After I posted the last article about our returning and new running backs and other ball carriers, because the WRs, QB and DBs got a lot of carries also, a few commenters stated “running back is the least of our worries“.
Which I can understand given the fact that our defense was shredded like G. Gordon Lilly’s Iran-Contra papers. Any real worries Pitt fans have to start in the defensive backfield then work forward to the linebackers then end up at the defensive line.
But that isn’t to say there are some real areas of concern on offense also. Here you see the two-deep we had penciled in on the OL at the end of last season.
What is scary in reviewing that is all of the left side tackles and guards are now gone, and considering both LT Aaron Reese and LG Carson Baker were slotted to be probable ’17 starters, that is six combined years of returning experience we lost.
Take away Mike Grimm who was a 4* recruit and leaves us a dearth of experience to fill out this next season’s two-deep lineup. That makes me worry because as much as we want to think our ball carriers are great and will produce well – they do so because the guys up front have been excellent at what they do.
Here are the departing and the returning Offensive Lineman we have coming out of 2016 and going into the 2017 season.
I didn’t list our ’17 class recruits in this prospective two-deep table since they are years away from playing (probably). Those who have left the program are in red. I listed in green the players I think may be juggled around to start for us in 2017
|50||Mike Grimm||6-6/320||OL||RS JR INJURY||****|
|60||Aaron Reese||6-5/310||OL||RS SR TRX||***|
|72||Carson Baker||6-5/320||OL||RS SR TRX||**|
|74||Alex Paulina||6-3/315||OL||RS SO TRX||***|
|70||Brian O’Neill||6-6/300||OL||RS JR||*** TE|
|76||C. Dintino||6-3/310||OL||RS JR||*** DT|
|77||Alex Galiyas||6-2/290||OL||RS JR||WO|
|78||Alex Bookser||6-6/315||OL||RS JR||****|
|63||Alex Officer||6-4/335||OL||RS SR||***|
|59||Tony Pilato||6-5/320||OL||RS SO||***|
|64||Aaron Britton||6-5/280||OL||RS SO||WO|
|68||K. Benbrook||6-3/295||OL||RS SO||WO|
|56||Brandon Ford||6-5/300||OL||RS FR||***|
|67||J. Morrissey||6-3/295||OL||RS FR||WO|
|71||B. Hargrove||6-4/300||OL||RS FR||***|
|77||Justin Morgan||6-6/365||OL||RS FR||***|
Lets be honest here and recognize that when you have this many changes and some new coaching staff members you never know how the dice will shake out for the opening game.
We do have some talent coming back though, especially with power house and flex-talented Brian O’Neill at the Right Tackle position. Alex Boosker also played on the right side as a Guard last year but watch to see if one of those two experienced players move to the Left Tackle position to protect right-handed Max Browne’s blind side.
Peterman had Adam Bisnowaty there last season and between Bisnowaty and LG Dorian Johnson we had a great foundation which resulted in our giving up only 10 sacks all season (look for that to go up and maybe by a lot this year).
Last season we passed only 37.1% of the time and that was with a QB who was 4th in the nation in yards per completion at 15.43 which is the about the best Pitt has ever had according to my research. Plus Peterman was 8th in the nation in passing efficiency at 163.4. Our other high-efficiency QBs were David Priestly at 169.20, Matt Cavanaugh at 146.66 and Tyler Palko at 140.80… and in more modern times Chad Voytik’s 2014 season was a 140.2 rating.
If we didn’t pass more with him behind center last year I wonder just what OC Shawn Watson is going to do if Browne is passing as well as Peterman was. Is he going to balance out the offense more or will he stick with over 60% running plays?
Either way we will still run the ball at least half the time as Pitt always seems to do and depending on how well our ball carriers show up we need solid strength on that left side, especially early in the season when we play PSU and OSU in the 2nd and 3rd games of the year.
Here is a good article on Dorian Johnson and his NFL chances by PSN.
“But it’s offensive guard Dorian Johnson that looks to be in line to take home the highest draft honors. Johnson was a three-year starter at left guard for the Panthers and the Belle Vernon native was one of the most reliable members of an offensive line that was twice nominated for the Joe Moore Award.”
Our returnees at the Center position are the experienced duo of Alex Officer and Conner Dintino again. That’s projected as staying and except for the maddening number of bad snaps – some in key moments of play by the full-time starter Officer – we should be OK there. However If Dintino can firmly grasp the starter’s spot Officer may be moved to that left side to help out there.
For future seasons we landed some nice OL recruits in getting these guys on board in last year’s recruiting class:
|Brandon Ford||OL||Pittsburgh, PA||6’5″||304||5.5||3*|
|Zack Williams||OL||Citra, FL||6’5″||265||5.5||3*|
|Justin Morgan||OL||Brooklyn, NY||6’7″||335||5.5||3*|
I do like OL Brandon Ford to climb up the ladder into the two-deep this season but as a rsFR that might not happen. My prediction for him is based on the total amount of time I spent drinking beer with his father the night before the Pinstripe bowl….on second thought maybe Brandon should be a starter because we hit it hard.
rsFR Justin Morgan’s name has been brought up as having real potential also. He may be one that sees the field earlier than most.
