2017’s OL; Upgrade, Downgrade or Draw

This is the fourth of a longer POV series looking at the individual positions which need to be re-filled in 2017 and whether we will meet the PRODUCTION we had in those positions. We will not factor in true freshman at this point.

Football people talk about an offense revolving around the quarterback because he’s the first player to get the ball and decides what to do with it; that it is his talents with the ball that will make the play successful or not.

My thoughts are that if the offensive line isn’t doing its job correctly the QB is screwed any way you look at it.  This year in particular that may be true and we’ll discuss that in more detail later in this article.

When we look at any college football team in its transition from year to year we first have to recognize what the unit was like the previous year and what players we lost from it.  Aside from the singular person at QB our OL is, in my opinion, having to rebuild more than another unit.

You might say that the linebackers over on defense would be the unit doing that and that would be a valid point – but they had more in-game substitutions at those three positions than the OL did in it’s five so the LBs are re-loading with rather experienced players whereas the OL has to replace two positions completely.

That isn’t to say that we’ll have to have football virgins walk up and start playing for the first time – but we’ll see a big drop in how many starting games the OL has under its belt as compared to last season. 

That in itself is worrying and opens up a lot of questions about the 2017 unit as a whole.OL 16.png

Here is who we saw on the OL at the beginning of last season.  The two personnel losses that jump out at us right away are the departing left side tandem of All-American Dorian Johnson at Left Guard and All-ACC Adam Bisnowaty at the all important Left Tackle position.

Bisnowaty racked up awards during his career at Pitt:
2016 First Team All-ACC (Coaches)
2016 Second Team All-ACC (Media)
2015 First Team All-ACC (Coaches)
2015 Second Team All-ACC (Media)
Four-time All-ACC Academic Team

and in doing so was a stalwart on the line for four years.  His 45 starts and his superb play will be hard to replace.

Dorian Johnson was an excellent player for us also as he was tasked with protecting Nate Peterman’s blind side on passing plays and did that well. The fact that Peterman had a 61% completion rate and 27 TDs was due in large part to the excellent protection given him by the OL with Johnson in particular standing out. 

One mark that Johnson achieved that was somewhat hidden in the football news this season is that Johnson was the first OL All-American Pitt has had since 1994 when Ruben Brown won that honor.  All those good, and some great, OL players we have had in the last 22 years and Johnson was the only All-American.  Good for him.

What does the above tell us?  That we have major loss at the two most important positions on the OL – two of three if you think Center is up there as they start the actual play.  How will the staff, OL Coach John Peterson in the main, deal with that?

I have written in the past that I think this 2017 season will be the first we can use to gauge just how good Peterson is at recruiting, teaching and ‘coaching up’ young OL players.  That is because he’s has, up to now, been using Paul Chryst’s chosen recruits.  Inheriting that bunch of lineman was a godsend for Peterson and he did an excellent job in making sure they played to potential and executed on gameday.

The are no complaints here with a staff coach whose unit played so well they only gave up 10 sacks on the year and were 3rd nationally in that category!  When you see something like that it naturally follows that the QB does well and then the offense scores a bunch – which we saw in spades in our record-setting season last year.

So who do we have returning and where will they play when the dust settles at the end of fall camp.

Our best returning lineman is All-ACC awarded and All-American candidate rsJR Brian O’Neil who is being shifted from right tackle to cover the QB over at left tackle taking Bisnowaty’s old spot.  O’Neil has a string of 45 starts going and is superb at what he does.  He’s 6’6″ so has that long wingspan the LT needs to keep the opposing DE in a curved route rather than getting a straight line shot at our QB. Also he’s rather light at 300 pounds which is good for the mobility he needs.

LTs use arms and hands to give the QB that extra second to complete the pass so the level of trust between the two players had to be solid since the QB can’t see what is happening off his left side (as a right-handed QB that Browne is).  O’Neil will be excellent over there.

