimistic.

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    4. Then I guess that you were a strong Paul Chryst supporter. I never saw any emotion exhibited by HC PC. And the Pitt FB team looked great, didn't it!

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    5. Then, I guess that you were a really big Paul Chryst supporter. He NEVER showed any emotion while standing on the Pitts sidelines during games. As a result of his CALM demeanor, the Pitt FB team never looked better.

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    6. Sometimes you just can't win. Chryst was criticized for being too laid back and emotionless, and now Narduzzi is too emotional to be a head coach.

      I bet that criticism goes away if he turns out to be a winner.

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    7. I agree PittofDreams. Off the Charts emotional coaches don't ever work as head coaches. I can think of 2 close to Pittsburgh who support your claim. Bill Cowher and Mike Ditka. I have been told many times if they just could calm down they actually might succeed as a head coach someday. You win for most rediuclous comment on this site

      dUbb

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    8. Ridiculous is spelled this way.

      PittofDreams

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    9. As opposed to Chryst who always seemed to me to waiting for his cookies and milk after every play. Nothing seemed to piss that guy off! Untimely penalties, blown assignments and missed field goals couldn't get a rise out of that guy, so I'll take "off the charts emotional" or even zombie-like "dawn of the dead" over Paul Chryst's golly gee Second City affect.

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    10. POD,

      You have no credibility in making such statements about Narduzzi. After all, you have been dissing Voytik all year and he had a good first season. How many times must you be wrong before you zip it?

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    11. Voytik was NOT good the first part of the season. He did improve and I was glad to see it.

      And how about that Miami Game?

      PittofDreams

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    12. By the way, Batting Average still about .800. Not bad, When it drops below .500, I'll "zip it."

      PittofDreams

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    13. Well, if being too emotional means the opposive of the nearly comatose Paul Chryst on the sidelines - a guy who didn't even bother to stick up for his team with officials who made bad calls most of the time - sign me up for too emotional.

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  9. For anyone to say Dixon has recruited well or is a good recruiter is mindboggling.

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  10. I love Narduzzi. Agreed that he seems to have the "it" factor. Personality, leadership, winner mentality, passion.

    About Dixon--I love the success Pitt BB has had--Who wouldn't? But more and more I'm bored with his antiquated offensive philosopshy...He doesn't recruit shooters...Name a lights out 3 pt shooter he's had? Ramon, yes. But most of his players CAN hit a three, but won't hit a 3 consistently...Look at the last three - four years...Look at this year's team...Is there anyone where you'd say, don't leave him open? Durand Johnson if he was playing...but even he had trouble seeing the floor last year bc his defense and rebounding struggles...

    I love Pitt BB, but realistically, it's a boring team to watch....Grind the shot clock to 8 secs every possession....Have a bunch of mindless on the ball screens by the bigs, and no crisp passing at all...They have won with consistency, but now that they are losing more regularly, it's even less fun to watch...That's the deal.

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  11. Chris:
    Great points.
    Your stock with me went up 1000 points when you were the first to complain about the hiring of House as Pitt's DC. People have to relax with the basketball program as you have already explained. Going to the Louisville game with the family in a few weeks and will cheer the team win or lose. H2P!

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  12. It is baffling to me that people would want to get rid of Dixon at this moment in history. Talk about what have you done for me lately, the grass is greener, revisionist history mentality. All the good times are so easily explained away...Adams and Blair were 100% responsible for the good times and those two fell in Jamie's lap and he gets 0% credit for it. Like Jim's coment above, I remember how bad we sucked before Howland/Dixon. Dixon has PLENTY of flaws and has made PLENTY of mistakes...he needs to recruit better; be more flexible in his coaching, let the kids play more, etc. But man, the guy has done nothing other than take recruiting classes ranked in the mid-50s and made them top 10 teams....for 10 years for which despite failure in the tourney, I appreciated them for how rare and special those years were. We are Pitt. We should for the last 15 years achieved as much as Maryland, PC, Seton Hall, Georgia Tech, I could add 40 more names but this post is long enough. Point is, we have been on average hugely superior to all those teams, whose alumni have done nothing but be envious of Pitt. Now, Pitt is in a 5 year down turn. The reasons seem to obvious to me I cannot understanding why the Dixon haters try to color and change them to something far more nefarious. Dixon as "missed" on some recruits who never came, "missed" on some who came and did not pan out, and has had an absolutely terrible run of players leaving the program for various reasons, some you can potentially pin on him, others not. That's college basketball.

