One For The Money, Two For The Show…

have talked a lot about what Head Coach Pat Narduzzi will do in his third year at the helm of Pitt’s football program.  We have heavily debated whether it truly is “his team” in terms of players he either recruited or acquired by transfer (it is in my opinion). 

We speculate on how well his own guys will do in terms of the previous head coaches’ players they are replacing. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we go around and around as to whether experience or talent wins out in the end when it comes to the quality of play he will get out of his roster.

First let’s take a look at what some previous Pitt head coaches have done in their third year. We’ll go back to the time period right after that great winning run Pitt had from 1974 to 1981.

I highlighted the 3rd years of the respective coaches and only showed their first three years.

3rd revised.png

So – here is the first Pitt HC to review in Foge Fazio:

I think we all remember what happened in Foge Fazio’s 3rd season in 1984 – it crashed and burned as the offensive and defensive wings fell off and hit at 3-7-1… and that was the end of his time here.  We started that crappy year at 1-7-1 with a win over lowly East Carolina.

Following Fazio, Mike Gottfried had a somewhat similar experience in 1988 , albeit not as dramatic as he still pulled in a barely wining 6-5 record. That was surprising in that his offense that year scored 27.3 ppg (31st nationally) and had a very good defense in giving up only 16.6 ppg (21st).

See, there is a disturbing trend going on so far in this recap – the 3rd years of our coaches’ tenures are not kind to them as they, up to this point, were a measured drop in the win column.  That held true with next coach Paul Hackett also.

Hackett was hired to replace Gottfried and immediately won three fewer games with a 3-7-1 record compared to Gottfried’s last year at 6-5. That wasn’t a great start but Hackett bounced back a bit with a 6-5 record the following year before sliding downward again to a 3-9 record in this crucial 3rd year of 1992.

So far we have looked at three HCs and their combined 3rd year record was 12-21-1 – a winning percentage of 35%. This trend continued…

There really isn’t much to say about Johnny Majors’ 3rd year in his return to Pitt – 1995 sucked as much as his other three years did.  He never established a winning season of any kind and had a 2-9 year in his third season.

Now we have seen four HCs with a combined 3rd year of 14-30-1 for 31% wins.  Will that keep sway past Majors?  Let’s see.

A lot of Pitt fans really appreciate what Walt Harris did for our program as we were really stuck in the mud with five of the six previous years being losing ones.  So Harris comes in and continues that trend for his first two years going 6-6 then sliding to 2-9.

Then in that special 3rd year he logs a 7-5 season and lands a bowl game slot for the first time in 10 years. That five win uptick was a real spark of hope for the fans.  That season set him up to finish his Pitt career with a very good (for Pitt) 9, 8, and 8 wins.

You can point back to Harris’ recruiting for that jump – something that can’t really be said in the previous decade of recruiting in the other coaches’ first two years.

Now enter Dave Wannstedt – a Pitt football alumni and a fan favorite. We had high expectations for him and the program considering we were coming off the best five-year run with a 39-23 record since the 1970-80s.

But DW quickly dropped down to a losing season of 5-6 in his first year, followed by a 6-6 .500 season before dropping down again in that 3rd year to 5-7. 

This is especially interesting because his previous two-year recruiting record was ranked  a decent #38 in ’05 then an excellent 2006 class that was ranked #21 and had these four star recruits – many who played as true freshman.

06 recruiting.png

For perspective we have to remember that DW’s 3rd year of 2007 was hit with injuries, to the QBs especially so that, in part, they helped account for his 5-7 losing record.

OK – now we have looked at five previous HCs with a combined 3rd year record of 26-43-1 and back up to a 37% mark.  Not getting much better here, are we folks.

So onto our last HC before Pat Narduzzi in Paul Chryst. His first two years showed us 6-7 then 7-6 with a bowl loss and a bowl win. His third year regressed back to a 6-7 mark and a bowl loss.

Finally our five HCs before Narduzzi had a combined 32-50-1 record (a poor 39%) in those crucial 3rd years.  But here is a very interesting issue when talking about inherited (or not) recruits…

Paul Chryst’s first two recruiting classes were ranked #47 in ’12 in a small 16 member class. In ’13 he bettered that with a #35 class.  But here is a key point with his recruiting in those years. He had a total of one 5* and 10 4* recruits but six of those players didn’t last two years on the roster – Shell, Rippy, Chapman, Grimm, James and Jennings never made it onto Narduzzi’s 2015 roster.

What does all this mean?  Well, a lot if you are a “Same Old Pitt” believer. 