Another returning player is rsSR Alex Officer at the Center position which he switched to after playing Right Guard in 2015. I’m not sold on him so much as the other returning OLs.  His poor snapping aside – I counted at least eight errant snaps last season – he just doesn’t seem to be able to do all that well in the running game blocking schemes.  He’s experienced and has that going for him but it will be interesting to watch what happens in fall camp with rsJR Conner Dintino being tried there also.

The third returning starting lineman is a bit of a wildcard in that there are impending game suspensions hanging over his head.  rsJR Alex Bookser started all the games last season but his off-season arrest and multiple charges have thrown a bit of uncertainty into his role on the OL – at least in the beginning of the season.  He played well last year as all our starters did but he isn’t irreplaceable if that is what Pat Narduzzi decides to do with him. But as a 4* recruit and a returning starter we will need him to be in the lineup.

One other ‘almost’ sure starter at right tackle is rsSR Jayrd-Jones Smith who has only one start to his name.  He was pretty highly touted before the 2015 season but blew out his knee and didn’t play that year.  Last season he started only one game and that was as a special 6th offensive lineman against YSU in the opener. 

After that he played in only seven more games in spot duty and as relief for the starters.  Honestly I don’t expect much from him this season as far as above average play and wonder if he’ll be in the lineup for the whole season.

After those four guys is where we get nervous and worried about the OL. There is almost no experience whatsoever beyond the players listed above.  One player who was in-line to get playing time and possibly start this season was highly thought of 3* Alex Paulina.

But he’s gone as are possible starters 4* Mike Grimm, 3* Aaron Reese and 3* Carson Baker when they all left the program for various reasons and took their roster experience with them.  Both Reese and Baker played on the OL in every game last season and that will be missed for sure.  Those were the guys in the pipeline who we were going to see competing for starting and two-deep jobs in fall camp this season.

The names  of the other OL players; Tony Pilato, Brandon Ford, Jimmy Morrissey, Justin Morgan and Jerry Drake just don’t strike fear in the hearts of an opposing team – at this point in their Pitt careers.  Heaven help us if we have any long-term injuries on this unit and have to dig down that far for bodies to throw into the lineup.

My impressions of this years OL squad?  Not as bright as some other Pitt fan’s. 

While three returning starters are good decent players – and O’Neil is our next superstar lineman – there are just too many other question marks past those guys. And no matter how you cut it we absolutely are not replacing Bisnowaty and Johnson with anyone possessing anywhere near the talents those two had and the level they played last year.

With a new, and much less mobile, QB in Max Browne I see us giving up a lot of sacks this season and with that our running game is without the power back we had in James Conner who could make up for any OL’s mistakes with his strength and will power when carrying the ball.  While the OL may not be an actual weakness in ’17 I do see it as a big…

DOWNGRADE

Note: I will try to get a short podcast up tomorrow morning but will be leaving on vacation tomorrow afternoon.  No articles for the next few days I think (unless it rains or I am completely bored)  – but I will be checking in and if anyone wants to email me an article I’ll try to post it.

No Roundtable on Wednesday night – Pens will be on, correct?

 

 

 

58 thoughts on “2017’s OL; Upgrade, Downgrade or Draw

  1. After reading this article from Reed, I’m adjusting my thinking on the OL. Does anyone know why Grimm, Reese and Baker all left given that some significant playing time was awaiting them? Clearly, Narduzzi is not the OL recruiter that Chryst was, Hopefully, there are some good OL prospects coming in that will be able to play in a couple of years.

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    1. Grimm had a nagging hip injury that supposedly derailed his career. Reese and Baker simply couldn’t play at this level. The last staff knew how to recruit linemen but even they are immune to recruiting misses.

