How Was the Team Last Year at This Time?

Sometimes I like to go back a full year and see what Pitt fans were saying at that time – then look at it in relation to what transpired over the following season – in this case 2016.

So let’s do that and see if what we thought would happen – happened.  Here one from the Fall Camp days..

Reed wrote: I read that and all the other stuff Canada and Narduzzi have said about the QB2 position so far (meaning Manny Stocker) this month and don’t see Ben Dinucci getting anything but some off-hand and cursory discussion at all.  Sorry to all the ‘local boy does well’ fans but I think we have to put that hope about Dinucci breaking into some real playing time as a ‘wait until next year’ scenario.

Well, that looks pretty accurate as Dinucci is now the solid QB2 coming out of camp.  Let’s hope that he gets some playing time often and early, if we get big enough leads and that might only be the Youngstown State game.

And here is an exchange between myself and two commenters regarding the WR position:

NotRocket – IMO you can’t sacrifice talent for speed. Just because another WR may be faster – and remember Challingsworth ran another 4.5 just a couple of weeks ago – doesn’t necessarily mean they should start.

 You can have speed in the slot and as rotational resources also. But first you have to get open and catch the ball – which Challingsworth is good at. We’ll see – but in the passing game you go for route yards first then yards after the catch second.
Dr. Tom

Agree with Reed. Speed at WR means nothing, zero, big goose egg if you can’t catch the ball. (Think Jester Weah)


Well – obviously I was wrong about Challingsworth possibly starting – as a matter of fact he took off after last season.  But Dr. Tom’s point about ‘catching the ball’ rang true because as soon as Weah did that on a regular basis his speed was a major factor.

Here is a bit from an interview with Josh Conklin regarding his Defensive Backs going into 2016. Remember this is from Aug 17th…:

On what the cornerback position looks like opposite Avonte Maddox:

“Opposite of Avonte [Maddox], it’s Ryan Lewis right now. He had nice day again yesterday. He’s made some strides. You start to look at him and say, `Hey, we can rely on him.’ Phillipie Motley and Dane Jackson are in a heat right now, and I’m not sure that Dane Jackson isn’t ahead of him. Dane Jackson has really come on strong the last four or five days. Phillipie [Motley] is still there. Malik Henderson had maybe an average day yesterday, so he’s battling. They’re all battling out there.”

Reed: “It’s a mess and if Hamlin doesn’t pan out we are screwed.”

On if any of the freshman are battling for that second cornerback spot:

“A little bit. Damar [Hamlin] and Henry Miller are still going strong. Therran [Coleman] mentally is probably a little step behind them, but they’re all going to be great players.”

Reed: “If one on these kids doesn’t win the job and get some damn INTs Conklin’s ass will be on the unemployment line as fast as his head can spin. We sucked at Pass Defense last year and will again this year if someone doesn’t breakout chop-chop.  Conklin’s the one who wanted these little DB kids; I wanted some more decent defensive lineman,  so he’s going to live or die by them”

I think we can all say that whatever Conklin said or didn’t say our pass defense was absolutely horrid last season. I was serious then about Conklin being fired and I reiterate that again – if our defense holds the team back from double-digit wins Conklin should be out of the Southside before New Year’s day.

Here a bit from the same article that I’ll include because it makes me realize, again, how funny I am… this is an interview with Quadree Henderson:

On his chemistry with quarterback Nathan Peterman:

“Nate and I are like brothers. In the summer we would come out to the fields every day after workouts to make sure our timing was down perfectly. The chemistry with Nate is top-notch.”

Reed:  “He’s the man! Much better now that he has absolutely zero competition and doesn’t have to even think about losing the starting job.  We joke about that all the time.  Plus he can drink like a fish – I mean when we start putting a drunk on he goes right up until the beginning of practice the next day.  Wish I could do that.”

Hmmm – that ‘chemistry’ with Peterman didn’t really show up for QH last year as he only had 26 receptions for 286 yards (11.0 ypc).  However, he sure made up for that in other ways, didn’t he?  This season we need to see his ‘chemistry’ with Browne really kick in as he’s the solid #2 receiver behind Weah due to Tipton’s injury.

From an Aug 19th piece when I attended the fall camp Media Day – here I am discussing player discipline with Challingsworth…

But here is a great thing I learned from WR Zach Challingsworth (more on him later) and one I am proud Narduzzi instituted.  There is a prominent sign in a common player’s area (not sure just where) that lists the how many days since a player arrest.  Right now it is at 424 days and counting.


What a great thing to emphasize.  Challingsworth mentioned it to me when we were discussing the history of problems Pitt had in 2009-10 before he reported aboard.  He was very adamant that the teammates looked out for each other – and that this staff has a zero tolerance toward indiscretions.  Music to my ears.

Oops… spoke a little too soon on that one didn’t we? Pitt halved that with 221 days until Bookser’s arrest. Still – not too shabby especially compared to six years before that camp. We did have some in-house suspensions in that time period but no arrests until Bookser’s.

At the same meeting I sat with Dontez Ford and WR coach Kevin Sherman and discussed this:

One point Ford made to me was that while they learned a lot from Boyd… “Boyd learned a lot from us also.”  I won’t sit here and tell you that the players I talked with missed Boyd terribly because that wasn’t the sense I got at all – and it wasn’t shown in a catty or bitchy way either.

Here’s an example – at both table of receivers I talked with I mentioned ‘the elephant in the room‘ comparison to Boyd and his being gone and each one looked straight at me like that hit the nail exactly on the head and agreed.

Bottom line – after talking with Coach Sherman and those four receivers, and telling of my public beer bet to all that our passing game would beat the stats Palko put up in his ‘best’ year – which was his 2871 yards and 25 TDs,  they all smiled and agreed that could easily happen.  Except Sherman who said “That’s possible“.

You all may remember I was adamant in my belief that we’d be a better offense and have a better passing game without Tyler Boyd on the field – and boy, did those guys, and their position coach, agree on that.  Guys – Boyd wasn’t all that well liked and most felt pretty glad that he left early – at least that was the overwhelming impression I got last year and wrote about it.

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