Camp Profiles: FB George Aston

Most football fans know only a few of the players’ back-story going into a new season.  Those players are almost always established starters or maybe others who have had something interesting happen in their athletic or personal lives.

For instance we all know about James Conner and his issues off the field as well as the sterling work he’s done in uniform.  You have to be a Pitt fan who lives under a rock not to know the details about that young man’s life.depositphotos_14004821-vector-of-a-cartoon-man

We know about DB Whitehead, QB Peterman, RB Ollison and OL Bisnowaty…etc.,  well enough but we don’t really know, or haven’t paid attention to I guess, the kids who are fleeting up from the ranks to get playing time in the two-deep this upcoming season.

A few days ago we talked about our returning starter at OLB Mike Caprara.  Today lets look at another guy, but on offense this time, who played some last year but will see more of the field this year at fullback – rsSO George Aston.

This position, fullback, is one that I think is undervalued by fans when they watch college football games.  We tend to keep our eyes on the football itself- from the center snap to the QB to the handoff to the RB or to the pass to the receivers.  What the other 10 guys on offense are doing isn’t what our eyes are accustomed to watching as the action unfolds.

I love the FB work that happens out there, but it is a position that is used at the whim of the Offensive Coordinator.  You very rarely see plays called that don’t have the other offensive guys on the field when the play is actually run. You never see plays were all the receivers are pulled off the field, nor the OL or the RBs (for the most part).

As a matter of fact the only instance I can think of in Pitt’s case is the use of the Wildcat formation where the QB leaves the field and the RB gets a direct snap from the Center.  We sucked at that and I never want to see it again – even if Peterman goes down.

However, sometimes we see whole games where a FB isn’t used although I do think the majority of the time we have the ball we’ll see two or even three RBs out there and one will be a FB.  So Narduzzi has used a FB sometimes… and with good results.

Pitt has have been blessed with good ones in the past.  We can look back to Lousaka Polite as a great FB, Henry Hynoski was a bruising player for us and opened up many holes for Dion Lewis and Ray Graham.  He ran “like he was angry at the grass” (one of my favorite football quotes of all time). Lately Jaymar Parrish played well there.

So – now onto George Aston. Here is what three years of playing FB in college ball does to a kid:

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Its a hard job and it shows.

For the backstory:  When Pat Narduzzi was hired as the HC at Pitt he and his 2015 OC Jim Chaney moved Jaymar Parrish over to TE from his previous FB position.

Parrish was Conner’s FB in Conner’s record breaking 2014 year under HC Paul Chryst and then-OC Joe Rudolph. That tandem seemed to work pretty well considering Conner was the 7th leading rusher in the country that season with 1765 yards (5.9 ypc) and 26 TDs.

What wasn’t to like about the combination of those two guys in the backfield at the same time?  Obviously the new staff felt it needed to be tweaked.  So instead of keeping that team intact they decided to put Parrish into the third TE position – which is pretty much purgatory for an offensive player and then moved walk-on Aston into Parrish’s old spot.

Parrish

I didn’t get the move then but then I was a Parrish fan. Maybe at 6’2″ and 270 pounds Parrish grew out of the position, although he was 6’2″ and 230 when he came to Pitt out of Gateway HS.

I can’t really say that Aston had any singular success in high school that would put him in a starting FB position at Pitt.  In HS he was a decorated linebacker, but then again it isn’t all that unusual for LBs to be moved to FB in college – the build and heavy hitting mindset is about equal in both spots.

And he did play some RB: ” He also played running back and rushed for 898 yards and a team-leading 24 touchdowns…led Sherando to a 13-2 record and the Group 4A state championship game.

Sherando is a cool name for a high school.  Apparently it is a beautiful area and you can go camping and stay in a National Parks’ cabin there smack in the middle of the Blue Ridge mountains. BTW – Staunton, VA is a really nice small town – like walking back 200 years in time.staticmap

But I digress… Aston didn’t necessarily care for the switch at first:

When George Aston arrived at Pitt last year, the previous coaching staff decided he was a fullback.  “I wasn’t happy at all about it,” he said, noting he played only running back and linebacker at Sherando (Va.) High School.

But he was a walk-on during his first year at Pitt, and he couldn’t say a lot about the move.

“I had to take care of what I control,” he said. “I just worked hard, the coaches believed in me and gave me a chance.

“God’s been looking out for me big-time.”

At any rate God has also spoken and Aston is our FB and I have to say that after reviewing game films I can see exactly why the switch was made.  He’s 6’0″ and 245 so his body fits the role… here is how his season went down.

Aston didn’t carry the ball at all in ’15 but did have eight receptions for 40 yards (5.0 ypc) and two TDs on the year.   Those TDs kind of came out of nowhere but boy were they fun to watch.

We were sitting at 7-3 overall and 5-1 in conference play when we hosted Louisville at Heinz.  That was the game that was going to determine what kind of season we were going to have.  Would it be the  same old/same old seven win gig that we had before or was that the game that would put us into an eight win season that Pitt hadn’t had in the last five years.