Maybe not so much if you are a fan who thinks we are on a continual upswing with Pat Narduzzi at the helm, and many Pitt fans are these days.  So many different factors go into winning seasons – again, is it coaching, the players, the players’ talent or their experience or is it the vagaries of the history of Pitt football in toto?

What I have seen is a solid two seasons under Narduzzi but also two seasons with some real question marks attached as two bowls losses attest. I’m not 100% sold on Narduzzi’s recruiting yet, his walk-ons seem to be just as good.

And his transfer plans worked out in his first two years with Peterman’s star turn – the jury is still out on his other transfer players going into 2017.

But as far as his getting the star HS recruits I think he”s missed out a lot… and he’ll be the first to tell you that, as he did publicly, when he was asked about his 2017 recruiting class.  “Disappointed” was a word he used. But recruiting isn’t all that goes into winning.

It may well be that even with these injuries and the disciplinary awards that surely will hurt this year’s team there may be enough positive synergy extant in the program to pull out a good winning season.  A championship season is out of reach this year I’m afraid – but he’s got a couple of years left on his contract to get that notch on his belt.

He needs to get this crucial 3rd year in the 7-8 wins column at least then go from there…

NOTES:

Here is an interesting article by Tim Benz of PSN talking about how perception matters in college ball.  gee – I wonder where that has been discussed lately? Benz goes into more game-by-game details in this piece but in the main I agree with him here.

This is an exercise in rear-view mirroring but a very interesting look back by Chris Peak at Pitt’s 2012 recruiting class and he re-ranking of it.

PSN’s take on Aston’s injury and the staff’s attempt to cover for it on the field…  I think he’s gone for the regular season.

Here is a PSN interview with Dorian Dickerson speaking about the current players and the team…  Notice that when anyone is being interviewed about the QB group the first name mentioned is almost always “Pickett”.

60 thoughts on “One For The Money, Two For The Show…

  1. Maddox gives up 6″-7″ in height to almost every receiver he covers. But, more importantly, probably another 10″-12″ in wingspan. Extremely tough to provide good pass defense with that kind of handicap.

    But, he has that innate ability to NOT turn his head as the ball arrives! It is imperative that we get numerous hurries from the DL – we gotta cause multiple QB misfires.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your spreadsheet is wrong to start what happened to 1989 and Walts Liberty bowl team?

    PN will have a successful 3rd year.

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  3. Sarcastic. .. I wrote that I listed only three years of each coaches’ tenure.

    So Harris has only ’97 thru ’99 listed.

    Savannah – do you think our DL will be good enough to beat good team’s OLs?

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  4. Gottfried played a lot of freshman in 1988 and had a very young team. The offense may have averaged 27 mpg, but combined for only 24 points in its final three games versus PSU, NC State and Syracuse. That led to the firing of Mike Dickens as coordinator and the hiring of Paul Hackett.

    Walt’s third team went 5-6 and led to some positive vibes. Forgotten by Pitt fans was Harris blowing any momentum at Pitt by going 7-5 in both 2000 and 2001. In 2000, Walt lost to a mediocre Syracuse team on the road. Harris then blew that home game in front of a packed Three Rivers Stadium versus an insanely mediocre North Carolina team led by Julius Peppers and a backup running back named Willie Parker.

    The 2001 decision to go to the no-huddle spread cost Pitt a possible 10-1 record. The team I saw beat VTech and NC State by a combined 72-26 was what should have been on the field all year. Especially when you have a veteran O-line, a senior-led QB in Priestly and Antonio Bryant. The defense was solid also.

    The team quit on Walt versus BC and Syracuse. Two teams who were not 45-7 and 42-10 better than Pitt.

    Dave blew it in year three by not landing Thaddeus Lewis, who should have been a redshirt freshman in 2007 and taking over for Bill Stull once he got injured. Still, that Pitt team battled hard with no quarterback and was better than its 5-7 record. That team was better than any Pitt team from the 1990s and Foge’s final two teams.

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  5. Reed – I have no idea what other teams’ OLs are like. I think we have more speed, and less pounds up front than last year. I think the speed will help get to QB, but smaller size will lead to fewer double teams – and this will make it harder on the LBs – run and pass plays.

    The larger size DL we had last year didn’t give many QB Hurries, so I’m thinking the added speed will be an improvement. If we can’t beat the OLs this year, then I don’t see a whole lot of improvement in our pass defense. When the QB continuously has time to go thru his progressions, it’s asking a lot for the DBs to maintain coverage.