      There seem to be some good prospects on the roster, but there simply aren’t enough of them. For some odd reason the staff hasn’t been bringing in four or five linemen in each class like they should be. Counting a scholarship being issued to center, Morrisey I believe is his name, Pitt is looking at 10 linemen not counting true freshmen for he YSU game. Those incoming kids should be redshirted so I won’t include them. Ten is not enough IMO. Now Bookser certainly won’t be playing versus YSU and O’Neill is letting his shoulder heal this offseason so his availability is in question. How that shoulder holds up is a huge question and throw in he won’t be lifting weights at all.

      So a D-1 team is going into the season with just eight scholarship upperclass linemen? Who’s coaching the O-line, Walt Harris’ hack and buddy, Tom Freeman? I thought those days were long over of having a shortage of linemen.

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    2. Grimm left due to long term health. I believe his hip had issues and he had a medical procedure. Not sure of the others. I hope Grimm got one of those 4 year schollys that no one offers but the NCAA was applauded for allowing.

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  2. By the way guys – I am having to moderate comments each day because of swearing. They come to me via email from WordPress and I’ve edited and approved all of them so far but I’m getting to the point that I’ll just delete them.

    I spend enough time writing these articles and then responding to some comments and do not want to be tied down all day with this.

    The next few I get that needs approval I’ll edit, then make a note that I did so in the comment box – after that I’ll trash them.

    Just give a once over proof read and say it a bit differently – that’s all you have to do.

    Oh – with that I’ll thank you all so much for keeping politics out of the POV – you can’t go on a Pitt football message board without having to wade through political posts to read something interesting about Pitt.

    Thanks so much for that!

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  3. Upitt, did you think Chryst was a good head coach while he was at PITT or is this revision history on your part?

    Reed, if the Pens series against Nashville goes the distance, the next two Wednesday’s will be Pen games.

    We are sure beating the drum on Browne’s supposed lack of mobility. Well, I’m not completely buying it. someone from Southern Cali called him a statue and that’s all well and good but I’ll wait and use the infamous “eye test” for myself.

    First off, a big thank you to Carson Baker, Aaron Reese and John Guy for your services and leaving at the right time. Baker and Reese left knowing that wouldn’t be the starters this coming season. They were career backups and received a good education doing it. So even Stephens. Nothing to see here and nothing to miss, imo with respect.

    Evaluating the O-Line is, imo, the most difficult group to judge. DJ at right tackle and Biz on the left at tackle will be missed for sure. They were really good. Many think they started from day one but that’s just not true. HCPC used them out of necessity more than skill their first year. They did play a good bit as true freshman though even as they were not early enrollies.

    The main point here is that it won’t be their backups from last taking their place though. We lose a lot of starts with both but Biz will be replaced with a starter with Brian O’Neil with more starts at this point in his career than Biz had at the same point. DJ Johnson will also be replaced with a player who has experience, … JJSmith. This good man had one of the most horrific injuries a player could suffer and it’s taken a long while to recover from. He may never be completely healed but it’s two years gone by now. He’s a super sized grown man and he will make the complete comeback and will garner some all ACC accolades by season’s end. (mark that down in pencil)

    Officer and Bookser? These two will be PITT’s starting guards come psu time. I guess you could say Bookser will be an upgrade over himself last year, I think that’s fair to say unless he has a hangover. < (sorry) Alex Officer is way to large of a man to play center. I don’t know how he squeezes the football between those tree trunk legs of his….. but he is made for the guard position. Another possible upgrade.

    Dantino is a down and dirty type of mudder. The word is he’s a dam tough young man and made to mix in up in the middle. He will be PITT’s starting center this coming season.

    By many accounts, this Jimmy Morrissey is a big up and comer. Along with Ford, Morgan and to a lesser extent this year, Pilato will serve as backups, not too bad but these guys could use an extra year to grow into maturity.

    Lastly, Jerry Drake, who doesn’t love The Drake? He enrolled in January and is every bit as highly rated as Bisnowaty was. He could very well play this year. Warren, who is not supposed to be included in Reeds grading system, could also be play as, I think he’s slightly higher regarded than Drake.

    My grade is almost a wash but I’ll call it a minimal downgrade so Reed doesn’t blow out a blood vessel.

