A Few Follow-Ups on the WRs

Looking back on the Sunday podcast article where I discussed some position switches and the two-deep I still think it is interesting that Phil Steele’s College Football Preview magazine listed rsSO Elijah Zeise as a starter at Strong Side LB and rsJR Jester Weah at the 2nd WR spot.  He also had true FR Damar Hamlin at the second string DB position but that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone in my opinion.

To list Weah (pronounced “We-ah“) in the two deep is reasonable in that there has been a lot of talk about how the staff has liked what he has done so far since the 2015 season ended. He the fastest guy on the team so far, assuming no 2016 recruits are speedier, and it appears that he’s gotten over his catching the ball problems.

That is, of course, a bad thing for a wide receiver to have otherwise the position would be the “Wide Run-down-the-field guy“.  But on the other hand Weah has virtually no experience in college ball in the actual games and has yet to catch a pass in anger:

2015: Played in nine games as a reserve receiver to earn his second letter. 2014: Played in eight games as a reserve receiver in his first active season. 2013: Redshirted as a true freshman.

Fans do love the speedster and we love the deep pass plays that actually work. So I think we are all excited to see what he can do out there given a solid chance to prove himself.

This all dovetails with the premise that Matt Canada is going to open up the passing game – which itself is predicated on establishing a strong running game.

However, if our experienced OL, those  big uglies with 99 games starts under their belts, are as good as everyone is talking them up to be both the running game and the passing game should thrive.  It helps having a starter return at the QB position also.

But we also have WRs on the roster who have contributed and done pretty well in their careers so far but aren’t heralded…yet.  rsSR Dontez Ford will be our WR1, that isn’t much in doubt.  He’s had 29 catches for 555 yards and 3 TDs over his two seasons playing for us.  That adds up to a 19.1 Yards Per Catch (YPC) average and is truly outstanding.

Pitt has had only one player in the modern past with better YPC that and that was Greg Lee with a career 19.4 YPC.  To put it into perspective Larry Fitzgerald’s career YPC was 16.6 and Tyler Boyd had a 14.2 average.  Granted Ford has a smaller sample size but we will see some real production out of him this year.

While Ford could move the ball after the catch he didn’t get a ton of yards doing so, but he’s quick enough to get downfield and catch the ball for good gains.  He’s no Weah-type speedster, neither was Boyd BTW, but Ford can get also open downfield.

Which makes this recent emphasis on Weah even more intriguing to me.

Before we go too much farther let me add this – some of these ‘new’ receivers we’ll be talking about this season don’t have big statistical numbers on their resumes because “The Beast That Ate The Ball” Tyler Boyd got almost all the attention in the last three years when it came to getting passes thrown his way.

But we had others produce also. rsJR Zach Challingsworth played well last season with 12 receptions for 171 yards and a TD. That’s a 14.3 YPC clip and he’s a good possession receiver.  He’ll get playing time and until the recent post-spring game chatter about late-blossoming Jester Weah I felt Challingsworth would surely move up to that WR2 spot and get the bulk of snaps there.  that could still happen but we are hearing Weah’s name a lot.

Player
GP  No.  Yards  Avg   TD  Long  Avg/G 
Boyd  12  91  926  10.2  51  77.2 
Ford  13  26  505  19.4  42  38.8 
Holtz  13  24  350  14.6  28  26.9 
Ollison  13  14  77  5.5  15  5.9 
Orndoff  13  13  244  18.8  55  18.8 
Zach C. 10  12  171  14.2  33  17.1 

But who I really think will get more chances with the ball is SR TE Scott Orndoff.  In his three years he’s had 23 catches for 318 and 8 TDs.  That 13.8 YPC and an even better TD 28% of the times he catches the ball.  Very good production by Orndoff especially given the fact that he’s played his whole career behind a damn good receiving TE in graduated J.P. Holtz, who during that same time period had 81 catches foe 931 yards (11.5 YPC) and 11 TDs.

So when I see that five TDs in 23 catches by Orndoff, and given his surprising (relative) speed from a 6;4″ 260# guy – especially on the down the middle routes- I think he needs to have Canada’s trust and attention going into 2016.