Aston had two TD receptions that game – both were short tosses from Peterman (NP’s 3rd and 4th TD passes of the game) from about the four yard line out to the “Swinging FB” (his new nickname) williammay-rat-pack-swing-singer-warwickshire-nov13-1-largest-300x300.

His total that game was 22 yards on three receptions and his other catch, a 14 yarder was on a 3rd and 8 play that gave us a first down and allowed us to burn the last 3:25 seconds off the clock to keep the lead and ensure the win.

So – the one time they dialed up his number he answered the call with good production.

As to his blocking skills; he proved himself out there with flying colors. The one thing I know to be true in college football is that a RB never gets those big yards on his own.  Look at #35 leading the way for Ollison in this highlight film.  Keep your cursor on the pause button so you can watch some of them over again – he did that well.

I started logging the time stamps of plays where Aston threw great blocks but stopped when I got to four of them in the first 1:59s.

Note: On recruiting…

The Tribune Review’s Jerry DiPaola has these pieces about our two newest members of the class of 2017.

3* OL Gabe Houy has verballed:

Pitt received its second commitment from a WPIAL player Monday night when Upper St. Clair offensive tackle Gabe Houy told coach Pat Narduzzi he plans to enroll next year.

Houy (6-foot-7, 275 pounds) has 11 offers, including five from Power 5 schools Pitt, Louisville, Wake Forest, Illinois and Maryland. He is rated a three-star prospect by Rivals.com.

Upper St. Clair coach Jim Render said Houy, who has been a starter since his sophomore year, has the tools to succeed at the next level as a run and pass blocker.

 As has 3* WR Dontavious Butler:

Butler, a three-star prospect who attends American Heritage High School, chose Pitt over offers from N.C. State, Temple, Toledo, Bowling Green, Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic.

American Heritage coach Patrick Surtain, who played cornerback for 11 seasons in the NFL, confirmed the commitment and said Butler, 6-foot-2, 197 pounds, has the tools to succeed at the collegiate level.

“He’s big and physical and snatches the ball,” Surtain said. “He’s a great route runner who gets the ball at the highest point. His best football is ahead of him. He’s going to get stronger. He’s going to get faster. His natural ability is already there.”

I’d kill to hear a HS coach be just plain honest in one of these sound bites.  Like this maybe:

“He’s big and physical and snatches the ball,” Surtain said. “He’s a OK route runner who can get the ball at the highest point if he even sees it in the first place. His best football is ahead of him I hope because, quite honestly, he was a pretty average player for us.  I hope he’s going to get stronger. He’s needs to get faster and grow balls big enough so that he runs towards the ball instead of away from the safety coming over to cover.  . His natural ability is already there but I’m still very surprised Rivals slapped that 3rdstar on him”

 Note 2:  Here is Matt Canada’s 2015 offense at NC State:

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26 thoughts on “Camp Profiles: FB George Aston

  1. Based on his offers Butler looks to be another guy that we have to trust the coaches judgement on.

    A number of guys in that category this year.

    Since Ford, very few really high profile gets so far.

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  2. I was very annoyed by Chaney moving Parrish to TE as well. The guy was an absolute battering ram as a FB. It would have been understandable if they were thin at TE, but they had Holtz & Orndoff. Parrish still saw the field, but he’s a better blocker when he has a running start than at the line of scrimmage. Aston did a good job, but Parrish was better.

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  3. It’s probably no coincidence that we had probably our best years offensively(in recent history) when Polite (02-3), Hynoski (08-09) and Parrish (14) were at FB. And don’t forget Collins in 06 – another productive offensive year.

    Butler only had 10 or 11 catches last year … which may or may not be a good indicator although may be a reason for his modest offers. But remember, MacVittie played WR as a junior. Butler, like MacVittie, has had some very good summer camps. Yes, Butler is a project but the coaches must see something plus, also like MacVittie, is reported to be a high character guy.

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  4. After watching that highlight reel it’s pretty hard to believe that Ollison is sitting as the number 3 back on the depth chart behind Hall.

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  5. After watching Ollison’s highlight video above I then watched Connor’s highlight video from his 1,700 yard season under Chryst… Chryst’s running game seems to have used the quick pitch with Connor much more than the Narduzzi/Chaney offense did with Ollison. Chaney seems to have preferred the telegraphed hand-off. And, the tight ends and pulling guards/tackles appeared to be more involved in the Chryst running game than in Chaney’s. Both Chryst and Chaney used a fair amount of fullback blocking and both fullbacks (Parrish and Aston) appear to block really well.

    But the biggest thing that I noticed after watching both highlight videos was that Connor gained a lot of yards after first and second contact. He just flat out broke a ton of tackles…

    I wonder how Canada’s running attack will look in terms of blocking, pulling and pitching/handoffs…

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  6. rocky, the lack of him not getting many yards after contact is the reason they have Ollison as the 3rd back IMO. I’m also pretty certain that they want Ollison to come into camp this year fired up to regain the number two slot behind Conner.

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  7. Alston really took care of the DE on most plays where that was his assignment – a lot of really solids hits. Quite successful on keeping his guy from running the play down from behind, too. Reed – I see why you quit counting. The thing that popped out at me on Ollison was, I don’t didn’t see a single stiff arm. I hope JC is able to teach him that – not that he’d ever be even close to JC’s success with it! A good stiff arm would really add to his yards after contact!