    Browne will not hold onto the football knowing he is just not that fleet of foot and will become more a possession QB much like Peterman’s first year at PITT. Sacks most certainly will go up if for no other reason, last years total was one for the record books for years to come…

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  4. Amen to your rules Reed! I am glad to see Kapernik on the outside looking in and any Bob Costas out there I shut off.I Love football and talk about it because I love football.I do not want to get worked up unless it’s about football and Pitt Football. Political views and swearing just are not needed as much as people sometimes think. H2P

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  5. IMO this past season Pitt had the best OL since the late 70s/early 80s wit 4 of the 5 starters being NFL caliber. Thus, this yera is bound to be a downgrade, and the potential injury to O’Neil and suspension for Bookser will certainly not help.

    I look at the OL like the rest of the team this year … it will struggle in September but will be pretty good by the end of the season

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  6. Last years OL arguably the best in my lifetime.. hopefully the D will up their game while the
    O gels this year… lotsa new faces!

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  7. Here’s Athlon’s presesaon all ACC team accolades for PITT players..

    Quadree Henderson mentioned 3 times… 1st team kickoff returner, 2nd team punt returner and 2nd team all purpose player.

    O’Neill….. 2nd team O-Line

    Officer……2nd team O-Line

    Bookser….3rd team O-Line

    Ollison…….3rd team RB

    Weah………3rd team WR

    Whitehead..2nd team DB

    Winslow……4th team punter

    The O-Line is in better shape than some may think…

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  8. Ike No Chris sucked as a head coach but he was amazing and recovering good lineman and some good skill players and providing pit a great foundation to dig out from. He was ho-hum not exciting but was exactly what it needed at the time. Narduzzi is the opposite he is all talk and bravado with a little action I think the holes with Nardozzi will show this year especially since he doesn’t have Matt Canada to bail him out.

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    1. UPitt noted: “Narduzzi is the opposite he is all talk and bravado with a little action I think the holes with Nardozzi will show this year especially since he doesn’t have Matt Canada to bail him out.”

      Speaking of Matt Canada… Since I live here in New Orleans and the only college football team most folks care about around here is LSU, I get a lot of informal commentary about all things LSU. A frequent topic has been Matt Canada, as local folks wonder whether his success at Pitt and previous ACC involvement have prepared him for the types of defenses he will encounter in the SEC. They are wary of coaches banking on their successes with non-SEC schools, so it should be an interesting year watching the offensive plays being tried by Canada. I doubt the rabid LSU fans will give him much slack if they are not seeing some great offense. LSU has historically been much better on defense than offense (as are many other SEC teams), so as the season progresses, keep a tab on LSU games and see how the offense progresses. If it doesn’t, the locals view of hiring from non-SEC schools will be reinforced, and Canada’s longer term tenure at LSU will be on shaky ground.

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  9. @Upitt —- all you did was smack-talk Paul Chryst incessantly and constantly say he was worthless, lethargic, and had zero personality + charisma. Empasis on ‘incessantly.

    At least now say, “I thought Chryst was horrible — but I think Narduzzi and co. are even worse,” or something to at least be somewhat genuine lol.

    Dorian Johnson was left guard last year. Plug-N-Play with the Huge reinforcements up-front at that spot. Left Tackle —- phew, oh man —- please, please, please Brian O’Niell be okay and healthy for this season! I had him pegged with great-certainty as having a great year at Left Tackle this season protecting Max Browne and Thomas MacVittie (tellin’ ya with no-doubt : Thomas MacVittie is gonna play the young ‘Tim Tebow’ role and get crazy-first downs and goal line TD’s as the 6’5” , 230 pound read-option change up) — then proceed to be a top 20 pick in the 2018 draft. Hope he comes back healthy and okay!