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  6. Nice job including other possible side effects of the records. Injuries always play a big part of a football season’s final record.

    I have to laugh a bit when reading the article. No surprise that the third year is the bugger. Expecting too much out of red-shirt sophomores is not a good thing. The real bummer is that many of the coastal teams are rebuilding at the same time. This year would have been a great time to strike while the league is down.

    I don’t share the same opinion as the writer about the O-Line this year. Plenty of older players that have played in and out the past 2 or 3 years. Hodges really solidifies the group.

    People worrying about Maddox are justified. I feel much different though. Maddox is by far PITT’s best CB going into this year. Remember Avonte has started 4 straight years now under two different head coaches and coordinators.. .. ike

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        1. Off the top of my head George Aston, Colton Lively, Jim Morrisey (may start at C), John Guy (sticking around with Vikings?), Chas Alecxih, Trey Anderson, Sean Idowu… plus some guys could get on the field – LBs Jim Medure, Brian Popp, FB Erik Sellers, KR/PR Kollin Smith, DL Desire, RB Vreen/Wood, TE Bossory, Flannigan (not sure if he got a ship or not but he will play)

          honestly under narduzzi there have been a couple of walk ons that stepped up each year. they deserve respect

          Like

  7. he may be 5’7 but is fast and talented, and led the team in INTs the past 2 years. I can only hope he is the weak spot in the DB this year

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  8. Just heard via the grapevine that Aston had ankle surgery on Thursday…I’d say it will be a longtime before we see him on the field. Not 100% verified but I trust who told me.

    Remember that Narduzzi said that another couple of his starters wasn’t badly injured and they missed the whole season – Hendrix and Ziese if I recall correctly. Nothing Narduzzi says on injury issues is to be believed.

    Regardless we are down a load of starting players to start off this season.And did Hendrix practice today? He’s injured also I gather.

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  9. I played golf this morning with one of my three golfing groups who are psu fans. I showed up in my Pitt script Titleist hat and polo shirt. Two of them were giving me a hard time, saying things like, well I guess you only have another month to wear that around here, etc.

    I kept my mouth shut at first – before each round we throw one golf ball per player in the air and the two closest are paired together against the other two for a Nassau match. I delayed the ball toss telling them I hadn’t marked my ball yet. I pulled out my marker, wrote Joe Knew and the next 3-1/2 hours were interesting, to say the least.

    HTP!

    Like

  10. Not telling all on injuries is not anything new why delve on it. It is not the end of the world though that my be getting close for some our coach not talking about injuries is not anything new played in high school for an old steeler Fran Rogel who said talking to the media was like talking to the devil no gd good comes from it.

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  11. EE you are the man only one on this site with any balls to tell ps suck@ss to go f$$k them selves thanks for being the best PITT fan

    Like

  12. Dr. Tom – I think I may have figured out your golf score issues. It may be as simple as work – you recently went back part-time and that probably cuts into your time on the course and practice range.

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  13. yep, hardware is a problem. The question is whether they leave it in or go take it out, right?

    None of our coaches had a great first three years…the Pederson curse!

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  14. We will see George next year if he had a tibial fixation not to be confused with UPitts Estonian fixation.. who knows maybe we will be having a fullback controversy in 18.. I was pissed Jaymar was benched for Aston after being the lead blocker for Conner in 14 then played lesser under OCFat A$$

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  15. a story at PSN yesterday indicated that due to Aston’s injury, we are going to see more two TE sets (Clarke, Edwards and Flanagan getting PT) as well as more 3 WR sets (Weah, Henderson and Ffrench). These last 3 are the best playmakers (mostly speed) that Pitt has to offer … and it’s never a bad plan to have all 3 of the field at once IMO.

    It also wouldn’t surprise me to see both Ollison and another TB in a short yardage package.

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  16. Kollin Smith will be a walk-on and a return specialist. He looked pretty good returning kicks on HUDL. Let track pay for the scholarship and get a kid only focused on special teams. Can’t hurt. I wouldn’t say I’m expecting much though.

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  17. Erie – you don’t need to hit them with a “Joe Knew”. Just ask them what it was like to be kept out of the playoff because they lost to a team that gave up 61 to Syracuse at home.

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  18. FB Erik Sellers (rsSO) was taking Aston snaps in the scrimmage today and impressed those that I know who attended.

    Kessman kicked a 52 yard FG at the end of practice under pressure with a heavy rush and the clock ticking down to nothing.

    Two positives from the not-for-public consumption scrimmage today at Heinz Field.