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  8. I think Ollison’s 3rd place on the depth chart has nothing to do with yards after contact or stiff arms. I think it is between the staff and the player.

    @ PittPT – I inserted a graphic with NC State’s 2015 offensive stats into the end of the article.

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  9. Weather it was Connor, Parish, the line , Connor’s stiff arm or the better play calls, The running game was better in 2014. I thought porkchop was mostly to blame in what I saw before Connor went down. It is always nice to have a fullback who is more than a blocker. That is always a way to catch the opposition off guard a la the referenced passes or a fullback quick hitter. My biggest concern this year is how will our defense do against the hurry up and spread offenses. With all the coach changes by our opponents it looks like PS,Vtech Va, and Syracuse will be using it this year and in addition we play Marshall that will use it.Ball posession by Pitt and a fast defense is required. Hopefully some of the speed Narduzzie is rcruiting will help.

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  10. I like Aston a lot and he made a significant contribution last year blocking,but also had a few really nice conversions catching the ball. Parrish seemed a bit disinterested at times. If he would give maximum effort on every snap, Parrish would be a superstar.

    I am starting to see a better season unfold for the Panthers.

    I guess there was some Jeter and Wade tweets today. Sounds like they might bre a package deai, I don’t see OSU as a stop nor WVU as their coach. Between Pitt and the dairy college!!

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  11. Reed – I enjoyed the article and the video of QO’s highlights from last year was better than anything on tv last night. Many of the lead blocks were from Aston, but I saw several that #31 was leading on and he is a road grader (J.Parrish). I’m a big fan of Jaymar’s too and hope he sees the field more this season because he put the work in to better himself.

    At least one sports writer has Pitt in his top 25

    http://pittsburghsportsnow.com/2016/08/03/national-writer-ranks-pitt/

    UNC, OK State and Clemson are also ranked teams, who are on Pitt’s schedule.

    HTP!

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  12. I’m hoping that if Parrish is to stay at TE he’ll develop into a good blocker in pass protection and still catch a ball sometimes. We need another JP Holtz on the team. We say this every season but we need to use the TEs in the passing game – although we did that more last year then for a long time prior.

    Holtz had 81 catches for 931 yards (11.5 ypc) and 11 TDs over his career.

    Byham had 47/612 (13.0 ypc) and 3 TDs

    Strong had 64/783 (12.2 ypc) and 7 TDs

    But the TE who will really produce best in a single year will be Orndoff this season. Here are his totals:

    Orndoff has 23/318 (13.8 ypc) and 8 TDs

    Parrish has never done much as far as touching the ball as a FB or TE:

    http://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/jaymar-parrish-1.html

    Aston has almost matched that:

    http://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/george-aston-1.html

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  13. Huff, Jeter also tweeted yesterday about ND which just received another 4-star Western PA commitment from Erie.

    From my experience, you take these tweets with a grain of salt. Sure, would love to get them but I’m not sure they are sure where they’re headed, and they may even change their minds a couple of times.

    Don’t think either Jeter or Wade will commit until late fall (that’s their intentions) …. and no reason to get too high or low until they actually announce.

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  14. Just wanted to let you know that Lake Sherando is about two hours south of Sherando High School, which is in Stephens City, Va just outside of Winchester.
    And we all love George Aston here!

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  15. With the lack of depth at TE I am kind of glad Parrish is out there. I too liked him at FB but he has outgrown the position. It seems like every team talks about throwing to the TE more but none do. The film of Ollison just confirmed the positive impression I had of Aston last year. To come in as a walk-on and be the starting FB as a rsSo speaks to his abilities.

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  16. Great article. All these kids work so hard and I like to see them all succeed. Everyone has an opinion and you can love or hate these kids. If you are a true Pitt fan though Aston is one player you want to have on your team. He is a true warrior who gives his all every game and will fight to the end. During the last bowl game he hit a guy so hard that it shattered the bones in his hand, which needed to be surgically repaired but he played the rest of the game with a shattered hand.

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  17. I had the pleasure of watching George Aston play in HS. He was a complete beast on offense and defense. One play in particular I will never forget. State championship game. George was handed the ball and carried at least 8 defensive players 10 yards. He’s a complete beast. H2P!!

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  18. After watching Ollie’s highlite video, it was interesting to see, a lot of Ollie’s long runs were in the 1 RB in the backfield set. The extra WR or TE apparently spreads the defenders more.

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  19. You’re right Reed, Staunton (pronounced Stanton) Virginia is a neat little town in the Shenandoah Valley, and is about centrally located, so you can explore the Valley in both directions. Me and an old flame hq’d there in a pretty nice B&B for a week or so awhile back. Very pretty part of the country.

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  20. How do you spell Beast(Aston) Tjis is out proving all the college coaches wrong. How are you the Def. Player of the year in the State of Va., and no one offers you a scholarship. This is a story that kids that walk-on should follow. This kid is down right animal and is out to prove the rest of college football they made a mistake.

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