Byline: Chris Logue
First, I want to extend a massive “thank you” to the entire Pitt POV family for the wonderful greeting, it was taken appreciatively. This isn’t an Adele song and I won’t get sappy, so back to the main point of congregating to this article.
I was scrambling trying to find a good follow-up to the introduction that Reed so kindly wrote – and correct me at the end if I am wrong, but I think I found it. With that being said, let’s look at some headlines from the media in 2016 that we want to avoid in the upcoming campaign. Here is the first:
At first glance, it’s innocent. Pitt won and climbed to 5-2 on the season with their eyes set on double digit wins. Something, two to be specific, deep down bothers me about this however. I look at “Defense Leads” as well as “…31.” It might be the most insufferable of all headlines written in 2016.
Talking with Reed earlier, we discussed how this defense is actually going to look in comparison to previous seasons; but especially the low-line set by the secondary last year.
It was a consensus hypothesis that the first two levels of the defense should be serviceable and maybe even sturdy enough to create havoc on opposing quarterbacks. That’s where the glee subsided. How about the secondary though?
I don’t see much area for improvement, at least not early in the season when they face some open offenses, even Georgia Tech when the safeties and corners must become hybrid linebackers and defend the many looks of Paul Johnson.
It’s a fine line for Narduzzi to tip-toe, and ever-so gingerly. With Ryan Lewis being the main asset lost in the defensive backfield, there’s not much turnover. Sure, Jordan Whitehead is making the slight adjustment to assist in tightening up the leaky faucet of a pass defense, but Dennis Briggs and Avonte Maddox will be the greatest shareholders of time with guest appearances by Therran Coleman, Damar Hamlin (if his body permits), Paris Ford (if eligible to enroll), and Dane Jackson.
Do we continue trotting out experience over raw talent? I’m not so sure that fans will grant the longest leash to Narduzzi if that experience doesn’t greatly improve and do it very, very, quickly. All of that being said, Pat Narduzzi is in line to put his signature not just on his cuff, but the entire defense entering his third season at the helm.
Another quick chip of a headline for the above mentioned secondary, and a lesson in Plain English writing for us all:
That right there was the theme of the season.
The next headline is courtesy of Pittsburgh’s friendly face and The Trib’s Pitt beat writer, Jerry DiPaola.
Again, we take a look at a shadowy headline in the midst of a victory to begin the season. With the levels of hype incorporated because of Pittsburgh’s adopted son, James Conner, making his return to the field after his health crisis, the game underwhelmed, underwhelmed again…and once more.
Quite frankly, the short phrase of “overcomes offensive inconsistencies” needs to be thrown in the trash bin at Pitt, because if those same offensive consistencies we faced against Villanova re-emerge they will bury the Panthers against the Bo Pelini driven Youngstown State Penguins.
Being fair, there was an incredible emphasis on beating Penn State, and deservedly so, so I can partially understand why they didn’t shuffle the entire deck of cards for the Wildcats. With an offense introducing new members to the starting role, the luxury of paring back the playbook against YSU isn’t an option to preserve offensive potential against that other team in the commonwealth. No, not Temple.
I look at it this way, you need the real and numerous reps to be able to perform well and this is certainly the case with the new, and to a point, makeshift offense that we have no clue about going in.
Compared to last season when the only uncertainty was how Matt Canada was going to flare up the offense. Nathan Peterman returned, James Conner returned, Scott Orndoff returned and you see where I am going with this.
This year, it’s different. Not to forget, the offensive line has gaps and as close to zero depth as you will find anywhere; talent-wise, at least. If we trim back the playbook and schemes for the opener in hopes of surprising PSU on the field then we should be prepared to potentially start the season 0-4.
Break out your shovels to uncover this game, the one we all wish was cremated and dumped into a steamy toilet in the sweating sun of the Sahara:
This might have been the greatest atrocity from the past season. I am confident in making that claim because the strategy of making a team one-dimensional relies heavily on stopping one of the two dimensions. Duh, right?
Injury related or not, 224 yards on 32 carries by NW is unacceptable, especially by the standards set forth by the coaching staff and especially the head coach. Again, it comes back to the whole one-dimensional thing; the aspect which is the pride of the Pitt defense given the shortfalls of the secondary.
To elevate ourselves over that hump of eight wins, the lapses that titled that headline must be erased. This comes back to getting a healthy Dewayne Hendrix, and Rori Blair, Amir Watts, Keyshon Camp among others to provide the consistency necessary to bullying the opponent’s offensive line en route to reaching a new echelon. That being not just first in the Coastal Division, but also the entire ACC.
All isn’t negative, despite the general feeling after reading the above thoughts. Will aspects of these headlines still peak their head from behind the door? Most likely, but how will we respond, especially the coaching staff, when the trouble looms?
If the relies again on playing the experience card, we might find ourselves being a substitution or a depth chart move away from rising to the occasion in Charlotte.
Finally, here’s my homework for you, the faithful readers.
Dig into the schedule shown below, find 1) a game that Pitt should win, 2) a 50/50 game, and 3) one that they probably shouldn’t be on the winning side (limited selections, I know).
Next, construct a headline for each game that you think will best suit the overall result of the game. I am interested to see the games selected and the reasons for a victory and the reason for the loss, should that be the outcome you guys foresee.