Byline: Chris Logue

I Certainly Hope it’s Coaching

Is it the coaching or is it the recruiting?  Which side is more responsible than the other for putting the train on the tracks and moving forward? For once, I thought that ESPN, especially SportsNation, had an interesting take. If even for a moment it was refreshing.

After doing some research on recruiting ranks, records and the coaches at respective schools, I believe the answer is clearer than you might think. Get acquainted with the following chart, because it breaks it all down for you. Cheers for making it easier.

Pitt v MSU

After including the keywords under the logo’s, it should significantly reveal my hand. Michigan State is only revealed to 2014 because at that point we acquired a very hot commodity in coaching. “Give me sought-after defensive coordinators in 2014 for $1,000, Alex.”

Breaking it down as “Turmoil to Stability” and “Stability” was important in making my case and it should be very self-explanatory as to why. During the rash of hires by the athletic department, the philosophies changed as the pages turned and while the pages turned, the turn-stiles did not (man, I ‘turnt up’ as my fellow youth would proclaim).

As Mark Dantonio and Narduzzi began their venture in East Lansing, it was just a matter of time before they took some seed and turned them to roses. The success, in records, continued with only two intermittent scuffles. In their time together, MSU only had a top-25 class twice and half of that time was spent on the losing side.

For the most part on the recruiting balance, the pair had only average classes, and Helping to suggest that coaching goes farther than production on the recruiting trail. In that time, MSU averaged (3)-4* players and (.25)-5* players in each class. The majority found themselves either being under-recruited or simply existed as second-tier prospects.

Look at our Panthers. Woof. It couldn’t be more opposite but Pitt also broke the mold once in this grand point I am trying to make. While it’s variably skewed by timing, in 2007, Pitt had the 21st ranked class but vastly underperformed and missed making a bowl game in what was Dave Wannstedt’s third season at the helm.

Without stability in coaching, the Panthers suffered and continued suffering. Remember, it took a James Conner record-breaking performance against Bowling Green to prevent a third consecutive <.500 club.

Since taking over for the rotating door at coach, Pat Narduzzi has righted the ship, despite the often-foul interpretations of the players that are committing to the team each season. In three recruiting cycles, Narduzzi has bettered, if only slightly, the production on the trail than what was the norm for the Spartans.

Since 2015, he has averaged (3.33)-4* players per class and is hungry to add his first 5*. To cater to the fairness obsessed, he has had players committed and in camp that were on the brink. But parachute land back to the point, that’s where the coaching comes into play.

Take another look at the table and see where the green matches the green, yellow matches the yellow and the red matches the red – it’s deceptive, especially on the Spartan bill. To me, that demonstrates that consistent coaching, not recruiting can have a greater impact on the overall trajectory of a program, which should be a welcomed narrative to our Panthers. And, as the table suggests, we go from red to yellow.

Will it go to green in the next three years? It might be close, but that outcome is more on the side of a five-to-seven-year plan. Will the athletic administration and fans give Narduzzi that kind of time to build before pulling a fatal Jenga block? Time will tell.

Here is an excerpt from ESPN’s Ivan Maisel in favor of the coaching side of the debate:

”We all love coverage of recruiting. We read about it because it holds the possibility of new life, and change, and success. But recruiting is not coaching. There’s a long list of assistant coaches who have become head coaches because they know how to recruit. But the head coaches who know how to recruit and don’t have the ability to lead a program don’t last long.

Ask Ron Zook, who brought personality and salesmanship to Florida and Illinois and got fired from both jobs. Ask Urban Meyer, who took Zook’s recruits and won a national championship at Florida. Coaching is Meyer winning at Bowling Green and at Utah with the same degree of success as at Florida and Ohio State.

Recruiting is Michigan beating Appalachian State. Coaching is Appalachian State beating Michigan.

Coaching is Boise State’s Chris Petersen signing players the big boys overlook and winning more than 90 percent of his games. Coaching is the 17 Broncos who have played for Petersen and been drafted by NFL teams.

Coaching is Barry Alvarez building a program at Wisconsin, or Chip Kelly taking Oregon from good to great. They didn’t have blue chips. They had a clear vision.”

Doesn’t that kind of sound like a Pat Narduzzi route? I think so. Here’s where it goes three-months-expired milk sour..

Being compared to Chris Peterson while at Boise State isn’t bad. Not at all. After all, he just took Washington to a place only four teams get to go to in a single season, the College Football Playoffs. This is sobering, but shouldn’t be a complete shock, from Jeremy Crabtree of ESPN:

“The teams that have played in the past seven BCS National Championships — Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas — averaged recruiting classes that ranked No. 8 overall.

Only two teams didn’t boast top-10 averages: Auburn and Oregon, who had eight-year averages around No. 12.”

…..There’s a reason coaches pour so much time, effort and emotion into the madness that is dealing with 17- and 18-year-old recruits. Their livelihood depends on it.”

There’s got to be a happy marriage somewhere in the middle of the two philosophies. Classes consisting of players like Jordan Whitehead, Tyler Boyd, Aaron Donald, Damar Hamlin and Paris Ford don’t grow on trees in the backyard (although this crop of players kind of did, brilliant job, Chris).

Here’s how I look at it and I hope you disagree because if we all agree, I am doing something wrong. Pat Narduzzi needs to broaden the Pitt footprint to replicate the uptick in recruiting he shared at Michigan State but all of that will happen naturally if he grows as a coach, first. “So, which comes first, the__________or the__________?”

 

107 thoughts on “Coaching or Recruiting Leads to Success?

  1. Clearly the egg in which the chicken was hatched….

    In terms of football, it has to be the coaching in PN will eventually be recognized for his skills. At some point the inertia will help land some better recruits but at that point Coach PN will find himself at the other end of an offer he can’t refuse. Then the long cycle continues. OK by me I say because we may just catch a nice run and some real fun. That’s probably as good as we can expect.