    The point is, the Dixon haters keep forgetting that in college basketball, EVERY SINGLE COACH not named Calipari or Pintino has had downturns. The Syracuses and Villanovas alumni of the world are quite grateful that their adminstrations did not knee jerk react and fire the coahes. Again the point is, stop assuming that once a coach starts a downward trend it will never again go up. That is the single leg that Dixon haters HAVE to stand on to support their position. But for every coach who had a downward trend never shift direction, there is a coach who turned it around. With so much youth on this team, it literally will take the acquisition of one average Center to make this a top 25 team next year. And the year after that should be even better.

    Now if Dixon does not turn this around in the next 2 years not including this year, which any blind man can see is a rebuilding year? Then we all need to rethink whether Dixon should stay. But not now.

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  13. Chris

    Are you hearing anything from the uncommitted players who we would like to attract to this football recruiting class?

    H2P

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  15. Chris ... is DJ really going to improve the team significantly ? I haven't seen enough from him yet to say definitively.

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  16. Any word on Juan price?

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  17. I agree with most everything you said in the article. Unfortunately this year I do not see Pitt's MBB making the NCAA tournament. Due to this there will many Pitt fans on Dixon's case for the remainder of this season. As you pointed out many times, the lack of any semblance of a true center is really hurting them.

    I am looking forward to Coach Narduzzi announcing his staff. Hopefully we will all be pleased with his selections and they can get down to getting the show on the road. Thankfully this year's recruiting class is small so the coaching change will have a limited long term effect. A question I have for you, Chris, is if you see the coaching staff change negatively effecting next year's recruiting class or is this something they have time to overcome?

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    1. Many times new coaches are able to sign good recruiting classes their first year because they can sell kids the future more easily when there is no record to show the coach might not actually reach 12-0.

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  18. Agree Chris there are lot's of positive things happening at Pitt and a lot is because of Gallagher's apparently support of athletics. The athletics department will only go as far as he's willing to ok the spending it takes. If PN is successful, we'll see how far that initial support goes to making Pitt a destination school...

    Specifically about PN, don't know if I'm as confident as Chris that he's going to be incredible. I'm hopeful, but here are some of my concerns:

    - It's one thing to call defensive plays, like PC did on offense, but it's another thing to be aware of all aspects of the game and to be mentally prepared to know what you'll do in all situations. I like that PN is going to stay out of the coordinators jobs on game day but I'll hold off until he shows me he does that and is a good game manager. Let's not forget that PC came from a coaching family too.

    - While I'm also hopeful PN and his staff will be better recruiters than the previous staff I'm not ready to go there yet. I'd like to see who's on the staff and what type of reputation and abilities they bring. Lot's of bad things were said over the past 3 years about PC and his recruiting style and results so I think it's illogical to now say PN is in a great spot with all the really good young talent he's inheriting.

    How much better of a recruiter is PN?? Example: Rivals last 3 year (2014, 13, 12) data:
    1. Average star rankings, Pitt - 2.96, MSU - 3.1.
    2. During those 3 years MSU had 1-5* and 12-4*. Pitt had 1-5* and 10-4*.

    Now consider MSU overall standings the last couple years per AP: #7 currently, #3, NR, #11. We all know Pitt is NR for all those years. I thought I'd see a bigger spread when it came to recruiting results. But MSU has been successful on the field, just like WI was prior to PC coming to Pitt.

    So while I'm hopeful PN dominates, and I agree his style is different than PC's, I'll take a wait and see approach to this one. But no doubt PN has a big advantage over PC and that's Gallagher.

