A commenter posted a link to The Panthers Prey – Chris Dokish’s blog about Pitt football and Dokish’s take on our 2017 defense. Dokish specializes in recruiting stuff mostly but also tends to get way into the weeds about individual player’s abilities and talents.
People love reading that and I do also. It is apparent he puts a lot of research into his writing. However, I believe about half of it.
That’s no slur on Dokish’s work, but when you are in the business of offering predictions regarding how well players will do in the future, as he is, then you basically have a 50/50 chance of getting your predictions into the “correct” ballpark. I know this to be true – after all I predicted that Jack Lippert would be a three-year starter and that Chris Wuestner would be the next Mike Shanahan.
The thing is that fans read Dokish’s stuff but never go back to see how good he is at doing this. Let’s remember to do that after the 2017 season and compare Pitt’s real results to his current predictions.
Well it is too much to cut and paste but I suggest you take a reading of the whole piece – I do like to read his work – and pay close attention to his “DBs” section toward the bottom of the article. This is what he said for the upcoming 2017 season:
Bottom line- It’s going to be hard to convince some people that the secondary could be a lot better, but I have to say anyway that there’s a real possibility that the secondary could be a lot better. If Whitehead returns to form, and Hamlin and Ford live up to their potential, there will be an enormous improvement. And these are three elite talents so it’s not unimaginable.
Also, last year’s underclassmen, like Jackson, Motley, and Stocker, should get better now that last year’s shell shocked season is over. Throw in some very talented redshirt freshmen like Coleman, Miller, Campbell, and Garner, and you can see that there may be light at the end of the tunnel sooner than people think.
“If, if and may be…” Again, I’ll believe it when I see it. But remember that quote above as you read the rest of this piece.
We heard this last year from Dokish also; Hamlin was sure to be a starter right off that bat as was Henry Miller after he got his feet wet in the beginning of the year… Whitehead was going to be a 1st team All-American, and so on.
What no one ever seems to do is go back and look at his older articles when he rates the units and see how well he did with his crystal ball then. So let’s do that.
Back on August 30th of 2016, the date right before the opener of last season, Dokish had this to say about our defensive backs when discussing the relative strengths of the unit.
Defensive Back: This is another unit that was hurting badly just a few years ago, but this is also Narduzzi’s specialty so it’s no surprise that the position is quickly becoming a strength.
Motley, Jackson, and Henderson are fast and have good ability, but Hamlin has future star written all over him so he will be hard to keep off the field. Incoming freshmen Bricen Garner, Therran Coleman, Henry Miller, and Phil Campbell are the future but they all may redshirt this season unless they can definitively prove that they are a better option than the many players currently above them.
Get that – the truth was that the new kids didn’t “definitively prove that they are a better option than the many players currently above them”. At least not last year.
In his summary of the unit he predicts this grade for them:
Summary: The one cornerback spot is suspect until, and unless, someone comes through there, but the unit also possesses three really good starters, including a possible All-American. There is also good depth, numbers, and raw talent. For those reasons, I see no reason why this can’t be at least a good unit. Grade: B
We fans can’t be saying one thing about the players in the defensive backfield, or quoting a semi-expert on them, at one time and expect others to believe what is being said… then down the line when the actual results are in just ignore those earlier predictions, especially if we turn again to the same source to bolster a later argument for the next year.
I’m not criticizing Chris Dokish for his predictions. Really, I’m not.
I think it takes a large amount of guts to put such detailed thoughts out for public consumption and since I can’t predict anything with more accuracy than he has done I sure can’t complain about his. He does it on a regular basis.
But the main point is that time and again coming out of the 2015 season everyone and their brother felt that the poor defensive backfield play we had (54th in Passing Yards Allowed and 66th in Passing Efficiency Defense) would just automatically get better with the injunction of Narduzzi’s recruited talent.
We all know that takes time but, well, this was Pat Narduzzi and if Pat Narduzzi knows anything it is DB talent. But it wasn’t Pat Narduzzi who was saying he was going to play those true FR kids in 2016 – it was the fans and guys like Dokish who stated that would happen.
Time and again I have read and heard about how terrible our talent was in that backfield in ’15 yet that same poorly talent group started again this season and took a dive to the bottom of the national pond in pass defense. Over and over this was said and here is what the actual differences were between ’15 and ’16:
But reading the articles linked above drives home my point that it is the coaching that is suspect and I believe it to be much more at fault than the players themselves.
Which makes me worry about what this unit is going to be like in 2017. Yes, on paper we have ‘better‘ players coming in to take the jobs of departing guys and yes, we can’t get much worse. But then again nothing says we automatically will be better either.
Here is another quote from Dokish that strikes to the heart of the matter (emphasis mine):
CONCLUSION: Once again, on paper, the defense looks to be behind the offense. It was very apparent that former head coach Paul Chryst recruited much better on offense than on defense, so the offensive side of the ball was much further ahead in Narduzzi’s first two years.
But surprisingly, Narduzzi’s staff is also recruiting better on offense, than on defense, at least as far as players that are ready to play early in their career. Put another way, on the offensive side, the staff is recruiting more established talents, whereas on the defensive side, the players being brought in are more developmental.
That’s not to suggest that the defense won’t be very good soon, maybe even this year. There’s a lot more talent, athleticism, and speed than what the defense had when Narduzzi arrived, but few of those players have actually established themselves on the field yet.
I agree with that 100% and so I’ll stay somewhat pessimistic about this upcoming DB group until I see some radical changes in results from the unit as a whole, which will also require, in my opinion, a complete 180° turn of results from the coaching staff… and that may not happen with the same DC and DBs coaching we are carrying over.
Lastly – I ‘follow‘ Dokish on his articles and suggest you do the same – he puts a level of detail in his work that no other Pitt football writers do – myself included.
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