POV: Was the Cupboard Really Empty?

Pitt’s Dorian Johnson and Quadree Henderson Named Sporting News All-Americans

Pitt football’s rich tradition of All-America players added two new names this week with the unveiling of the 2016 Sporting News All-America Team.

Senior offensive guard Dorian Johnson and sophomore return specialist Quadree Henderson were named first team All-Americans by the venerable sports publication.  

Johnson (Belle Vernon, Pa./Belle Vernon Area) becomes the first Pitt offensive lineman to be selected a first team All-American in 22 years. College Football Hall of Famer Ruben Brown was the last Panther to achieve that designation back in 1994.

Henderson (Wilmington, Del./Alexis I. du Pont) is the first All-America return man in Pitt history. He has four returns for touchdowns this season, including a nation-leading three on kickoffs. Henderson ranks second in the country in combined kick return yards (1,121) and fifth in kickoff return average (31.1).

A favorite pastime of college football fans is pointing back to departed head coaches to see what blame they can lay on them for whatever ails the current head coach and  the team he runs.  Pitt fans are great at this mainly because we have had so much practice at it lately.

From Dave Wannstedt’s departure in late December of 2010 through Narduzzi’s late Christmas present hire on December 26th of 2014 we went through four active head coaches.  That instability certainly didn’t help Pitt out on the field that much – although surprisingly didn’t really hurt it that much there either.

The 24-25 record Chryst and Graham had in those intervening three years at Pitt was really only one win off what Pitt’s average wins per season has been since the mid-1980s.  Pretty mediocre there but now things are looking up.

We’ve just finished a regular season with eight wins in a follow-up to Narduzzi’s rookie head coaching year which showed a 8-5 record.  So now he sits at 16-9 with a bowl game to play to finish out his second year.

You would think Pitt fans would be satisfied with that record given Pitt’s shaky history in the win column and I think most fans are.  But still, we all like to play the ‘what if?‘ game when talking about Pitt football.

One of those ‘what if’ scenarios this season has been what it would be like if Pat Narduzzi had more of his own recruits to use out on the field of play.  That, of course inevitably leads to the debate if the last HC “left the cupboard bare“.

Which, of course is not the case… 100%. Well, as we all know very rarely is anything 100% so we can parse this cupboard bare question down to at least two parts – offensive player and defensive players.  Which leads us to look at just who had which players commit to them between these last two successive head coaches. 

Let’s take a look then with keeping one thing in mind – recruiting someone and getting the best of them out on the field are two different things.  clems-start-o1Here is the offensive starting lineup for 2106’s Clemson game.

In it you can see that none of Pat Narduzzi’s commits  are listed. We may think of Quadree Henderson as a Narduzzi recruit because he played his first year last season but he actually committed to Pitt and Paul Chryst in June of 2014.

But he’s a good case-in-point to what I said above.  Last season he had only 2 catches for 5 yards and 4 rushes for 6 and average returns production save one kickoff return for a TD against Navy. All in all he looked average then Canada comes in and makes him one of the main offensive weapons and Henderson is suddenly a 1st team All-American.

Now, our starting QB, Nate Peterman transferred in and made an immediate impact upon arrival. Of all the players on offense he’s the one who is a “Narduzzi Guy”.

So when talking about an offensive group who does this:

Pitt Stats 12-3.PNG

It’s a safe bet to say that cupboard wasn’t bare at all – chock full actually, at least on the “O” side.  Those guys were the reasons we won games this year and I don’t think any Pitt fan will argue with that – not when we scored 42.3 ppg.

Unfortunately football is played with a defensive team out there also. If there is an argument to be made about lack of inherited personnel for Narduzzi it has to be made with them.clem-start-d

  Here they are listed to the right and you’ll see that somewhat mirrors the offensive side. Watts and Allen were both Narduzzi ‘gets’ but all others came in committed to Chryst… with the exception of Idowu who walked-on for the 2104 fall camp.

Not as much to feel good about there on the face of it.  But I’ll contend that just as Narduzzi and Matt Canada got the best out of the talent they had to work with on offense they also didn’t get results they should have had on defense with this personnel.

Here are those defensive stats we cry over:


As you can see almost the exact opposite of the great offensive production we had.  How does the current personnel effect this as far as inherited players.  Well, first and foremost we have to point directly to the defensive backfield for the tap-root of our problems.  In 2016 we have Whitehead, Webb, Maddox and Lewis as starters (for the most of the season’s games).