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    1. MSU also pulled in ten 4 star recruits in the 2009 class alone. One must look deeper than just the raw star rankings to get a full picture of a recruits quality too. MSU is a much harder place to recruit to than Pitt and Michigan does not produce the same level of talent that Western PA does. I would also note that a there is difference between a 3 Star who is rated at 5.7, one point below a 4 Star, and one is rated at 5.5, one point above a 2 Star. Pitt's biggest issues is that most of our 3 Stars were 5.5's not 5.7's and even more important, most Pitt recruits had few if any offers from other P5's, which is not the case with MSU.

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  19. Is there any (realistic) chance that Pitt still lands Mav. Rowan?

    Also, I guess it doesn't matter going forward, but how confident are you that D. Johnson was suspended regarding internal academic issues (I infer this because I think once I saw you mentioned Pitt thought they were "Harvard" in regards to his suspension). I have from a close source, that academics was not the issue, though I'll refrain from posting exactly what it was, in the event it's not completely true.

    My problem with Dixon related to what appears to be stubbonrness during his game management. It seems Pitt the last few years has struggled to get quality looks, score, much of a motion offense. I know Dixon has a very pro style, classic 1-5 basketball scheme, but doesn't it make sense to astray from this, at least a bit, when you have offensively challenged, or undersized 5's? I always thought Jay Wright did an amazing job with his PF's (utilizing essentially 2 at all times). Dixon seems shy to attempt this (not physically having two out there, but using them as 4's, running schemes for two 4s). It's like his schemes would rather have the biggest man play undersized 5.

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  20. Doesn't every b-ball coach have his preferred system? In JD's case it's always been defense first, strong rebounding, limited turnovers and passing to get a good shot. Has it produced a final four team to date? No. Has it been successful - I would say that it absolutely has.

    Pitt has regularly finished near the top of their conference in basketball and has won conference tournament and NCAA tournament games. No, they haven't made it to the final four which is how many judge success. Too bad because I've enjoyed a lot of regular season wins over top opponents (remember Duke at MSG a few years back?) , the BE tourney wins and even last year's ACC tournament win over North Carolina.

    Jamie Dixon is a top coach and to suggest his time is up is ludicrous.

    I'm looking forward to Narduzzi taking over. That meltdown last Friday was the final straw and I'm glad Chryst went back to Wisconsin. This just finished season will be remembered for blowing a comfortable lead against Iowa, losing to Akron, 6 fumbles against GT, bad field position - missed field goal against Duke and the almost unprecedented collapse against Houston. It's time to see if someone else can recruit better players and coach them to succeed on the field.

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    1. I didn't suggest his time was up, but the best coaches, in my humble opinion, make the best adjustments. Dixon makes little adjustments it seems. Even in acute circumstances. You couldn't score against NCST, but no in game adjustment was made. If you're not going to do that, you need to recruit more efficiently to find players who can succeed in a slower paced, set offense.

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    2. Daniel - comments weren't directed at you. I thought last nights ugly win included plenty of adjustments by Dixon. Played the hot hands in Jeter and Newkirk. Press got them back in the game.

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    3. Eh - I have a hard time crediting Dixon with that win moreso I do crediting BC with the loss. For one - Dixon didn't have a choice, the press was the only option he had left. And you could tell he was uncomfortable doing it, since he immediately reverted back to half court defense in OT (sure that might have been to refresh the players a bit, but honestly, college kids should be in ample shape). If anything, I'm dissapointed it was defense that had to win that game in the last five minutes. Pitt didn't really do anything spectacular defensively, BC just completely went bottoms up. It would have been nice to see the offense be able to score more than 61 points in an OT game against a BC team with a pretty bad defense.