    Like

  19. I can’t wait to see what watson is doing with the offense… narduzzis post practice comments a few days ago strongly hinted that they’re working on a bunch of new things…

    He also mentioned tweaks in the defense then immediately threw cold water on that idea. For a second I thought he was gonna break down and admit to installing some kind of zone package for situational use but nope no way Jose

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  20. Reed – I re-read your article (very good by the way) and two things jumped out at me –

    HCPN is off to a better 3 year start than any coach since the Majors I / Sherrill era when Pitt was a national power / champion.
    This coaching staff have brought in key college transfers to fill holes and this season alone there will be seven players of that category that will see playing time, probably starters. QB Browne, TE’s Clark & Flanagan, OL Hodges, DE’s Hendrix & A.Edwards and DT Carter

    That tells me that history (past 33 years) will not repeat itself.

    Of the 22 starters, seven spots could be filled with quality players that have something to prove – that’s a plus right there.

    That leaves 15 positions to man –

    RB Q.Ollison – ACC ROY and 1,000 yard rusher
    WR Q.Henderson – All American special teams returner and 10 TDs / 10 ypa rusher
    WR J.Weah – 24 ypc receiver with 10 TDs
    OL O’Neill All-ACC with 25 career starts
    OL Officer – 34 career starts
    OL Bookser – All ACC (HM) 15 career starts
    OL JJ-Smith – 4 career starts

    DT A.Watts – 1 career start as a FR (played in 7 games)
    MLB Brightwell – 2 career starts (played in 12 games)
    OLB Zeise – 1 career start (injured in that game) DO NOT pass judgement – trust the coach
    OLB Idowu – 12 career starts (former walk-on)
    CB Maddox – 28 career starts (listed as 5’9″ 180 lbs)
    CB Jackson – 3 career starts (played in 12 games)
    S Whitehead – All American as FR and All ACC past 2 seasons (suspended 1st three games)
    S Briggs – played in 26 games

    The offense has much more experience and production than the defense.

    The key to a winning season is how the staff is developing the depth. We’ll find out in less than a month. I’m excited, even though the injury and stupid bugs have bit this current team. Most all of the guys above have witnessed the psu rivalry game and the clemscum upset in Death Valley with the exception of four.

    When the ACC games start this season, Pitt should be able to make a serious run at the Coastal championship.

    What’s in your coffee this morning? Bitter beans or sugar packed Kool-aid?

    HTP!

    Like

  21. Dan72 and Jay91 – let’s schedule a golf game for the 2nd week in September to celebrate Dan’s retirement and hopefully a Pitt victory in creepy valley. I know a great course in Lancaster, PA that would be centrally located for all three of us – the round of golf will be on me.

    Anyone else like to join us?

    Like

  22. Thanks BigB for the reading. I guess the Richmond kid will sit out this coming season. Saying he would like to put raping a unconscious woman behind him. It shouldn’t that easy. The scumbag.

    Reed, I wanted to ask you about your golf game. I remember Shaun was giving you private lessons? Is this why your back flared up so bad. Golf is bad on the back

    … and pitt22 where have you been?

    The secret service nonsense down at the south-side is really getting on my nerves. I think Reed should dress up like a football official and just stand there with a whistle in his mouth. (taking notes of course)

    Like

  23. Oh and BTW, couple really short video’s on PSN (I don’t like to copy and paste video’s from over there) of Ejaun Price making two really over powering plays. He’s going to make that team and we may see him playing along side another former PITT great Aaron Donald in the near future.

    Like

  24. Let’s remember where Aston came from- complete obscurity, a walk-on who developed into a special role player. I think that the FB position is rather unique in that you can adapt different players and skill sets into this position, with the only requirement being that you need to be a tough SOB. I look for someone we don’t know about to step up and become a pretty good FB, which would let the Pitt offense keep in many of the plays the FB runs.

    Like

  25. Wow, another nice front page Sunday Trib article from Jerry Dipaola today on Pitt’s transfer FB players, with NO articles on PSU or WVU. The media culture in Pittsburgh towards the Panthers seems to changing in a positive way!

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  26. Big B thanks for the YSU story link!!!. if I remember a high school coach was involved in a cover-up. The girl was intoxicated and the team ran a train on her and videotaped it. I am surprised that people like wwb and Doc are not screaming for a right to a second chance like they do on every Pitt athlete (though we haven’t had a rapist – though we did have a coach getting a cheerleader pregnant but that is old old news). It is a privilege to play, not a right. I like the middle ground YSU took but would make him go through more counseling etc in his year out – gotta earn the privilege back and not just in the weight room..