But wait!  Weren’t those guys getting starting time last season when our defense was so much better?  Yes, glad you asked. dbs-2015 Here is our late season starting lineup on defense from 2015. I bolded the DBs form then and save Pitts graduating (hopefully) 3 of 4 kids are the same players we have been putting out this season.

Now here is the question-making thing I see between the two years.  Reviewing this chart below we see a huge drop in four out of five defensive categories.d-compared

I don’t believe the current theory that Narduzzi’s 100% sell out to stop the run is the cause of crap pass defense – last season we had 37 sacks – this year 39 (with one game to play) so that’s not a big difference. 

Same with Tackles for Loss – last year 88- this year 80 so far, and our turnovers are +3 this year as opposed to dead even last. The difference in rushing yards allowed is bigger but 40 more per game isn’t the reason for our D1 bottom dwelling defense.

So, can anyone tell me how that terrible defensive drop relates in any way to personnel in the defensive backfield? You can’t without making excuses for Narduzzi and Conklin and Pitt fans have been throwing out the ‘cupboard is bare’ excuse way too long. It’s hogwash.

The bottom line here is that we had a decent defense last season with almost exactly the same defensive personnel. Holy Hell, a difference of +9.5 ppg would have given us a 11-1 record at this point.

Actually with the exception of LB Nick Grisby being gone our new starters in the DL and LB corps have been upgrades over last year and was done with the cupboard players Paul Chryst stocked.

Pat Narduzzi needs to take a long, hard look at his defensive staff coaches and make the hard decisions if necessary – starting at the top of the defensive staff heap by cutting loose Josh Conklin if keeping him means a repeat – in any form – of this season’s porous defense.  Our offense won’t be putting up 42+ ppg in 2017 so we’ll need fewer points scored – a lot less..


69 thoughts on “POV: Was the Cupboard Really Empty?

  1. Not making too much of an excuse for our dismal defense, but I do believe the caliber of the opposition WR’s we faced in 2017 far outclassed the 2016 season. And with any PN defense the DB WR match ups are critical in what transpires in any given game. For the most part Pitt will need NFL caliber DB’s for the Narduzzi/Conklin defense to perform at a high level.


  2. I will be very surprised if Narduzzi makes any changes to his defensive coaching staff. There were no indications that he was displeased with them during the season. Last year he publicly criticized his offensive coordinator and there was a major change to the better.

    Hopefully he will broaden his defensive schemes to make use of his existing personnel. I do not care how good a 5′-11″ cornerback is, there is no way he can cover a 6′-7″ wide receiver one-on-one downfield.


  3. Reed, we get the point you have been making all season. But just as you claim we can’t dismiss the fact that these are for the most part the same players, we also can’t dismiss the fact that we played a far superior schedule with significantly more talented offensive teams. Look at the QBs and WRs we faced this year. Much, much stronger than last year. You have to look at the entire picture….and that includes the opposition. There’s no other way to truly evaluate it.


  4. Duzz came in as a defensive guru and now has one of the worst D’s on the planet. I don’t see anyway that this isn’t a big time embarrassment and bite to his butt.
    His pride can not accept this kind of defensive failure and rightly so.
    My prediction? Heads are going to roll, as they should.


  5. Then why have those “superior” teams put up more yards and points against us then most all of their other opposition?

    C’mon guys… Syracuse?

    Fans are trying to find excuses and silver linings where few or none exist.

    So what is it? The cupboard, better opposition, bad DB coaching, no OCS?

    Great HCs don’t settle for 2nd best and neither should HCPN.. Narduzzi didn’t know Conklin at all before he hired him… he owes him nothing more than a letter of recommendation.

    Right now it looks like we are setting ourselves up for failure in 2017.


  6. A small part of the equation might be that Grigsby and Pitts were more athletically gifted and much better players that they were given credit for.


  7. Pitts was always covering the No.1 receiver and Grigsby had his special Freeze designation. Blair was more effective rushing the passer and we lost the big guy in the middle of the D-line. It’s a team sport and it takes everyone >>> This year Maddox couldn’t handle the other teams No.1


  8. jrnpitt has highlighted 1/3 of the reason why our pass defense was totally toast this season. We did face a slew of tall, fast talented WRs this year, all season long.. & Reed, PLEEAASEEE,,, you dropping Syracuse’s name like their grad transfer Amba Etta-Tawo isn’t worthy of his All American status is beneath you. But then, less we forget, it takes someone to get the ball to those kind of talented guys too. Eric Dungey is no slouch either. Now add to theat list Desaun Watson, Brad Kaaya, Justin Thomas, Mitch Trubisky and Trace McSorley. Right there is the second 1/3 of the answer to the question. The remaining third of the answer is our stable of short DBs trying to protect against potent offenses that just thrived on the mismatches that these shorties produced.