      Any coach in their right mind would have went to a press trap in the last few minutes. What disturbed me was Pitt's inability to actually run that press (they consistently trapped with two guys and had a floating "rover" in the middle of the court). It was actually AMAZING that BC turned the ball over in those situations. BC also blew that game by not hitting the outlet on their second to last possession with 44 seconds or so left. They pulled up with a man wide open underneath that would have put them up three and instead tried to rely on a 1 pt lead with 10 seconds left. I thought that was also very foolish on their part.

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  21. When did 'Joe D' change his name to 'Anonymous'?

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  22. Narduzzi is the coach Pitt has needed for years. Passion, fire, commitment, strong x&os and emphasis on recruiting. I hated the Chryst hire - started a fire Chryst thread the day he was hired as I said he could not recruit and did not have the leadership skills to be a great head coach. I was proven right. I said as soon as Narduzzi was hired - he has "it". He is the man who will turn around the mess Pitt football has been.

    Anyone who has read my posts know I have been quite negative towards Chryst and the jokers he hired as assistants. I am fored up with the hire of Narduzzi and I can't wait to see who is on his staff. If he sticks to his word - they will be guys who have passion for recruiting as well as coaching. This is the best I have felt about Pitt Football in years

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  23. I have been one that has supported Dixon and thought that it would be insane to get rid of him. I still don't like the idea. With that said, this isn't 1 or 2 average teams in a row (at least in comparioson to the 7/8 very good ones before them). This is now the 4th or 5th season in which you watch pitt and you just aren't impressed at all. They still win a good amount of games but there is no denying that the program has taken a sizeable step backwards and it has yet to gain that step back.

    I still believe the ship can be righted (again, not that the team is terrible) because a team can go from average to elite in an offseason but i dont see those players being signed by pitt. Pitt just has too many players that are 'ok' at everything but do not excel at anything and they dont play defense the way they used to as well.

    Dixon has been recruiting to have 5 athletes on the court that are interchangeable. The problem is that he hasnt gotten those athletes for whatever reasons. He doesnt have a clear cut leader on the roster. He doesnt have a center. The only deadly shooter on the roster is suspended for the year. The only elite athlete on the team is 6'1 Newkirk and hes played like crap this year. I try very hard not to challenge Dixon because hes won so many games for pitt, but i just dont know what hes trying to do forming a roster with these pieces that just dont fit together very well.

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    1. 4th in Big East, 5th in ACC. Enough said.

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    2. Not slamming Dixon with this comment, but IS that enough said? Is it unrealistic to think that with those two aforementioned stats that we should expect more end results? I'm not sure either way and am happy with the program, however just don't want to be complacent. It just seems the media rarely challenges Jamie on the issues he does have. I like Jamie D, I'd just like to hear what his reasons for his game execution stubbornness are.

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    3. Yes. And that is after being in contention for the much better big east every single year. For the past handful of years they have not been as good as they were. There is no way around that. Again, they still win a lot of games but they were a top 25 team every year. Some years top 15 and once a top 2 or 3 team. Now they are getting crushed by average nc state and indiana teams. Not only that, but a program that for almost a decade was known for having tough, smart players and fierce leaders on the court now looks soft and lost out there. You can say 4th in big east 5th in acc but if you look at the past 4 teams and see any semblence of the good teams before them then i don't know what to say.

      I still have faith in Dixon and pitt but im just expressing some concerns that i have.

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    4. And with that said, i completely agree with your optimism and positivity towards the football program.

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    5. I have confidence in Dixon. He has an elite guard coming in which will help the situation next year. He desperately needs a big man. He obviously realizes this. I don't think the JUCO coming in is the answer.

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    6. ESPN posted a recent article predicting 2015 Top 100 SF Davon Dillard would commit to Pitt. Chris, what are you hearing on this kid? Do you think that we land him?

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  24. I am both amazed and incredibly impressed by Narduzzi's ability to keep the staff hiring and interviewing under wraps. We only know for sure that 1 person on MSU's staff was offered and decided to stay (Salem) but we don't even know what positions he was offered. Basically people use two metrics to guess if said coach will be offered: have they coached with Narduzzi? Are they from Youngstown? Full stop.