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  10. Officer is always good for a few ‘Ah, shucks, I blew my assignment on that play’ each and every game.
    Reese and Baker, my hunch is, were shown the door as they were going to be never-used fifth year seniors.
    Bookser is in a world of trouble and I suspect a few games on the pine will mean someone else needs to replace him.
    O’Neil and JJS-Double burger with cheese will be the strong points.
    I suspect we will have problems running the ball, with the kid from Butgers staying in to block. Clarke, as a blocker, is an unknown.
    Folks will miss Canada, but even he would have trouble establishing the run game.

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  11. @Upitt every single comment about Paul Chryst was that he was a Sloth, and that he had Yellow Mustard-Stains on his Sloppy Hoody and such!!! 🙂 🙂 hahaha

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  12. DK, isn’t that just Upitt being nice and kind? I mean, he has many other, much worse descriptions of PITT people. A sloth? How nice and gentle of him.

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  13. Pitt’s running game this year will feed at the Bosom of the passing game.

    THAT is why I am so interested to see Max Browne and his ability at QB. Last year, (and he really did not do it nearly enough) I constantly knew that Nathan Peterman could open up the passing game wide open if he would more often take-off running and get some solid rushing yards on pass plays. That totally mind-screws the defensive backs and linebackers just knowing that a QB will be able to pick up first downs, or solid gains, on straight-up drop back passes even when you have everything covered!

    Nathan Peterman ran a 4.8 at the combine — but he was different. He was a basketball player, and a really fluid athlete who made nice cuts and stutters when he ran, he just wasn’t a “burner”.

    Max Browne never took sacks and got rid of the ball extremely quickly vs. both ‘Bama and Stanford:

    Max Browne is fast and athletic enough — a Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco type athlete along with being that same size. It’s just that frankly at USC — though it’s unfair to have to start vs. Alabama and Stanford with their best defenses maybe in their histories for you’re first ever 3 starts (!!) — he honestly did not sustain drives early on in those games and it killed his teams chances.

    Now at Pitt, Max Browne does get a first game vs. FCS Youngstown State to start which is a huge difference, and frankly pswho’s defensive talent is scaring no-one right now even though it is an away game. But I hate to say it, —- yet frankly if Max Browne does no come out strong, Pat Narduzzi does not suffer through / accept poor QB play at all and he will straight-up Sam Darnold Browne with Thomas MacVittie. And MacVittie is gonna be a Stud.

    Thomas MacVittie’s lone interview (keep in mind he’s incredibly nervous here in his ever recorded interview so excuse his sniffles and few nervious-ticks here):

    Leadership — Energy— Senior Psychoanalyst here: Love his Intensity, his Emotion. Kid’s gonna be Big-Time at Pitt.

    Dark – I told you about posting videos on here. I’m not paying extra money on here so you can post 2.5 hour videos – that chews into the site’s memory big time.

    I also asked you to limit your comments to one video – so now I’m saying don’t do it at all. Make a link if you want so that the reader goes to a different site to watch the videos.

    Bottom line is this isn’t your site, so act like you are a guest. Write out what you have to say and that’s it.

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    1. On Narduzzi talking to him after M. Canada bounced:

      Narduzzi told him, “You’re MY QUARTERBACK.” — I think 100% Pat Narduzzi consciously is trying to keep MacVittie on the down-low + undercover, then unleash him on the ACC this and the upcoming years.

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  14. Darkie,
    Don’t know if it’s the approaching end-of-the-school-year or the abundance of sunlight, but ur meds need to be adjusted big time.
    “The running game will feed at the bosom of the passing game”
    A QB who couldn’t cut it at SC.
    Jester – my hands aren’t reliable -Weah
    A Tight end who hasn’t shown anything.
    And those are the stars!
    Your passing game bosom to me looks like a pair of scrawny, dried up teats on a bull.
    Then, you think mcVittie is the second coming of Tebow?
    McVittie, by all accounts, is FOURTH STRING! Or perhaps you meant Tebow in a baseball uniform?
    I love your enthusiasm , but you’re going to summer in Western Psych if they can’t get ur meds right, my friend.