    Only one aspect of Pitt’s defense sucked a$$ this season, the “stop the run 1st” mentality of our defense succeeded in that endeavor, no questions asked. Next year watch how this problem evaporates with guys like Jackson, Miller, Coleman, Campbell and M. Henderson get their chances. I would not be the least surprised if we don’t end up seeing Maddox relagated to backup CB duties by season’s end simply because no matter how fast you are or how good a leader that you might be, you just can’t coach up a 5’9″ guy to play at 6’1″.

    Not making any excuses, just identifying the problems. That being said, let’s not forget some of those great plays that this stable of shorties did make this year, key INTs for example both at the end of the PSU game and during the Clemson contest. It wasn’t always bad, although it felt like it this season.


  9. Just talked to my Carolina buddy..talk of Trubisky being the number 1 draft pick and he will head back home to the Browns..Watson, Kaaya and possibly Thomas get drafted..so we faced four potential NFL caliber QBs and their bevy of receivers- and it will probably happen..when is the last time PITT faced that kinda talent- I sure as hell don’t remember.
    Our back-up DBs got into the fray and there is potential but they need more time in the weight-room. In the older group Maddox plays hard and is around the ball and a hard hitter for his light frame. Webb and Lewis- thank you for your time and hope your Pitt degree finds you good work in life.( thought that about L Pitts last 2 years) Newbies got needed battlefield experience and we have a group of red-shitrs chomping at the bit…
    Duzz has to be totally embarrassed by the D this year and knows with average D Pitt might be in the NC conversation and he would be talked about for Coach of the Year….he got kicked in the nuts so many time this year I bet he could taste em in the back of his throat and I gurantee you,when we feel the pain-Duzz feels the pain !!
    There might be a coaching change, who knows…based on on-the -field performance one would expect change but how are the D coaches at recruiting -good -mediocre-bad ? I sure as hell don’t know…
    One thing I do know -keep Canada, not only did he take a full cupboard and create a well-oiled juggernaut..he captured national attention and that will pay dividends in recruiting.
    Now all we need is a guru on the D-fence..OOPs-just got kicked in the nuts again!!


  10. One thing, Grigsby and L Pitts both made NFL rosters.

    Again, trouble with stats are they just cannot take into account the variables on face values. You can keep them, they’re liars. PITT did play a tremendously upgrade in talent by QB’s and WR’s.

    imo, PITT’s rush defense and the way they put heat on the opposing QB’s forced the opposition to throw the ball. I don’t know how it happened but OSU more than psu figured out because their WR’s were bigger and very talented they could hike and heave it and boy did other teams pick up on this. VT literally just took a one or two steps and hurled the rock into the atmosphere while their WR’s pushed off on almost every play.

    My problem is that HCPN did play it too stubborn. Should have played more zone and dropped back more help. Another fallacy to me is the fact that PITT DB’s are coached to not look back. I watch plenty of football and boy I see the very same thing across both leagues.

    I get frustrated when it does seem that despite PITT having a better than anticipated season, some PITT fans are never happy, me, I’m very happy and looking forward to the bowl game.

    I thought that this season would be my last for season tickets, nope I already put the money aside for next year. ………………ike



  11. No one is saying the D doesn’t need to improve or that we are happy with how it has gone down. But to compare last year to this year as all things being equal is far from legitimate in my opinion.
    Don’t forget Mason Rudolph as well.
    And one last thing – the ACC greatly improved in coaching as well. No arguing that.


  12. Conklin isn’t going anywhere, get used to it already. He’s not going anywhere until or unless he fails with a defense that is more than 50% Narduzzi recruits.

    The offense won’t put up 42 PPG next year – it will put up more.


  13. Sorry JJ. I just saw your post. I don’t know what year of eligibility Rudolph is in, but he can sling it. If he’s not coming out this year then we’ll see him at Heinz next year as well.


  14. I’m not sure how much credibility Conklin has when he visits recruits based on the defensive results from Pitt the past two years. I’m also not sure how much credibility Narduzzi has lost with defense recruits. There only pitch now has to be the opportunity for freshman to play early on this team.