    Like

  27. oh to the poster who played golf with 3 psu grads who said the sky was bluer because of Paterno try this.
    Hey do you see those cloud formations? One looks like Sandusky with a little boy, the other looks like Paterno without a mouth, ears or eyes. Come to think of it maybe the blue is how all those little boys feel forever. Ouch.

    Like

  28. I kind of get you rkb, sometimes incidents can be viewed and askew when it’s closer to home.Yet this particular crime is beyond forgivable imo. Take the linebacker from MSU, he was guilty of using the “N” word. Not even in the same ballpark.

    Kam Carter guilty of smoking a little dope while being one at the same time. Certainly not rape… ike

    Like

  29. rkb, under the circumstances, I indeed think this ‘rapist’ deserves another chance. I remember reading about this, and if memory serves:

    — this kid and the victim were both underage and drunk
    — the girl took off her own clothes and was sitting naked on the couch next to the kid
    — it was finger penetration (not penis) and the girl did nothing to resist
    — and now, the kid has served his sentence and has not been in trouble

    I certainly don’t condone what happened that night …. but I remember when I first read about it, I wondered what if I was in the same position when I was 16 and drunk, sitting next to a naked girl..

    So if you think this gy should be branded the rest of his life …. fine, you have a right to your opinion. Personally, I believe what Big Ben did in Georgia about 7 or 8 years ago was much worse

    Like

  30. I should have said ‘if’ instead of ‘when’ although if given the opportunity to get drunk when I was 16 and all my friends were doing the same, I likely would have

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  31. The innocent little lady in Georgia had a ribbon on that said Down To _____? and she was the one to approach Ben.

    The hotel manager in Colorado decided to fix his TV herself ( that one is a first for me) and before going upstairs she told a staff member that she was going up to make a little Ben. There are reason these two cases didn’t go to trail or result in charges.

    Meanwhile the little shavers from Steubenville were convicted twice of rape after a mistrial was awarded.

    Like

  32. As long as Pitts players graduate and stay out of trouble, the BoT is fine. They dont care about winning. But you can win and run a clean program. Thats what the administration doesnt get. Stability and Support are the keys. Pitt has neither on their spice rack. Pitt’s recipe for success needs those two spices.

    To be honest with you, Pitt is in a better position to create a Grand Experiment and Success with Honor than Penn State which created those slogans as cover.

    Pitt has rarely been under the enormous pressure to win. Boosters have little influence. Fans are generally apathetic. There is little sports culture. The fabric of athletics isnt woven into academics like most schools.

    You change the culture, you commit to winning, you have controls in place to guard against abuse of power, and then you’ll see how applications increase, the quality of applicants increase, the brand increases in value, students begin having a better college experience, donations come pouring in.

    But this is Pitt. We dont have a qualified Chef in house or access to simple ingredients that most schools have in abundance.

    Like

  33. Turns out that Kollin Smith is not exactly a walk on but hold a PITT scholarship in hand. It’s just not in football but in track and field..

    Like

  34. Good article, Reed.

    Something else to remember: Narduzzi is winning in the ACC, which is arguably a tougher road than anyone else on your list … except maybe Walt Harris in the old Big East when it still had Miami and VA Tech.

    Sooner or later, some bigger name program will try to poach him. We gotta sign him for a long term deal for the lots-more money than he gets now. With a big fat poison pill in the contract to hopefully scare away predators.

    Like

  35. I should clarify that there were different versions of what had occurred that night in Steubenville … the girl herself claimed she was so drunk that she had no recollection. The only known facts for sure was that all were underage and drinking, and the actual conviction was for finger penetration … which is considered rape in Ohio.

    The girl in Big Ben’s case was 19 and drunk. She went in a back room of a bar when Ben was while his buddies were standing guard and denied entrance to her friends who were trying to protect her. In fact, one these guys was a Dormont (I (I think) policeman who was fired after the facts of the case were disclosed. By law, it was not rape thus Ben was not charged

    Like

  36. I’ve been around a long time, but the coach and cheerleader thing escapes me. What’s the deal with this? I am surprised I don’t know about that one..

    Like

  37. Sorry VoR. I’m not understanding the question? I think, think? You may be referring to a certain head coach a few years ago before Dave? or was that a waitress?

    Like

  38. Hey Pittman, now I know you’re a man of the cloth and no disrespect intended. But messing around? Are you sure they weren’t fooling, piddling or conjoling around? LET’S GO PITT!

    Like

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