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  15. Dark – last year and in the beginning of this season you dragged Peterman through the mud and was calling him not fit to be a D1 QB. Now, after he hits on all cylinders you say you’ve loved him… Give us a little consistency please.

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  16. Still recovering from Pens 2OT game and draining a half bottle of Johnny Black in the process. Great read and comments on a Saturday rainy afternoon. Thanks Reed Gasman Darkie and Mr Positivity ….UPitt!!

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  17. Pitt fans are funny animals.

    They think you have to either love someone and think he’s going to be a star or if not then you hate that player and think he’s going to suck.

    Seems like there is no room for saying someone is going to be just average (like Browne will be this season).

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    1. Take a look in the mirror Reed, you’ll find yourself staring back.

      and btw, don’t look into the rear-view mirror either.

      and btw, looking forward to the Sunday podcast and wishing you and the family a nice and relaxing vacation

      and btw, you have favorite’s like everyone else.

      and btw, Why is it we don’t agree on much anymore? You’ve gone high brow on me….. 🙂

      We All We Got
      We All We Need
      H2P!…………………….ike

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  18. Baker and Reese both played in every game last season – if you don’t think that loss of depth is important then you feel that having to rely on kids who haven’t played a snap yet at this level will be fine.

    I don’t hold that opinion at all. We are going to be hurting for even two-deep depth – forget about any injuries that may happen.

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  19. Chryst was a sloth and sloppy and wore a gray sweatshirt like he was Mick training rocky in Philly. But he was exactly what we needed. He sucked but could recruit. Narduzzi caught lightning in a bottle. Nola – I will be driving through there Monday if you want to go to Maison dupuy for a nice libation. Im moving my lovely fiance to Texas and will be driving through. I think Canada is smart enough to know that gimmicky bs he pulled in ACC wont work in ACC after 3 games. Bama’s DE and LB’s are as quick as Henderson. He will change it up some. I think they win SEC in 2-3 years.

    Stallings and About 6 other Goverment Leaches that coch at Pitt are an embarrassment. I can say some serious stuff about them. Narduzzi is on the edge to me. This year will say a lot. His Defense and it is his Sucks and is a traincrash on fire with Pig Poop on it. That is his fortay. He has been here 3 years so if that isnt better then the only job we have to worry about losing him to is Edinboro.

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  20. Pitt PSU line will be 9.5.ish. Thoughts?

    I think we are 1-2 starting out.

    Beat GT and rest is crap shoot. Macvittie wpuldnt start at Washinton Jefferson or the kid that played QB in bowl game. Better start recruiting Narduzzi.

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    1. I think PSU will be double digit favorites … 11 or 12 at least.. They are home, have 17 returning starters, pre-season Top 10(Top 5 in some ) , and want revenge

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      1. Plus ….. we have troubles … right here in River City … and that starts with T and that rhymes with D which stands for Defense

        … and that rhymes with B and that stands for Bookser

        .. and that rhymes with B and that stands for Brain (O’neil) maybe

        …and that rhymes with C and that stands for Chris Clark (maybe)

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  21. Ike,
    Maybe you can stick the POV magnet on the ceiling above the bed in the master room suite! Could inspire you buddy and be a win/win all the around!
    :>)

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  22. I can say one thing with complete sincerity and certainty, I disagree with Upitt 99.999999% of the time on our home, The POV.

    doesn’t mean I’m saying he’s wrong but I wouldn’t want to sit next to him for a movie, sport event, or a political speech…. without a bullet proof vest!

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  23. So our vaunted Defense who lost the only talent on there minus Whitehead is going to beat OK ST’s returning QB and Washington who both set records against that porous Defense.

    PSU is deep everywhere and has back the LB stud and it is at PSU.

    Help when I say something you don’t agree with Ike.

    Sorry I dont like coaches Stealing money and Stallings steals as much as Narduzzi makes a year.