  15. Peterman was a good find for us. IMO he is the best QB we have had in the past 10 years…better than Stull, Tino, and the QB who is now at Ark. State whose name is escaping me. Hope McVittie or ND transfer steps up next year…Whoever the QB is will have plenty of weapons to work with on offense…Any word on Lamont Wade? If he commits, he could start next year along with Paris Ford at corners. A decision needs to be made re Whitehead…Offense or Defense? A huge bowl win to get to nine wins would be a significant step forward. H2P always!


  16. The problem with statistics is that they rarely tell the full story (or the truth).

    Does no on remember Kizer throwing 5 TD passes against us in 2015? Did everyone forget Louisville’s QBs throwing for 400 yards and 3 TDs? The facts are that the supposedly better pass defense we had in 2015 got torched by the good quarterbacks we played, which were not many.

    9 of the teams we played this season finished in the top 40 for passing offenses. NINE!!!!

    3 of them finished in the TOP 10.

    As a comparison, ZERO of the teams we played in 2015 finished in the top 30 for passing offenses.


  17. “I’m not sure how much credibility Conklin has when he visits recruits based on the defensive results from Pitt the past two years. I’m also not sure how much credibility Narduzzi has lost with defense recruits. There only pitch now has to be the opportunity for freshman to play early on this team.”

    A perfect example of fan thinking and not coach or recruit thinking. Completely overwrought and ridiculous.

    Extensive injuries at every position group on the defense did not help. Especially Hendrix out for the year in game 1. Add that to Watts not progressing as a player the way the staff had hoped – he was really supposed to grow into the role of being the man beside Jarrett on the inside but it didn’t happen – and you have a defensive line where only one guy is a consistent pass rushing threat. That’s a recipe for not being good against the pass all on its own.


  18. In Narduzzi’s 3rd year as DC at MSU they were ranked 116/120 teams against the pass … then #68 … then #11 … then #7 … then #4.

    Embarrassing? Hahaha. This is par for the course and part of the normal learning curve for this defense. It’s a defense that is tough on the corners and takes time to install.

    Hardly uncharted territory for Narduzzi. He knows what he’s doing and no one is going anywhere.


  19. I like that post TT. As fans and I’m certain that we all are, we do like to pick apart some of the parts and sums of PITT football. Hell, sometimes we think we know better then the guys getting paid to do this and have been getting paid for years to do it. I have at times just stopped and paused, then laugh out loud. If anyone who posts on The POV has a better résumé then Patty Narduzzi you should really speak up. I will be all ears otherwise I’ll understand that we are all arm chair quarter-backs. I particularly just love the phrase, ” I really like Coach Narduzzi…………..BUT!”

    Yes the cupboard was a little on the bare side as well. PITT needs to think outside of WPA for a few years now that psu has done well this year. Go south young man!


  20. ESPN reporting that QB from USC Max Browne will be taking a visit to Pitt this weekend.

    Grad transfer, could play immediately next year if he decides Pitt is it.


  21. Pitt needs to build a statue to Haywood’s girlfriend. Maybe place it just outside gate A at Heinz. Or at least outside the Dirty O….


  22. Guess the suggested articles didn’t make the cut and we’re back to this low hanging fruit discussion again. I do appreciate all the work that goes into this site. Just tired of beating this dead horse.


  23. I might be wrong, but I don’t think Henderson is the first All-American return man in Pitt history. I recall that Eric Crabtree from Monessen was named to the All-American team in (maybe 1964-65) as a punt/kick returner. “The Tree” actually felt he should have been named to the first team at running back, but he lost out to Floyd Little. Both he and Little ended up on the Denver Broncos.


  24. So much to be thankful for as a Pitt football fan this year. Conner’s victory over cancer, tops for sure.

    While we’re talking about cupboards being empty or not, the closet sure as hell was well stocked! Which uni combo did you like best for this season? I actually liked the contrast of the “All Blues” with the matt blue helmets against those all whites of PSU. Probably not the best choice for the Panthers on such a hot day but for fashion, sometimes you gotta sacrifice for style.

    No votes allowed for “the throwbacks” since they’re warp speed ahead of any of the modern day combos. They were on 🔥 at their unveiling during Homecoming!!!


  25. From ESPN ACC Blog: Former USC QB Max Browne set to visit Pittsburgh

    My wife’s a Prof. at USC, so we follow the Trojans pretty closely. Always liked Browne–character guy who went through the Hell of coaching changes (Pitt players know nothing about that!) Good ball handling skills. Might do really well w/Canada.