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    1. “..we may just catch a nice run and some real fun.” Boy, that sounds real Pirate-esque.

      The next three years and improvement will go a long way in determining the longevity of his stay. For both himself and the athletic department.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Talent, talent, talent wins championships.
    It’s only when u don’t have talent that u hang your hopes on coaching, which begs the question: How did the defensive guru’s pass defense look last year?

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    1. You’re 200% correct, where was the guru’s pass defense last season? Well, here is the generic, but widely encompassed answer: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. You also can’t teach Maddox to grow, you can’t teach Whitehead not to get injured(and now suspended), you can’t teach what can’t be taught. On your end though, you can’t trot less talent out and expect Darrelle Revis to appear.

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  3. Good article Reed and the chart does speak loudly to me as well. It tells me two things. Coaching probably is the more important because it’s tangible for the most part. Injuries and unforeseen issues can pop up and ruin a football season for a coach though.

    More importantly it tells me how unscientific recruiting the second tier player can be. The player PITT (O’Neil) got yesterday is an example of that. Rated 2 stars by some scouting services and 3 stars by others.

    This is where recruiting could be the more important aspect. If a coach can look two 3 star high school football players rated exactly the same and can offer the player who ends up having a better career then his team will have a much better chance of a winning season than a coach that doesn’t have that “recruiting eye”

    So after all that. I think it’s equally important to be a good coach and recruiter and this goes for recruiting great assistant coaches as well. ike

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  4. A big part of college coaching is recruiting. But when conditions persist that limits your recruiting, you must be a better coach (teacher). As I continue to say … I don’t see Saban and Meyer recruiting 2-stars and then coaching them up. But all colleges aren’t Bama or OSU

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  5. The chicken, the egg….or putting fannies in the seats. Without a massive improvement in attendance Pitt will never move up in recruiting and thus the reincarnated Ara Parsegian ( God rest his soul) could not win big with this team!

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    1. You don’t need fannies in the seats. You need money.

      Miami has never put fannies in the seats but they’ve put way more money into their football program than Pitt has into its in the last 35 years and guess which program has done way better in those 35 years

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  6. Not to nitpick, but we probably shouldn’t be looking at when the colors line up. Shouldn’t we be looking what color the result is ~3-5 years after the recruiting year, since that is when most of those players will actually be playing. By that logic, years 4&5 after MSUs two best recruiting classes happen to be 13-1 record years.

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    1. But I also look at what the coaches do in the interim before those players take shape on the field. It’s a revolving door answer, but the coaches have to be doing something right to continue encouraging that same level of success on the field.

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  7. A list of schools only a mother would love. 2 stars. Narduzzi recruiting is actually going backwards.

    It comes down to talent and until he starts winning for talent we are 6-8 win team.

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  8. Upitt

    The recruiting needs to pick up…my God, please sign a stud LB for once.

    Come on man….When you were a 1 star baseball recruit would you have liked a blog ripping on your coach for recruiting you to Pitt, LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Asamoah could be that stud LB, however, it looks like Oklahoma may have put the nail in the coffin for Pitt; despite that nonsense of a “crystal ball” charade 247 rolls out that suggests otherwise.

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  9. Chris, I know you are a Wanny hater but this pretty much makes no sense … “While it’s variably skewed by timing, in 2007, Pitt had the 21st ranked class but vastly underperformed and missed making a bowl game in what was Dave Wannstedt’s third season at the helm.”

    1) Obviously the 2006 and 2007 classes resulted in the 2008 ad 2009 teams winning 9 and 10 games respectively.

    2) Pitt won 6 regular season games in 06 but didn’t make a bowl because there were a lot less bowls then. If there were still the same number of bowls these days, Pitt wouldn’t been in a bowl in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

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    1. and oh by the way …. you notice that Pitt had the 20 and 21st classes then dropped to 43rd in 2009. It couldn’t have been because our favorite AD lowered the recruiting budget, could it?

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      1. Good call. Plus there was a downswing in talented recruits from Western PA. The 2011 team was shaping up nicely for Wannstedt even with Sunseri at quarterback. Eight or nine wins that season along with the PSU scandal looming and a bunch of linemen and defensive backs about to sprout up in the region and across the state. Pitt was about to cash in and Nordy and Smiley screwed the pooch big time.

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    1. then, so you shouldn’t have used it as an example … except for the fact that it prevented you from taking a shot at Wanny .. much like your cohort Reed.

      Believe it or not .. I do not think Wannstedt was a really good coach, he certainly had his issues. But I still don’t understand why people of your ilk think it is necessary to continuously take shots at him … especially since he was an alum, worked on a shoestring, and had the best 3 years that any Pitt HC had since 1982.

      I think current staff is on the right track … just hope he sticks around

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        1. You should give a damn. Pitt is such a Mickey Mouse operation when it comes to football that having an average coach who loves the university and would rather be nowhere else accounts for something.

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  10. People seem to forget we whiffed on a bunch of 4 stars who came to Pitt:
    Cam Sadler, Shane Hale, Dan Matha, Pat Bistick, Kevin Collier etc.
    I don’t think it’s as much about the superstars but about the glaring holes that go unfilled.

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  11. I differ..I think it all begins with MANAGEMENT ….Look at the professionals in football…seems like the teams with great management are in the hunt for the most part..and where has PITT failed miserably over the vast majority of the storied history…MANAGEMENT!!! Long gone is real college ball and the BOT needs to learn they are in a business and should engage with their best efforts to be at the top of the game. Sadly, we know this will never happen….and the beat goes on……

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  12. Good article Reed!