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  25. Bottom Line: you get a hometown guy like Narduzzi with a kick ass attitude who can get out and recruit recruit recruit and GOOD things will happen. (Chris you haven't really touched on Narduzzi's recruiting abilities???) But if he has that ability to attract local talent as well as snatch some recruits out of Ohio, things are looking up up up.
    *Just a side note: If Urban Meyer can win the Nat'l Championship at OSU he will haul ass out of there just like all of the great one's do. Does that bode well for Pitt and other programs in this region? Everytime a legendary coach wins a Nat'l Championship leaves, there is usually a rebuilding effort right around the corner. Question" where will OSU search for it's next HC? OSU has been known to go local for their head coaches. Just looking ahead. Food for thought?

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    1. I disagree with this. If Urban Meyer wins the National Championship it's great for all the schools in cold climates. College Football is cyclical. Miami was unbeatable in the early 00's, then USC and now Alabama and SEC schools.

      Add Jim Harbaugh to the mix and I think we are going to see the reign of college football change once again.

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    2. What I'm hinting at is: is it possible Narduzzi gets a look from OSU as their next head coach? Make in roads in PA and go back home to Ohio. That would be all too enticing for any coach let alone a native son like Narduzzi. who could blame him?

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    3. So you already have him leaving before he even conducts a practice let alone coaches a game.

      Man being a Pitt fan is entertaining, if nothing else.

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    4. Urban Meyer is going nowhere. He's from Ohio, his dream job was to Coach Ohio State, He has always been a college guy. He already won two National Titles, do you honestly think he has had a chance to leave for the NFL? He's the king of his castle, and his castle is supported at least as well as any NFL franchise. As Lou Holtz said the other night, why go to the NFL where you can only get one first round draft pick a year when you can recruit 25 per class in college?

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  26. Rumor... Bradley being hired by Narduzzi.
    Football Scoop hired a coach for the defense today however no announcement by WVU on who left or is leaving.
    That will be interesting. Presumably as a LB or DL coach.

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  27. I do think it is time for Jamie to go. I know people love him, but I think he hit his peak with the Blair, Young, Fields team and just seems to have hit a major regression. I was at the Holy Cross game and this team plays without heart or much talent. You just don't see any real fight and none of the players showed anything. Maybe he could get things moving if he fired all of his assistants, which includes Knight who really has shown nothing seeing as the players don't really progress during the season and the recruiting has not been there. Instead of replacing the potent, tough defense of the past with a strong offense, Pitt just lost everything.

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  28. Hi Chris,

    Good work, and interesting takes.

    So, are you worried that Pitt hasn't hired a single coordinator or any assistant/ position coaches yet?

    Today's Denver Post had six column-inches (in very small font) of the dozens of coordinators and assistants that were hired just yesterday, by dozens of schools. Including Houston -- the Cougars hired Ohio State's OC as its HC -- which looks like he's already filled his staff, and he's not even on site yet!

    While nary a peep out of the Oakland section of Pittsburgh except the sounds of crickets chirping. Well, unless you count what I read on Twitter: that nobody from Michigan State is coming with our shiny new head coach (which really took me by surprise... and makes me wonder why not).

    Okay, you've managed to convince me that I needn't worry that Narduzzi's the second coming of Foge Fazio or the two Pauls (Hackett & Chryst). But he does understand that LOI day is a month away, right? And these recruits understandably want to know who their position coach and coordinator will be? And that every day, schools are snapping up the potential candidates?

    I hope you can also help make me feel better about that now too: the too slow progress that PN is making to fill his staff. Being a Pitt fan for 40+ years does that to a person: Makes you a pessimist and an expert worrier.

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    1. I'm not worried at all. Narduzzi will have plenty of excellent options. I'm sure the staff will be announced very soon.