Sure he’s the experienced TE coming back and will also be needed in pass protection but we have other TEs who can step up and do that also.  These players at the position have talent – some not seen yet by the public but we get surprised every season with kids stepping up or the staff making adjustments to allow a theretofore ‘hidden’ player to shine.

These TEs haven’t seen much time on the field yet but may this year: SR Jaymar Parrish, 6-2/270; rsJR Devon Edwards, 6-4/270 and rsJR Zach Poker, 6-4/235.

Our last OC – Jimminy Joe-Bob Moon Pie Chaney – didn’t seem to think Parrish was much of a fullback last season and so played George Aston in that position most of the time (Aston did well receiving in a couple games with 2 TDs in 8 catches). Let’s not make that mistake of not using Parrish’s good skills again and let’s don’t squander Parrish’s talents on the bench.

Phil Steele seems to think we’ll see Parrish back at FB this season as he listed him as the starter there, but I wonder about that.

I think we should train Parrish up and get him into that blocking TE position so we can move Orndoff wider off the ball to became the #2 or #3 WR on passing plays.  We know Parrish is a punishing blocker because he consistently opened up holes in front of James Conner in 2014, that really isn’t in doubt. And at 6’2″ and 270# he can do well as a pass blocker on the LOS I’m sure.

Also – the staff has been quick to talk up newly formed TE Zack Poker also.  He came to Pitt as a LB and stayed there in his first two years under Paul Chryst.  Narduzzi saw a need for future TEs and made the switch.

z-poker-shot-put

I have watched Poker in camps during those his two years and was impressed with him.  He’s quicker off the snap than you’d think for a big guy.  I think he’ll see more PT this season also.

I do know that we’ll see a deeper passing game this year than last.  It was almost non-existent under Chaney because his whole offensive philosophy revolved around minimizing turnovers any way he could.

However, I don’t know what Canada has in store for the shorter passing game – although I’ve a feeling we’ll see SO Quadree Henderson (the “Gingerbread Man“) getting the ball in different ways . We remember what he did as a true FR kick returned last year in getting 504 yards in 18 returns – including what may have been the last time we cheered in our bowl game against Navy:

Henderson is a 5’8″&  170# speedster WR who was the #1 recruit out of Delaware before he came to Pitt.  He’s talented, fast and enjoys the game and I’d love to see him lined up in the slot alongside Ford and Weah…with Weah taking the DB and a Safety on a deep route to open crossing patterns off the play-action. “Boom – Li’l Quadree!!

Here is a wonderful look at Henderson’s life before Pitt.  It is titled “Quadree Henderson – The Gingerbread Man’ and you’ll get a kick out of it. It is a rather long video but well worth watching.  These young men are the student/athletes I  love to see at Pitt and out on the field.  Check out his play at the 5:33 mark… at age 5 (when the minimum age was 6!)

I’m sure you can see a common thread in my take on this upcoming season’s receiving Corps… it is that we will have to make up Boyd’s production with a tribe of receivers. Had Jim Chaney stayed around I’d be worried about him being able to do that.  IMO Chaney took the easy way out too often.

You can’t argue with throwing the ball to Boyd a lot – but if you watch game films from ’15 you’ll see there were many time we had wide open receivers in better position to get yardage after the catch than the targeted receive Boyd was.  That wasn’t all Peterman;s decision making – he had a lot of pressure from Chaney to get the ball to Boyd as much as he possibly could.

Boyd’s now in the NFL and we have a new OC with a different set of talent resources to use  and a different mindset as to throwing the ball. That will add up to a passing game that will, I believe,  surpass last season’s and maybe by a whole lot.

On a different note:  Reed has some new ink… Reed's Tattoos

Hey, it isn’t like I’m going in for job interviews or anything.  In 33 years of active duty service I never had one done. Then I  retired and said “screw it” and now have three.  The top one is the Coast Guard’s Cuttermans Pin qualification – awarded when a sailor has at least five years sea duty on ships.  The lower one is the Coast Guard’s Coxswains Pin qualification for small boat captaincy. These are Enlisted awards.

I have two more Officer Qualification Pin awards that I’ll have inked beneath them when I have the extra dough…  Those tats are only two days old so they will clear up a lot over the next few weeks.

Maxwell awards

HTP!!