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  24. Good article but I think you’re wrong on a couple points

    there is no way O’Neill has played 45 straight games… he’s only played 26 in all
    I could have sworn jones smith started more than 1 game as a rFR and played fairly well, even getting on NFL scouts radar
    you mentioned baker and Reese but didn’t mention John Guy who’s currently getting paid to play NFL football?
    someone else may have mentioned it but like other walk ons idowu, guy, the TE, and George “Legend” Aston – jimmy morrisey is for real. He going to start

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  25. I do agree 100% with your psu prognosis. There is common ground to be found…

    For whatever reason, I have just had this really positive vibe about the OSU game though. This could mean serious problems for PITT.

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  26. I really don’t think Baker played other than a very few snaps. Maybe extra points or punts? He wasn’t a viable option this coming season at all.

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  27. BigB – owe you an apologize for not responding to you on my accent . Thanks for the shout out.

    LSU won’t win a title until Saban retires. If it’s after this season than Upitt will be correct. ( was going to say a swear word instead of title but I didn’t went Reed to delete me).

    In my opinion, Max Browne got the short end of the stick at Southern Cal (notice I didn’t say USC- that’s South Carolina). He is a true Trojan at heart but hopefully after this season a true PITT Man. Kessler was a good QB 10K+ passing yards yards, 88td’s & only 19 int’s in three starting years.

    Browne waited to get his chance but he should have transferred after he got his degree. (He was a grad student for the ’16 season.) I think his old coaches sold him a bill of goods for the “16 season. Coaches promised Browne the starting job but knowing Darnold was getting the job in the end. The only other qb’s @ South Cal last year year where true freshmen. Kind of like Narduzzi & Canada wanting Chad to stay for a quality back-up in case of injury.

    On Officier and his spapping woes, I know I read an article somewhere about snapping the ball gripping the nose (tail) of the ball and not the laces. Kind of like how you snap the ball in a back yard pick up game. Can’ remember where but I’ll try to find the article.

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  28. I wish I had time to search last year’s posts. I distinctly remember (OK, these days it’s “I’m pretty sure I didn’t imagine it”) Reed casting aspersions on the O’Neil move from TE to OL. Inexperienced and underweight might have been the worries–legit, no doubt. Reed and most of you know way more tha I do. Still, isn’t the fact that O’Neil was a big positive surprise one of the cool things about college ball? There will definitely be some happy surprises. Can’t wait!

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  29. LA – agree on the happy surprises, like one or two from each of the DL, LB and DB positions. Several WR’s and RB’s.

    So why not on the OL. O’Neill gets healthy, Officer moves to LG, Dantino is an upgrade at center, Bookser rehabs well & sits out the YSU game with adequate & multiple back-ups gaining game experience. Finally, JJ Burger plays himself to All-American status with pancake blocking ala early 1980’s Pitt.

    HTP!

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  30. Last year was an oddity in that the O-line stayed very healthy all year. Also it was very experienced with guys that had been together for a while. I will be surprised if Bookser’s punishment is only one game.

    Certainly don’t expect to see the precision of last years blocking schemes.

    All that being said, they should be good enough to score some points.

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  31. THe OL will have a tremendous downgrade. Dorian Johnson played virtually flawless line for his 4 years and there is nobody to replace him, not remotely. JJSmith is simply a big guy who thinks fat makes up for talent, he has shown me nothing. Bookser, enough has been said but he needs to get his act together and has shown he cannot be relied on much less a leader. Alex Officer would be replaced if not that the rest of the line has nothing. So we have basically O’Neil and a bunch of nothing. Way way downgrade, could be disastrous. Add on the unknowns at TE makes me wonder who Nard has been recruiting – even he said in the offseason it would take 5 years of recruiting to establish the level he wants. I am leaning to a 6-7 season. It starts in the trenches and we have little here.

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  32. Wow rk, that’s a bleak forecast.