  26. I see where Conner Heywood committed to Michigan State(as perPSN). MSU made him an offer yesterday and he committed the same day. Anybody else think that Pitt’s futile effort on defense this year might have played a part in Heywood making that decision?


  27. Reed if you think that Ryan Lewis > Lafayette Pitts then you my friend are Smoking Something.

    Lewis is a great guy and a solid player and will forever be enshrined in Pitt lore for sealing the great Penn State win of 2016, but I just don’t think he’s going to end up on an NFL roster.


  28. Can we just stop with the “Better QBs” this year… again hogwash. The five ‘best’ QBs we faced did this:

    Watson – against Pitt 580 yards; rest of schedule average 303 = 277 more against Pitt

    Rudolph – against Pitt 540 yards; rest of schedule average 294 = 246 more against Pitt

    Trubisky- against Pitt 453 yards; rest of schedule average 274 = 179 more against Pitt

    Kaaya – against Pitt 356 yards; rest of schedule average 263 = 93 more against Pitt

    McSorley- against Pitt 332 yards; rest of schedule average 252 = 80 more against Pitt

    But the all-season best is Mahoney at SYR. He played in nine games overall and had 943 yards passing – including 440 to Pitt while averaging 67 yards against other teams. Granted he was in spot duty but in his two other full games right before ours he averaged 193… so he had 247 more against us.

    The list goes on and on…not one QB we faced threw for more yards against the other teams than they did to Pitt. We flat out were terrible and it wasn’t only the DB players or the opposing QBs – you have to lay a large portion of the blame against the coaching staff.

    Atlanta – I didn’t say he was – just that 3/4 of a returning backfield giving up all those yards and TDs is clearly evidence of a systematic problem – those three kids didn’t get really worse all of a sudden and at the same time.

    BTW – Pitts is in the NFL for his size and speed mostly – he gave up a lot of big plays at Pitt. He was an undrafted free agent to a team that promptly cut him then signed him to a practice squad. Hardly an NFL player.


  29. One last bad taste in our mouths.

    Last year in the regular season we gave up 2618 yards (58th) and 17 TDs averaging 218 ypg.

    This year we gave up 4117 yards (127th) and 27 TDs for 343 ypg.

    That is 1,499 more yards, 10 more TDs and 125 more yards per game… all the while giving up only 40 yards less on the ground.

    Sure we faced better teams – but as I laid out above we allowed far more production to them then other teams on their schedule did.

    You gays can parse that any way you want to and carry the apologists banner for the coaching staff but I won’t – that is horrid.

    Stats do tell truths in a real sense – when you talk about more yards and more TD that translates to more points – which make the difference between wins and losses. Football – of all the sports is all about measuring performances and individuals and as teams.

    If all we wanted to discuss were wins and losses we’d have very short conversations on here. But consider this – with that great offense we had – which I very much doubt we’ll replicate next season – we missed out on at least three other wins but giving up those horrendous numbers.

    Ten extra TDs is 70 points folks… considering our margins of loss in NC, OK State and VT averaged only 4 points there is three highly possible wins right there.


  30. Reed ..those last stats say a lot..every QB improved against us..by a significant number of yards and scores…and no redzone D to speak of


  31. While I’m at it you guys crack me up with your hypocrisy. All I hear from you guys for months and years is that I ‘settle for mediocrity’ and ‘can’t envision Pitt doing championship work’ or ‘can’t give Narduzzi credit’.

    That’s actually never been true, but there it is.

    However, now that I have laid out a clear and present problem that has kept us from being in a Conference Championship game at the least and possibly the playoffs in Narduzzi’s 2nd year… all of a sudden I’m too much of a critic, or I expect too much, or…

    But here’s the thing, I do think Narduzzi could have done that in his 2nd year

    Can’t have it both ways guys – if you want to wait 3, 5, 7 years for a championship then so be it. I think we could and should have had one this season and the only thing – the only thing – keeping us back was the defensive coaching and the pass defense.

    If Conner returns and if we get a decent QB under center next season we may be able to replicate this offense… but if we put out the same defense then what’s the use? Honestly – we are taking a crap shoot that Conklin is going to reverse HIS slide in efficiency.

    He set an average benchmark in his first year and came nowhere close to that in his 2nd – forget about bettering it. Look at his PPG allowed and that tells a huge story – 26.1 last season and 35.6 this – an almost 10 point drop.