    LOL, I couldn’t pass that one up. Kind of like a rookie hitting his first home run!

    Talent, effort and coaching is so closely intertwined in sport. The team with the best talent usually wins when the effort is the same, unless there is exceptional coaching. The exceptional coaches are skilled manipulators and psychologists that get the most out of every player in practice.

    Practice is where the kids improve the most. I recently read a sign in a power 5 locker room that read something like “We will practice harder and smarter so that the games are easier”. If our kids practiced right and trained right, we shouldn’t worry about the loss of starters….as much! LOL. Good job Chris!

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    1. Board of Trustees. The group of yinzer lifers who think status quo is awesome. They are still waiting to see what happens to their Westinghouse stock before making any moves.

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  13. How soon we forget. Never forget Houston!

    A month ago we got brow beaten by Reed on how devestaing the Noethwester loss was for this team both in loss of momentum & national perception. Well two and a half short years ago Pat Narduzzi was sitting in the press box in a rainstorm at HCPC team’s last bowl game prior to Narduzzi taking over. Now that bowl game left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth going into the 1st Speing with Narduzzi at the helm. Especially Pat himself, I would image.

    So right out of the gate the guy posts a 8-5 record while figuring out at the same richards me how to be a head coach and determining if he had assembled the correct mix of coaches for his staff. THAT’S ALL COACHING!

    Fast forward to today. Another 7-5 record beating both Clemson & penn state while still utilizing mostly Chryst recruits. THAT’S STILL COACHING.

    Now on to the future. Narduzzi has recruited better than Chyrst, but morso he has brought n key transfers that have been needed to fill holes in the roster for n order to win. Peterman is the epitome of that type of guy.

    The coaching is good. If Narduzzi’s 2016 class is as good as I think it will prove our to be, the synergistic effect of both good coaching and better athletes gets us to nine wins at the latest in 2018.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. We long-suffering Pitt fans forget how fortunate we are to be in the ACC (think: Connecticut begging to get in) and to have Coach Narduzzi. HOWEVER, we also forget how big a loss the bowl game with Northwestern was. I’m sure Pitt was all set to send out their recruiting letters stating how they beat Clemson and PSU and by winning their bowl game, they finished in the top 25. Drats.

    Coaching, coaching, coaching. I contend that Chris Peterson, Urban Meyer, and Chip Kelly early in their careers don’t lose that game if they had Pitt’s 3 1/3 star players and faced the 6-6 Wildcats across the field. Hopefully, just a coaching hiccup for Coach Pat. I’ll be back at Heinz Field for another season.

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    1. Well, a 10-0 lead was right in front of Pitt and Aston slipped and fell. How do you slip and fall with the end zone in front of you. That set off a chain of events that happens to mediocre football programs. Us Pitt fans have seen it for so many years it is mind numbing.

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  15. Seems like a trick question to me.

    Who does the recruiting? The head coach and/or the assistant coaches he hired. Is that not part of being a head coach?

    Could that be a third part of the question of what is more important? I can hear Narduzzi snapping back at a reporter asking the question, sarcastically saying, It’s everything guys.

    Not to mention the football Gaads and MONEY!

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  16. Pulling a quote from coach Duzz this morning at Camp Practice #2 –

    “We expect to win them all this year, and we can. We’ve got talent across the board.”

    Now that’s what I want to hear – now this Pitt team has to go do it!

    HTP!

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    1. Another comment on a freshman that impressed him WR Dontavius Butler-Jenkins. PSN may be right in their prediction that DBJ would be the offensive freshman most likely to stand out for Pitt this year.

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  17. Narduzzi is a system coach so it’s 100% coaching. You recruit kids who fit the system and go from there. As you become successful, you get better players for your system.

    It’s why I’m not too worried about the suspensions. Narduzzi now has kids he specifically recruited to play in the system replacing the kids not playing. Whitehead is the only real loss and I doubt that it influences the outcome of a game too much.

    You run a system so you can plug and play. The best kids will start/play but everyone just like any position competition but the kids on the bench won’t have a large drop off or learning curve.

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  18. Only Question I care about

    “HOW’S MAX BROWNE LOOKIN’??”

    I’m also curious how Nick Patti does in a top-Classification in New Jersey this year as a Pitt Commit QB. Legit 6’3” just super-thin….. Way stronger arm than Ben DiNucci for those who don’t understand why the ‘favoritism’ or anything…DiNucci in his “chance” showed his arm is way too-weak to at least be a ‘Starter’ at the level Pitt needs to be-at.

    Look at Texas A&M — On Top of the World legit in the South Eastern Conference with John Manziel tearin’ it up……then after even with top-10 recruiting classes they’re bad, and multiple top overall QB’s who were TOP-100 ranked (Who were BUSTS + OVERRATED and not acutally Good) transfer.

    All about the Quarterback who’s play the whole-team FEEDS off-of……. C’mon Max Browne!!!!

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  19. Between patients?
    I thought u retired.
    Loser!!!
    You just stole the wind from my sails.
    Early retirement and moved south. U were my hero.

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    1. Don’t lose faith in me Gasman. Since I obtained my Georgia dental license via credentials a couple years ago, with the thought that I my want to do some community dentistry or teach up at the Dental School in Augusta at some future date. I subsequently discover that the GA State Board reserves the right to rescind such a provisional license if the doctor granted it refuses to practice at least a 1000 hrs/yr (2 1/2 days/week) within 2 years of obtaining the license. My 2 years was up in June, so I picked up a 3 day/week gig with a local dentist that manages a multioffice dental corp. here in Savannah. Just to remain compliant with the Board’s mandate.

      Easy work, guaranteed daily minimum pay rate & No Management Headaches!!! So it’s all good, plus the income keeps me from dipping into my retirement funds to soon.

