A Real POV Surprise…
Yesterday my friend Chris Logue emailed me and asked if he could contribute articles to the POV on a regular basis because, well, he wanted to be associated with the best there is.
Chris will be starting today and will take up the quill for one or two days a week article writing giving me a little bit more time for other things I have going on. One series he will be doing will be the “Know The Enemy” Wednesday pieces during the season. His will be better researched and with more detail than mine were I’m sure.
I asked Chris not to hold back on any opinions or observations he has about Pitt football – positive or negative – because that is what the Pitt POV is built on. Please welcome him and have at it.
Here is Chris’ first piece for the POV as an actual staff writer:
My Two & Two Breakouts
Nothing is closing in faster than the beginning of football season. Not just any season however as this is a season filled with weighted expectations for both Narduzzi and our Panthers. We know graduating losses were sustained and the shifting athleticism on the field will have to account for shortcomings that may occur from that. That’s not a jab at the Mario-sized height of Avonte Maddox or is….
True freshman, sophomores, and the underclassmen redshirt players will be the focal points of the Panthers if we wish to contend for the ACC Coastal championship early and then sustain the contention for the course of the season.
Now, back to the position losses; who just steps up – but who really breaks through and relishes the bright lights more than the others? There’s a pair of players on either side of the ball that deserve our attention more than the rest, at least as far as having breakout years are concerned.
The offense has a plethora of potential for this category. The most widely known players for this are transfer quarterback Max Browne, receiver Maurice Ffrench and perhaps Maurice Ffrench’s wide receiver mate, SO Aaron Mathews. All have that potential, but of those I think we are missing two players who I fully believe will breakout at their positions for the Narduzzi-led Panthers.
Get to know this name as you may have forgotten it over the last nearly two seasons; rsSO Chris Clark. The transfer tight end from UCLA could highly diversify the overall scope of the offense. He will join Browne as the second offensive starter to make the move from the state of California.
Why Clark? Easy.
Every new quarterback likes to find a security blanket. Despite Quadree Henderson and the coaching staff working to expand the speedster’s game as a receiver, Clark will be the Jason Witten of a new offensive build for 2017. A redshirt sophomore, Clark’s size, standing at 6’6” and tipping the scale at 260, with his deceptive overall speed will be crucial for Browne to expand his passing targets and open the box over the middle. Doing so will allow then Qadree Ollison to run more freely through the first layer of defense, into the LBs and hopefully beyond.
Pitt is coming off a season where we used one tight end, and one tight-end only, despite what the roster classifications might suggest. Scott Orndoff was a lone producer with 35 receptions, 579 yards, a handful of touchdowns and a lone century-mark game in yards. It’ll take more this season from that position to even out the other losses sustained and with a new quarterback under center.
Along with Clark, it is important to mention rsSR and TE Matt Flanagan who arrives in Oakland as a transfer from Rutgers. He will be a main cog in spelling Clark without sacrificing size and or too much skill with his hands.
Since being the nation’s highest rated tight-end coming out of high school in Connecticut in 2015, it’s important for Clark and the Panthers both that he becomes entrenched in the offense early – but most importantly, often.
My second breakout player this fall may not be a bold prediction, but I fully expect SO Chawntez Moss to take the next step in becoming a feature back behind Ollison. How can he be a feature back on the second level of the depth chart? Think back to how James Conner found the main stage as a freshman behind Isaac Bennett. Not the main star, but you understood how good he was by the third quarter mark in the season. Moss has that potential.
A season ago, Moss surprised many on his way to finding daylight in a defense on more than one occasion. Chawntez racked up 227 yards on 42 carries which would get him a first down on every two carries. That’s before his injury and I can only assume he would have continued his run. How does Darrin Hall fit into the equation, well, I’m not sure that he will. Just a hunch.
Being able to utilize Moss on counters, the occasional sweep and using his athleticism will only improve the offense’s ability to capitalize on the handful of carries by Henderson each game. If he proves he can be healthy and improve, even just slightly, the ground game should not suffer a production decline from 2016.
Let’s flip the proverbial page to the defense. The only good thing about a shoddy output of overall production on that side of the ball – the new talent that will fit in. While I hold out for a ton of hope that the secondary will provide some bright spots, I fully believe the two breakout players on the defense will come in the first two levels of the defense.
Let’s start on the defensive line. As a sleeper choice, or someone who people may often forget about, is rsSR DE Allen Edwards. A JUCO product of a season ago, Edwards developed into a player in 2016 that was able to find the field, if even in a supportive role. Edwards was still productive in his 11 games that he found the field.
Although he wasn’t a constant presence in the backfield, he was still disruptive enough to make a name and a case for himself in 2017 as a redshirt senior. It doesn’t help being overshadowed by Ejuan Price on the edge.
Get familiar with this name – rsSO LB Saleem Brightwell. He is possibly the easiest choice for me and at one of the most important positions on the entire defense. At linebacker last year, in a supportive role like Edwards, he was stellar. Yes, you can think back to Death Valley when he flipped the game with his hands and legs with a crucial interception in a high-pressure situation.
Overall, Brightwell was a stat sheet stuffer. In 12 games in 2016, he accumulated two sacks, an interception, 26 tackles and two passes defensed among other statistics. The largest acquisition of Brightwell’s was the trust of linebacker’s coach Rob Harley, coordinator Josh Conklin and Pat Narduzzi himself. That trust will pay huge dividends in showing the maturity to absorb the responsibilities of his position.
The greatest caveat of each player is the competency of game-speed play and their developments from the season(s) before. If each has improved, there is no reason why Clark, Moss, Edwards and Brightwell can’t be the spotlighted breakout players for the Panthers in 2016.
Notes: A bit more info on Chris:
If you remember Chris’ blog, Pitt Nation Sports, was somewhat short-lived but very, very well written and well-researched. But as anyone who owns, writes and edits a blog by themselves knows it is almost a full-time gig. So just like myself and Chas Rich he felt he needed to step back and would be better served to concentrate on school and a sports writing career (he writes about most professional sports…)
Here is a great video of Chris sharing his opinion regarding Dave Wannstedt in his last year at the helm as our headcoach in 2010. It was filmed during that 35-10 loss to WVU. Man after my own heart.
Chris may have been the only sober, or not falling down drunk, Pitt fan that day…
So let’s give young Mr. Louge a grand POV welcome and let him know that his impeccable timing has saved your Pitt football sanity.
As I said in an earlier comment we sure will be having Pitt POV tailgate parties at every home game this season. They will be as much fun as you can handle. Plan on attending them before and after the games. I’m almost sure they will be the best one around – although my friend Partying Panther will be hard to beat for that title.