 

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15 thoughts on “A Few Follow-Ups on the WRs

  1. imo, when the pass play was designed to go away from Boyd, Ford seem to be open. When the pass play call was to a TE, they seem to be open. Point being, now that Tyler is gone and a new OC is in charge, maybe we see a more diverse passing scheme? The running game should allow for that hands down. The rumors are that Weah looked down and discovered he has hands after-all. Hope that’s true.

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  2. There actually is an embarrassment of riches at the WR/TE/Flanker positions this season, as Reed expounded on. Weah’s time is now, and IMO, he is lucky to have a new OC to impress with his “potential” once again. Unfortunately, he was a one man drive killer every time the ball was thrown his way on long 3rd downs.
    Nothing gets a team down like watching a great throw for a huge gain go uncollected by a guy with stone hands. So far that’s been Weah.
    The one factor that I find amusing by it’s absence in Reed’s analysis is the huge positive impact having an experienced QB with a full season of game experience under his belt will be in 2016. Peterman got Spring ball and summer workouts as well with all these new guys who are just chomping the bit to prove themselves on the field this season.
    In that regard, if I’m Coach Canada, Weah gets one game to eliminate his dropsy mentality against Villanova. After that next guy up if he can’t produce. There is just too much potential in the next half dozen guys waiting around to catch a ball to waste any more time on a speedster with bad hands.
    Ford, Challingsworth, Orndoff, Henderson, Tripton plus Flowers and Matthews coming in as true freshmen, give the ball to somebody who will catch it for God’s sake.

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  3. Dr T – I personally am not 100% sold that Weah really will be the WR2 coming out of fall camp even though more than one reference has been made to that in the media. The talk about him by the staff during and after spring practices this last April could well have been public confidence builders to get the kid’s head up.

    Then again he was also the team’s Conway Award winner for most improved offensive player given after the spring drills ended.

    April 16, 2016

    PITTSBURGH—Pitt head football coach Pat Narduzzi and his staff have selected the 2016 winners of the Ed Conway Award, annually presented to the most improved offensive and defensive players of spring drills.

    The offensive recipient is junior wide receiver Jester Weah and the defensive recipient is senior tackle Shakir Soto.

    Weah (Madison, Wis./Madison Memorial), who lettered as a reserve the past two seasons, is vying for a starting role in 2016 based on his spring performance.

    “Jester had a great offseason,” Narduzzi said. “He has always had great speed but now he is putting it all together to be a complete package. Jester has worked really hard under the guidance of offensive coordinator Matt Canada and wide receivers coach Kevin Sherman. He is catching balls and making plays with confidence.”

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  4. Improving your hands is one of the most difficult things in sports. I cannot recall a prior Pitt receiver with hands as bad as Weah’s who went on to have a nice career at Pitt.

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  5. If Weah really wants it, he is going to surprise a lot of people. You can teach anybody how to catch. You can’t teach anybody how to run a 4.3

    Also if you look at the last 3-4 years of Ed Conway winners, lot of solid contributors there. Not too many busts. I’d be surprised if JW doesn’t got for at least 500 yards and haul in a few long TD’s…even if they get stuck in his facemask.

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  6. I think Dwight stone and Dietrich Jells had their respective moments battling the yips. Then again, I may have just pulled those names out of my butt to get an “amen” or a “pound salt”. There is a current WR that plays at Heinz Field that was very inconsistent, but now catches most balls thrown his weah. That is Darrius Heyward-Bey of the Steelers.

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  7. Weah had plenty of catches in high school, so he can catch the ball. Saying he has the yips is a good way of putting it. He wasn’t concentrating and psyching himself out. It is all about confidence with him.

    It isn’t stone hands, it is brain freeze.

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  8. I have an idea.

    Lets throw Weah a short pass. I.e. give him an easy completion to losen him up and keep the defense honest.

    Then go deep down the field to him.

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  9. I posted this comment/question the other day.. Reed, do you or any of the other “credentialled” commentators here have any input?

    Why no mention of Wuestner at the WR position? He missed 2 seasons due to injuries (one, life-threatening) but he’s a big target, with better-than -average speed and better hands than most of our receivers. I saw him play 4A high school ball and he was really difficult to defend along the sidelines and in the end zone. Maybe that’s a kid that can help fill the void. Aside from Ford and Challingsworth, I think he’s our best option.

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