    JJSmith a couple years ago before his serious injury was receiving attention from the pro scouts. At 6’7″ 325lbs I don’t think he’s ever been considered fat. (despite his nickname, burger) But then again he’s been out with the leg injury so who knows how he will come out of the other end.

    There is no doubt. JJ and Bookser are the two biggest wild cards on the O-Line. Officer has had plenty of snaps and imo will be fine.

    Dantino will steady the O-line at center. I think the O-Line will be ok to good with Browne being the savvy QB back there..

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  33. I’m sure there will be OL issues. I remember season after season with hopes for solid play, only to see the see an underperforming, under skilled, unhealthy crew disappoint. BUT the players who will be on the line THIS year have a deep understanding of what a great OL looks like and what it feels like to be part of that. Some of those mirror neurons are ready to fire off. Well established reaction patterns are ready to be developed in real contact. There are good reasons why we shouldn’t suck.

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  34. OK St. is interesting. They will have no defense this year and will have to outscore their opponents. The good news for them is they have a proven top of the line qb and some wonderful wr talent. Very similar to Pitt last year.

    Not to stray too far from the subject, the offensive line will be a push this year. Yes, we lose 2 draft picks on the line, but we also have two draft picks still on the line. Based on no injuries, we will have a high performing B. O’neill manning the left tackle. He may struggle there and need to go back to Left tackle because of the speed element. I prefer Burger Jones at Right tackle,b ut due to his size, he might be a better fit at Left Tackle. The reason I say this is because of his reach. Much longer than O’neill. Using the reach and punch appropriately should keep defenders in tow and Browne off his back.

    The Gaurds. Officer is no gentleman. He has a nasty streak and enjoys being a road grader. Having him at center negatively impacted his blocking abilities because he was too busy making calls and being that leader. He now gets to move to his natural position. Solid move IF Dintino is ready. Dintino is my only unknown. Let’s see where we are with him when camp starts.

    In my mind, we have a luxury with Officer because if Dintino struggles, Officer goes back in at center. So, my two guards are Officer and Bookser. This will be a better relationship between Bookser and Officer that we saw just a few weeks ago on the streets of the burgh. The more I don’t read or hear about Bookser, the more I am convinced he is doing the right things off of the field (rehab, community service, counseling, etc). If there is a Bookser suspension of more than a game, I look to the mammoth, Justin Morgan to be the next road grader.

    I like Drake, Morgan and Morrissey getting enough work on the line to keep the succession plan in place. 2-3 quality OL per year and you have something extremely important, continuity.

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  35. Canada shows how important it was to keep the defense on its heels. He uniquely spread the offense to make the defense vulnerable and attacked the vulnerability. That is so critical. A better scheme with inferior talent can win. Canada proved that. So has Navy for the past 10 years.

    Biznowaty and Johnson didn’t control their opponents because of their brute strength. They controlled their opponents because the scheme put them in position to allow them to maximize their strengths and capitalize on the opponents weaknesses. Grateful to Canada for showing Pitt nation how you can be successful with less talent!

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  36. Look for many 3 step drops from Browne. He has the height and the WRs to do it. Less reliance on the OL to sustain blocks, and minimizes Tight end play until some depth is there or Clark produces. Ike, thanks for the great summary of the OL prospects earlier. We may see more of a West Coast offense if the tight ends develop, with the occasional vertical to Weigh to keep defenses honest.

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  37. Huff has made the best point so far. If the new OC can put together a scheme that plays to the talent we have on the line, and the talent we have around the QB, we will be successful. (assuming the team can execute).

    Case in point, my uncle was a successful high school lacrosse coach for years in the Malvern, PA area. I asked him once what his secret was, and he gave me a 20 minute talk on knowing your talent and adjusting to it. “one year we had a bunch of D I guys and we could do anything we wanted,” he said, “this year we had 3 guys who were maybe D III, but they all could attack from long range, so that what we did and it worked”.

    So even if the o-Line is a slight downgrade in pure talent, lets not forget the Watson effect in all of this.

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