    Remember those three games I mentioned above? The largest margin of loss was 8 points.

    Here is what I do believe – a Head Coach should absolutely hold accountable his staff when they fail. Would any of you businessmen have accepted such a poor showing in a hire’s 2nd year – down so much from Year 1? Of course you wouldn’t, not if you wanted to grow your business.

    The DC is a hired hand folks – he does not drive the Pitt football bus – Narduzzi does. Narduzzi didn’t have ties with Conklin like he did with Canada. Conklin had an average two year stint as a DC at a lesser school. He’s one of many DCs who are middling at best.

    But if we all believe that Pitt truly has started taking more care and paid more attention to the football program – and if we believe that Gallagher and Barnes are willing to spend real $$ to win then they should do so – go get an established and proven DC who can get us wins by defense ASAP – we should not wait until 2-3 years out to see if Conklin turns the corner or not (trends do happen).

    Narduzzi is supposed to be a bold man. Then be that and shoot for Championship right now.

    Bravo Zulu Kohberger sends


  32. What is a new defensive coordinator going to do differently? It is ultimately Narduzzi’s system that we are playing, right? I really it is Narduzzi who needs to take a hard look at the system.

    I can’t argue that our pass defense was inexcusably poor this year, and the stats speak for themselves, but what’s the explanation? You can’t tell me that Maddox, Whitehead, and Webb got worse in the offseason (or at least that noticeably worse) by not training or something like that. I’m sure the scheme and techniques, at least to start the year, were comparable to what they used last year. Maybe they were banged up all year and not playing 100% healthy.


  33. For those wondering about Wade, Clairton is playing for the state championship today at 1pm. Ford & Steel Valley will be doing the same tomorrow at 11am. Both games, as well as Central Cath, Beaver Falls, & all championship games, can be seen on PCN in PA, Comcast channel 100.


  34. Two things:

    The defensive system isn’t just used by Pitt. Many schools run it and run it successfully. So it is NOT the system.

    I was going to try to defend Narduzzi on this one but there is no defense (no pun intended). Th D sucked in all statistical categories except one. Compared to other ACC teams it got much worse. Not like the entire league had shit defense like Pitt because of the great QBs and WRs.

    No excuses. It need freaking fixed. It is on the coaches.


  35. Reed, for all your statistical analysis of the pass defense why do you not include an analysis inclusive of the run defense. It’s a team sport and the effects of run defense have a definite impact on the pass defense. It’s not all one sided.


  36. Reed – you ignore the fact that this is common territory for Narduzzi and his defense. In his 3rd year at MSU he was 116/120. This is part of the learning curve. It’s a tough defense on corners and it takes a while to implement. That’s just the reality of what happened this season.

    Currently, Pitt is 8-4 with a chance to win 9 games on a team severely lacking depth on both sides of the ball. Best case this year was probably 10-2. This team could easily have been 6-6 too. Pitt was an 8-4 team this year. You are what your record says you are … and it looked like an 8-4 team to me.

    I’m so sick of hearing about the CUSE game. The reason that game got out of control was because Syracuse would not throw in the towel like a normal team would. Pitt was up by 25+ at one point in the 3rd QTR and the Pitt offense was not slowing down. Most opponents waive the white flag and stop attacking and go into basic offense mode to just end the bleeding. Syracuse did not do this. Not an excuse, just reality. The defense was banged up, on the field a ton because the offense was scoring so quickly and until the 4th making CUSE drive the entire field and chew up clock to score. The game should have been a 56-28 type of game but CUSE decided to keep pushing it. This wasn’t like the Houston game a few years ago where Pitt’s offense started stalling. Apparently CUSE was determined to see how much Pitt could actually score and in the process made the game humiliating to both teams.

    Conner Heywood is a 3 star WR … what would the defense have anything to do with him choosing MSU over Pitt? We have no idea how badly Pitt really wanted him. He’s a legacy to one of Pitt’s all timers and his brother is on the Steelers … an offer was always a given. That doesn’t mean the staff pursued him. The fact he made a choice so quickly after visiting MSU probably tells you Pitt’s real interest in him. That’s purely speculation though.


  37. There you go with the statistics again. Yes PITT’s pass defense was terrible this year but that doesn’t make the QB’s they faced this year average or subpar. I don’t care about what they averaged, what were there second or third best games of the season? Like Grizzly mentioned, what did PITT do against these teams with their run defense? I see where a couple made the all ACC team. How did they fare against PITT? Then you throw in Mahoney even though you tried to qualify it doesn’t make one bit of sense. He is the backup. What was Winslow’s (the punter) passing per game and his QB ratings?