      Once I reach full retirement age come 2019 and start collecting SS, if working has gotten old again by then, I’ll hang it up. But for now no worries. Without the hassle of running my own practice, it’s actually kind of fun! Who knew?

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  20. Recruiting is key to get us to the next level. Sometimes we assess recruiting success based too much on stars though because it’s an easy out. Honestly Chryst put together a really good offensive line really fast based on supposed 3 star guys, and of course Narduzzi was fortunate to inherit “3 star” Weah, Connor & Henderson. I think talent evaluation is another key to the puzzle. The Pens excel in this area, successful organization.

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  21. I expect the defense to be better. How much who knows. It is not like the ACC is some juggernaut of WR’s and offensive machines. But Pitt lacked speed badly last year and that element is at least being rectified. Zeise, Pine, Brightwell, Coleman, Hamlin, Miller, are significant upgrades athletically. By the time the ACC schedule kicks in, Pitt will have a much better handle on the upside and issues that need to be addressed. I do think Narduzzi “system is dependent on a secondary that can run read and run.

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    1. It means you, Chris, Chas and Jason(?) I don’t think it’s coincidence that all are Wanny haters.

      BTW, Chris is very welcome; I’ve already said he is knowledgeable and passionate. But this is a forum where you are supposed to list your disagreements (and don’t hold back ..) so I am doing so.

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      1. My biggest annoyance with Wannstedt is that when it came to coaching, especially the second half of games, he for the most part, didn’t – especially adjustment-wise. Now I’m not blind because that’s exactly what Narduzzi is doing with the pass defense, too. In every nook-and-cranny of the word, it is an annoyance.

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        1. I don’t argue with that .. he wasn’t the best day game coach. And that certainly wasn’t his only fault. But name me a coach since the 80s that didn’t have as many issues.

          I thought Walt did a great job in his first 5 years or so, but then he really let things go. His last team which obviously didn’t belong in a BCS Bowl won a 4-team tiebreaker in a 7-team league which included a 1st year D1 team and 2 doormats.

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  22. At the risk of sounding redundant and optimistic at the same time, this year’s defense will not even remotely resemble last year’s team, especially the secondary play by the end of the season. And that is with both Wirginis & Whitehead out for the 1st three gam s which dampens my enthusiasm for this new group of defenders who will merge this year.

    And I will appreciate being told that I was clairvoyant when this comes to past by December. Thank you in advance for my impending accolades.

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  23. @Ike — I as well appreciated Pat Narduzzi saying Max Browne has hit the weights HARD and gained muscle!!

    FRANKLY —- Max Browne at Southern Cal looked…. 1000.00X (One thousand times 🙂 ) More proficient against Alabama and then Stanford than Nathan Peterman looked EVER against both Florida then Alabama.

    Keep in-mind — Nathan Peterman is an NFL career-backup level QB (Good Luck to him of course!!!) —– and when @Reed spoke of him having not exactly….a Big-Time personality it was obvious.

    It’s just that in the past Pitt had teams where if they had an even High-Quality QB they woulda been BIG-TIME!

    For whatever you hate about him —–> Todd Graham was absolutely NOT WRONG for being Pizzed-Off about having Tiny Sunersi and no-one else. — I got angry about the irritation on that point because he was right and Dave Wannstedt deserved the criticism on not being able to recruit ONE SINGLE GOOD QB to Pitt.

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    1. @Michigan State “recruiting comparisons”

      Look In-Between: KIRK COUSINS, THEN CONNOR COOK —–

      -In-between them there’s a 6-6 (whoops — 7-6 with a whack-Bowl Win lol a-la Pitt beating Bowling Green with all-star C-Voytik lol) with a Le’Veon bell at Runningback and a Stellar Defense (coached by Pat Narduzzi as D-Coordinator!*) —— But no QUARTERBACK…..

      #AllAmericaMaxBrowne 🙂 — Better Be!!! + He has the #POTENTIAL*.

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  24. I think ONeil may be a little faster than Tyler frank?

    Reed remember……. (and don’t hold back) Chris is a big boy and taking little shots comes with the territory.

    Sometimes on the POV, it reminds when a coach says, “we have to start playing against other guys, we’re beating up on each other to much in practice” This must be the POV football camp we are all in. … ike

    Let’s roll fellows and gals.
    H2P!

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    1. O’Neill’s qb looked awful. O’Neill bigger than TB but to say he is faster than TB I don’t think so. Tough to judge from a highlight film but what I saw did not look like a 2 star at all.

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  25. In between patients again doctor? How are the new meds working out for you? Maybe you should think about re-retirng? It’s deja vu all over again… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If he hits as many receivers as he does daily reps with the iron, not much will suffer. Then again, none of us have actually been in the gym with Max. Sooo…we will see.

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  26. I’ll be there Ike…who’s bringing the weed? I live 300 miles from Pitt but am planning to be at every game. Hope all you others, bitching about attendance will do the same.

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  27. Potheads….knuckleheads…we don’t need mellow defensemen…how about eating some “mean ” pills. How frigging stupid…

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  28. I’d put it this way…coaching is an essential pre-req. A lousy coach will never win consistently, even with top notch talent. Coaching get’s guys to overachieve, whatever their level of talent may be. That said, good coaching can only take you so far. At some point, you have to have the raw material with the upside potential necessary to compete for championships. It’s not a coincidence that the teams that consistently recruit in the top 10-15 are always in the hunt for conference championships. In this respect, Narduzzi needs to step up his game. Recruiting in the mid-30’s is not likely to put us in a position to win the conference.