High school coaches Matt Demarest and Rob Freeman weren’t in each others company while speaking about the monstrous left tackles they sent to Pitt in the 2017 recruiting class. Yet, they uttered the same phrase in estimation of Carter Warren and Jerry Drake Jr.
“The sky’s the limit.” And between those two and local product Gabe Houy, there’s reason to be intrigued by some of the building blocks of Pitt’s offensive line — especially on the ends.
In the group of high school seniors signed earlier this month, coach Pat Narduzzi brought in three players who could project to the offensive tackle position, potentially bookends of Pitt’s line down the road. Drake is already an official Panther, enrolling for the spring semester, and when the other two arrive, 232 inches and 905 pounds will be added to the offensive line.
Well, that’s some nice words about the youngsters but we still won’t see them in action for any length of time for two years at least.
The offseason always makes me a little wary of how well or how poorly each individual unit is going to perform in the upcoming season. There are just too many question marks at this point in early March for us to look at the OL contenders and say we’ll have a front five as good as last season’s.
But I just don’t think we will, and that doesn’t mean it won’t be good either – just not as good as 2016. Losing an solid possible starter in Mike Grimm with his retirement due to hip injury is a tough blow for us. However, having both Reese and Baker take off when they looked to be starters also is a wonderment to me. It isn’t a good thing and I don’t know why they did it.
Sometime when a player decides to ‘leave the team‘ it means either they tired of football altogether or their academics weren’t good enough to stay in school. I have no idea of those two’s reasons for leaving and can’t find any real references as to why they did. But I don’t think it was going to be lack of playing time as they were well situated for either starting or certainly a firm position in the two-deep. At least as I see it at this point.
As stated above Grimm’s reasoning is clear – he can’t pursue a football career any longer due to injury.
Back in January I wrote an article on all of the guys not returning when they had eligibility – Conner’s off to the NFL but the others just left the program. We are not deep at OL and in a way I’m surprised Narduzzi isn’t shopping around to find a grad transfer OL to shore up the unit.
This will be the camps and regular season when we see if Pitt’s OL Coach John Peterson is what he’s cracked up to be. I wrote earlier that I can’t tell if he’s a good position coach or not because he has worked with a two-deep that were Paul Chryst’s recruits who were now upperclassmen.
It is pretty easy to live off a reputation built around players like Bisnowaty, Johnson, Baker, Artie Rowell, Jared Jones Smith, Gabe Roberts and John Guy who were already in the system. But the main job of the OL coach is to target and get talent onboard and teach the incoming OL so that they are ready to step in when needed – and this is the year for Narduzzi & Peterson’s OL recruits to do just that.
Peterson obviously has done pretty well so far as the OL coach; getting Brian O’Neill to switch over to Right Tackle for the Defensive End position and then start right away is a feather in Peterson’s cap. Also, getting the starting OL to play at the level they did last year was good also but this season is where he really has to coach up the out-of-nowhere kids onto the two-deep due to the departures.
When you have new OL getting up to be starters there is always a shake down period of a game or two before they really mesh and work as a unit. Against Villanova in last seasons’ opener we had only 86 yards on the ground rushing for an average of 2.5 ypc.
In the next match against PSU we ripped off 341 yards at a 6.1 ypc clip and the running game was established from then on…
If Peterson can get his unit to pull that off again, starting against Youngstown State in the opener then in a real test at Happy Valley the next week, we’ll get that some off that offensive firepower back that we had last year.
Not 40 points per game though, that was a one-off I believe but above 30 would be nice though. In 2015 we put up 28.2 ppg in Peterman’s first season and without James Conner. I see us being a bit better than that with a new and rather inexperienced QB and again without a star RB like Conner.
But it all starts with those five players up front to get the play moving and then giving the players behind them the time and space to do their jobs effectively.
Note: If you are planning to attend our Golf Outing on April 14th please get in touch with Rick Caldwell or myself. Single attendees fee is $75.00. The team attendees and such are listed on the flyer as this:
As a sponsor of this event, your company could receive: (sponsor’s art files due by March 24th)
- Advertisement in the form of a quality sign positioned at one of the 18 holes with your company’s logo and information and…
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Please consider a donation of the following:
- Majors Sponsor – $500.00 (4) golfers, (2) tee signs
- Jock Sponsor – $250.00 (2) golfers, choice of hole for (1) tee sign
- Pub Sponsor – $140.00 (1) golfer, (1) sign at Pub Area
- Pop Sponsor – $100.00 (1) tee sign
- Donations to be given away as prizes (Raffle prizes, Gift bag prizes , etc)
- No donation is too small
With each sponsorship you will receive a quality sign which will be posted at one of the golf holes.
Also, we invite you or your company to sponsor a team in the golf tournament. The cost of a four person team is $300 and includes green fees, carts, prizes, and a meal. What a thoughtful way of thanking your employees for a job well done! Golfers – please provide each player’s handicap…
If you are interested in attending and/or sponsoring our event, and we hope you are, please call the POC Point of Contact Rick Caldwell at (717) 838-4855 ext. 246 or me at (410) 997-0388 (H) or 410-782-9981 (C) or email Rick at email@example.com or me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.