    PITT and Narduzzi needs to improve the pass defense and no one know that better then HCPN. By telling the story with stats that are tickled and tortured so they make your argument is redundant. At the same time I think we all mostly agree on the absolute need to balance out the PITT D for next year.

    Hoping PITT can pick up a senior grad QB as well…….ike/waltspappy



  38. Regarding our pass D..we were next to last in the Nation with basically the same mix at the start of the season…the only way forward is up..will Conklin or the DB coach be there next year? We will see what falls after the Northwestern game..we can argue the point til Hell freezes over but that’s why Duzz get’s paid the big bucks..but it sure is great fun POVing our pass coverage…


  39. One thing that may have been mentioned that I missed was that because our offense was so great and scored so quickly that the opposition had many more offensive opportunities, and our defense wore down as games went on. This was quite obvious vs Syracuse. Pass rush would disappear for long periods of time, as the game wore on putting more pressure on D-Backs.

    In any case, this team will not get better unless recruiting gets better. I think Narduzzi and his staff have hit the wall. Whether they can blast through the wall and finish strong this year is very questionable. All I read about are the great kids that are receiving Pitt offers, but few verbals from elite players. Narduzzi needs to fill the pipeline with Linemen, linebackers and D-Backs. Last year was pretty good, so far this year is below the line. Perhaps another reason to hire higher profile assistants for the defense.

    Even if Canada stays the offense will decline without Conner, Peterman, Bisnowaty, Johnson, Orndoff and Parrish. That is a whole lot to lose. Also losing Jarrett, Soto, and Price will have an impact on an already suspect defense.

    Next year is a whole new ball game. Would be great if a few true freshman come, that could fill some of the gaps. But more important we need quality players for two and three years down the road.


  40. Pitts most certainly is an NFL player by virtue of his making an NFL roster. Look up the history of James Harrison, he was cut 4 or 5 times and may just end up in the NFL hall of fame when it is all said and done.

    I think Narduzzi and Conklin evaluated the experience and ability of the players they had available to play defense this year and decided they could only control one facet of the game. The run defense was their best option to try to make the other team’s offense one dimensional. The pass defense had to suffer and the personnel at corner ( the most athletically demanding position) was not up to snuff. Hopefully next year the redshirts will come to the rescue and allow a more balance defensive effort.


  41. We have 4 verbals rated in the top 400, Ford at 90, Sibley at 289, Reeves at 359, and Warren at 368.
    No one knows how players will turn out, but ratings overall do correspond with outcome. Look who ranks one and two, Alabama and tOSU. Ford is being recruited by USC and Michigan by the way.

    Lamont Wade ranks #50. We need more 4 star players, or at least high 3 stars.


  42. Pondering the past and future, looking back at the season – we lost 3 of the 4 on the road. The VT game as HCPN said at the time was the most important game. Thursday games kill us. Winning in NYC is a must for publicity and recruits. We need to beat PSU in BB tomorrow.

    We play those same team road losses at home next year. The hardest road games next year are PSU and VT (hopefully not on a Thursday). 10-2 next year is going to be hard to get as at least one game always seems to be an upset. Zaire looks to not be coming here but maybe Browne is as we need experience for the PSU game.



  43. I don’t think most POVrs are excusing Narduzzi’s defense this year – it was abysmal. But Reed with all due respect you rarely, if ever, change your opinion when confronted with cogent arguments – kinda like Narduzzi (you are both stubborn soulmates 🙂 ) . The above posts make several points especially in the quality of opposing QBs and WR which is undeniable but not the only reason we were worse, so maybe we would have sucked the same as the year prior without the better opposing players. IMO we should keep in mind that last year was Narduzzi’s first and opposing coaches caght on the weaknesses in his system; I’m sure there were even more long passes this year, heck more passes in genera as a resultl. Are you saying the coaches are sooooo bad that they basically made the same players worse because the stats were worse. I really believe it is weaknesses exposed in year one were exploited in year 2.
    I for one am not all that sold on the defensive coaches or Narduzzi who needs to be open to a change of opinion on his defense and his assistants. I don’t expect a change of coaches though.
    Narduzzi is loyal and stubborn, not necessarily good qualities for a HC. Narduzzi knows, I presume, how to judge his coaches and players. IMO we need not only better athletes but adjustments to the system to switch between zone and man per each series , perhaps even play to play. You should be able to adjust to teams that throw nothing but long sideline fades, we don’t.
    One thing the stats do show is that Chryst, an offensive-minded coach, better recognized offense talent and how to use it.
    I suspect it will be another long year if Narduzzi does not open his mind to changes. AS to its effect on recruiting, this is not my area but as TT pointed out how his defenses improved at MSU, it must not have affected his recruiting there as the better athletes first came to MSU then developed into what he needed..
    I have now convinced myself I don’t know anything but out defense sucked like it was the 60’s.