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  29. Well written and sensible article Reed. There are over 1 million high school kids playing football each year, and of that 310,000 are seniors. On average, there are just 33 5 star rated recruits and only 354 4 stars annually with another 1200 gaining 3 star status. 2.5% of the 1 million will play D1 football (Rivals). HCPN has brought in good talent and more will follow. As an aside to “nasty”, the kid from Alabama is the second P5 player off that current school roster, and the private schools in Alabama, like the ones in PA have seen their fair share of “recruiting” complaints as they cover a broader enrollment area. They play pretty fair football regardless, and irrespective of whether you acknowledge the quality of play, the new commit is the 4th ranked receiver in the state of Alabama (with a competing offer from Wisconsin) while the one at number 3 is committed to Auburn. Nard can coach, and he has a quality staff with increasingly talented players who worked hard and put in some serious hours to play and to get these offers. Each chose Pitt. H2P

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    1. 2.5% of 1 million is 25,000. Dont think there are 25,000 D1 players in any given year. Information about O’Neill really appreciated. Thanks sincerely for that information. Reminds me of Weah as a Wisconsinite though we knew that Weah was fast because of his track success.

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      1. 6&34, thanks for pointing that out. I think their (Rivals) percentage refers to HS Seniors only of the 1 mil overall that participate in any given year.

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  30. 2017 Pitt Football Camp, Day 2 Recap

    Coach Narduzzi and the Pitt Coordinators Met with Media Wednesday

    PITTSBURGH—The Pitt football team held its second practice of its 2017 training camp on Wednesday morning at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex on the South Side of Pittsburgh.

    Head coach Pat Narduzzi met with the assembled media before practice, while new Pitt offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and returning defensive coordinator Josh Conklin did interviews following the workout.

    Interview Full Videos: Pat Narduzzi | Shawn Watson | Josh Conklin

    Below are transcripts of all three media sessions.

    Head Coach Pat Narduzzi

    Opening statement:

    “Practice number two today—obviously not much different than what we talked about yesterday. Big thing is, after 28 years of coaching, and going on my third season as a head coach, it’s the same thing. I can look back at what I said the second day last year, as far as doubles go. I look at four things we really evaluate all the time. The first one is attitude. We have a great attitude, and the morale was great. That’s our job as coaches to keep that the same way. I thought our effort was average yesterday. Why is that? It’s been the same for the last 28 years. As a matter of fact, to bring up another coaching point here, [Bob] Junko is on his 49th season. Forty-nine seasons—he’s going on 50 next year… that’s crazy. I hope I make it 50. But 28 years, and the effort was average. Again, why is that? Because they’ve been out there, doing it their way, for the entire summer. No coaches are out there. They are doing it on their own. That’s something we’ve got to train out of them. That’s the bad habits they’ve built through the summer, though sometimes the summer is good. The other thing is the knowledge, our recall. Just watching our freshman out there, for example, they’ve only been out here for six weeks—really five weeks since they are finishing up classes this week—and they did an unbelievable job. I’m watching some guys and saying, ‘Wow, how did they know that already?’ So their knowledge is good. Our kids did a great job of coaching them. But the effort and attention to detail wasn’t there. So that’s where we are at right now. And then you talk about toughness. Well… no one can really get tough in shorts.”

    On if the expectations change with a young team:

    “Not at all. If I came out here and said, ‘You know guys, we’re younger. So let’s win six games this year.’ If I told that to those guys, they’d walk out on me. Our expectations are the same. We expect to win them all, and we can. That’s not us telling them something they want to hear. We can. We’ve got talent. Guys have to make plays, stay healthy, and we need to do the little things right.”

    On his biggest question going into day two of camp:

    “If I had one question, I’d have a lot of free time. I’ve got questions at every position. You worry about depth. You worry about injuries. You worry about everything. Are we doing too much? Are we doing too little? All of those things are important. I’m worried about, ‘Why can’t we get these guys to practice today?’ How are we going to do it? They need practice too. School is important too. They have to have both. We have all kinds of questions. There’s not just one; there’s a hundred I could give you.”

    Where the team is at learning the new offense:

    “The recall is there from the spring, so it’s not new anymore. Again, 30 days in the spring, and during the entire summer, they’re going through it. They have their sheets that say, ‘We want you to do this.’ Now, whether they do it or not, who knows? They might say, ‘We aren’t doing this today.’ But they have their script of plays to run, so it’s not new to them. You can say it’s three or four months old. Really you can’t say it was new since February when Coach Watson got here. The terminology for our kids has stayed the same. It’s new for a Max Browne. It’s new for a Matt Flanagan. It’s not new for our kids because the terminology has stayed the same. If you went upstairs into Coach Watson’s room, you’d see a board full of terminology. There is new stuff you add every year offensively, defensively, special teams-wise. But everything else has stayed the same.”

    On if he hopes Qadree Ollison can replicate his 2015 season:

    “No. If he’s back to his 2015 season, then we’ve got problems. He better be better. He better be ready for ’17. In ’15, he was okay. What did he have, 1,300 yards or something like that? It was good because he was the guy. You know if we put Chris [Peak] back there, we’d hope he’d gain 900. We want him better than ’15. I think he’s there. I think he was better last year than he was the year before. You just didn’t get to see him because No. 24 [James Conner] was back there. I think he’s become more of a leader. He’s more vocal. I think on September 2, we’ll see what he’s got.”

    On his optimism of players to fill in for the injured Tre Tipton:

    “The guy who’s really stepped up, when you listen to the strength coach and the guys who were around this summer, is Dontavius Butler-Jenkins. One day you heard about it. Dontavius is a receiver who’s going to really help us this year. Now that doesn’t mean Darian Street can’t, doesn’t mean other guys can’t. [Dontavius] might just be a little bit ahead, but he could also hit a wall like we’ve said in the past.”

    Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson

    On the team’s recall of his system from the spring:

    “It’s been good. I thought we had a good summer. Kids did a great job, as did Dave [Andrews] in the weight room. We are staying steady in what we do. They have to do things in summer on their own. We get a little bit of time with them, but it is very limited. They’ve done a nice job.”

    On Dontavius Butler-Jenkins:

    “He gets football. He’s a natural football player. He has those football instincts that you just don’t teach. Today he got involved in a scramble. The quarterback broke contain and got out, and he did it like a pro. Instinctually, he has the effect.”

    On if Dontavius Butler-Jenkins is further along than the average freshman:

    “He is. Visiting with him this summer, he’s had to compete for his life at his high school. He’s played with a lot of good football players and against a lot of good football players, which made him a highly competitive person. He’s been really a pleasant surprise for all of us. He’s taken well to what we do, and instinctually, fundamentally he’s a natural.”

    On Ben DiNucci and Max Browne’s competition in practice:

    “In two days, they’ve really pushed each other. I think they really respect each other’s work. In the room, I want a championship quarterback room. And they’ve embraced how that happens. You have to, number one, compete against yourself. You have to have a high standard for your play. And then respect the other guys in the room, which is what those guys are doing. They respect each other’s work and play off of one another. In just two practices, in shorts, it’s been very competitive.”

    On if the experience on the team impacts the summer process:

    “It does. It helps having, in the quarterback room, two guys who have been around. Then I’ve got two younger guys who are highly competitive guys who want to compete. So they follow the older guys. In the running back room, we’ve got three guys who have played a lot of football; that helps. In the receiver room, we’ve got Jester [Weah] and [Quadree Henderson]; they’ve done a great job. They take that room with them. Tre Tipton has done, and still is, doing a great job. He’s become a coach now. He’s like having an assistant wide receiver coach. He’s not easy on people. He’s got a future in coaching. In our offensive line room, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked by and Brian [O’Neill] is in there, and he has the younger guys in there, teaching them football. And then [Alex] Bookser gets involved and Alex [Officer] gets involved. We have excellent leadership on this side of the ball. They hold each other accountable and they teach one another. When you have your older players teaching your younger players, you’ve got something special going on inside your team. In the tight end room, we’ve added Matt [Flanagan], and Chris [Clark] is back off his injury. Those guys took that room because we have a bunch of young guys sitting in there. We try to set a tone with the players so they have to serve each other. It’s been a good summer because of them.”

    On sorting out depth at running back:

    “Andre [Powell] was just mentioning that. Right now we’re getting them all of the same looks. Just to see how each one responds. When we get into testing situations, we’ll see how that unfolds to see who plays where and how. We are going to play all of them. All three of those kids are going to play. We’ll see what we get out of our two young freshman. They’re in “China” right now, but they’re catching up. Today was a little bit easier than yesterday. I think all three of those guys will play for us, and then managing them depends on how they perform for the rest of camp.”

    On managing the offensive line for week one without Alex Bookser:

    “We are working with different rotations. We cross-train this early anyway. You have to cross-train on the offensive line, because you really have ten guys you need to train. So we are using this early installation period as a time to cross-train. We have guards playing center, centers playing guard, guards playing tackle, tackles playing both sides. We are letting those guys get a feel for other positions in the right periods. We will do a period where John [Peterson] will get to do that.”

    On the amount of offense he was able to install in the spring:

    “We ended up getting everything in. It was just the pace with which we went. We went slowly because Max [Browne] and Kenny [Pickett] were new. Really I take my pace off the quarterback room for the whole roster. Now this training camp, we went right out the shoots, full bore. So it’s totally different. Number one, I didn’t change any of the nomenclature—the way we call things. So I was using the spring to help me get familiar with that. It’s in my blood now. So there are a lot of things that are different because we are moving at a much faster pace.”

    On how much time he took to learn the new terminology:

    “It started day one. I got in and the very next day started learning it because you have to. It was one of the better things to happen to me in my career, because it helped me shorten something that used to be real long. There are parts and bits of this that I will take with me for the rest of my career. That’s what is cool about coaching. I’m 35 years in, and I’m still learning a lot of football.”

    On how much he uses self-evaluation versus tape from previous years to create the depth chart:

    “It’s a combination of both. You have to take a body of work, and it’s fair to those people who have established themselves—who they are, what they’ve done. The key is the consistency. It’s what we are looking for, and it is what they need to impress me with. I met with all of the kids individually. I told them, ‘I’m going to judge you. I’m going to watch you on tape these next few weeks, and there will be an opinion. But what really counts, is the opinion that we build the first day we start working on the field.’ That’s how I formulate my opinions.”

    Defensive Coordinator Josh Conklin

    On the impact of missing Whitehead for the first three games:

    “The challenge for the defense it that next-man-up mentality. There are no excuses about it. I told them today and yesterday that it’s an opportunity for these guys. I’d be more concerned if we didn’t have a guy like Saleem Brightwell at the Mike Linebacker position. You’ve got a guy in Jay Stocker who took quality reps at the end of the year last year. They’ve got to take that mentality, we’ve got to take that mentality and embrace it. We as coaches too have to step up and coach them hard, get them leaning and make sure they capitalize.”

    On Saleem Brightwell competing for the starting job:

    “He sure would have [competed]. We sit here and rant about Jordan [Whitehead] and how he’s going to be an automatic starter, but we had some guys out here who have had really good god summer. He [Whitehead] has competition in camp as well. I know he has been taking a lot of reps and has been getting all the media accolades but we feel like some guys have closed the distance this spring, fall camp, and these first two days [of camp]. Right now have at the field safety position we have Bricen Garner and Jazzee Stocker. At the other safety position we have Dennis Briggs and Phil Campbell. We also have Henry Miller, who we are working there a little bit. To be honest, it’s going to come down to your best 11. We will see were those two guys fit, but I like what Bricen [Garner] and [Jazzee] Stocker have shown these first two days, as much as you can tell in those two days.”