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    2. I am slightly worried and here is why. There is a reason things get leaked out and right now a lot of that has to do with recruiting. I was reading about how Marrow was having an open conversation with clark about going to mich. Everyone is filling their staffs...mich, florida, houston(I dont care about it being offical or not) and the kids they are recruiting are made at least in part aware of whats going on. The kids talking is how a lot of rumors get spread one way or another. Take Hall and Settle for example. But we are hearing very little. Other than Narduzzis twitter ads we have had little to talk about. Im hoping by the time I finish this we have some new news. A reason to step off the ledge....from all reports Narduzzi has been very active and talking to players and recruits himself. Still if im looking to pick a school Id like to know my staff. I get the feeling no matter who is named, we will be hitting the wpial and state of florida very hard in recruiting.

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    3. That's an extremely short term take on the situation. Hiring coordinator's and a staff is not about what a 17 year thinks with a month to go before signing day. The class will be held together, even if it can't be expanded much. We need a staff that can win the games in 9 months and recruit for next year a lot more than we need stupid leaks a couple days before he announces his staff.

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    4. Frankly, I'm surprised no one is leaving MSU. So far that we know of.
      Why stay as Co-DC at MSU when they could be DC at Pitt for instance.
      Time will tell who gets hired.
      OC will be the most critical selection which most of us will probably criticize in one form or another.

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    5. MSU had an endowment given for the DC position, they'll both make as much there as they would at Pitt with a lot better winning situation. That's why Narduzzi was the highest paid assistant at MSU to the tune of 900K a year.

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    6. Okay...... why not. I'm calling it now. Narduzzi will be the next Ohio State Buckeye head coach. Could be sooner that you think.

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    7. Where exactly is Urban Meyer going to go??

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    8. He's already hired the RB coach from Maryland and the strength and conditioning coach from Notre Dame that I know of. He'll probably announce most if not all of the staff tomorrow.

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    9. Urban will go home or retire to the farm.

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    10. Just exactly where does a coach who wins a National Championship in record time go? Usually they are outta there when the rebuilding phase begins. In Meyer's case he's loaded with QB's that can take him to the promised land again. Two more runs at the brass ring and if Narduzzin wins or shows promise at PITT, off to OSU he goes.

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  29. Chris,

    I don't want Dixon to be fired but why won't he EVER change even a little bit with his system and way of thinking? I'm watching this god awful Pitt-BC and see Pitt press and be. aggressive for the final two minutes and make up a 9 pt deficit. Then as soon as overtime starts, they go back to the same old system and struggle.

    This team is obviously not big and not good defensively, so why not be more aggressive, push the ball, and play differently on both sides of the ball?

    The one complaint i have about Dixon is that he doesn't adapt to his talent and players, but instead expects his players to adapt to his system. That doesn't always work.

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  30. Fyi.....Bradley is not leaving WVU. Once DH has a bad year or within the next two years, he's guaranteed to be the next WVU head coach

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  31. It's not just Pitt struggling in hoops. UConn, Florida, UCLA pop out as teams who have been successful for a while. Look at Indiana, lost by 20 points the other night to MSU. Those schools have played tougher non-conference schedules, but Pitt cannot afford to miss on players and have done so, thus the current results.

    Hope for a run in the NIT and be happy with it. Johnny-Come-Lately programs are going to have these type of seasons and it’s incredible Pitt has made the tourney in 12 of these past 13 seasons. Don’t we all as fans want Final Fours and titles, but the reality is it's so damn tough to win.

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  32. Not to dish the kid from Baldwin . But how is it that he made the under armor game? That show me it's not the best high school players it ones was.

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  33. Staff is coming together.

    Josh Conklin as DC
    Rob Harley

    added today per FootballScoop

    Nice SI story on Conklin

    http://www.si.com/college-football/2015/01/08/josh-conklin-florida-international-pittsburgh-defensive-coordinator

    And Conklin mic'd up

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9zO7Z0a5e8

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  34. Have you seen any tape of Nix at 345lbs. he can barely make it up and down the court. Even taking 50 lbs off he has no game. This is just another Dixon desperation move (Randall, the other 2 I forgot their names) to have someone on the the team over 6'10" but 345 lbs of fat and no go.

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