    Notrocket – do you know besides MSU which teams use this defense of Nards?


  44. Actually we can get better without “better” recruiting because in 3 years when all the DB’s Narduzzi landed last year are mature, our pass defense will be MUCH better. Though if we don’t recruit well behind them it will be a short lived improvement.


  45. Reed,

    To me it is what you do with the cupboard – whether or not the cupboard is attributable to you or someone else. PN and company was able to utilize the cupboard better than PC and company (at least in the short term via the records). Even this was with mixed success Positive – the O and Negative – the D. Again, I align this in some respects to coaching.


  46. You guys are missing the point. You are all stating “Don’t forget we faced NFL QBs, NFL receivers”. The point is that the combination of the two positions ALL had record days against Pitt. Against their other 11 opponents – not so much (of course with an exception here and there). Pitt’s D and DB play specifically was a target all year.


  47. Pitt it IS,
    You are so correct.
    Heck, our DBs could make a one armed midget look good at QB and a one legged blind man look good at WR!!!!


  48. Pittman great post, maybe we should be recruiting some one arm midgets and one legged blind men for our practice team. I have a feeling if that were the case our defense would excel with the present personal.


  49. Our d-backs won’t look so good if no pressure is applied on the QB.

    Even though Jarrett and Soto were much better than the previous starters, there was no depth.

    Same thing with the linebackers.

    You need multiple years of really good recruiting.


  50. @Reed I am choosing to ignore the stats and dismiss those as being subjectively interpreted because the stats do not support my subjective analysis that Pitt played NFL caliber QBs and receivers against every school but Youngstown State, Marshall and GT this past season. I also don’t dare that all of those guys exceeded their production against Pitt over that against other opponents.

    I am also going to ignore the final game because in my estimation the opponent should have quit playing so hard, especially with their backup QB playing the entire game.

    p.s. Thankfully Pitt did not choose to quit this past season with their woeful defense.


  51. I also ask that in the future you provide stats that support my assertion while I reserve the right to suggest that you are obstinate and too reliant upon versions of facts.

    Its all about what feels right. Truthiness.


  52. Fellas, the main stat is 8-4. Period. We can’t play our manipulative games and say….”well, if we would have held them to less yards we would have been 10-2″. That is hogwash. Who would have said we would have scored all those points? Every play effects how the next play is run. We can guess what things would have looked like, but we will never know, for the reason stated above.

    I don’t think our defense was terrible. They were bad at times. At critical times. We can excuse it away by saying we had a lot of injuries. We can say we had bad coaches. We can say we had bad players. The reality is that we had good enough coaches, schemes and players to end up 8-4, which is pretty good.

    It is a team game. We better practice hard for NW as they have a stud WR that ripped apart OSU. Our guys better not read the headlines and let it go to their heads.

    There are now 5 DL prospects committed to Michigan. Look Mr. Jeter, we ain’t no 6-6 team. Wanna make a difference, stay. Wanna struggle to see the field, go to Michigan. Harbaugh is different, quirky. He only cares about you if you are on the field. Hope it works, but odds are not in your favor at Michigan. Study the 2 deep and be sure you can see the field. You will see it at Pitt. Talk to Foster. Make the right decision.


  53. Huff. Right you are! No one here that I can remember said we’d have a greatly improved O– certainly not one that is historically great. I recall lots of talk about there being no Tyler Boyd, but Ford would step it up. Some talk about Connor being less than his old self, but QO doing damage. O line might be better, we thought… NP would be “good enough.” Not only was our O great, but we were great in really unexpected ways, and consistently great. And no one saw the utter collapse of our D. The general sense I got before the season was that we thought our D would be a little better… Maybe the coaches were so worried about the O, they just didn’t put much emphasis on D. I can’t believe they saw the D collapse coming any more than we did.


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