    On the impact of Whitehead missing playing time:

    “We have to monitor him and make sure we get him in there enough so he can stay in tune. I don’t want to belabor the point, but if Oklahoma State comes here or when we go to Penn State, and another guy is playing well, that starting job isn’t just going to be given back to him. He made choices and we have to live with those choices. As a coach, you feel bad for him, just like you would as a parent, you feel bad, it hurts you. To answer the question, we’ve got guys to get ready, we have to go win football games with the guys we have. That starting job won’t just be given back. We will monitor him to make sure he gets enough reps to try to win it back. He’s up there watching film with us and everything.”

    On Damar Hamlin playing safety:

    “We are trying to develop versatility. When we brought him in, we knew he could play corner; we knew he could play safety. So we are trying to develop that versatility as we move forward. He’s a smart kid too. He hasn’t taken many reps, but it’s in. He’s smart and learns fast. It is god for him to learn both positions. If you noticed, he’s kind of in bed with that little injury of his. We want to as many guys who can do as multiple things as possible.”

    On the athleticism and experience at linebacker:

    “We should be more athletic and experienced. [Elijah] Zeise started off the season and got injured so he’s got a lot to prove. He hasn’t really done anything yet. Saleem [Brightwell] definitely has some experience. We think both of those guys will do a fine job and I agree with that. What we may lose in knowledge and experience with [Matt] Galambos and [Mike] Caprara, we may make up in athleticism. It’s a little bit of give and take.”

    On replacing Ejuan Price at defensive end:

    “Ejuan was a highly productive kid for us last year. I think you guys know this: he would do as many things good as he did wrong as well. He was a very instinctive kid. He played well in the system but he also took chances as well. We have good solid guys that will provide that. Dewayne Hendrix is a guy that could fit into that mold and develop. Guys like Patrick Jones II, Rashad Weaver could step up and take that position. I like our young guys. They are really into it. Charlie Partridge is a great addition. We are moving with these guys.”

    On having a younger team:

    “You do have to push harder as a coach. We have a culture established, but coaches have evaluated themselves, and we are just trying to get better as a team all the time. The urgency is a big deal. Take a guy like Damarri Mathis at corner, getting those guys to play at the right speed snap in and snap out is a big deal. That’s where the aggressiveness and urgency as a coach comes from.

    On whether the defense is particularly youthful:

    “We are apprehensive about experience and excited to get to use them. We are younger. We have good quality talent. It’s about how fast we can get them developed. It’s a two-way street between coach and player taking advantage on the practice field and meetings.”

    On Avonte Maddox:

    “He’s a huge asset for us. He has earned the respect that he gets from us, players and coaches. I’m excited to see him come out and have a good year for us. You can feel him as an emotional leader. He has the knowledge and understanding of the defense.

    On the other cornerbacks:

    [Phillipie] Motley had a really good summer. He developed and is playing with a lot more confidence. I think he’s going to be a solid guy; he’s taken a lot of reps. Avonte [Maddox] and [Phillipie] Motley can both legitimately run. They run really well. We are developing a third guy right now. It’s up in the air in terms of who is going to start. You’ve got Dane Jackson, the two young guys, a guy like Malik Henderson; it’s still wide open.”

    On the development of Amir Watts and Keyshon Camp:

    “There is a difference. They’ve matured a lot since coming to college. That is part of the growth process. They have taken to the coaching and grown up as far as what they have to get accomplished. They understand. They have a long way to go. They’re not a proven commodity by any means. They have a ton of talent, but to line up and play in the ACC snap in and snap out, they have a long way to go.”

    On the Paris Ford situation:

    “He’s behind. We’ll have to get him caught up as fast as we can. When he comes in, the thought process stays the same. We will try to get him involved in some Delta and third-down stuff early to see how he develops, but he’s behind and he will have to catch up in a hurry.”

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  31. Here is an interesting list – there are 954 players in college ball who are playing while pursuing a graduate degree…

    http://www.footballfoundation.org/News/NewsDetail/tabid/567/Article/55889/954-with-undergraduate-degrees-receive-bonus-football-season.aspx

    Here are the Pitt players:

    Pittsburgh Nathan Bossory
    Pittsburgh Max Browne
    Pittsburgh Devon Edwards
    Pittsburgh Matt Flanagan
    Pittsburgh Jaryd Jones-Smith
    Pittsburgh Colton Lively
    Pittsburgh Alex Officer
    Pittsburgh Jester Weah
    Pittsburgh Ryan Winslow

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  32. Lot’s of good stuff there Reed. Seems to me that Narduzzi is on the beam and PITT has their guy. Now they need to keep him!

    Reed: do you think Narduzzi is lightening up a bit on the media or is the door going to be slammed shut very soon?

    Like

    1. That presser is of the same length and volume of his camp opening pressers over the last two years.

      He’s not saying anything of any substance now – just like 127 other D1 HCs. It is all coachspeak – he can’t talk about anyone not on the roster, can’t talk about academics and can’t (won’t) discuss injuries or suspensions.

      He’s great at joking around in the meeting room -( like say Chris Peak could get 900 yards)… Then he will continue with his closed practices.

      Every once in a while a position coach may let something slip – then that coach isn’t made available to the media for a few days.

      I don’t get excited about what any coach says until the last week of camp.

      I do think it’s funny that in his last year of college Browne all of a sudden decides to hit the weights – like doing so is going to make him a better QB – and what? He wasn’t smart enough to figure that out four years ago when he was actually battling for starting jobs at USC?

      Its all smoke and mirrors at this point.

      Like

    1. From what I can remember, the Steelers weren’t too pleased with the way Orndoff was able to block, but especially hold blocks through the first couple of practices.

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      1. Orndoff was one a several players Moose didn’t redshirt when he should have. Was Orndoff really ready to contribute as a true freshman that he had to play? Same with Jarrett and Soto. Jarrett played limited snaps the first two games then never played the rest of the year because of Donald. Soto was thin for an end as a freshman and was swimming to stay afloat for three years until being 21 and a senior his body filled out some.

        Jarrett has been impressive in Broncos camp, so that might be a mute point now.

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  33. Doesn’t surprise me that the tooth yanker is all in with weed. I ask who would want him yanking your teeth with his instruments that have not changed since the 1800’s while he is toked up? Well, he would get a laugh out of it. And please don’t compare me to that silly 1950’s movie to try to prove your point as I will be “left” scratching my head. MIx weed with molly or Xanax and you will get violence, but of course all right all the time knows that, or does he? Arrogance and name calling doesn’t win an argument but that is what those on your side do everyday to win arguments. This does explain his rosey outlook all the time. Pass the joint and the doritos, twinkies, brownies. 🙂
    Anyone who lives in the real world knows how stoners are – irresponsible, lazy, lack concentration, sloppy etc etc. How many of you in business would hire a stoner? In California and Colorado thefts, robberies and burglaries are up as well as DUIs. (Its a cash business – money to steal from the weed dealers and stuff to steal to buy it – in California one town passed an ordinance to outlaw weed growing because there were so many home invasions that innocent people were getting home invaded- yeah peace and love). It is true they drive slower – on Colorado superhighways they put flashers on and drive 30 in 70 zone. Of course they exit somewhere into your neighborhood. Yeah there are medical benefits but for those just wanting to smoke there is too too many problems.
    I myself wouldn’t want the two stoners W&W at a POV tailgate, they let the team down. I am sure Blair is gone for the same reason. Of course that is what stoners do. Cheech and Chong were not exaggerating. Light em up tooth yanker and we will be undefeated in your eyes but I wouldn’t let you work in my mouth. 🙂

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  34. LOL rkb, are you even half serious? Sounds like a tough day prosecuting crack heads and idiots. That’s a little rough. Of course I don’t know, the smiley face threw me off. T

    This one is for you rkb. 🙂

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  35. Couple things….

    1) in future rebuttals to wwb we can write, ” I know you’re a Wannstadt lover, but”….

    2) Regarding the Coaching vs Recruiting discussion, I find it hard to make a distinction. Did the coach “coach up” a 1 star to make him a starter, or was the coach a savvy recruiter to recognize a talent that others passed over?

    3) UPitt, we will have to plan a game for you to join me at Heinz. Your baseball teammate is looking forward to seeing you!

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    1. and I can always write that to Reed and now to Chris that’s my point.

      Why do they continuously (at least once a week) include an anti-Wanny reference in their blogs? Shouldn’t Graham be targeted more? But instead, it is towards a Pitt alum who has the highest winning percentage of any ex-Pitt coach since the 80s.

      I just don’t get it.

      Like

  36. PittPT nails it. ” Regarding the Coaching vs Recruiting discussion, I find it hard to make a distinction. Did the coach “coach up” a 1 star to make him a starter, or was the coach a savvy recruiter to recognize a talent that others passed over?”

    Thanks PT, now we are back to the chicken and the egg question. T …..ike

    Like

  37. Orndoff’s release was not that big of a surprise. When the Clempson game was on this last week I noticed Orndoff jump for and drop a critical pass on a third down. It was right before the phantom pass interference on clempson. Coupled with the NOrthwestern drop in the scoring area and I worried about his hands.

    Maybe he catches on with someone else. I hope so.

    Like

  38. IMO even if Wirginis and Whitehead were caught with pot for the 3rd time … it still is not nearly as bad as what Bookser did ….. not even in the same ballpark

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  39. May be a good time to share this story from a family member who owned a small restaurant years ago in Northside. The story go as this: ” One day, out of the blue, Bear Bryant walked into my restaurant while on a recruiting trip and ordered a chicken salad sandwich. Obviously, I walked over to greet him and asked if I sit with him a few minutes. He said ‘yes’. So I asked him what he believed made him such a successful coach? Just then his sandwich arrived and as the waiter placed it in front of him Bear took a bite and said (and I quote). This chicken salad sandwich is very good! Why? Because it’s made out of high quality meat. The same is true in football. You can’t make a good chicken sandwich with chicken sht – you need high quality chicken and you can’t have a high quality football team with chicken sh t players – you need talent!!!!!
    So, does Bear answer the question or what!!!

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  40. Its a bit surprising that Rori Blair didn’t wise up after Taleni was given the boot. What does it take for these guys to learn? Even Whitehead should have recognized that Duzz means business. Either these guys are stupid, or they are problem children that will never change. Whitehead better understand that the NFL doesn’t want problem children, and the country is filled with players with ability that didn’t have the maturity to make it. I think whitehead is at a crossroads…

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  41. Agree wbb. But, since 3 strikes and the University kicks you out, I think you have to suspend the players for 3 games with strike 2.

    What else do you do to try and make them realize one more and they are gone?

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    1. How many strikes for DUI do you put up with? In this case, other people could have been in jeopardy; it was just pure luck that nobody else was involved.

      Like

  42. About the amount of 5 star players in any given year. I think it’s ridiculous to have a cut off number (33) and same goes for 4 star players. With politics in play it really does askew recruiting rankings. As I’ve said all along, if a given coach has that “recruiting eye” it can make all the difference in the world when recruiting mostly 3 star players. …ike

    Like

  43. Newbk,
    Thanks for the link! Very humbling to see that prediction. Especially since the guy is not off at all as to how we could lose that game.

    Like

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